I have written posts about all those mysterious sticks and wooden implements, from the basic loom bars to the heddle sticks, shed rods, coil rods, stabilizing rods, shuttles, beaters, swords, pick-up sticks, even “poking sticks” (my own name for an implement my Guatemalan teachers used to create inlaid brocade).
Last weekend I went to the highlands to the city of Cochabamba to experience the ultimate in “stickless” weaving – what I named “barefoot weaving” in a previous post and am now able to add yet another handy dandy tool to my backstrap weaving kit….my humble big toe!
I used to have rather fierce-looking, blister-proof ready-for-anything feet in my old trekking days. They carried me up and down mountains in many places across the globe but I am ashamed to say that they have now gone “soft” on me even though I rarely wear shoes in this climate that I find myself in. So, I didn’t last long with the hard-spun coarse wool chafing my toes and I shall have to put them into training for barefoot weaving.
I met Maxima at the Tinkuy de Tejedores in Urubamba, Peru last year. She was my roommate along with American ex-Peace Corps worker Dorinda Dutcher. Dorinda, who lives and works with the weavers in the town of Independencia here in Bolivia, had raised funds which had enabled her to take Maxima to the event. You can read about Dorinda’s work and her PAZA foundation here.
Dorinda, Maxima, Zoraida and Zuni were in the city last weekend selling weavings from their cooperative at a handcraft fair and this was a great opportunity for me to make a quick visit and have some classes.
That left the afternoons for weaving classes. Our only tools were our fingers and toes, scissors (am I the only one who uses her teeth when no one is looking?!) and a needle for sewing the tubular bands or bordes that we made.
Here are the lovely yarns we got to play with…handspun and dyed with natural substances. A few of the colors were not ready to weave with yet as they had only been lightly plied and so Maxima picked up her large plying spindle and gave the yarn the extra twist needed for weaving. I have some nice video of Maxima doing this seated on the ground using that typical sweeping motion between her two hands to set the spindle in motion. I will show the videos in a future post once I have edited them.
Above left, Maxima is twisting the yarn and on the right she has started warping for a tubular band using her forefinger and big toe as her warping stakes. As she does not have two central stakes around which to separate her colors, she winds her two colors together as doubled strands and then rearranges the cross once she is done. She tucks one end of the warp into the waist band of her skirt while the other ends stays wrapped around her toe. This leaves her two hands free to rearrange the warps into their two sheds.
Maxima then secured one side of the cross in a shed loop and made simple string heddles around the warps on the other side. Once the set up was complete, she removed the warp from her waistband and tensioned it between her forefinger and her toe…no backstrap or waist string was used.
You can see the first pebble weave edging we made in the picture above left. The yarn was way too chunky for the little bag we were edging but it served as a learning exercise. Then we made a much simpler style for the second project. Above right you can see the three pebble weave bands, or huatos, on which we worked on the second and third days of classes, starting narrow and gradually working up to wider designs.
While Maxima finishes off my edged pouch, I am weaving the first narrow pebble weave band. You can see how Maxima taught me to use my two fingers in the warp as my “picking cross” (I explained a little about the picking cross in last week’s post).
In my Andean Pebble Weave book I show how I was taught to create a border for pebble weave of the same thickness as the design area. Maxima also creates a thick border but in a completely different manner. This is the fourth way that I have seen pebble weave being woven…all so VERY interesting!
Maxima was a wonderful teacher. When I asked her if she enjoyed teaching she laughed and told me that when she had taught her daughters she would lose patience and want to slap them! Now she says that she is used to teaching and enjoys starting the young girls in the “Club de Chicas” in Independencia on their first weavings. I have made a tentative date to visit her in Independencia next March during the peach season.
I gave her a couple of key fobs, one of which was in double weave and I think she would like me to teach her that when I visit. I was surprised as there were double weave belts on sale in her stall but she told me that they had been made by other weavers. I have come across this before…weavers learn what their mothers and grandmothers can teach them but are unwilling to ask non-related weavers and their weaving peers to teach them other techniques.
Back at home I wanted to put things I learned into practice but I started off slowly by simply using one of the new designs I had learned in a cell phone pouch. I have made many cell phone pouches and realized that not one of them has been made with a pebble weave design which is, after all, my favorite technique.
Here is my latest cell phone pouch with the new design. You can see it on the pink bordered huato. I wove and sewed a red tubular edging and used a snap closure. I know that we like to apply nice names to these motifs but, of all the designs that Maxima taught me over the three days, only one had a name, the aforementioned linquito and she had no name for pebble weave either to distinguish it from the other weaving techniques practiced in the area.
The shadow weave piece also came off the loom this week. You might remember that I had only wound a one-yard warp as it was an experiment. I am ridiculously pleased with it! However, no matter how I tried to photograph it I couldn’t get the shadowy three-dimensional effect to show up so, here it is looking rather flat.
The two doubled black edge ends I used looked a lot better after wet finishing but I am still not sure if doing that was such a good idea. Now, what do I use this piece of cloth for? I am actually thinking of using it as the lining for a bag…would that be nuts?
I LOVED making this! I have another four-shaft draft that I might tackle and then there is the eight-shaft one that has been calling to me for some time now…do I dare?
We are less than two weeks away from the start of our Ravelry group weave-along and I found some wonderfully inspiring pictures today from the Education and More site. Kareanni who works as a volunteer for this organization is in our backstrap group on Ravelry.
I have had a wonderful array of completed backstrap projects coming into my inbox as well as posted in the Ravelry group this week. Where do I start?
And here are his simple warp float pieces…beautiful!!
You will recognize some of these designs from my tutorial while others were designed by Andreas. I do hope that we keep in touch as it would be great to learn about traditional weaving in Greece. Andreas told me that there is no warp-faced tradition. How in the world did he shape the bottom of that center band?? That is so cool!
Amber aka lavitaaj on Ravelry has been weaving outdoors making a renaissance design pouch for her sister using the “warp floats galore” technique.
All that is left to add is the toggle. She has edged it with a tubular band and I love the tassels she has added.
Here is what Jerome aka HeyZ has shown us in his first appearance in the group…a great combination of small pebble weave motifs and a simple and very effective warp float design of his own invention.
Speaking of simple warp floats, I received some pictures this week of the weaver who taught me this technique in coastal Ecuador. Kathleen Klumpp, who continues to work with Trinidad and her family to document the ancient spinning, dyeing and weaving techniques used in the coastal region and find markets for their products, sent me these pictures of Trini’s latest work.
To finish, I would like to make an appeal on behalf of Dorinda, Maxima, Zoraida and little Zuni and the weavers of the Independencia area in Bolivia. The PAZA project is currently experiencing a funding crisis. Sales at the fair last weekend were disappointingly low. I would love for you to visit the PAZA site and see for yourselves that this is a project worthy of support. Even the smallest donation will be very much appreciated. If you have used any of the tutorials here on my blog and enjoyed reading my posts, remember that all the information I am providing comes via weavers like Maxima and Trinidad and this is one small way that we can all give back a little.
Thank you! 🙂