Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 8, 2011

Backstrap Weaving – California here I come

The pre-trip panic is setting in! Actually, I find myself remarkably well-organized for this departure a whole two days before I leave but, even after all these years of traveling about, I still can’t escape that wee bit of unease every time I am about to step out of the comfort zone and launch myself into the great unknown. So, California and all my west coast online weaving buddies, the new places and the new people…here I come!

Spring seems to be fiber festival time in the US and I am looking forward to finding something to which I can tie up my loom, hanging out and weaving and chatting to people. I wound a couple of warps, one with a narrow tried-and-true pick up design on a field of plain weave. I have found that it is better to keep the pick-up narrow and simple as this gives people who have never seen this before more of a chance of following what I am doing and me more of a chance of chatting to them while I am doing it!

You probably recognize this design from the mass of key fobs that I made in pebble weave  last year. Yes, I know it is a bad idea to use colored heddles on a black warp. Yes, I know I will be ages picking bits of red and yellow fluff out of my black cloth but it is prettier this way for showing off to people, isn’t it? So, I have just gotten this weaving underway and now it is rolled up in my backpack. I made one other wide warp with fine thread so I can show people how I open the sheds with warps of this nature.

I really wanted to make a contribution to the Spin-Along in the backstrap group on Ravelry before I left too.

We are spinning yarn for warp-faced weaving as well as respinning commercial yarn so it will be smooth and strong enough to use on the backstrap loom.

I already cheated earlier by posting my discontinuous warp project in respun commercial wool which I had made prior to the Spin-Along (SAL). This was wool that my friend Claudia had given me when I was visiting with her last November and was not spun during the SAL. I did let everyone know that!

And I am afraid I cheated again by starting a band just the other day with some llama fiber that I had spun some years ago for dye experiments. I have small balls of various colors in a bag in the closet and was able to make a tiny warp for a double weave band.

My plan was to weave a design based on a Tarahumara belt pattern that I had reproduced a long time ago in a pebbly float weave (at left).

It was easy to chart for double weave but, once warped up, I thought that the fine lines would probably get lost in the hairiness of the llama fiber and so I chose a simple solid pattern instead.

I guess I didn’t really put much thought into this little project. All I wanted to do was make a contribution before I disappeared on the road.

I have to say though that it was a lot of fun weaving with handspun, especially my very own, after all this time.

Pictures of handspun wool have been appearing in the SAL thread in the backstrap group and it is very exciting. I suspect we shall be seeing these yarns on the loom soon.

Jennifer has been hard at it on both wheel and spindle.

This is what Tracy has prepared….

Popsicletote prepared this nice collage of photos of her finished band entitled “Little Prayer”made with her handspun with pebble weave patterns on her backstrap loom…

And here below is my wee “cheat” contribution…

And you can see that I did try the Tarahumara motif in the end and the lines of single warp are not getting swallowed by the llama fiber. The colors are natural brown and black on the edges and cochineal and spearmint leaves for the pattern. I should be able to get two key fobs with each of the two designs from this warp.

This all reminds me of how easy it was get to get nice wool at the store when I lived in Chile…not to mention all the fleece there was on hand down in Patagonia.

There was a beautiful yarn made by Reginella that was a fine combination of wool and alpaca. I used to ply it with high twist and it came in the most gorgeous range of colors which had a soft natural look. Even the reds and oranges were sort of “dirty” looking, if you know what I mean.

I must get back to Chile one of these days to look for that.

I made the triple color pebble weave band at left with what I had left over of this yarn when I came to live in Bolivia as well as the piece below which was made into a pencil case in my early English teaching days here.


You may remember last week I introduced you to Dorinda Dutcher and the work she is doing with weavers through her PAZA organization in Cochabamba. Dorinda works out in the field with a very erratic internet connection but she was in the city recently and responded to my request to provide some photos and information in her own words about what she and the weavers of the township of Independencia have been doing…….

PAZA – “Weaving the Past and Present to Brighten Futures”

PAZA has evolved out of a Peace Corps project begun in 2007 to support the weavers of the community of Huancarani and lead the local movement to rescue, preserve, and market their traditional weavings. PAZA has helped the weavers to revive natural dye techniques and provided technical support to improve the quality of the finished woven items for an external market. The weavers are currently moving forward to become a legal weaving association and have taken the name “Centro de Artesanìa, Huancarani”.

