Posted by: lavernewaddington | March 4, 2011

Backstrap Weaving – Variations on a Theme and a New Tutorial

I have been all over the place this week…sewing, braiding, twining and weaving four different patterning techniques. Keeps me on my toes!

There was a lot of sewing as I finished the loom bag finally! This has been a long project mostly because I chose to twine the strap for the bag and that was slow slow slow. I decided to twine the word “weave” in different languages into the strap and, although I managed to gather a lot of words from different online buddies, I could only use a handful on the strap. I will save the others for another project.

There is some of the twining as it progressed. I used the English, Spanish, German, Quechua, Gaelic, Swedish and Nigerian words. As for putting the bag itself together, I am not much of a seamstress and so just made it up as I went along using a camera tripod bag as the model. First I made the front panel with a pebble weave design.

Then came the sides and the panels between which the zip would sit all woven in plain warp faced weave..

Once the zip was in I added a zip pull made using an Andean sling braiding technique.

Meanwhile I was still slogging away at the twining.

Then I decided it would be more practical to have pockets for all the smaller items like belt shuttles, pick up sticks and small swords and so I wove another thinner panel with the same pebble weave pattern.

The thin panel was sewn to the back of the bag. I have received two donations of large bags of assorted zips from online buddies so it was just a matter of diving into those and finding three small black zips the same size and I was set. I am getting pretty darn good at sewing these in!

Of course I couldn’t resist adding braided zip pulls. I made a square, flat-ish and round-ish braid for the the three pockets. I must do a tutorial here on that flat braid one of these days. I learned it for making straps for chuspas in Potosi.

Last of all was the strap. the last word to be twined was the Nigerian one which had been provided by a Facebook friend.The problem with twining is all the weft ends that are left hanging at the sides. I had to weave yet another plain weave band to sew to the back of the twined strap under which to hide all those ends. Actually it gives the strap quite a cushioned feel – quite appropriate for something that will be hanging off one’s shoulder.

There’s the last Nigerian word below (two words actually)…


I wove a bit more on the tencel supplementary warp patterned band with its Celtic knot motif…

And I played a bit with a design I got from a Central Asian woven piece.

My friend Lisa photographed this piece at a reenactment event some time ago and sent me the image.

There was not enough detail to see what technique had been employed and I decided that it would look good anyway woven with a supplementary weft. The design is charted here.

Last weekend one of my online buddies sent me this same image saying that she had found it on her desktop and had forgotten from where it had originated and that she thought I might like to weave it in pebble weave. After I reminded her that it was actually from my blog, we both had a laugh and then I thought, “Huh, I wonder how this would look in pebble weave?” And then another “huh”. How would it look in other techniques?

Hence the title of this weeks’s blog post…Variations on a Theme.

Here is how it looked when I originally wove it using a supplementary weft…

I guess I am very lucky to have been able to travel so much here in South America and learn so many different techniques and designs. I have often met weavers here in my travels who are masters at two techniques and have been weaving them all their lives and who are delighted and bubbling with curiosity when I show them motifs woven in the same technique from another region within their own country. Others see a technique in my samples that they don’t know and plead to be taught it. Sometimes I have to push back my desire to learn from them in order to teach them. They are always so happy to have an “edge” over their other weaving companions with this new knowledge.

So, just for the fun of it I celebrated the fact that I have had access to many patterning methods and I adapted the Central Asian motif to three other techniques. There are still several more to try.

From left to right…in the same supplementary weft technique but in finer yarns (35 wpi ground), in double weave, the original supplementary weft (24 wpi ground), pebble weave and supplementary warp. I love them all!

I once taught pebble weave to a weaver in Ecuador. The weavers in his community weave with tapestries and belts patterned with supplementary warps. The pebble weave technique is not known. I left him with drawings of various Bolivian and Peruvian motifs to copy if he wished as I didn’t have woven samples to give him. Eighteen months later I returned to see his band with his attempts to duplicate the drawings but there was also a rooster motif which he had adapted from the typical supplementary warp belts and embroideries of his community.

