Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 29, 2011

Backstrap Weaving – Banding Together in Humboldt County

A soft pretty end to a beautiful day….

I am up in Humboldt County still on my friend Janet’s beautiful farm. Online friend Cookie has just arrived for the backstrap weaving gathering we are having in Janet’s mill  tomorrow.

I first met Cookie in the Backstrap Weaving group on Weavolution and lately she has been active in the group on Ravelry. She posted a great picture some time ago of herself at her backstrap loom which she allowed me to post on this blog and it is great to meet her in person.

There she is making her backstrap which she has brought along to weave with tomorrow. As I type, Cookie, Janet and I are watching Abby Franquemont’s Respect the Spindle video which can be downloaded from Interweave until Monday for only 10 cents! Cookie had a long drive up from the Bay Area and is feeling tired and cold up here so we will save the rest of the video for tomorrow.

Janet spent the evening weaving a fine silk piece on her Glimakra band loom, Cookie spun silk (looking cold!) and I edited photos for this blog post. Cookie shared her most current passion, a style of drawing called Zentangles. I had never heard of it before and she has a whole book which she bound herself full of these fine black and white ink drawings that she has done….very cool. One is a self-portrait.

So, tomorrow Janet’s neighbors and friends will be over to weave and a decision had to be made…

…where to weave? Last week a short wave of warm weather had me out on the porch tied to one of those posts enjoying the view but the temperature is going to drop to 30 degrees Farenheit tonight so I guess we will be indoors where Janet has just as comfy a set-up in her warm mill among all the lovely woolly smells. A long piece of pvc pipe wedged behind uprights on her shelves will be our hitching post. And then there is always this monster…

 Last weekend we had eight weavers comfortably hitched to a big floor loom like the one above. We will be warm and toasty in there with the heated floors surrounded by bags and bags of the luscious roving that Janet’s mill produces.

So we pottered about in the mill today setting up for the group finding little hidden treasures to play with here and there…

Janet showed me her charka made by Alden Amos. What a piece of handmade work that is. Apparently he even bends the wood himself to make the wheels. And there is a spool of Janet’s amazingly fine handspun cotton perched on top.


Flashback to last week….friends gathered at Becky’s for some backstrap weaving.

Eight weavers having fun tied to Becky’s floor loom.

Silent concentration .

Getting the hang of it, some people can look up and smile, although Kirby doesn’t look too sure yet, before returning to silent concentration. No room for me to tie and weave.

Smiles at ”hey I can do this!” Now we can weave and smile and chat and relax. Olympia found the floor her ideal spot. Teresa had a cushioned seat while Laurynda felt more comfortable standing.

We warped out on the deck. It wasn’t really t-shirt weather although Kirby seemed to think so.

Becky baked muffins each day, prepared lunch, kept us supplied with snacks and drinks and just took great care of all of us. She didn’t weave with us.

Over dinner on the first night I asked her about her own weaving and she pointed to a shadow weave blanket that was draped over the sofa just visible from the dining table. I told her how much I wanted to weave shadow weave and how I had fallen in love with a particular piece that had been posted on Weavolution some time ago the draft for which I had been trying to obtain. I had stalked the maker to her blog so I could tell her how much I loved her work and had manged to get the book reference for the piece.

Can you guess the end of this story? It turns out that the maker was Becky and the piece on the sofa was the very one I had been admiring online. What are the chances?!  Now I will show it to you and you will see why I love it so much….

This little scrap at left is my one and only attempt at shadow weave so far…a four-shaft sample which I wove on my backstrap loom with string heddles and which I made into a sewing kit purse.

One of these days I just might attempt Becky’s eight-shaft piece if I ever get my head around the draft. The book she showed me uses a notation with which I am not familiar at all.

But, back to the warp faced weaves we were doing in our group…

We played with simple warp floats. Pictured above are some of my samples. Thanks to Annie for allowing me to use this picture that she took.

We also dabbled in some supplementary weft patterning which you can see below…

And a real treat for me was seeing a belt that Susan brought that I am guessing is from Mexico.

This is something I have never seen before and I am pretty excited about it. The belt is pretty old and worn and is patterned with two-color simple warp floats in much the same way that the Central Asian yurt bands that I studied and reproduced are. This alone was exciting to me as I love to get new designs to use in that technique.

But what was far more interesting was that we could just make out the remnants of what had once been supplementary wefts under the warp floats. The supplementary wefts must have been made of a material that had deteriorated far faster than the rest of the material in the belt.

In the picture above you can see the warp floats in green and white with purple supplementary weft which it seems was intended to cover over the white horizontal bars many of which are now exposed due to the deterioration of the weft.

What a neat idea and what fun that we just so happened to be weaving both techniques in our group.

Above left you can see one motif on the belt. Almost all the supplementary weft has disappeared from the central diamond. Actually I really like the way it looks with the two-color floats on the sides and the exposed horizontal bars in the middle and I would like to weave something just like this. However, it seems that the original intention was to cover up those bars with the purple supplementary weft.

