Posted by: lavernewaddington | November 12, 2010

Backstrap Weaving – Tinkuy de Tejedores 2010


The Tinkuy de Tejedores 2010 is over and I am back home in Bolivia wondering what hit me! There were four intense days of colors, sounds and new experiences… meeting up with old acquaintances, putting faces to online user names and making new friends while trying to absorb everything around me and learn as much as I could with a head spinning from a combination of altitude and information overload.

I didn’t bring back much in the way of physical souvenirs…the shoulder bag which was part of our registration package, a couple of spindles that I got in the Cusco market, two more which I swapped for one of my amulet bags with Maxima, a Bolivian weaver from Cochabamba, a locally published book on textiles which I bought at the airport while trying to use my leftover Peruvian Soles and some balls of handspun yarn left over from the workshop I took.

I didn’t buy any textiles but I did come back with a new weaving skill and lots of ideas about making textiles with discontinuous warps. I plan to warp for a very narrow  plain warp faced piece with discontinuous warps in the next few days which I hope to decorate with supplementary wefts as this will be the easiest technique to start with. If that is a success, I will attempt a complementary warp technique. It was great having the opportunity to get a close look at some of the discontinuous warp pieces on the loom being woven by the ladies of Pitumarca. From what I can tell, the grey and brown warps dovetail around a metal rod when the loom is being warped. The pick-up pattern appears to cover the entire length of the grey panel with no terminal area – mind boggling, really! I wish I had spent more time with this weaver. This was the most amazing thing I saw at the tinkuy.

This piece has one of its four color panels complete. Done in all natural wool colors it is going to be spectacular. The unfinished areas are those that have been rolled up on the loom bar nearest the weaver.

It’s interesting that she has woven the grey panel, turned the loom around, and now seems to be working her way back. She has just started the bottom of panel three. Perhaps she will then turn the loom around once again to weave the other end of this panel and then go filling in the space in between. There are so many questions that I forgot to ask this weaver, like, at what point the metal bars around which the discontinuous warps dovetail, are removed and replaced with yarn. Well I shall just have to experiment and see for myself.

I am constructing a warping board for myself for my piece based on a picture in Nilda Callañaupa’s book pictured above.

So, as far as weaving skills go, I brought back ideas about the aforementioned discontinuous warp pieces  and I learned the tubular woven bands of Chinchero and Patabamba in the workshop I took. If you have read my last two blog posts  you will know that I recently learned how to make these tubular bands or ñawi awapa from instructions in Adele Cahlander’s book. I strongly suspect that Adele Cahlander figured these bands out by pulling them apart and studying the structure rather than by learning from the weavers themselves and she has been able to give instructions so that one can reproduce them.

EDIT:  I have since been pointed to an article which says that Cahlander based her instructions on a partly woven specimen that had a complex arrangement of string heddles and shed loop so obviously the tubular woven bands were or are woven somewhere using this set up. As I said recently in a previous post…”There is no one “right” way”.

I find it amazing that she was able to analyze the specimen, compile excellent instructions for its reproduction and share all that with those who can’t travel to Peru and learn it themselves from the weavers.

However, the way we were taught in Chinchero by Nilda is SO MUCH easier!!

I took a partly woven band which I had warped up according to the Cahlander instructions with its string heddles to show the weavers and they were quite astonished by this strange set up. The green band above is the one I started in the workshop and finished at home. The red one was a gift for the workshop participants.

Another thing I took away from the tinkuy for my own weaving was lots of inspiration for color and design as well as a new respect for supplementary warp patterning (a technique of which I have never been a big fan) after having seen the amazing ponchos of the Chahuaytire and Accha Alta communities. A weaver from Accha Alta with her piece profusely patterned with supplementary warp patterns can be seen below. She is rolling the heddle stick towards her while pushing down on the warps behind in order to open the heddle shed.

I can’t believe that I am sitting here now at home in the tropical heat of the Bolivian lowlands while just one week ago I was making my way to Urubamaba at 2863 meters in the Peruvian highlands. I would say that of all the trips made by international visitors to the tinkuy mine was probably the shortest…just a one-hour flight from Santa Cruz to La Paz with enough time to stroll around outside the airport and take pictures of impressive Mount Illimani. In La Paz I met up with Dorinda and Maxima who were to be my roommates in Urubamba. I had met Dorinda Dutcher through WARP connections over a year ago and had corresponded with her by email. This was our first face-to-face meeting. Dorinda founded PAZA (Project Artesania Zona Andina) in the town of Independencia, Aypopaya province, an organization which she describes as  “a Peace Corps project which became life’s calling”. She raised funds to be able to bring master weaver and PAZA coordinator Maxima Cortez with her to the tinkuy. The non-profit organization KURMI in Cochabamba also provided funding for a group of weavers to attend so we traveled from La Paz to Urubamba as a group of fourteen.