And Juan definitely wanted to have an edge over the other weavers. He wouldn’t even teach the pebble weave to his brothers!

I shared a room at the tinkuy with a weaver from Cochabamba who was dying to learn the design on one of my pebble weave amulet bags. She already knew pebble weave but not this particular design. As there simply wasn’t time to learn it at the tinkuy I swapped my amulet bag for one of her spindles. I wonder if she has woven it and if her new design is envied by the other weavers in her community.


The Weave-Along in the backstrap group on Ravelry is coming to its end on March 6th with what we are calling the “big bang”. There seems to be a lot of weaving going on by the handful of weave-alongers and we have even been hearing from a lurker or two. Projects are still being posted…

Tracy made one of her pebble weave bands into a cell phone pouch. She edged it with a single row of cross knit looping or Van Dyke stitch as it is in known in embroidery. (See the video in this post for instructions). Check out Tracy’s latest blog post on the textiles she saw in Syria.

Marsha (PandulaArts) wove these pieces on the left patterned with simple warp floats and then dabbled in a little double weave.

Toby, who is not participating in the weave along, but who is a regular contributor to the backstrap weaving group on Weavolution, has been trying warp substitution technique (on the left) using a Bedouin motif and double weave (on the right). The warp substitution technique is a very good introduction to the basic pick up patterning method which is also used to produce patterns in double weave. It is a good idea to start with this technique before advancing to double weave. As you can see, one of the disadvantages of the warp substitution technique is that it produces long floats on the back of the piece. The length of the floats can be reduced by carefully choosing designs and spacing. Toby’s design on the right is his own invention.

Tanyabe has been making her first steps in pebble weave on the left and Tracy is now weaving a Chinchero design in pebble weave. This design is charted in my book.

Jennifer’s Sami bands are gorgeous!! She has been doing these on her rigid heddle and inkle looms and I believe that she has one going in wool on her backstrap loom too. Once again I remind you that you can access instructions and patterns for these bands on the Yahoo Bands and Braids Group or by buying Sue Foulkes’s book here.

As folks finish off their projects for big bang Sunday, a couple have asked for a tutorial on the tubular bands that are often used here as decorative edgings for finished woven pieces. These are bands that are woven and sewn simultaneously to the edge of a piece of fabric using the weft as the sewing thread. There are several kinds of bands. Some are in plain weave and this is probably the easiest place to start learning about these.

I have put together a tutorial here with photos and a short video. I have also put a video there that I shot at the Tinkuy de Tejedores in Peru of a Bolivian weaver attaching a band to the edge of one of her bags.

These bands can be used to cover the raw edge of a weaving as I did with the edge of the cell phone pouch above. However, I would not attempt to do this until you have practiced the technique many times on the selvedges of your woven fabrics. It is far easier to learn to apply these bands to edges that are not threatening to unravel!

You can see above that a narrow warp is wound and set up with simple string heddles and a shed loop. I use a tapestry needle to carry the weft and sew the band to the fabric.

The purse on the left has been edged on three sides with one of these bands. See the full tutorial here.


Greetings come from “bicycle Anna” this week who is now down in the Chilean city where I spent my first five years in South America. Punta Arenas is the southern most city on the South American continent. From the city you can see the island of Tierra del Fuego across the Straits of Magellan.

Anna stopped by to see me at home and have some weaving lessons. She is now in the land of sheep…tens of thousands of them and her new drop spindling skills are being honed. She is carrying llama and alpaca fiber that I gave her along with a Bolivian spindle and I am sure that she will be adding Patagonian wool to her fiber stash.

And look how she is getting on with her pebble weave with her loom tied to her bike! It’s summer down there…you wouldn’t think so from the gear she has on. The days are looong and if you get one without wind it can be heavenly.

Anna has been spreading the fiber love by teaching young fellow cyclist Kate to make the six-strand finger loop braid that I learned in Potosi (one of the ones on my new loom bag).

