Posted by: lavernewaddington | October 7, 2011

Backstrap Weaving – Finnweave, Funweave and Finishes


My finnweave piece is off the loom and is just the right size to make my storage bag. It will be a basic bag construction, simply folded in half and sewn together at the sides.

Then I will let it sit for a while to see what ideas I get about dressing it up….a strap will be needed, maybe some large tassels on each bottom corner and some kind of edging.

It is going to hold all the cds with photos from my recent travels. These are currently in a pile on the floor under my computer table which is on top of another pile of charts and booklets which is on top of another pile of….well, you get the idea.

Which is why I need another system. I am currently rearranging my wall hangings so I can hang my woven storage bags out of the reach of my cat.

I am hoping to have a bunch of these in different colors and structures to add to the “textile bazaar” feel of my room.

While this will be made into a usable product, I still feel that it should be filed in the category of “sample” as there are a few things about it with which I am not all together happy.

I have made a couple of other useful items from my samples such as, the two purses pictured at left, and I have all the pieces I have made here as reminders of how to chart designs or what to do and what not to do next time.

Give me some time and will probably sew all the samples up into something!

So, what am I unhappy about? Firstly, as I mentioned last week, my warps in the center of the piece were spaced wider than those along the sides so I know next time that I need to pay more attention to that.

The other thing is the separation of the layers. I know from doing warp-faced double weave that the two layers of fabric are not joined in places where there is no pick-up pattern but you really have to pinch the fabric and try to pull it apart to feel the separation of the layers in the warp-faced fabric.

However, in this balanced double weave structure, the separation of the layers is far more apparent and not something I like too much. I think it was a mistake weaving those long columns of motifs and leaving those long plain spaces between them. While, thankfully, the fabric doesn’t “billow” in the places where the layers are not attached (I have read that this is something that can happen), it does somehow feel unstable in those places.

The above sample designs have the pick-up better spaced across the width of the fabric. The narrow brown and white band, above right,  is a reproduction of a pre columbian piece from Peru and you can see how the weaver has added small spots, crosses and squiggles in the negative spaces around the bird motifs in order, I would imagine, to bind the two layers of cloth.

The lattice design in black and white (from an issue of Prairie Wool Companion) holds the layers together beautifully.

So, my next piece in this technique will have an all-over design and I have already found the one I would like to do on a Huichol bag. Now to chart it…I am not yet at the point where I can read the design straight off a photo but am getting closer! I might be able to do it with the actual cloth in my hands.

Of course, the fact that the layers in plain double weave don’t bind can be used to your advantage if you are wanting to make a seamless pouch (see the eyeglass case I made in this blog post).

From here I move on to what I call in the title of this blog “Funweave”. All weaving is fun for me but Jennifer in the Ravelry Backstrap Weaving Group reminded us all this week about how fun and satisfying it can be to weave using heavy yarn.

I wrote a post entitled Big Bang and Big Thread some time ago about this topic when I made four backstraps very quickly using 12wpi yarn – Plymouth Yarn Fantasy Naturale together with doubled Tahki Cotton Classic.

These were fast and fun to make with their pick-up patterns: pebble weave and simple warp float patterns but, hey, who needs pick-up patterns to make beautiful designs?

Look at that bag…what a beauty! Here is what Jennifer calls an ”eight-hour project” using Tahki Cotton Classic. The checkerboard design is programmed into the warp so that once the warp is on the loom it is all plain weave. She even did some weft twining. I have to tell you that weft twining is SLOW but not so bad when you are using yarn of this  weight and can work your way from one edge of the warp to the other relatively quickly.

She also made a backstrap using Plymouth Yarn Fantasy Naturale which is heavier than the Tahki Cotton Classic.

So, I decided this week to show you a little about basic weft twining and made a couple of videos.

My interest in this technique goes back a long way starting with Cheryl Samuel’s beautiful book on Chilkat dancing blankets and I have written about this in several previous posts.

What got me out of the book pages and into the technique was seeing the twining on textiles made by the Montagnard (Vietnamese hilltribe) backstrap weavers. They call this twining technique kteh. Some of their traditional designs can be seen above left.

On my first visit I only got to see the designs and didn’t see how they were created and so I started on some off-loom twining experiments using thick yarn as weft twined around cotton string.

I copied some of the Montagnard designs as well as woven motifs from Bedouin textiles and played with one, two and three-color twining.