Witnessing the group’s reactions to all they experienced on this trip and at the tinkuy was another wonderful aspect of this whole journey. Please read Dorinda’s reports on the PAZA  blog to learn more about her goals, challenges as well as volunteer opportunities with PAZA.

These ladies had been traveling literally for days! First, an eight-hour bus trip to Cochabamba followed by an overnight bus trip to La Paz before they could even get on the fifty-minute flight to Cusco. Then came the inevitable mess of paperwork on landing in Peru but no one’s spirit was dampened.

Are we there yet?

So when we got to Urubamba and made the mistake of getting off the bus too early, the ladies just took it in their stride, wrapped their luggage in their carrying cloths, hauled them onto their backs and took off up the road while I struggled along with bags in hand and dangling off my shoulder. Below you can see us lost at the gas station at the wrong end of town.

A hot, dusty and wind-tousled group finally arrived at the Hostal Urutinkuy that afternoon.

At the hostal I met lovely D.Y Begay, a Navajo weaver who had been invited to present at the conference. D.Y and I had been corresponding by email for some months and it was great to finally meet her. She was slated to be the first presenter of the conference and was a little inconvenienced by the fact that her luggage had not shown up.

The tinkuy comprised two days of conference with an incredibly heavy schedule of talks and presentations with breaks for drinks and snacks and weaving demonstrations. Lunch was followed by more weaving demonstrations and opportunities to buy textiles. If you were wise enough to arrive early in the morning you had the chance to mingle in a bit more leisurely way with the local weavers and spinners and avoid a bit of the chaos.

We gathered in the evenings in the conference auditorium for dancing, music, singing, spinning competitions, which were narrated  by Abby Franquemont, and lots of laughter. Beth’s (of The Spinning Loft)  young daughter competed on her wheel with a local spinner on a  drop spindle as did Judith MacKenzie. I honestly don’t remember who won but I do remember that the Bolivian ladies from Cochabamba really strutted their stuff in speed spinning the following night and my roommate Maxima took home a prize having spun over six meters in two minutes.

I am just going to show you here now a selection of captioned photos which, I hope, will give you a feel for what went on in those two days and just how much we managed to pack in!

It all started with a ceremonial offering to Pachamama performed by an Andean priest accompanied by the sounds of the pututus, (conch shells), which were also blown to announce the start and finish of each guest speaker’s presentation. Everything was translated into three languages – Quechua, Spanish and English and the Quechua translator with his strong, clear dramatic tone of voice was a joy to hear.

High-ranking community members with conch shells in hand took part in the opening ceremony.

Just a few of the foreign invited guest speakers: Luisa Govea of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, weaver of fine silk ikat shawls using designs from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Ann Pollard Rowe - I met her in 2007 at the Textile Museum in Washington, a meeting which led me to a wonderful weaving and spinning adventure in coastal Ecuador and it was lovely to have the opportunity to see her again. She gave a presentation entitled "Looms of the Americas". D.Y Begay who spoke on the traditions and practices of Navajo weaving. Judith MacKenzie's talk was entitled "Fibers of the Americas". Luz Maria Andrango of Otavalo, Ecuador demonstrated the Great Wheel and brought textiles to show from the workshop of her famous father, Miguel Andrango.

There were at least two dozen national and international presenters over the two days. I was especially pleased to have been able to meet Mary Frame who spoke about Inca geometric figures called tukapu. I am determined to learn three color double weave so I can use some of those designs in my pieces.

In the talks we were taken on journeys from Mexico and Guatemala to Bolivia and around Peru from pre Incan and pre Hispanic times to present and taught about techniques from weaving and dyeing to administration and marketing.

Maiwa Productions showed us a wonderful video on indigo dyeing in India.