Youth have been involved to address the preservation objective. PAZA began the Club de Chicas in December 2010 during school vacation to help bridge the rupture in the passing of weaving tradition from mother to daughter when families migrate from their farms to town.

Many families migrate to provide education for their children beyond 5th grade. The Club de Chicas activities combine modern and traditional skills. The spinning and weaving classes are taught by Doña Màxima Cortez, the PAZA Coordinator. Dorinda Dutcher, former Peace Corps volunteer, teaches baking, computer, and basic business classes.

The PAZA volunteer program provides opportunities for fiber artists to enter the Quechua weaving world and take classes from Doña Màxima while offering their expertise in sewing, knitting, crocheting, or any creative activity they wish to teach.

A variety of activities typical of Tuesday and Thursday afternoons in the PAZA store/workshop.







The sales of the weavings are vital to meet the growing costs as the modern world encroaches on the farmer subsistence lifestyle.

Doña Màxima will have to sell 11 ch’uspas at 150 Bolivianos (Bs.) each to pay for the school supplies and uniforms for her 3 sons for this academic year. The 150 Bs. ($22) is not a fair price for the lengthy process from shearing to final product including the weaving by a master weaver, but it is the current ceiling of the national market.

An open-air Association meeting.

For more stories from Dorinda in-the-field please visit the PAZA blog. I am sure that she will appreciate your comments and words of encouragement.


Scratching around on Ravelry this week led me to this fun fun discovery.

You know how I love the drawings of Guaman Poma de Ayala. I have posted a few of them here before.

Well, someone on Ravelry in a thread entitled Peruvian Textiles as Cultural Crossroads provided a link to a site which contains Manuscritos de America en las Colecciones Reales which includes the volumes of images by Martinez Compañon which he made from 1782 to 1785 in the area of Trujillo, Peru.

These provide detailed graphic information about various aspects of both Spanish and indigenous life at that time including textile production.

Here is a sampling of some of the pictures…

This is just a taste…go check out the fabulous site linked above. There are wonderful pictures of costumes and more.


You may have read a lot here on my blog about my friend Lisa in North Carolina. Lisa and her family always open their home to me when I am visiting the US. Lisa’s blog is full of her Fiber Addiction Adventures. We met online via a Central Asian yurt band and have spent time together felting, spinning and backstrap weaving and experimenting with pebble weave on her four-shaft loom. As usual, she is currently into something interesting….

The first time I saw a warp-weighted loom was in the picture above which is the cover of my copy of  Elizabeth Wayland Barber’s Women’s Work The First 20,000 Years.

This picture was taken from a Greek vase dating back to about 560 BC.

I then ran across one of these looms (at left), thanks to Deb McClintock, at Convergence last year and even met the owner by chance at the Tinkuy de Tejedores in Urubamba.

I have to say that I am not drawn to building one and weaving on it myself but I certainly find it interesting as Lisa always puts a lot of time and effort into researching her projects and we get to benefit when she shares all the information and activity with us.

So here is a little of what Lisa has to say about her new weaving adventure…

I’m really excited to be learning to use a Warp Weighted Loom.  One of my favorite areas of interest is how to make and use low cost fiber tools to get people interested in spining, weaving, and felting by showing them that it can be fun and inexpensive.

My family and I are involved in the Society for Creative Ananchronism with is a historical reenactment group as well as the Piedmont Fiber Guild.  This gives me an outlet to find others who are interested in both historical fiber traditions and modern day applications.

Learning to use my Warp Weighted Loom has been one of those wonderful projects that brings in research with actual practice.  To prepare I found several wonderful books about Norse and Medieval fabrics as well as some very helpful webpages and groups,  then set up the goal to make a low cost loom based off that research.  Using just a few tools like a saw, ruler, and drill we were able to construct the loom for between $30 and $35.  When added to my backstrap loom and homemade Charhka/Spindle wheel I feel like I am prepared to take on many different types of complex spinning and weaving projects with tools that will serve me just as well at my current skill level as they will as I gain more experience and ability through practice with them.

The Warp Weighted Loom has several interesting differences from other looms I’ve used in the past.  Instead of weaving from the bottom to the top you weave from the top down.  The loom itself can also be used as a warping board which is very handy.

To begin with I used cardweaving to create a band.  My weft in this band then becomes the warp for the loom itself.  I found myself really enjoying this novel part of the warping process.

When the band was done I then sewed it onto the upper beam and used weights to tension the warp.  I found that the higher the tension the greater tendency to be a weft faced piece but I need to experiment more to find out it that bears out with other yarns.