I must warn you now that this is pretty much the end for this post of anything related to weaving or fiber as I indulge in a little nostalgia trip to the place I called home for five years…the wild Chilean Patagonia. Some of these pictures are Anna’s.

A house at left is painted with a scene depicting the famous southern Chilean lamb barbecue – asado al palo.

The Andes dip down into the sea before reaching this part of the world creating a series of islands, fjords and sounds. The land is scrubby and flat and rather colorless. Trees grow sideways with the constant winds.

Punta Arenas is a city of houses walled with corrugated sheeting. Rather than let it all run to rust residents paint with soft pastel shades, splashes of color in the bleak landscape.

This statue of an Ona indian is in the Plaza de Armas in the city center. The toe shines as visitors rub it to insure their return to Punta Arenas one day. Puerto Natales futher north is located on Ultima Esperanza Sound and is the gateway to the spectacular Torres del Paine National Park.

Craggy mountain peaks, fjords and wildlife in and around Torres del Paine…a rhea or ñandu walks with her chicks.

Herds of Guanaco roam  the park.

The hiking and scenery are superb but be prepared for a good battering by the wind! I got to go to Antarctica twice when I was there and thus add the seventh continent to my list. After all it is just across the Drake Passage! I will leave you with some shots from there.

Penguins, albatross and seals. This Albatross is in the Falkland Islands. Lots of whales too which I could never quite catch on film. And yes, I was weaving between all this!

They tell you to not to get within ten feet of the wildlife but if you just sit still on the beach long enough, the penguins all come to you!

Ah well, back to jungly steamy Santa Cruz. It’s time for coca tea and a mango!


  1. Great post. Beautiful weaving and wild life.

  2. You’ve had a busy week! Love your new loom bag – it’ll be perfect for your travels! Thanks so much for the new tutorial too! I’ll be trying it out on my “big bang” project!

  3. Your loom bag is awesome. You inspire me to want one for myself. 🙂 Thanks from me too for the tutorial. I only have a few inches left to weave and I will be putting everything together. Can’t wait to show it off.

  4. Hello, Laverne
    So wonderful this post -all of them, really! but it´s nice to see the pictures of Chile, another way of travelling for some of us.
    I’ve been lurking around your blog for some months and I’ve decided it´s already time to say hi 😉
    I worked as a hand-made carpet weaver when I was young, but it wasn´t until last year that I decided to start weaving at home as a hobby. Some months ago, while searching for information about card weaving I found this blog and you´ve been a great inspiration. I knew about warp faced weaving buit had never tried it. I’m making my first attempts at it guided by your tutorials, and I really wanted to thank you for them, I know it takes a lot of time and work to put it all together. And I love the enthusiasm you transmit about weaving…
    Well, just wanted you to know… 🙂

  5. I love the loom bag. My question Laverne is when you sleep? I am always amazed at how much you do.


  6. Thank you for sharing the beauty of the country with us, as well as the great tutorials! I have been bogged down with my weaving and must pick it up again 😉 Evelyn

  7. Great post Laverne.
    I love the loom bag with it’s many zippy pockets 😉

    Take care,
    Barry 😉

  8. Hi Laverne,
    thank you for your wonderful post again. Your loombag is beautiful.
    You are giving me way too much credit! I do love how that loom just fits to the frame of the bike, it’s one of the better places to attach to on the road, and I’m thankful forever to have found weaving as a hobby, very much inspired by you.
    We left Chile for the last time yesterday, with tears in our eyes, on a very quiet dirt road east of Cameron, where we found a small ‘lost’ group of king penguins. A gift from the ‘roadgods’ since we won’t make it across the Drake passage….
    Gosh there are many sheep here!! They ‘rattle their dags’ as we ride past them. 200 km to go.
    cheers, and happy weaving this week!

  9. Thanks for featuring my little works, and linking to my blog, Laverne! I hadn’t even seen this post yet. Antarctica, wow!! Your wealth of experience stuns me.

    The study of different techniques is wonderful. Using the same pattern really shows the difference in each look.

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