Posted by: lavernewaddington | March 23, 2012

Backstrap Weaving – Long, flowing, luxurious….sashes.

I have had belts on the brain after my post last week where I was thinking about which examples of my weaving I can manage to take away with me on my trip next week given the very limited space that I have for such things in my luggage.

I had my woven cell phone pouches, cosmetics bags, computer cases, pouches for sewing kits and passport and tool bags on my list…all handy things for travel which could be useful as well as serve as examples of different pick-up techniques when I meet people and tell them about my weaving….certainly not the kind of things that weavers here in South America are making for their own personal use. Then there were my colorful woven backstraps…would you believe I have only met one or two indigenous weavers here who have actually woven their own backstrap? It’s just not the done thing.  Generally, a flour or rice sack with rope on its ends will do as a backstrap. Sometimes a piece of leather or some braided fiber like agave is used.

And then there were belts…something I can wear AND show as a woven examples. Belts and sashes are certainly things that indigenous weavers weave for themselves. There are few weavers that I have worked with that have not had belt weaving as part of their textile tradition. They can sometimes have symbolic significance, perhaps a purely ceremonial use or they can be simply practical.

So, I thought I would take a look at some of the belts and sashes that I have gathered over the years and I was surprised at how many examples I have given that I have made a conscious effort to stop purchasing these things when I travel…sometimes you just can’t resist, you know, but I really do try these days to just take photos and move on. I will include some of the beautiful things I have photographed too.

These are not belts but rather, hair sashes. I am thinking that one of these years I will let my hair go completely grey, keep it long and wear spectacular hair sashes like these!

These are all from Guatemala.

The one at the top is from Zunil and I learned that style of weaving there.

The center one is from Jacaltenango and is the style about which Carol Ventura has written a book. The lower one is from Aguacatan. It is wide, long and has the most amazing tassels on the end. I was only in Aguacatan for a day and I didn’t feel that I could ask any of the ladies to pose for a picture. I would so like to show you what this sash looks like when it is worn. I have read that women wear these hair sashes in imitation of Ixchel the Mayan goddess of weaving who has coiled snakes holding up her hair.

I love sashes. I love their length, their drape. I like pulling them through my fingers or laying them in a crazy coil of color on the floor.

From the very same town of Aguacatan comes this complete contrast in a simple black and white belt.

This is my weaving teacher Clara at her hybrid four-shaft/backstrap loom wearing and weaving one of the typical hair sashes of Zunil.

This belt still on its backstrap loom from Viques, Peru is probably one of my favorite things. It is made with yarn that wraps about sixty times to the inch and is covered in fine patterns. The weft is tripled and the belt has been beaten to an incredible stiffness. This belt is the main reason I have stopped buying these things. I have had this piece for almost sixteen years and the yarn is now so fragile that it is difficult to touch the piece now without having threads break. These things need to be stored and cared for in ways that I am not able..

I can hear voices saying “Well, bring it here to me, I’ll take care of it!” Maybe I will….

This belt is worn by the men of Cañar in Ecuador and is made with what looks to me like sewing thread. It is wonderfully smooth and slinky. Hanging out in the plaza of Cañar on a Sunday morning is a great way to see men and women out and about in their best clothes. When I was there many of the men were wearing ponchos with ikat patterned sections and these gorgeous belts most of which had far more motifs than the example that I purchased.

These sturdy double weave belts worn by women in Potosi, Bolivia seemed to be very fashionable as far away as Otavalo in Ecuador. When I was there in 2005 I saw a few young ladies wearing these instead of the chumbis that are typical of their costume. I wonder if they are still a fashion trend now. Quite likely something else will have taken over in popularity by now.

This one with its bold, beautiful design isn’t mine and was shown to me by a gentleman in the US who had spent some years on the Argentinean pampa working as a gaucho (Argentinean cowboy). He told me that it was probably woven by a Mapuche weaver and that it forms part of the traditional gaucho costume.

The Mapuche women themselves weave and wear a belt called ñimintraruwe as seen above.

This is the belt woven by men and worn by the ladies of Salasaca, Ecuador. A Salasaca belt is on the left and my reproduction of one of the designs on the right.