Some of the presentations I most enjoyed were those by the weavers in the communities that are involved in the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales de Cusco (CTTC). They spoke of their lives before and after their experience with CTTC, their struggles, successes, accomplishments, frustrations and failures while trying to revive their lost weaving traditions. The talk I enjoyed most of all was that given by a group of weavers who described the impact of weaving competitions on their motivation to continue weaving and improving, their self esteem and ability to solve problems and work as a team.

We witnessed the winning weavings and the prize-giving ceremony for the 2010 weaving competition.


This is the winning piece by the weavers of Chahauytire community and is entitled "matrimonio". I have to admit that this had me scratching my head at first wondering about something so relatively plain from weavers renowned for their intricate pick up patterns until I realized that this piece is made up of thirty-six individual squares of thirty by thirty centimeters, each woven by a different weaver. Imagine!! I can't even begin to imagine how difficult it would be to create a four-selvedge piece that came out exactly thirty cm long. And thirty-six weavers had to turn out pieces with the same level of exactitude so that they could be pieced together with no puckering or stretching...AMAZING!! How difficult it must have been to match the diagonal lines on the two panels that form the church roof!!

Two other prize-winning pieces are shown below. All pieces had to meet the same requirements and have their thirty six panels of thirty centimeter squares. Every weaver has their own tension which means that no standard warp length can guarantee a thirty-centimeter finished length. The weavers who gave the presentation about the competitions let us in on some of the difficulties and disappointments they had to deal with in these projects and the problems they faced and overcame working as a groups rather than as individual weavers.

The following pictures were taken during the coffee and lunch break demonstrations and first thing in the morning when the weavers would be arriving early from their communities.

There was plenty to fascinate everyone...not only the foreign visitors but also the local Peruvian weavers. During this lunch break many couldn't take their eyes off the loom and weaving of a Bolivian weaver from Tinkipaya, near Macha, in Potosi, Bolivia. They stood and watched her from every possible vantage point and some were just as camera happy as we were.

The weavers, spinners and knitters would arrive by bus early in the morning, some coming from communities as far as five hours distance from Urubamba (and some maybe even further). Time was easily passed by sitting in groups spinning, knitting and chatting.

Knitters from Sallac community pass the time before the start of the conference.

There were many kinds of looms and weaving techniques to be seen….

A Guatemalan weaver from Santiago Atitlan on the left makes designs with supplementary wefts and a Bolivian weaver from AAA, la Asociacion de Artesanos Andinos from Cochabamba, Bolivia props her loom against a low wall to weave complementary warp pick up patterns.

A group of weavers who work with ASUR in Sucre came including this Jalq'a woman from Potolo. At right is a weaver from Accha Alta weaving a supplementary warp technique.

Tapestry techniques from South and North America. I am sorry that I didn't find out which community this gentleman is from but it was wonderful seeing him weaving tapestry on a backstrap loom. At right, D.Y Begay demonstrates Navajo weaving on her vertical loom.

Weavers from Accha Alta on the left and Santo Tomas on the right. While the weaver from Accha Alta uses a stick to pick up his warps I noticed that quite a few weavers pick up the threads with their hands as I prefer doing.

I have just updated this post to add this photo not originally included as I did not know from which communities these two weavers are from. Now I see in a magazine that I picked up in a street book fair in Cusco that the lady on the left is most likely from Ccachin. I don't know about the weaver on the right. The colors in their outfits are so intense!

Luz Maria Andrango of Otavalo, Ecuador created a lot of interest with her demonstration of spinning on a Great Wheel (walking wheel?).

Ten year-old Juan Miguel of Acopia community started weaving in August and is doing pebble weave here while his grandma watches. The wee girl on the right is even younger I think and is weaving a tapestry on a floor loom where her little legs can barely reach the peddles.

Watching the watchers...while the weavers gathered around to watch the demonstrations, I stood back and admired their gorgeous outfits. On the left is a group of ladies from Sallac community and on the right from Chahuaytire.

Bolivian textiles...a jalq'a weaving with its strange khurus, double weave belts in handspun and naturally dyed yarns made by the weavers of PAZA, Cochabamba, a weaver from Tarabuco adds a woven edging to a finished weaving, a bag made with the typical zig zag and "eye" motif of Tinkipaya and Macha in the Potosi area.

Rosa Choque, an Aymara weaver, gave a presentation at the conference on projects in which she is involved which aim to preserve the textile traditions of Moquegua, Peru. I think that these are some of the textiles which she brought but I could be mistaken. I would love it of someone would confirm this for me.