You can see remnants of the purple weft in the larger picture on the right. It is still intact under the green floats…you can just see it peeking through.

You can see my attempt above to weave something similar to that central diamond outlined in white today. I am not sure if I have gotten it right and it needs some work and adjustment but I am looking forward to playing with this more when I get back to Bolivia.

If anyone out there has a belt like this, I would love to see it.

Other cool things that were brought to the gathering…

This beautiful skirt was brought by Teresa. Her son had purchased it in Vietnam and I was happily able to identify it as Bunong after having seen something very similar when I was visiting with Betsy Renfrew and the Montagnard weavers in North Carolina.

Linda Hartshorn brought this gorgeous piece from Chinchero, Peru still on the loom which she had purchased on a visit there. She also bought the ruki, the llama bone tool used for beating and a backstrap made from a woven band with tubular bands used for ties.

We also got to see this piece on its beautifully simple loom with just a shed rod and string heddles. Janet says that the main fabric material is linen. It is a balanced weave with supplementary weft patterning but no one knew of its origin. It certainly appeared to be quite old. Can anyone out there help identify this?

We played a bit with pebble weave using Janet’s handspun and everyone enjoyed her spinning demonstration.

Group photo time just when it was warm enough to go out on the deck again…


It is already Thursday night and we just had a day weaving in the mill. Here is Cookie happy as can be weaving a backstrap piece.

Cookie and I wove on in the mill long after everyone had left while Janet spun more wool for me to use for backstrap weaving and rescued the warp of friend Carol’s inkle loom which was suffering from a kitten attack. Carol had a really pretty simple warp float pattern on there.

I learned a couple of cool things today from other weavers. Yani, who is not one for details, looked at me as if I were mad when I suggested she do a series of four-strand braids to finish her keyfob.

She then proceeded to teach me a five-strand braid which is lovely and did just one chunky one at the end of her fob. I love this braid and will probably teach it to you all here on the blog soon. It is a nice FAST way to finish off a piece.

That’s Yani’s green piece in the center and then I just had to practice it on the end of my red one.

We wove supplementary weft patterns today and one of the decisions to be made is where exactly to have the supplementary weft turn as it weaves back and forth across the cloth. Some weavers turn it at the edge but I don’t like the lumpy edge that that creates. Other weavers turn before reaching the edge and may try to camouflage the turns or use them as decoration. You can read more about the ins and outs of this technique here.

Buffy didn’t care for the look of the supplementary weft turns on the surface of the weaving at all. I showed her ways of trying to camouflage them by hiding them in a stripe down the side of the weaving or turn them into a decorative feature but what she really wanted was for them to go away. So I wove a sample where I turned the supplementary weft on the back side of the band. Such a simple solution but in the end I think I have come to love those visible weft turns on the face of my bands.

So, here are three versions….on the left – no visible weft turns as they are hidden on the back side of the band. In the center –  the weft turns are a decorative feature sitting as little beads of color along the stripes on each edge of the band. On the right – the turns are camouflaged in a stripe which is the same color as the supplementary weft. Which one do you prefer?

We will be banding together tomorrow again…another big day ahead so I shall leave you all here and try to get an early night. Until next week…


  1. hi Laverne, as i have started reading your post i was wondering, Cookie, would that be the same Cookie from the zentangle challenge? Then i scrolled down a bit and looked at a guorgeous Zentangle tile. So Zentangle meets weaving it seems. You should try it too. But beware it is addictive. It must be great ,all weaving together, not to mention being tutored by you. I would like to weave more but with this job there is just so little time.
    greetings from Jeannine.

    • Hi Jeannine,

      Lovely to hear from you again. Now that you mention it, I have the feeling that you showed us one of your own Zentangles on Weavolution or maybe it was on your blog some time ago. I had forgotten that. Funny that you should also know Cookie.

  2. Would you share which book the shadow weave blanket came out of. You are right it is stunning!!!

  3. Wow! What an adventure! Thank you for all the great pictures!

    Have a good day!

  4. Lots of fun! I really enjoyed having you all weaving at my place.

    The shadow weave draft for the blanket came from: 1000+ Patterns Shadow Weaves by Marian Powell. Page 233, draft 8-26-1. Tromp as writ. The book is out of print, but can be found if you look around a bit.

  5. Hi Laverne !
    I have a little question for you!
    I live in Trois-Rivieres in Quebec and my neighbor have 2 sheeps.
    When they shave them, they throw ALL the wool in the trash can!
    I would like to know how can i wash it, brush it, and make threads !
    Do you knoiw how do to this?
    I completely freak out to see all these materials lost !
    One of the sheep is Black, the other , white !
    What a great colors !
    So i thanks to you for the future for your advices !!
    Thank a lots ! 🙂
    I REAAAAALLY like what you did/do !! 🙂
    Keep on !
    You make a lot of enjoy and pleasure in my life !

  6. Thank you 🙂

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