I tried very hard to buy one of these belts as I had learned to weave them and wanted a sample of all the designs. There simply wasn’t one to be had although I noticed that the family with whom I had been staying had their pig tethered with an old belt! So, I took lots of pictures instead. Some of the younger ladies were keen for me to make them a pebble weave belt. Like the ladies from Otavalo, they were interested in having something different in order to stand out from the crowd. They took the little photo album that I carry with pictures of my weaving and used it as a shopping catalog pointing out the designs and colors that they wanted!

I ended up teaching one of the ladies and another young fellow pebble weave instead…now you can make your own belt!!

A belt weaver of Salasaca at work at his loom. (this picture courtesy of Teyacapan)

These belts are woven and worn by the Tarahumara people of Mexico. I was lucky to be able to see and photograph them when an anthropologist showed me her collection at Convergence in 2010. The one at bottom right belongs to Annie MacHale who has a large collection of sashes which she loves to wear.

These pieces from the Cusco area have a mind-boggling amount of pick-up patterning.

These broad double weave belts from the central Bolivian highlands show the progress that organizations such as PAZA Bolivia are making in helping weavers to recover natural dyeing techniques. These wool belts have a distinctive smell that I can only describe as campo (the country).. a mixture of wool, the natural dye material and smoke….I love it!

I love this sash that I bought on my first trip to Peru before I even knew what pebble weave was. You may recognize a couple of motifs from my book.

Here’s a beautiful three-color belt of the northern Chilean highlands. I may not want to buy the textiles, but think I will always want to buy tools as I will definitely use those. Isn’t that beater wonderful slick and shiny with use?!

Knowing my love of pebbled things, Pam Nadjowski gave me this belt at Convergence. It is one that she collected from the Dong minority group of China. It is very long and must wrap at least three times around the waist.

These are part of Kathe Todd-Hooker’s extensive collection of belts of the Russian old Believers. Taking plenty of pictures, albeit not particularly sharp ones, has enabled me to reproduce some of the designs. Kathe says that the belt around the body has the symbolic purpose of creating a visual cross as well as representing the encircling arms of the church.

So, we weave bands to encircle our waists and then some people weave them to encircle their homes…

Yurt bands! I love them but what would I do with all forty-eight feet of one? My friend Lisa’s owns this beauty and owns a yurt on which to use it.

Sometimes just photographing a small part of a belt is enough to get me motivated for the next experiment. This belt with its combination of simple warp floats and supplementary wefts was very intriguing.

This Huichol belt that I originally photographed in the National Museum of the American Indian back in 2007 has been on my mind all these years and has influenced a few projects. Then I finally learned how to do the balanced double weave technique in which it is made.

I love sashes and belts…the long flowing loveliness!. They have prompted me to make a few of my own. These would be pretty dull wrapped around my hair. I must make some much more colorful ones.

This next one is more like it. It has been with me for years. It is a sample I wove when I still lived in Chile and I intend to make a full sash with this design one of these days…

And more sash inspiration and ideas come along every day…

This study sample of the sprang technique used to make Hopi wedding sashes made by the late Nora Rogers was given to me last year.

There’s more! But that’s enough don’t you think? Just think…I will be  at sash-weaver Annie MacHale’s home next week swimming in long gorgeous sashes…not only the beautiful ones that she has collected but the fantastic ones that she weaves herself on her inkle looms.

I will finish with a quick report on what I have been up to on the loom.

Apart from samples for my next book which I am not showing yet (!), I have launched  the second ikat experiment. This means that I didn’t actually spend that much time at the loom. It was more about tying cassette tape to form the design, dyeing and re-dyeing as I wanted to have three colors. I chose terracotta and navy blue after hearing about the chocolate and blue ikat textiles of Guatemala that Karen from the Ravelry group likes.

Tied and ready to be dyed…. I am afraid that I am not being very brave as this is the first experiment with dyeing two colors and so I only wrapped one motif on each of the three sections.

Dyeing done. There will, hopefully be white diamonds on blue with terracotta centers on the two outer sections with a white diamond on terracotta with a blue center on the middle one. Like I said before, this for me is the easy part. Now to weave and have it all stay more or less together. I have woven the first two inches of plain weave and am about to hit the wrapped section and will show you next week how it went. I am using a fine weft again as I really like the way the resulting fabric looks and feels.

This next piece started off as an experiment but now I think it will be one of the key fobs for my muddle of luggage keys on the trip…Too bad I didn’t start it with a third selvedge.

