Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 22, 2011

Backstrap Weaving – From Santa Cruz to Santa Cruz

Guess where…

I seem to be really lucky when I go to San Francisco and get mist-free morning views of the bridge.

 I spent a night here at the Fort Mason Youth Hostel…what a great place, quite a change from the downtown hostel where I have stayed before. Actually, I stayed at this same hostel way back in 1992 on the first day of a 7-month backpacking and hiking tour of the US. Phew! That takes me back!

My friend Janet picked me up and we headed down south to Santa Cruz (yep, from Santa Cruz Bolivia to Santa Cruz CA) to stay with Janet’s cousin on the winery that she and her husband own. Lucky us, except that neither Janet nor I are wine drinkers! But we got to enjoy the beautiful landscape.The winery is perched on a hill surrounded by Redwood forest and has sweeping views down to the ocean and across the bay to Monterey which are especially nice when viewed from the hot tub 🙂

Eerie morning mists with weird faces emerging from the Redwoods.

The mists would rise to reveal Suzie’s pretty flower-laden patio which had a lovely Mediterranean feel. (or at least what I would imagine it to be. It is one of my dreams to be on the Mediterranean, perhaps Malta or some place like that).

Sunny afternoons were spent spinning and lazing on the porch or hanging out  at the beach and Santa Cruz Boardwalk. The Boardwalk has a fantastic old carousel.

The sunsets brought a gentle glow and we sure enjoyed the swordfish steaks.

Forgive me but I just had to include this next picture. I am a cat person and usually don’t care at all for the small yappy dogs but these two guys were just adorable!

Then it was on to a visit with the Santa Cruz Handweavers Guild for a show-and-tell by members and a slide show by me.

Here, guild president Gudrun is showing her husband’s newly published book called “Quantum Computing” for which he chose to use images of her beautiful card-woven bands on the cover.

My slide presentation took people on a wee tour of the Bolivian high and lowlands, around the continent and then deep into the textiles, and my experiences learning to weave them. At the same time I got the chance to get reacquainted with some people I had met at CNCH last year as well as meet a lot of new folks.

The following three days were spent weaving at Martha’s beautiful cabin in the woods. That little cabin with the smoke curling out of the chimney warmly greeted us each morning. Martha would join us and entertain us with her tales in her sunny garden for our lunch breaks.

And here’s the gang of backstrap weavers and then with Martha popping in to make a matching bookend with me.

And yes, we did some weaving too. There is everyone “banding together”.

We wove “barefoot“-style and later with loom bars. Annie was happy to get to use a loom that she had bought in Guatemala as well as one of her own woven sashes as a backstrap.  Yonat, above right, dove straight in and warped up for the widest motif. Ingrid, with hat, is practicing four-stake warping. That’s Ingrid Crickmore whom I met at CNCH last year. Ingrid is into all things braided and was using her pieces as loom ties during the workshop. The best news is that she has a blog with tutorials on loop braiding and will soon be adding video.

There’s Yonat on the left and Janet. We got to work with Janet’s handspun on day three when she also gave a combing and spinning demo with special tips for spinning for backstrap weaving and everyone loved her yarn.

Smiles from Dorothy and Annie, some “aha”s and a brow furrowed with concentration.

What was interesting and educational for me was the way people chose their colors and placed their designs…no two were alike. I get to learn too in these situations and I have some new color combinations circling in my mind. A friend had asked me to make him a guitar strap with southwest colors and, thanks to Janet, I now have the perfect combo.

Plain weave bands patterned with warp stripes and supplementary wefts, simple warp floats in cotton and pebble weave in handspun wool.

Barbara and Ingrid are at work above showing one of the many cool things about backstrap weaving…you can make short warps quickly and easily for the tiniest projects like a one-of-a-kind key fob or book mark.

During lunch break there was much to see as Martha would bring out textiles from her South American collection. Here is THE textile which I blogged about last week

Read more about it here.

But, what I didn’t know was that she was saving the best for the last day….

This is another one of those spectacular discontinuous warp pieces from Pitumarca, Peru. From what I have seen, Pitumarca specializes in supplementary warp patterning on these discontinuous warp, or scaffolded, pieces but this one has been done with three colors in the pattern and it is doubled faced. Wow.

There are four panels, red, blue, green and yellow, each with its triple color supplementary warp pattern.

I should have just saved this for a blog post of its own entitled “Even more Speechless”. It’s hard to take your eyes off it, right?