I also started some one-color textured twining but got distracted when the opportunity came to actually go and learn twining with the Montagnard weavers and so I will return to the textured twining one of these days.

The Montagnard weavers twine their pieces off-loom. They twine the edges of their skirts and blankets. To make these large pieces, several panels are woven and then sewn together. Then the twining is added along the edge of the connected panels. I also understand after having spoken with Ngach that there are specialists to whom weavers take their cloth to be twined. Ju Nie often sends her skirt fabric back to her sister in Vietnam who twines the edges and returns it.

Even small pieces are twined off loom. The fabric is hung on a specially made stand or on a bar which is rests on two pieces of furniture.

Here I am learning to twine with Jarai weaver Ngach. This is a beautiful way to twine. The thread that Ngach uses is fine and she has her wefts wound on bobbins. Her movements are fluid and graceful.

There is more detail on my second visit with the Montagnard weavers in this post.

Here is a short video I made of Ngach twining. After  you watch the instructional video I have made, you will better understand what she is doing in the different movements. Watch how she twists the wefts sometimes once and sometimes twice and note how tightly she holds the warps under tension. She has her woven piece sewn around the metal bar so she can pull down on the warps. This is something I couldn’t do with my off-loom lap twining.

I have tried both on and off-loom twining and find that I much prefer twining while my woven piece is still on the loom. For me, it is easier to twine around warps that are held under tension. This also allows me to twine in the middle of a weaving as the Bedouin often do.

Something I have yet to try which I have seen in Bedouin textiles is twining a design that is completely embedded in the cloth, that is, it does not travel from edge to edge but sits in the middle completely surrounded by weaving. (see here…although I can’t be sure if this is twining or in fact wrapping, soumak or some other technique that is worked in conjunction with a ground weft which would bind the whole piece of fabric together).  What do you all think?

I have made two videos showing two-color twining as I do it on the loom (not as I was taught by Ngach.) The first video shows how to twine with two colors and determine which color shows on the surface to create your pattern.

I am twining in the middle of a narrow band woven with yarn that is very similar to Plymouth Yarn Fantasy Naturale. I use the same yarn as the warp and weft for the twining and I twine around groups of six warps.

I am working sitting in my backstrap loom with the warp under tension.

I start by tying the two strands of weft in a square knot. The Montagnard weavers twine from left to right leaving the weft tails hanging decoratively at both edges. If you are planning on sewing your piece and hiding the weft tails, you may want to start with a slip knot which you can later easily undo and therefore not have a bulky knot interfering with your seam.

If you look at the large picture of Jennifer’s bag earlier in this post, you will see that the twined wefts sit on the surface of the cloth at an angle.

The next video shows how to create two rows of twining at once with the wefts lying at opposite angles creating little “v”s.

To have this show up well, this kind of twining should be separated from the rest of the two-color twining by a row or two of single color preferably in a third contrast color. You can also stack several rows of this for a very nice effect.

You can see it in red and white on this piece I made surrounded by black.

I start by hooking the two threads together. By doing this, you won’t have starting tails.

If you prefer to have tails, you can just knot the four strands together. As for the length of the wefts, I will leave that up to you to figure by trial and error. Unless you really want to avoid wasting yarn, I would go with long wefts which can be trimmed later. Having long pieces of weft to hold and work with in your hands is easier than having short ones which you can’t quite grasp.

As you can see, the weft builds up around the warps in vertical columns. This means that any motif that has been drawn on a chart that is based on columns of squares can be used…motifs designed for cross stitch or knitting, for example. I choose to hide the little “bump” at the back of the fabric. I have seen Indonesian textiles that have the bump exposed and used as part of the design almost like little beads.

In the videos I am twining up and away from the weaving line but I have also on occasion, done it the other way around. I finish my weaving and then return to the start and twine around the unwoven warp ends at the beginning of the piece. The twining grows towards me rather than away. Both ways work equally well for me.

And what’s on the other side when you twine motifs? This is how the piece in the heavy yarn looks on both sides….

And here is the finer twining I did on the Montagnard-style piece that I wove…front and back. You will notice that the twined band is slightly wavy. As I had twined around groups of four warps, the twining actually turned out wider than the woven fabric. Since then, I have twined around groups of six warps and always used the same yarn as my warp and weft for the twining wefts. That works out perfectly.

