Posted by: lavernewaddington | March 16, 2012

Backstrap Weaving – All that Weaving in a Nut Shell

I stopped buying textiles when I travel a long time ago. Firstly, I simply don’t have room to hang or display them and I hate having them stuffed in boxes in my closet.

Secondly, I don’t live in a climate that is friendly to textile preservation…the humidity!…and there is no escaping that now that I have decided I am never using an air conditioner again.

And thirdly, I would rather spend my money on getting places, taking classes and taking a lot of pictures which I can more easily store, enjoy, share and study. I think my digital camera was a far better purchase than any of the textiles I have brought home over the years. Too bad I left it until 2009 to go digital.

Oh, and one more reason…some of the things I have left out have been chewed by my cat. Above you can see some of the bits and pieces I took out for a profile picture I needed.

This means that I can’t take a case full of gorgeous handwoven textiles of Bolivia and other countries I have visited when I go to the US or elsewhere and want to tell people about the weaving I have seen. Even my own backstrap woven pieces are staying home now after seeing how they emerge in an ugly crumpled state from the bottom of my backpack. There  just isn’t a way to carefully pack these things. How do I capture all that weaving in a nut shell without packing and taking half the house with me?

As far as all the amazing indigenous textiles of South America are concerned, I am slowly building a nice digital collection of those and I carry it with me at all times to show on a space-efficient, crumple-proof, cat-resistant disc.

And, if I do take anything at all of mine, it has to have a dual purpose…something that is pretty to look at or which serves as an example of a structure that I am showing, as well as being useful while I am on the road.

Something like these backstraps… I can’t believe that it was this time last year that I was weaving these in preparation for my spring trip to the US. How time flies! They show some simple and complementary-warp structures as well as being useful to people who want to weave along with me. They are sturdy and  roll up nicely for packing.

I don’t have a cell phone here in Bolivia but I find I really need to use one in the US for airport pick ups and that sort of thing. And it is just as well as I have quite a few cell phone pouches to choose from. I take one pouch for the phone and one for the charger.

Here are a few of them…

I should choose the ones that show structures that are not part of the backstraps. So, I could use the finnweave examples above or the supplementary weft patterned handspun alpaca one below or….

the one below left with the Van Dyke stitching that the Montagnard weavers use on the edges of their bags or….

…the one above that has a tubular woven band finish on the shaped flap. These little pouches are also handy as business card holders when I travel.

Then the glasses need to be accommodated. Ah, as the years go accumulating, so do the eyewear needs…reading, long distance, over contact lenses etc….What ever happened to the days of traveling light?

With the wool one above I can show people the theory behind the technique for making the discontinuous warp textiles that has being revived in Pitumarca, Peru.

At left I have a seamless tubular case made in double weave with a little supplementary weft patterning.

The blue case has a supplementary warp patterned strip and has been edged with a pebble weave tubular band.

These are all just samples that got made into things that now have the dual purpose of showing structures and techniques in a nice compact form as well as protecting my glasses while on the move.

If only I would use them here at home too, I might be able to locate my glasses more easily before I end up sitting on them!

Key fobs are useful for quickly locating all those keys to the TSA approved locks. Yes, I finally got some of those after getting tired of finding my broken locks inside my open luggage with an explanatory note. Would you believe that I don’t have a single woven fob right now? I always end up giving them away. I shall add that to the pre-trip “to-do” list. They are particularly good for showing lots of different structures in a very compact form.

I usually take a couple of projects on the loom so I can demonstrate backstrap weaving. I don’t warp with anything in particular in mind and the purpose is just to show how the loom works. Those projects usually suffer a lot as the loom gets tied up in different places at different angles and under different tension and the projects often are not looking quite their best by the end of the trip.

Fortunately, on the my last two trips the projects survived and I was able to make them into something on my return which are handy items to take on the road….

A dust cover for my notebook computer in two-color simple warp floats,

…a good sized pouch for my sewing materials in good ol’ plain weave,

…a nice large size tool bag to show a ñawi awapa band. It goes along with this next one (can’t have enough tool bags!)

…which shows the Van Dyke stitch used for joining pieces of cloth.

Oh, and there are a bunch of other pouches and purses that I use for coins, writing materials and documents, like this handspun alpaca passport pouch…

This little sausage pouch makes a great cosmetics bag and it shows how supplementary weft patterns can be used on top of warp patterns rather than just being woven into single-color cloth.

I love being able to take these things with me but, sadly, I have to admit that clear plastic bags are often much better. It is maddening sometimes trying to remember which pouch holds which items!

I almost forgot belts! You can’t get more efficient than that…I can wear the woven structure example that I want to show. Belts, however, are an added pain when going through airport security.

I finished my wee ikat sample and I am thinking of making it into a belt somehow.

It’s a bit on the short and flimsy side but maybe some added leather might work.

That’s all I managed to weave for myself this week. I did find the time to warp up for the next ikat project and on this one I am hoping to dye two colors.

Oh boy, this experiment is bound to give me a very much increased appreciation of and respect for the  Guatemalan, Indonesian and Central Asian ikat artisans and the textiles they create with multiple colors.

Here’s the warp on a frame ready to be tied. There are three panels but each panel will only have one motif. I am not going to get crazy with this! Let’s just see how this one turns out and I will take it from there.