I told you last week that Martha gave me two tubs full of textiles to take back to the winery and peruse. I will show you bits from those tubs in future blog posts but here is just a taste…

I really like the bag strap with the multiple tanka choros and those braids….!!

But best of all we got to see what Martha herself has been working on…

Firstly, the colors! I have been admiring the yurt bands of Central Asia and wishing that I could somehow use those dusty sun-bleached tones of red and blue that evolve after years of having been stretched around the yurt and exposed to the elements. Well, Martha has just gone ahead and dyed her own. The colors are just gorgeous!

With a lot of patience, dedication and know-how she has come up with just the right hues. I was SO envious! The rug above is her latest work. It is a combination of weft twining and wrapping. One of the twined strands wraps around the other to give a raised surface on a flat ground of twining. I think I understood how it works. That’s on the list to play with when I get home.

As for the colors…I’ll keep dreaming. Maybe I will get into that kind of precision dyeing one day.

One of the highlights of this trip was spending more time with Annie MacHale. You may know her as ASpinnerweaver and she is on my blogroll but I think of her as the Queen of Sashes. She is one creative lady with an irresistible bubbly laugh.

Janet and I got to see her sash collection and hear the stories that go with them, rummage through her yarn stash and go from one inkle loom to the next in her living room/studio checking out her works-in-progress…and the books!!

One thing I have been wanting to promote while on this US tour is the lesser known weavings of the lowland areas of South America. We have all become so familiar with the textiles of one  particular region of highland Peru through the hard work of Nilda Callañaupa and the CTTC. I have had the fortune to study with weavers in lowland areas too most notably in Santa Cruz where I live and in coastal Ecuador. The weaving may not be as technically sophisticated as the work being done in the Cusco area but is every bit as note worthy and often sadly neglected.

It seems that the work of the Shipibo people is calling to me from various sources. Just before I left home I found an image of a textile which the photographer had bought in Ecuador but which she believes was made by the Shipibo people of the lowland jungle areas of Peru and this is something I would like to investigate. It is woven with a technique that I have only seen used in South American textiles in images in books of textiles of northern Argentina that are no longer produced.

At the weaving get-together Yonat brought, amongst other things, Shipibo textiles to show that she has in her own personal collection…beautiful embroidered and appliqued pieces (above) with very distinctive designs. I only have some small painted pieces of Shipibo cloth at home. This is what Yonat brought…

And then Martha showed me this…

This too is a Shipibo piece and  part of the late Anne Blinks’s collection and something which she had studied. The wonderfully simple branch loom holds a piece of fabric which was probably destined to be a wristlet. The completed woven pieces around it are wristlets, some of which are Anne Blinks’s reproductions. You can see the enormous quantity of fine patterning sticks that have been inserted in the warp to program the design. This was amazing! I love the fact that it is just one color and that the pattern shows as a fine texture. I love the sword/beater too.

See all the fun stuff I got into!

A million thanks to everyone who brought textiles and so willingly shared them with me and the group. There was always a frantic effort on my part to take photos of everything. Peggy also brought some interesting bands that she had bought in Oaxaca.

Now I am up on Janet’s farm in Humboldt County and we are planning a weavers’ gathering here. Take a look at that porch…isn’t that the most perfect backstrap weaving site? I put a cushion on the floor and tied up to one of those posts, nicely shaded while I got to wiggle my toes in the sun. For warping I clamped pegs to the edge of the porch and stood down in the garden. Perfect!

Janet’s husband has a family heirloom coverlet. This was especially thrilling to me as I had seen these in the Folk Art Museum in Williamsburg last year behind glass. I read how they were made with both cotton and wool, the white being cotton and the blue wool and could make out the balanced double weave. Now I have had the chance to touch one and drape it across my lap…a whole different experience.

So that is where I am at so far. We are off to Eureka tomorrow to meet some other weavers and do some backstrap weaving and so I have been able to squeeze in this blog post. Before I go I wanted to show you some things that have been going on in the Ravelry Backstrap Weaving Group…

The Spin Along is still going and Jennifer respun some commercial wool and showed us its ‘kinkiness” before it could be stretched out on her backstrap loom and woven into this lovely piece.

Marsha and Carinefile are both doing Double weave. Marsha’s piece on the left is a guitar strap with the musician’s name woven in and Carinefile has made the sampler that goes with the tutorial here.

Jentide and Melisende made Sami bands. These are traditionally woven on backstrap looms using a small rigid heddle but, as you can see, they can be perfectly adapted to inkle looms.

