Posted by: lavernewaddington | July 8, 2011

Backstrap Weaving – Spinning Up Some Woolly Winter Warmth

It seems that I must have gone too far taunting the weather gods last week when I posted a picture of my friend Lalenya and I weaving in our summer gear in her beautiful flower-laden patio.

BAM! It got cold. Well, cold at least for here in banana land which means temperatures in the high 50s and low 60s. It’s sounds like a joke, I know, but we suffer here when the temperature drops that low in homes that are designed to stay cool rather than warm…cold ceramic floors, no hot water in the kitchen and electric shower heads that give tepid water at best unless you are willing to turn the pressure down to a dribble. And it is not only the people who are feeling it…thousands of fish turned up dead in the local Pirai River and Lalenya woke up to find her dog in a cramped up ball and had to take him to the vet.

Well, at least it has put me in a woolly frame of mind for the Tour de Fleece spinning challenge on Ravelry and it is fun reading posts from other wintry southern hemisphere folks in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and other South American countries who have been participating. And it is nice seeing the summery pictures from the northern hemisphere too.

My Tour de Fleece challenge is spinning up the colors I like in this package of roving that I won from Ashford.

I got my socks on and spindle out and joined in what can only be described as a spinning frenzy. Everyday spinners post pictures of their progress. Some days have had over a thousand posts and while reading through and admiring the creativity of some of the shots, I have come to the conclusion that I am not a true spinner at heart. Again, I tell you that I don’t have a “refined palate” for spinning. All those pictures start looking the same to me after a while yet I do enjoy soaking up everyone else’s excitement and have looked at my own thread-laden spindle with a slightly more critical eye after reading a discussion on the beauty of the shape of a cop.

But the truth is…all I want to do is get this stuff spun and onto my loom!

Above you can see my progress so far…nothing compared to the majority of folks out there. On day one it was all rather novel , the cold, the wearing of socks, the spinning – that white roving was smooth as silk and so easy to spin.

On day two I really wanted to be weaving and so set myself up at the loom so I could follow online discussions and put in a turn or two on the spindle without even having to take off my backstrap.

In keeping with the Tour de France bicycling metaphor, my bike took a bumpy cross-country detour off the smooth race route with some crashes into bushes and rolls in the grass on the third day…that was a kind of rough and stubborn piece of roving. On day four I took my feet off the pedals and just coasted along… didn’t see much progress I am afraid but I was finally able to show off a fat cop on day five (very pleased with this new addition to my meager spinning vocabulary “cop”).

While others spoke eloquently of the breed of sheep and exquisite blend of fine fibers they were spinning, all I could say was that the white stuff was nice and the red was a bit tricky. (Again I can relate this to those of refined palate and taste who can make elaborate descriptions of wine while I simply know it as red or white).

I am pretty happy with the fact that I am spinning wool and can now add this to my fiber spinning experience which so far comprises llama….

and, more recently alpaca…

Although I have been spinning cotton in the way I was taught in coastal Ecuador, I need a lot more practice with that before I feel I will be able to weave with it.

In the midst of the spinning madness I was, of course, weaving and I have finished the first of what will be four placemats. This is not the first time I have made table ware and I have a few table runners and place mats, hotpads and mug rugs stashed away as gifts. I often forget I even have them.

I pulled out this one to remind myself of how to do hem stitching which is a finishing technique that I love and learned thanks to my friend Franco Rios who told me about this video. While rustling around in my gift basket, I discovered a bunch of bag projects that I had never completely finished as they are missing tabs, straps or buttons…out of sight out of mind. Some of them are now looking rather square-ish to me and I think I will try to cut and round off the flaps in the way my Guarani teacher showed me.

But, back to the new finished project, the place mat. The design is one that I saw on a woven bag made by the Shipibo people of tropical lowland Peru. I am hoping to make four placemats, each one being in a different color scheme and having a design from a different culture.