On both days during the afternoon break, the local weavers gathered in groups which gave us all plenty of nice photo opportunities as well as a good chance to learn the names of the different communities and, therefore, be better able to recognize their members by their outfits.

Men from Chahuaytire.

Women from Santo Tomas - we all loved their boots.

A group from Chahuaytire above and from Chinchero below. I believe, but I could be mistaken, that the distinguished lady on the left is Nilda's mother, Doña Guadalupe.

Three weavers from Bolivia above. Luz Maria Andrango of Ecuador below with two Peruvian ladies.

Artisans of Sallac. Their ponchos include panels of patterns created with resist dyeing techniques.

A young weaver-to-be and a little fellow with his pututu

Well that was a “taste” of the daytime activities. The nightime dancing and spinning competitions were a little harder to capture on film with the dim lighting but I did get some video. All the video I shot of weaving, spinning, braiding and dancing will be on next week’s blog.

The conference closed with a very emotional ceremony which served to honor all the elders of the various communities who were given certificates and medals of recognition as well as gifts.

This was preceded by another ceremony in which the elders were invited to hand over sets of weaving tools to the youngsters in their communities.

Youngsters lined up waiting to receive their weaving tools. An elderly weaver passes a set of new weaving tools to a young girl in her community. The young girl's smile says it all.

So that was the two days of conference. Then came the workshops which I am saving for next week’s blog post along with the videos. And next week I will tell you about the other folks I met up with, some of whom I have been corresponding with by email or through my blog and others whom I met at Convergence. Betty Davenport, who is always lots of fun, was my companion in the little “down” time we had and we took the same workshop. Folks from Interweave were there too. The workshop days were more intimate and gave a lot of us a chance to chat and catch up. More about that next week.

And here is the amazing woman with the brilliant smile who is behind this unique event. It was not an ideal situation to meet Nilda for the first time. She was so busy and I don’t believe she stood still for a moment. Yet I learned a lot by watching her in action and seeing the warm affection she has for those who are lucky to be her friends, her passion for the CTTC and its goals and her love for her country and her people. Hopefully I will be able to go back one day to meet her again.

Part Two of my Tinkuy Tale can be seen here


One last message…

My Backstrap Basics article is now on the WeaveZine site in Spanish. The videos remain in English but are, hopefully, self explanatory.

Mi articulo “Backstrap Basics” (El Telar de Cintura) ya se puede leer en español en la pagina de WeaveZine. El audio de los videos sigue en ingles pero las imagenes son suficientes para entender.








  1. Laverne,
    The Chahuaytire men’s outfits are particularly stunning. And you will tell us how these ponchos/blankets were woven?

  2. I had such a great time reading and seeing the pix, almost feel like being there…. it’s been on my mind.. maybe next time, you were so lucky to be there, and it sure looks like you got so much .
    Thanks so much for sharing it .
    can’t wait for next week.
    Nilda looks great, and she is truly a remarkable lady, I hope you get to meet and connect with her one of these days.
    Thanks again for the treat.

  3. Thank you for sharing your experience and your terrific pictures! I look forward to reading the next installment.

  4. What a fantastic post! Thank you for sharing what must be a once in a lifetime experience!

  5. What an amazing experience! So much colour, the costumes are fantastic, and the warmth of the weavers is almost tangible in your photos! I will have to come back and re-read this to pick up on the bits I missed this first time around, there is so much to absorb. I know how much I enjoy meeting other weavers, so this must have been a once in a lifetime experience!
    Thank you for this post.
    Cheers, Caroline

  6. I just have to say…female hips are so handy for making a statement…in any language. Great pictures!! Thanks so much for sharing!


  7. A stunning post! I am amazed by all the gorgeous clothes! Thanks for posting

  8. Unbelievably stunning!! Thanks for sharing Laverne. We are all drooling wishing we had been there.

  9. Thank you Laverne for sharing your wonderful experience with those unable to make the trip. As always you bring weavers from around the world a little bit closer.

  10. Gracias !!! ya deje comentario en face pero igual te agradezco nuevamente tu generosidad!!! ya veré de hacerte llegar fotos de mi incipiente trabajo !!!

