Posted by: lavernewaddington | January 7, 2011

Backstrap Weaving – The ‘Tis-Done and the To-Do

I bought myself a good old fashioned acrylic board last year to write my “To-Do” list and hung it on the bedroom wall. It is not that old fashioned when I remind myself that my teaching colleagues are still using blackboards and chalk where I used to teach English here but it is indeed old fashioned in the world of IPads and such gadgets. I really need to have that To-Do list up there in front of me with a list made in brightly colored marker pens. It is so satisfying erasing something and saying ‘Tis done! What I really wanted to do was start the year with a fresh gleaming clean white board instead of one still covered with colorful scribbled lists.

These two weaving “To-Do”s were still hanging there from 2010 and I am pleased to say that one of them is about to be erased…well almost.

The double weave belt at left went on a nice trip with me to the US recently. It came out once for a weaving demonstration with a group of Bhutanese weavers in North Carolina and then went back into its bag for the rest of the trip. So, I was determined to at least get this off the loom. You may remember that this belt is a result of my twining investigations with Montagnard weavers which led me to Bedouin twining and then Bedouin warp substitution designs which I then decided to reproduce in double weave on this belt…quite a journey!

You can see the Bedouin design piece I wove above right. The warp substitution technique (see the tutorial here) produces crisp designs on a background of solid color with long floats on the back. The same designs can be produced in warp faced double weave (see the tutorial here) without the visible floats and with the patterns reversed on the back of the band. I have all the hardware ready for the belt and just have to put it together now. I need to thread one end of the belt through the buckle which means having to cut a slot in the band. What I usually do is paint the area to be cut with diluted white glue which acts as “stop fray” and then go ahead and cut.

The finished belt, with buckle in place, in the picture has been woven with simple alternating warp floats using a design from a yurt band (see the tutorial here). So, I am just about to erase this 2010 project from the board.

The other unfinished project that you saw photographed above is the sample I made after visiting Guarani weaver Angela. I had just wanted to see if I could get my head around the Moisy technique she was using so, basically, that was a mission accomplished, but I still think that I could make something useful from this piece and don’t feel like discarding it. So, that is next.

Of course I still won’t be able to wipe the board completely clean as it is now filled up with 2011 stuff. And that is the way it should be!

While I was immersed in double weave finishing off my belt, I decided I would make a video showing how to warp for this technique to add to the existing tutorial. Those of you who subscribe to Handwoven may recognize these double weave keyfobs which are shown in the Jan/Feb issue…

This will probably sound completely ridiculous to those of you who are used to winding warps of several yards or meters for multiple projects on your large looms…I wind a tiny warp for each and every keyfob. Warping for double weave and making string heddles across such a narrow warp is such a breeze for me that it doesn’t bother me at all to have to repeat the process for each and every fob. I love the opportunity to play with colors and not have any two fobs the same. I can create a third selvedge for every fob and save time not having to deal with hemming a raw edge which is tricky and often unsightly in double weave. I did weave thirteen identical fobs on an inkle loom once and won’t do that again.

And, as I always say, the only trouble with double weave is deciding which side you prefer…

Decisions, decisons…which side do I prefer? Here are the backs of some of the keyfobs shown above.

The big problem for those learning double weave is that it can be painfully slow. There are a lot of steps and, until you understand why you are making the moves, it all seems like a terrible amount to have to memorize.

It is easy to miss a step and make a mess or lose your way if you have to leave it for a moment…just part of the learning process.

I have been told several different versions of what this little design represents by weavers here in Bolivia and I wrote a little about this here. In any case it is a simple neat design, easy to memorize and fun to weave.

The pattern chart is on the left.

I made several pieces of video covering warping, creating the third selvedge, making string heddles and putting in a second cross to stabilize the shed rod. This week I am trying to just post the warping and third selvedge segments. These videos take so long to upload and my internet connection is not cooperating today. I will add others each week and have them stored on the double weave tutorial page. I hope you find them helpful (once I get them up there).

While on the topic of warping, we have started the Weave Along in the Backstrap Group on Ravelry and, hopefully, participants have read my three little tips from last week’s post particularly the one about the importance of having a good stable set up for warping. Some photos of improvised warping have been posted in the online weaving groups in the meantime…

This is from backstrap weaver Fliegenpilz in Germany, whose idea it was to have this Weave Along in the first place. She has warped for a pebble weave band following the instructions in my book.

Phil has himself nicely set up to weave in his rocker. Check out how he wound his warp with stakes lodged in kitchen drawers.