You can see that in the end I didn’t hem stitch the edges. I had originally wanted to twine the edges with a design based on the main motif much the same as I had done with this Montagnard piece…

That was the plan but when I finished the weaving I decided that I wanted to keep it simple and so twined in just plain brown instead.

I used the same yarn as I had for the warp and weft in the weaving and twined around groups of six warps.

In the past I have twined around four and the twined sections have ended up wider than the woven piece. A group of six warps seems to be the right size.

This was a nice way to protect the edges although a lot more time consuming than hem stitching. I am always happy for a chance to keep up the twining skills.

The design on the next place mat in the set will be based on a Mexican belt and these are the colors that I have chosen…

I hope to include a few small spots of supplementary weft patterning among the warp floats as I did in the small band experiment at left.

I really enjoyed this place mat project. It has been a while since I last wove a wide-ish piece and that terracotta color was such a pleasure to weave with. This is the first one I have made with #10 crochet cotton.

This was a new design for me and it is always exciting to see the pattern appearing. The designs I have planned for the next three are all new too.

Well, I hope all you northern hemisphere folks are having a lovely summer. I thought I would post a collection of pictures of backstrappers enjoying the outdoors and I hope you will feel inspired to gather up your sticks and go outside.

Sometimes you are lucky to come upon a random post or tree trunk in an unexpected place to which you can attach your warp. That’s my friend Ulla on the right with whom I traveled in Potosi.

There weren’t any trees on the Uyuni salt lake so Carolin used her bike. Janet has no need for such things…as a truly independent backstrapper, she uses her feet!

Anna by a Chilean lake and me at the beach…Okay, so I didn’t find anything to tie up to in the sand. I inkled instead.

Bobbie has been camping at Sand Dune State Park and found something in the sand to tie onto. Sometimes you just have to get creative. Carolin’s  warp is tied to a small table against which she is pushing with her feet.

 It’s always nice when there is a deck rail to hitch to. Here at Lisa’s beach house we could listen to the birds and smell the ocean.

Semi-outdoors. Weaving in the bunny barn and in the yurt at Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. The yurt had a hole on its top through which I could look up and see the sky.

I am risking upsetting the weather gods again but if you had a patio or a view like this how could you not weave outdoors! If you have an outdoor weaving shot, please send it to me. Meanwhile those of us south of the equator will huddle indoors.

Happy weaving to all where ever you are. 🙂


  1. Don’t worry, Laverne, your skill and drive to weave more than makes up for any ambivalence about spinning! Some of us get so caught up in the spinning that we hardly manage to weave 🙂
    I’ll be joining you soon in the cold half of the world, but it will be a welcome respite – I can only play outdoors in the winter over here, nowadays it’s just too hot. I’m taking one little backstrap WIP to Oz with me, since I will surely get more outdoor time there.
    Thanks for the link in the previous post!

  2. Your are right about that, Tracy. You should see my handspun yarn stash. I have enough for many good sized weaving projects. I love spinning yarn, and yarn of all kinds. Art yarn, backstrap yarn, plain vanilla, you name it, I’ll try it.

    Laverne, thanks for all the weaving inspiration.

  3. I really like the colors for the Mexican-belt-based place mat, and can’t wait to see how you use them together. I’ll be interested to see the finished product — my family is from Mexico, and I’m very interested to learn more about Mexican weaving and see more designs.

    • Thanks Colleen,
      I chose the colors that were as close as possible to the original belt colors although I will probably distribute them ina different way in the warp. There is so so much to Mexican weaving!

  4. I do teach. Where do you live?

    • Do you teach online or via email?

      Any chance you’d teach someone from Oz? ^.^


      • Hi Shana,
        I have lots of tutorials on this blog which people around the world use to learn. You can always contact me here if you need a hand with something in particular. But, having said that, I will be going to Australia to visit my family and will teach while there. Where do you live?

  5. Up north here, weather in the 50’s and low 60’s is just right. You can put more clothes on to keep warm, but we who aren’t aren’t used to hot weather can’t take enough clothes off to be comfortable.

    Happy weaving – Betty

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