Right now I am working on a small rug inspired by the Sami tradition of warp weighted loom woven rugs called “Grener”.  I’m using Lopi style yarns both from stash and spun at home from local wools. My actual goal for this loom is to weave Viking Era style cloth which I hope will conform with extant finds discussed in “Woven Into the Earth”.  I’ve sourced local Romney wool from a sheppardess in the Piedmont Fiber Guild, have scoured it, combed it, and am in the process of spinning high twist worsted singles.  When I have enough singles yarn for warp and weft I’ll be ready to start my next project on the loom which I plan to be a simple twill shawl made of my handspun.


Here is an update from some of the friends I have introduced to you here on the blog over the last year or so…

”Bicycle Anna” and boyfriend Alistair are back home after their almost-three-year trip by bicycle from Alaska to Ushuaia. Anna took weaving classes along the way in Guatemala and Peru and then came to Santa Cruz to weave with me. Since then, she has been unstoppable and even told me that she was finding excuses for rest days on the road just so she could weave.

I have shown several pictures of her bicycling and weaving her way down south since she came to visit me last August.

Here is picture of her and Alistair at the end-of-the-road. I am disappointed she didn’t tie her backstrap loom to the sign post! And there is another picture of a surprise happy ending. I leave it up to you to guess what happened!

My friend and anthropologist Kathleen Klumpp, whom I accompanied on a research trip to coastal Ecuador in 2007, sent me this next picture of little Melina, whom we have seen learning to spin in Kathleen’s videos, holding one of the family’s latest weaving products.

As the market for the traditional patterned cotton saddle bags is now virtually dead, they are weaving beautiful satchels with zip pockets using traditional motifs as well as adaptations of other regional designs.

Kathleen is presently in Ecuador and I hope to receive more news of this on-going project and the progress they have been making in the next few weeks.

Betsy Renfrew, who is working with the Montagnard weavers in North Carolina sent me a picture of Rhade weaver Ju Nie’s latest project. Ju specializes in weaving the fine cotton panels that go together to make the traditional Rhade skirt. These skirts have strips of pick up patterning in various techniques and are quite often finished with a band of intricate weft twining.

It will be fun to see pictures of this as Ju progresses and get a sense of how long it takes a weaver to complete such a piece. You can read a lot more about Ju and the Montagnard weavers in these other posts here, here and here and about Betsy’s project on her blog.

Finally, a couple of finished projects from some Backstrap Group weavers…

Look at all the gorgeous warp faced bands that popsicletote has turned out recently. While her handspun wool band earlier in this post was woven on her backstrap loom, I believe all these were done on her inkle loom using one of my tutorials for one and my pebble weave book for a couple of the others.

She enjoys using a variety of yarns and says that it is a shame that the photo doesn’t quite capture the different textures of the hemp, silk, linen, wool and cotton she used.  In her words… – each has a different feeling and surface texture and I find I don’t prefer any one over the other. Maybe the wool was a little more fussy to weave but not much.

And that’s Marsha’s band on the right. She says that a warping mistake had her reversing the horizontal bar colors halfway through the warping process but she turned the mistake around to make nice stick figures that complement each other in simple warp float technique.

Well, I will be in California next week, all going well. Hopefully my flights will get me all the way through in one go on Saturday. My blog posts may be erratic as a result from now on. I am sure it won’t be from a lack of stories to tell but rather from the want of time in which to tell them. Maybe you feel like some folks I met last year at Convergence who asked me to stop posting for a while so they could catch up! But, there is plenty of stuff back there in the archives worth re-reading. I can barely remember some of it myself!

Ca-li-fornia here I come…..


  1. The first piece the wider black one, is to die for! I hope to see you, do keep in touch please!

    • I will let you know when I get to your area, Laritza.

  2. I am not 100% sure what you mean by “skirtimg” I imagine you are talking about the fabric drawing in which is why you have been tying the edges to the loom frame to help maintain consistent width. Have you woven on other tyes of looms and experienced this problem or is this unique to your warp-weighted loom? There are ways to prevent that draw-in on other kinds of looms. It has a lot to do with the way in which you lay in your weft but, never having woven on a warp-weighted loom myself, I don’t know if that kind of loom comes with its own particular set of difficulties. I imagine that you are doing a balanced weave. Are you laying n the weft in an arc rather than straight across?

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