In the Ravelry group Blomster joined in on our ikat weave-along using her rigid heddle loom. We decided that this WAL would be all about ikat on any kind of loom and I love what she made in a balanced weave. The ikat patterning is very subtle and she is pleased with the way it turned out.

Bobbie has been working on her simple warp float piece which has been inspired by a Guatemalan weaving she saw on the Education and More website. She bought naturally dyed cotton from Education and More for this project.

We don’t get a good look at the actual fabric in this shot but I will show you in the weeks to come. I just love looking at that gorgeous warp!!…the colors, the smoothness! I will tell you a little more about the process for this pattern too as Bobbie makes progress. I hope she will keep us supplied with pictures as it comes along. I am hoping to get together with Bobbie and other north-westerners from the Ravelry group when I am up that way next month.

Yonat, who weaves with me when I visit Santa Cruz California, has been practicing double weave..

She is using Bedouin shajarah motifs which are traditionally woven in a warp substitution technique. As that technique produces very long floats on the back of the fabric, weaving it in double weave as Yonat has done will produce a textile with identical faces in reversed colors and no long floats.

I am looking forward to going back to California and the ocean and some cooler temperatures…remember that it is summer down this way. 

I loved seeing this project that Akknitter posted on Ravelry in the Warped Weavers group…nothing to do with backstrap weaving but I just really like this idea. It is from a project in the Nov/Dec 2008 Handwoven. It is being used for shuttle storage. I can see my loom bars nicely nested within something like that. It is double weave and so has two differently colored faces.

So….let’s see what I can accomplish weaving-wise in my last week of pre-trip madness. I am trying to put together the Italian version of Andean Pebble Weave and get some weaving done for myself. I can’t complain as all is going very well.

I will leave you with a picture of the organized chaos that is my bedroom these days. You can see that my cat doesn’t think much of it…

Coming soon courtesy of translator Lidia Guffanti…..


  1. LaVerne,
    Do you find flash drives helpful? They store a lot of images in a very small item that could be put on a necklace or with your keys.

    • Oh yes! I forgot to mention that. Funny story though…the flash drive I have was given to me by a friend as his dog had chewed it…still works just fine, though. Pets and their chewing!!

  2. Nice to see that beautiful smiling face! 🙂

  3. I love the positions of the cat on the chair the best! Is her/his name ‘Bombed’ or does that describe the room? or both?

    Still reading your remarkable weekly posts, and progressing as I can.

    • Ha! “Bombed” is the state of the room and the state of my cat. That is how she deals with the heat. Nice to see you here and know that you are still reading and weaving 🙂

  4. I love ALL of your gorgeous pouches and bags, Laverne! What a lot of lusciousness! 😀

  5. All those small projects do something else: give ideas to us beginners for things to make out of our practice pieces! We can all use small bags or pouches and key fobs after all 🙂

    • That’s true, Cindy. It’s nice to know that all the beginner bands can be made into something useful.

  6. I hope you have had or will have a chance to look at your wonderful photographs on an iPad at some point. The backlighting brings the the colors to life, and they look absolutely fantastic. There is also extra clarity that just makes one gasp. I’ve compared them to the same images n my computer and the iPad wins hands down! I have an iPad one, but the new retinal display on the iPad 3 should make them look even better, although that hardly seems possible!

    • Hi Eliza,
      Many of my friends in the US have iPads so I will make sure I take a look when I am there. I have a HP Mini…teeny tiny screen with not the best resolution so it will be a treat to be able to see the images as you do.

  7. Hi Laverne,
    I did find the Ed&more site in Jan and have made several purchases-wanted to know about the cotton skiens they sell- I also spin my cotton and make two ply for weaving on the floor loom-should I make theirs a two ply also? I also have a question about the Pebble Weave book- on page 12 (I believe); when talking about winding the warp, you mention only a single strand for the borders; is that correct or should one use two balls of the same color for the border warps- like in double weave?
    Elizabeth in WV

    • Hi Elizabeth. You don’t need to ply the Education and More cotton thread. However, be aware that it is very fine thread and I wouldn’t use it for pick-up techniques like pebble weave unless you are used to using such fine yarn. Bobbie is weaving a technique where she has a pattern stick holding all the warps that need to be picked up. They are the same warps all the time so she only had to pick them once and then she stored them on the stick for whenever she needs them.

      As for the borders in pebble weave, use single strands as I say in the instructions. You don’t need to double them.

      • Hi Laverne, Wow, that was a fast reply! My handspun two ply wool is about the same fineness as the cotton. Thank you for the reply on thr pebble weave border warp. I have been having way too much fun with the llama motifs in double weave, using all types of materials. The tapestry crochet you mentioned is something I started on late last year- funny to see you mention it on your newest blog post!
        Thank you for all your sharing; and looking forward to your new book-can’t hardely wait for it!
        Elizabeth in WV

  8. Hi, Laverne,
    I’ve become a lurker in the backstrap group but still at least read about it faithfully. This blog entry, though, makes getting back into it irresistible! Thanks so much.

    One question–how on earth are you able to “store” your balls of yarn on the floor with the cat? I’m so envious!
    Mary (Consider)

    • Hi Mary, I hope it inspires you to weave up a little something and make it into something useful. My cat is not interested in anything that isn’t moving anymore so the balls of yarns are safe. What I have to watch out for is when I weave without a shuttle and just have a long piece of weft flicking from side to side through the shed…that is irresistible!

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