I caught the next picture in another weaving group on Ravelry…

Pancha says that her idea for warping, pictured above, originally sprang from her desire to try backstrap weaving. She has used it for other looms too but is now fed up with bending and walking up and down and has ordered a warping board.

Other weavers from Weavolution have shared their finished projects with me…

Deanna wove these bands decorated with Andean pebble weave designs on her Leclerc Dorothy 15″ table loom following the draft in my book. She also backstrap weaves and ties up her loom to her 40″ sixteen-shaft Macomber loom…a nice sturdy place to attach a loom bar.

Speaking of which, here is Jennifer’s pebble weave warp tied to the castle of her floor loom…

She has it angled  steeply upward which means that she has the warp threads quite close to her for doing pick up and does not need to bend. Each weaver will find their own way. I prefer a gentler angle.

Marsh Knox of PandulaArts has been following the tutorial on simple warps floats and weaves on a Gilmore Mini Wave loom. I have shown many of her finished bands here. Recently she had some of her bands, which she made with alternating floats, sewn into a mini tote bag for a friend…She calls this the “one-skein project” bag.

I had a few things going on this week. Firstly we got a short reprieve from the heat and humidity and were able to turn off the a/c and have the windows open for a whole day. This gave me the chance to boil up the nasty llama bones I have had lying around since my friend Anna brought them to me from the highlands a few months ago. These are the wichuñas, the bone tools used by weavers here to beat in the weft and pick up warp threads for patterning. They are also used in Peru where they are called rukis.

Several boilings and changes of water were needed to get them cleaned up. The smell!! There they are on the right –  white and gleaming. The tips could do with a bit of refining but otherwise they are good to go. Several years of use will have them take on the lovely hue of old ivory and I have seen some very old ones that have the tone and shine of polished wood.

That was another 2010 task to gladly erase from the board.

As for the ongoing twining obsession, I started a loom bag project and am twining its strap with letters. Just when I started thinking that I was taking the twining obsession a little too far with this lettering fad, I was shown these fabulous images of Batak twining…The Batak people live in northern Sumatra in the hilly region of Lake Toba.

These amazing textiles are part of the collection of Pamela Cross and she has allowed me to show them to you here on my blog. She describes the above piece as a Toba Batak sadum (a woman’s shoulder cloth). Twined lettering! This twining is so very different to that done by the Jarai and Rhade weavers with whom I studied. How beautiful.

Here are some more images that Pamela shared of the twined bands on other Batak textiles…The following one is a ragi hotang which I understand is a shoulder wrap.


The following is a surisuri. Pamela says that the surisuri is one of three types of indigo-dyed textiles used for Toba Batak rituals.

Here are twined bands from several different types of Batak textiles. The design on the second one from the top is so Andean-looking don’t you think?!

It is exciting to know that there is a book available now by writer/researcher Sandra Niessen, PhD on  Batak textiles:

“Legacy in cloth: Batak textiles of Indonesia offers the first definitive study of the woven heritage of the Toba, Simalungun, and Karo Batak.

The most complete analysis of Batak textiles ever published, it provides a record of more than 100 different design types, including archival and contemporary photographs showing how the textiles are woven and how they are used in Batak culture.

Legacy benefits from fieldwork conducted over two decades and consultation of all major European collections of Batak textiles and private collections in Indonesia.”

Even more exciting for me was being able to make contact with Sandra.

She kindly shared some pictures taken by MJA Nashir of a Batak woman twining. The process is not at all like that practiced by my Montagnard friends.

The weft appears to be tensioned between the toes and a small stick seems to be used to aid in the twisting of the two wefts. No doubt Sandra’s book thoroughly discusses the process and I am itching to get the book and have my curiosity satisfied and learn more about the Btak people and their textiles.

Sandra tells wonderful stories on her blog of how she has been returning to the villages where she conducted her research to present copies of her book to the weavers.

Well…after all that eye candy here is the humble twined bag strap I have been making with twined letters.

The idea is to twine the word “weave” in several languages. I have just begun the German version. I hope to do French, Portuguese, Quechua, Aymara, Guarani, Russian, Jarai and many more, if they will fit, with each word in a different font. I would love to hear from blog readers around the world who can tell me how to say “weave” in their language.

The letters are a munched version of those in Linda Hendrickson’s book Please Weave a Message. Remember that Linda’s letters have been designed for card weaving,  not twining, and are far prettier than the ones I have used here. Check out Linda’s page to see her gorgeous lettered bands.