And Bobbie completed a pebble weave bag…

And if you are in an “Eastery” mood from looking at one of Janet’s bunnies, I wrote a post for Easter last year about a colorful Semana Santa, or Holy Week, that I spent in Guatemala in ’08 in three different areas, full of color and beautiful people and textiles.

You can see it here.

Meanwhile, Mike the Mouser is kindly helping me deal with pet withdrawals.



  1. Laverne, If you see Martha Stanley again, tell her “hello” from Grand Junction. She was here a few years ago and taught us how weave Anazazi sandels. She is an amazing teacher and has a wealth of knowledge about her subject. Have a good time in California and on the rest of your journey. Gladys

    • Hi Gladys,

      I will most likely be seeing Martha again in November…she doesn’t do email. She showed us her Anasazi sandals and they were amazing. Didn’t photograph them and I am kicking myself!

  2. How lucky you are to have had a chance to share your joint knowledge with Martha Stanley! Sorry I could not be there. I too have marveled at her Anazazi sandals’ wisdom and once stopped at a museum in Salt Lake City where I was taken into the collections to see some of the originals. I am currently finishing a supplementary warp bag on my inkle loom and have the makings of a backstrap loom ready to try out your pebble weave instructions. Thank you for the new horizons you are opening for me from the lore of the ancient ones. Hope you come back to this area soon. Anne

  3. I love this! I want a branch loom!

    I like the little pattern sticks too!


    Have a joyful day!

    • Hi Franco,
      The branch loom is cool. What is not apparent from the photo is that it is actually one branch that was bent while green in two places so the “corners” are partly broken on the outside with the bending but haven’t broken all the way through.

  4. So glad you are having such a wonderful time, even though we do miss you and your activity on Ravelry.

    You have no idea how many times I have wished for a ‘search’ button on your blog. That would have saved me having to e mail and bug you all the time. LOL On the other hand it forced me to read and re-read alot of your information. Maybe that is how it all finally sank in? Great addition to the page.

    Beautiful pictures on the blog…love hearing about your trip.

    Thanks for posting the guitar strap, I am in the process of trying to make flames free hand….so far so good.

    How a wonderful week, keep yourself safe and we will look forward to your coming back into the fold at Ravelry.

  5. Thanks for posting all of these photos of our workshop. What a great time that was!
    I wish for more playtime so I can practice all I learned. Yep, I sure was pleased to use my Guatemalan loom with my own sash!
    The search box has been very helpful. I showed it off to Rick last night and we bounced all over the blog ooohing and ahhhing together.
    Good times! ~Annie

  6. This post is so fun to keep coming back to! All the mouthwatering photos, plus reminders of a great workshop. I keep seeing shapes like that branch loom–there was a metal version in a hardware store that was meant for something completely different, but to me it just looked like a loom! Thanks for everything you gave us, I’m looking forward to the next time…
    PS thanks to you Janet, too if you happen to read this! Both for the yarn and the demo–I’ve been so curious about spinning and combing for fine tight worsted, finally got to see it in action (and weave with it!)

  7. Hola Laverne,
    mi nombre es Mariana, quería felicitarte por las publicaciones tan interesantes de tu blog, muchas gracias por compartir tus experiencias con el telar; este es un tema que compartimos, yo recién he aprendido a tejer en telar de cintura, con un maestro tejedor de Junin (departamento de la sierra de Perú)en realidad solo me enseño lo básico y estoy muy interesada en seguir aprendiendo, tu información es muy valiosa para mi, y quería saber como puedo hacer para conseguir tu libro?…ahora que quiero retomar el tejido pienso que me seria de gran ayuda, ya que muchas cosas se van aprendiendo así encontrando gente generosa como tu, que compartes lo aprendido.
    me gustaría mucho recibir tu respuesta, y aquí tienes una nueva amiga.
    una vez mas gracias por todo

    • Mariana, te voy a escribir por email para explicarte como puedes comprar mi libro. Saludos!

  8. Laverne,
    I’m intrigued by one of the belts/sashes you showed in this post. It is under the set of photos you describe as from the tub of textiles Martha gave you to take and study. I really, really like the one on the lower left, it reminds me of stained glass, with a gray border and white diamonds? on top of varying colors. Do you know what technique it was? Do you think it would be possible to recreate something like it with “x”s and “o”s warp float pattern?
    Thank you,

    • I will write to you, Linda about that pattern. It is not the same as the “x” and “o” pebble weave pattern in my book although it is made up of “x” and “o” figures. The “x” is actually viewed by the weavers who create these patterns as a mirrored “y” figure.

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