An entire piece can be made up of twining. Those off-loom pieces that I made with the chunky yarn, with a bit more practice, could be used for mug rugs or sewn into bags. You can twine around a piece of cardboard and form a tube to create a seamless bag as my friend Franco did.

I twined around single strands of cotton string for those. The close-up at left will show you the material and a first attempt at some textured twining. For the piece in this picture I have used doubled strands of #3 crochet cotton for the weft.

Twining on a woven piece adds a nice bit of decoration and can strengthen an edge. I have not seen exactly how the woven Bedouin tent dividers are hung but wonder if they are hung from the twining in the mid sections of the weaving. I imagine those tent dividers are very heavy and perhaps the stronger, more rigid twined parts can support the weight of the hung weaving (pure speculation on my part).

I used twining in a single color to edge these placemats and mug rugs just for something different.

I wanted a sturdy shoulder strap for my loom bag and so twined the whole thing with #10 cotton. I twined in the word for ”weave” in different languages. The twining was done width-wise and all the weft ends were sandwiched between the twined band and another woven one which were sewn together.

Remember the “sausage” bag I made last week? Well I finished it by sewing in the zip and am still lamenting the fact that the twining ended up on the bottom!

It really holds a lot of stuff and will make a great toiletries bag for travel. The twined motif has three colors in the center and with practice you will see that it is not any harder to twine with three colors than with two.

And speaking of decorative finishing techniques, Tracy in the Ravelry group showed us the pretty herringbone stitch that she is working along the edge of one of her Weave Along projects. Tracy lives in Doha, Qatar and has made contact with a Bedouin weaver there who uses this finish on her woven pieces.

On the left you can see a pebble weave piece she is also currently working on using her homespun yarn.

Here are other Weave Along projects from the last couple of weeks…..As you know this Weave Along is all about PLAIN WEAVE.

Peg and Cindy made their first bands. Cindy used her handspun. Ellen and Jenny made backstraps. Jenny used a semi rigid heddle on her backstrap loom.

Janet has both balanced and warp-faced projects on the go.

Marsha is doing both balanced and warp-faced double weave.

Ellen made a bookmark from her first supplementary weft band and Traudi made mug rugs charting  her own design in warp-faced double weave.

Susanna is weaving her first ever backstrap piece while Dyggvi is planning a Tibetan-style bag with bands made using the simple warp floats technique.

So, I hope you use the tutorial, twine away…and show me what you have made.





  1. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for the weft twining tutorial. Your videos are always so well done. I am excited to give this a try right away. I’m going to do it on my striped plain weave piece for the WAL.


    • You are very welcome Bobbie. Use it! I love seeing the instructions being put to use.

  2. can’t wait to try the twining, we could ask Martha about Soumak she did a whole rug with it… love that post.

    • Ooh yes, we will have an expert to ask all about this.

  3. BTW how many epi were on the blue piece? looks crazy to make the heddles for
    all the warps.

    • Yep, a lot of heddles but I am pretty darn quick with making them now!

  4. Thank you for these great twining videos!

  5. Hi,
    I have a question about the weft twining.
    Is there a rule about how many rows of twining you do in order to “hold ” the piece at the ends? For example, like you have with the table mats. I have just started back-strapping and made a little bag with a fringed end. I twined the edge next to the fringe – going around 3 warps and twining 3 rows. This seems to hold well, but maybe long term it will all come apart?

    • Idon’t think I have done enough of this to give you a firm response. I don’t have my samples with me as I am away from home but I probably twined about 6 rows at the end of the placemats and that has stood up well. When I feel it, I know that there is no way it will come loose.

  6. Hi, thanks for all the hard work you do putting these tutorials together! I have a question about the twining, though. I am having trouble keeping my bumps at the back of the fabric. Is there any tip for that? I only have trouble when I switch from one color to another and then back again. If I am working with blue and purple, for example, and if I get a little bump of purple, I need to pull the blue thread harder to cause the purple to disappear behind, but then that sometimes causes other bumps to appear further on back. Maybe this is just a trial-error thing, and I will eventually find my method …

    • i know exactly the problem you are experiencing and it is just a matter of trial and error with how hard you pull and trying to isolate the pull to just that one twist so that you don’t affect the rest of the twining. Sometimes if I am over zealous with my pulling, I have to go back to any upset twining further back and with a blunt needle hook the threads and do some re-tensioning.

      • okeedokee, i will preserver, thank you for taking the time to respond!!

  7. *perservere

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