I am weaving this in what I call the “embedded double weave” technique, that is, plain weave alongside double weave. The green borders are plain weave. This is the technique I learned in Potosi, Bolivia and this way of including strips of patterned double weave in plain weave fabric is used in a few places in Bolivia. Two wefts are used. I have, however, been trying something new in the material I use for the second weft and in the way I handle the two wefts and I love the way it is turning out.

The new way I am trying makes the transition from double weave to plain weave on the upper face less obvious and harsh and on the lower face it is, amazingly, not apparent at all…completely smooth! I will fill in the details next week. I thought I would save something for next blog day as I will be just arriving in California with perhaps not a whole lot of time to put things together to post. My posts will probably start getting erratic.

For next week I am also saving pictures of Bobbie’s progress on the gorgeous naturally dyed Guatemalan warp that I showed you last week.

We can take a look at the pattern she is weaving and see how she set up her loom to create it.

Naseen on Ravelry has finished a sash (in my favorite colors of the moment) and shared her pictures with the group…

She used the tutorial on the yurt band border pattern here.

Yonat has been playing with the double weave technique she learned in our workshop last fall on her inkle loom. The technique transfers perfectly to this kind of loom and you will find pictures of the set-up on the inkle loom on the tutorial page here. Here’s her sample band with Andean and Bedouin motifs as well as others that she invented herself.

Andean Pebble Weave is now available in Italian on the Patternfish website. Many thanks to Lidia Guffanti who did the translation.

Now that it’s in four languages, I can tell you:

Happy weaving! Buona tessitura! Bon tissage ! Viel Spaß beim Weben!

See you next week in California!


  1. love that blog, major sash extravaganza…. and there is so much more.
    see you so soon 🙂

  2. I could look at all your sashes over and over. Beautiful!

  3. Oooo, beautiful examples! I love the different representations of the bats from the Bolivian fabrics! And I love the tan and black gaucho belt, with the touch of red.
    The rolling river twill-like weave is also a favourite of mine. So many inspiring pieces! I’m working on something right now that I’m not so happy with. I almost want to slide it right off the loom to start another work, but once I do that I’m afraid I’ll leave myself stuck with a bunch of half-finished textiles every time I get discouraged.
    Still, after seeing those animal motifs and the gaucho belt, I’m really tempted…

  4. Yay, friday morning in Oz is great, especially with a day off and your blogpost in my inbox. I feel like I get a good deal being one of the first to read 🙂 Love all the sashes, and how the Ikat colours turned out.
    All the best getting ready this week for your trip.
    xx from Adelaide

  5. Wow! SO MUCH eye candy!! 😀 Thank you so much for posting this! I love bright colours, and have long hair so now I have a project I can focus on!

  6. Thank you Lavervne! What an amazing treat to see so many fabulous works of art. I am constantly inspired and motivated by your blog and by your beautiful, beautiful work. You should have MUCH better weather this year from last. Travel safe! I know that many fortunate ones will be gaining so much from you when they get to be with you in person.

  7. Stunning display, and much food for thought and inspiration.
    Maybe you can get ahold of some acid-free paper while you’re in the States, to help with preservation of your textiles.

    And I adore the idea of hair sashes with long grey hair – maybe I’ll join you 🙂

  8. One of my favorite entries! Beautiful examples.
    I am already there with the long white hair 🙂 I have to look for more photo of these hair sashes… You can be sure I will be experimenting.
    thank you so much for your generosity.

  9. I found the picture of the Hopi sash very interesting. The Braid Society published an article by Carol James in our annual journal “Strands” last year. The article includes details on this sash and how it is made. It is a 3 – 3 twill braided structure, made using the circular sprang technique. This picture is particularly useful, as it clearly shows that the braid has a fairly open net like stucture, typical of sprang.

    Steve Pretty

  10. Hey Laverne, how wonderful – I’m honored to see my sash here on your great website which introduced me to backstrap weaving! So lovely!

  11. I noticed you showed some Old Believer belts that Kathe Todd-Hooker made. I noticed these on Pintereset. I am interested in obtaining some of these belts and was wondering if you could provide me with contact information on Kathe. Thank you.

    • Kathe Todd Hooker didn’t make the belts I show….she collected them. She is a well known tapestry weaver and you can find out about her by Googling her name.

      • The Russian Old Believer belts look to me a lot like traditional Latvian woven ‘ties’ or belts with pre-Christian symbols in them, such as Zakis the snake for good luck (the S shape). I have some but I’m not sure who made them. You could search traditional Latvian weaving. I’ve seen some on Etsy.

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