Posted by: lavernewaddington | August 5, 2011

Backstrap Weaving – Preparing to Weave Along

Preparations are underway for a new weave-along in the Backstrap Weaving Group on Ravelry.

The rules are simple: no pick-up, only plain-weave.

We are proposing two options.

The first is for a warp-faced project playing with COLOR and stripes or maybe even ikat and we have been looking at the bright cheerful colors of Guatemalan and Mexican textiles, the washed-out tones of Central Asia and the gorgeous reds of Bedouin cloth…colors obtained from cochineal and indigo and other natural sources and those bright synthetic neons favored by many weavers in the Bolivian highlands.

Simple spots and chevrons can be programmed into a warp by tying and dyeing. Checkerboard designs, horizontal bars, comb patterns and stripes can be set into the warp on the warping board and weaving can then proceed without having to count, float or pick up a single thread or look at a pattern chart.

The second option is also about plain-weave but this time we are talking about a balanced plain-weave something like the loom bag that Jen put together, the scarf that Kathi made recently and the scarf that Nancy is pictured weaving all using a rigid heddle on their backstrap looms…

The Backstrap Group members have homespun yarn on hand after having completed the Tour de Fleece and so plans are afoot for making wool shawls and scarves with purchased or homemade heddles and reeds.

Janet has already made herself a reed to try out before we start the weave-along in September as has Kathi who made a hole-and-slot heddle. Phil is taking up the challenge to create a balanced-weave piece with his homespun without the aid of reed or rigid heddle.

With cotton, towels and place mats can be made very easily using one of the standard rigid heddles that come with a rigid heddle loom. I have three 12-inch heddles that work beautifully. Some of the color-and-weave type projects would be good for this weave-along too…log cabin or simple houndstooth patterns can be woven in plain weave using two weft colors. I wove the one at left with 13 wpi mercerized cotton.

Right now we are filling up the thread in the Backstrap Group with ideas and hope to start weaving on September 1st.

In the meantime, I am itching to get at my shadow weave project using my bamboo reed. I recently saw some fabulous shadow weave pieces made by Dawn McCarthy on Weavolution. They are 8-shaft patterns and not the kind of thing I am willing to take on just yet! but her color combinations are what most attracted me particularly a black and light leafy green piece and those are the two colors that I have decided to go with on my four-shaft sample piece.

I would never have thought to put these two colors together in my project so, thank you Dawn for the inspiration. Dawn is offering online classes on shadow weave soon through Weavolution’s Cyberfiber. “Click, click” with the mouse and I got some inspiration from Dawn and a free shadow weave draft from

So these are all the future plans. As for what I have been up to this week, following my experiment with double weave edges and the motifs from Bhutan, I now have yet another cellphone pouch to add to my growing supply of gifts.

I sewed a band to make rather broad sides as this double weave sample band was only just wide enough for the cell phone. I cut and “stop frayed” the edge of the flap and then just simply sewed over and over it with matching thread and used a simple snap closure. It is quite a sturdy little pouch in double weave.

Sticking with double weave and my experiments with warping to create straighter edges, I made the first of a set of mug rugs to match my placemat set. This first one was actually supposed to be a sampler to see if I could make a good square and to test how well I had adapted the float design on the placemat to double weave. The lines of the design could be improved but the size and shape of the finished mug rug is just as I had wanted it to be so this one may be a keeper.

I wove this mug rug using #10 crochet cotton and it is thick enough in double weave to make an effective mug rug. I enjoy doing the twined finish which enables me to use the third color and I quite like the little tasseled ends that the twining produces.

So, each place mat will have its mug rug and I have just warped for the Mexican design one. I am also trying to figure the shortest warp length I can get away with using for these tiny projects.

I have also been warping, measuring, fiddling about and learning some lessons about tension for my chuspa project which I talked about last week. The sample has been made and I will probably get the real project going next week.

Above is the body of the bag warped up with the extension for the pocket.

Warping was easy. The main thing I learned was how even the very slightest variation in tension between the outer sections and the center will be immediately apparent in the weaving. This crochet cotton is particularly unforgiving for this. I will have to call in an extra pair of hands to help tie up the loom bar extensions and get this right next time.