So this will be the strap for the loom bag in which I will carry my backstrap on future trips. The shape will be based on the camera tripod bag which I have been using until now. I haven’t put much thought yet into the body of the bag but I will weave it on my backstrap loom using a heavy-ish black mercerized cotton and some of my new Tahki Cotton Classic thread for patterns and embellishments.

And continuing on the lettering theme,  weaving friend and blog visitor Sharon Kersten completed the chart of letters for the Montagnard warp float lettering tutorial that I did last week and has sent it to me to pass on to all of you. She saw my photo below of various bag straps woven with letters and used it to chart what she thinks the missing letters could look like as well as the numbers. Many thanks!

I will leave you here for this week with this new Bolivian beverage…

Peru has its Inka Kola and now we have”Coca Colla”! It’s a play on words, not bad spelling…”colla” being the word to describe people of indigenous origins here in Bolivia (pronounced coya- the oy sounds like the oy in “boy”). It is made with coca leaf extract, is heavy in caffeine and slightly carbonated. All I can say is that…weeeel…. it tastes as good as it looks. 😉 Cheers!


  1. What a great post. I so enjoy all of your posts, and this one is so full of info. I hope to start on the WAL next week. I am going to be out of town most of this weekend for my sister-in-law’s 70th, but maybe I can wind a warp on Sunday and get started. I don’t want to get too far behind. I’ve ordered a Gilmore mini wave because I think I’d like to try “backstrap” on that and am entranced by Marsha’s projects on one. It’ll come in a week or two. In the meantime, I’ll do a project on my backstrap.

  2. Thank you for a great newsletter, I find the type very small and difficult to read. I use Mozilla Firefox as my browser and have downloaded a program that enhances and enlarges the print form . When my browser has loaded the web page all I have to do is click on the “R” in the lower right hand corner and off I go. The older we get the more difficult it is to read all the fine print. Colin in Cape Town

  3. Hi Laverne,

    Another blog full of information,eye candy and inspiration.

    Enjoy the reprieve from the heat!


  4. Again you flatter me with posting my work! Remember I only did the woven panels, my friend Dana assembled and picked the fabric. It was a team effort and we are both thrilled with it. Thank you so very much, I have come a long way with all of your help and encouragement. I so enjoy drinking my morning cup of coffee in the early hours of the morning and reading this blog. Always full of something new and informative. I might have to try twining soon also.

    I would really love to do the designs on Angela’s bag. Is that something like double weave. Would the chart work for it? My double weave band for the Ravelry WAL is about 10 inches long so far, I am still not doing a design in it though. I decided just to work on my edges, even beating and consistent motions. And, of course trying not to forget my place when I have to put it down. LOL But my next one will definitely need designs and I adore that flower and butterfly! Please let me know!

  5. Dear Laverne,
    I am new to your blogs and this is my first post received in dark, snowy Chicago at 8am today–before my colleagues have arrived at work.
    About “To Do” lists: I have taken to writing things I have already done on mine, then crossing them off, so the list does not discourage me too much!
    I am today, going out to get yarn for the 1st narrow band project you suggest in your warping tutorial so I can make a backstrap loom this weekend.
    I am part of a group that for the last 10 years has helped support a village in Guatemala that is rebuilding after the Civil War; this is a village that has never had a tradition of weaving. Twice, I have taken back strap looms I have made from illustrations in books to show the women who are VERY interested in learning how to weave, but on both occassions, none of us could really get the sheds to work. This year I am going in April, and I hope with enough practice between now and then we can build some looms together and get them working.
    Up until now I have used simple weaving projects for the kids–making pouches by weaving on both sides of a piece of cardboard–and everyone loves it.
    All of this is to thank you for your very fine tutorials that I hope will make it possible for me to take some of this to Guatemala. For myself, I hope to get fluent enough with backstrap weaving to re-create some of the indigenous designs I see on the women’s huipiles, or traditional blouses.
    Thank you again, this is so exciting!
    Linda Clum

    • Hi Linda and welcome. Where is the village in Guatemala that you are helping?

      • It is in Departamento K’iche , off the road, about 8 hours from the capital of K’iche, Santa Cruz del K’iche. This was one of the areas hardest hit by the war, meaning, an area that the Guatemalan government and paramilitaries targetted for reprisals with the result that there were many villages like this “wiped off the map” and their people massacred.
        In better times, the area North of it, Coban, was a center of weaving, but for some reason this village never had the tradition.
        Thank you for your interest.

  6. Thank You for such a lot information and beautiful photo´s ! I realy enjoy Your page!!

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