  11. Incredible! I love the work of all these communities, but I have a special place in my heart for Pitumarca and the scaffold warping. And I love the resist work of Sallac. I have pieces of work from both communities 🙂

  12. What a feast for the eyes! Thank you so much for sharing your gorgeous photos.

  13. Laverne, Thanks for sharing! Great to see all the wonderful costumes and weaving.

  14. Thanks Laverne, what an incredible time you’ve had in Urubamba, thanks for sharing part 1, amazing photos and post, can’t wait to see the videos and your post on the workshops as well next week!
    hugs from Mendoza…!

  15. thank you for taking the time to document all this information! So much color and detail! It is awesome. You might want to check with some libraries for this dvd

    The scaffolding warp is documented in this video. Not sure if it is the same that you saw.
    take care Deb Mc

  16. Laverne, thanks so much for the detailed report on Tinkuy. I wish I could have gone. Perhaps the next one! Meanwhile, I shall live vicariously through your reports and through Abby’s.

    If you ever have an opportunity to take a class with Nilda–whatever the topic–take it. She is a wonderful, humorous, accomplished teacher.

  17. It took me two days to go through your post, so full of amazing photos and information. The weaving all around must have been incredible and so inspirational. I continue to be humbled and am learning patience as I learn some of the techniques you are sharing. Thank you. Evelyn

  18. Thank you so much for this. As someone who’s only just encountered the sense of community among spinners (I’ve come to the fibre arts very late), I can begin to imagine the importance of an event like this, with people sharing skills, teaching and reinforcing their knowledge that traditional weaving skills are valuable and to be respected.

  19. truly amazing pictures. Next year, I’ll try to be there. All this push me to practice even more.

  20. You are a very generous person to take the time to put such a beautiful post together. Thank you.

  21. Wow, what a feast. Thank you for sharing the experience. It must have been powerful for so many diverse communities to get together and share knowledge.

  22. Yes you are right I am lucky to have been Nilda’s friend for the last 10 years. With Nilda’s help I made a dvd of the weaving techniques in the Cusco area including warping up for the scaffold warp used in Pitumarca. All your questions would be answered by watching this. For instance, yarn is strung across alongside the metal rods right at the beginning, so when the rods are removed after warping is finished the yarn is already in place. You can check out the dvd on my web site “Traditional Peruvian Weaving”

  23. Hi Laverne:
    It was wonderful meeting you and also catching up with Betty Davenport at the Tinkuy. Thank you for your amazing post so quickly done as I know you had other committments very soon after the Tinkuy.
    I just arrived home in Canada having spent an extra 10 days after the Tinkuy in Ollyantaytambo and Cusco. Your post with the photos was wonderful and brought back all the excitement and I have to admit some quiet happy tears. You are correct that the older Chinchero lady in the picture IS Nilda’s mother Guadeloupe.
    It is a land of white snow here and once I get over the cold I brought back I will send you some photos of the visit I made to Patacancha community an Awamaki Project out of Ollyantaytambo. Beth Wald, who was taking photos for Nat. Geog. Traveller, shared her transport with us perhaps she will post some of her professional photos in due time.

    The Centre gave me a lovely piece of scaffold technique from Pitumarka as a gift for my volunteer time with them and Ann Rowe says it helped her to figure out how to warp the 3 colour pattern weaving they use on these pieces. She also received one of their scaffold pieces but it has a must finer smaller terminal area than mine which gave her more area to figure the warping method.

    We must keep in touch and good luck with all your planned weaving experiments.
    Judith Crosbie

  24. […] ideas. Many spinners have just returned from Peru where they were fortunate enough to experience Tinkuy firsthand—Judith and also Linda Ligon among them. I know we'll hear more about the […]

  25. Not being a weaver, but a lifetime spinner, I was really amazed and almost into tears when I saw all beautiful people and their extraordinary craft.
    How wonderful that you brought all this to my eyes – I hava to go tell someone, right now!
    Thank you so musch.

    • I am so glad it meant so much to you, Betty. Thanks for visiting.

  26. […] ideas. Many spinners have just returned from Peru where they were fortunate enough to experience Tinkuy firsthand—Judith and also Linda Ligon among them. I know we'll hear more about the […]

  27. Ich liebe Deinen Blog.
    Bin gerade dabei einen Beitrag nach dem anderen zu lesen und freu mich dass ich erst bei 2010 bin und bis 2018 noch ganz viele spannende und inspirierende Geschichten vor mir liegen.
    Liebe Grüße
    Martina Musil

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