Ha! Now I know that there was a real reason why my two teachers in Potosi set this up together!

There are a few more experiments I have been doing which I will talk about in a future post.

What I spent the rest of my time doing was setting up my tutorial on two-weft double weave here on this blog.

I actually prefer to give this my own name…“embedded double-weave” as there are bands of double-weave embedded in a plain-weave piece.

I consider this an intermediate level technique. 

Sometimes it is nice to have bands of warp-faced double-weave patterns embedded in vast fields of plain-woven solid color or stripes. This means that one can have a large textile that is not entirely double-weave and, therefore, not thick and heavy and still be able to enjoy the crisp motifs on their smooth solid color backgrounds which are characteristic of double weave.

If the large expanses of solid color were woven as double weave, the two layers of cloth would not bond and the weaver would produce two distinct layers joined at the edges, in fact, a tube, as can be seen above.

Here are a couple of my “embedded double weave” examples…

The long black and white piece above left is a table runner in this embedded double-weave technique. Only the center band with the Abba Yohanni motif is woven in double weave. It is bordered by large areas of plain-weave. On the right, the Mapuche design is being woven in double-weave with plain-weave beige borders.

And one more…

Sometimes I choose to use this embedded method for narrow bands simply because I like the way it looks.

The plain-weave borders on these bookmarks nicely frame the double-weave patterned area both in color and relief. The llama motif pattern charts are in this post and lettering charts can be found here.

Weavers in Charazani often use this technique on their large carrying cloths while those on Taquile Island use it on their broad waist bands. They use extremely fine thread and are able to weave intricate detail in their double-weave motifs.

Well, I hope that you enjoy the tutorial. It has some video segments which I had posted to my Flickr page a long time ago.  I am also going to set up an index page of intermediate level techniques and hope to add to that a video showing the basics of complementary warp pick-up soon.

To finish, this is what Amber in the Ravelry group has been working on…a beautiful double weave band and some supplementary weft patterned bands. She also made a white on white warp float band (on the left of the blue supplementary weft band) which looks great.

Now she is preparing her project for the weave-along. Come and join us!

Ooops! My subscribers will have received a message about a Pattern Chart post. Sorry, the charts are there but I didn’t mean to publish them as a post. They are on a page here.


  1. I just found your blog through Ravelry, what beautiful weaving. I spin, but never so fine as to weave like this!

    My husband made me a rigid heddle loom a few years ago, (the heddle was the hardest part), and I recently rescued an old four shaft table loom.

    I live in Chile, but surprisingly there is very little spinning and weaving where I am. The teachers at the local rural school where my daughter goes would like me to teach weaving. I did this a few years ago with small triangle looms and tablet weaving, as well as my rigid heddle loom. I was amazed how much the kids enjoyed it, even the boys who were “inquieto”! I think backstrap weaving would be something the kids could do as well, (and doesn’t need much equipment).

    I am glad I found your blog. It looks like there is a huge amount of information!

    • Well, hello down there in Chile. I am glad you found me. I am curious about where exactly in Chile you are. I took a look at and enjoyed visiting your blog. Your idea to teach weaving and spinning to kids is lovely and I hope you have a lot of success with it. Let me know if I can help in any way.

      • Hello,
        I live in La Serena, about 5 hrs North of Santiago, by car. I saw your other post about the “ENCUENTRO DE PORTADORES DE TRADICION DEL UNIVERSO TEXTIL ANDINO Y DE TIERRAS BAJAS”, with Chilean weavers. I really liked the post, what a great opportunity.

        I think most traditional weaving in Chile must be South and North of me. And with Chile being so long…takes time to get around. I will have to explore locally, I know there are some small communities that still weave, but mainly heavy blankets.

        Does the type of weaving also depend on the type of material available to the weaver? The sheep I have, local sheep, have a semi-fine but greasy, dense wool, hard to spin fine. Where as the alpaca fleeces my father brought me from Peru can be spun fine. Or does it all depend on ability?

        That is what I love about fibre arts, there are so many variables. Like you said in your post, the end product is the same, but there are different ways to get there.

        Thanks for the offer of help, I think everything in your blog will be of great help for starting!

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