Posted by: lavernewaddington | May 4, 2012

Backstrap Weaving – Postcards from the Road

I got a wee window of spring in Oregon and Washington…beautiful! There was one glorious weekend when everyone seemed determined to come out and play in the sunshine. Betty and I, with a couple of weaving friends, Carol and Sheryl, headed to the Hood River Fiber Festival and what a spectacular drive it was along the Columbia River and around the surrounding countryside with views of Mt Hood, Mt Adams and Mt St Helens.

The fishermen were out in full force. Betty remarked that years ago, when she lived elsewhere, she had had to drive this freeway every day. I think that if you have to commute on a freeway, then this is definitely the one to be on….spectacular views all the way!

Mt Hood appeared on the horizon with a variety of pretty foregrounds. It looked particularly lovely with the blossoming fruit trees in Hood River.

I could flood this post with mountain scenes!… and to think that I climbed Mt Hood in the summer of 1992 with some Sierra Club buddies.

Mt Adams and Mt St Helens looked amazing in their heavy winter coats.

And then there was this!…

Multnomah Falls, right there on the side of the road…oh my gosh!

And in amongst all this beauty was the fiber festival. Fortunately, I am not a yarn shopper. I know pretty much what I need for my backstrap weaving projects and I can get it all in Bolivia. This means that I can attend these festivals without doing any damage to the credit card. I was, however, on the lookout for some wool to use in a supplementary weft experiment. Betty gave me some excellent yarn for warp but I needed weft. No luck with that in Hood River but there is still Sheep and Wool in Maryland….

And so I was able to cruise about and just enjoy looking at some of the beautiful displays and hand work….

The spindles are by Ed Jenkins of Scotts Mill, Oregon. Betty ran into a fan from Foothils Yarn & Fiber who immediately had her sign the copy of her Hands On Rigid Heddle book which was on his stand for sale. And then it was put away to be treasured and not sold.

After lunch we went out to Foothill Farm to see the sixty or so alpacas grazing and dozing in the sun, meet Connie Betts and see the natural yarn and fiber in her store.

And then we headed home. It is amazing how exhausting it can be being out in all that sun and spring freshness!…perfect  weather. We stopped off at a local winery for some tasting…and arrived home with head spinning with wine and fresh air.

After weaving with various people here, there was a little time left to just kick back and enjoy Betty’s beautiful forested home and this city girl even got a lesson or two in blueberry farming. Too bad I had to leave long before the crop could come in.

And how nice it was to be present at one of the Portland Guild study group meet-ups…sitting about in Sue’s home doing show-and-tell, pouring over books and magazines, feeling yarn and samples and just talking and talking about weaving.

Being online and in contact with weavers around the world from my home in Bolivia is one thing but I was very envious of this group and the fun they have getting together, planning projects, helping each other and talking weaving  and with none other than Betty Davenport in their midst!

And I got to see Bobbie from the Ravelry group one more time when she came over to help with some of Betty’s de-stashing.

Bobbie carried off all of the cotton yarn that Betty had bought in Guatemala about thirty years ago (well, I helped make a wee hole in that pile too!). And, of course, she has already shared some of that with Jennifer.

Bobbie brought over her finished placemat which she made with natural dyed cotton that Education and More bring from Guatemala to sell  in their online Fair Trade store.

You can see that Bobbie’s latest score of yarn is not naturally dyed and comprises all the bright and happy colors of Guatemala.

This is Bobbie’s finished Guatemalan warp float piece. Isn’t it superb…so proud of this lady! She also brought over her tubular band to show me that she has been practicing and definitely has it down.

There was my usual last minute scramble to photograph textiles in Betty’s collection as well as take advantage of the wonderful library of textile books she has.

The contrast of natural and synthetic colors in some of the Andean pieces in Betty’s collection. I love them both!

From Portland I moved on to n Texas…not without a few airport adventures…but I got there in plenty of time to rest up and accompany Eileen to the guild meeting, have some visits with Ravelry and Weavolution weaving friends and be part of two get-togethers with weavers.

There simply wasn’t enough time, as it turned out, for everything and everyone and I had to turn down and miss some invitations but, hopefully, this will not be my last visit to Texas.

No, I don’t have any pictures of rodeos, cowboy boots, rattlesnakes or tumbleweeds but Eileen’s yard had lots of squirrel visitors and I get goofy over those. We don’t have them in Bolivia or Australia and they are still quite a novelty for me.

Gosh, I am so lucky with the places I get to stay on these trips. You would think that no one lives in big cities in the US. All my weaving friends seem to live in the most beautiful, secluded, semi-rural areas and Eileen and Guy’s home  was no exception with the pretty creek at the bottom of the yard and even a natural limestone grotto across the creek for meditation with its own Buddha….look out for those scorpions and Recluse spiders, though, which are both indoors and out.

Mexican hat flowers and Buddha spotted on an early morning dog-walking outing. Can you spot Buddha?

Weavers’ homes are, of course, always full of lovely fibery things and Eileen and Guy have traveled a lot. In fact, Eileen, being a Manchester native, will be going to the Braids 2012 conference and we will have a chance to meet up again as we have registered for the same class. Take a look at this spindle from Tibet with its little dung spinning bowl that she collected on one of her trips…

And they have been to South America where they bought a lovely supplementary warp piece from Cusco…that green color is so amazing!! and a tapestry of animals from the Galapagos Islands made by the clever Otavalans in Ecuador who are just so clued into what people want.

I could take a small amount of encouragement from looking at the Peruvian piece and know that even the very best weavers can sometimes have things go off. The piece had ended up being wider than the weaver’s original estimate when she put in the header cords at each end of the loom and so there was pleating, rippling and ridging at both ends of the fabric which settled into perfect smoothness after a couple of inches.

This next piece which Eileen bought in the US, still on its little backstrap loom, is decorated with supplementary wefts. We don’t know its origin. Can anyone help?

And then a chance to play in the great outdoors…a pre-breakfast paddle by kayak around one of the many lakes in the area. Thank you so much Eileen for taking me out there! As we paddled about in the green cool of the morning watching turtles and herons I adjusted my mental picture of Texas in much the same way that I hope my photos broaden people’s mental image of South American weavers and textiles.

I got to visit with two online buddies from way back in the early days of Weavolution. Marie had me over for a morning of chat. She also wove with me, so we got to see each other a fair bit.

One of the interesting things that she does with her textiles is light them up. Marie calls this a monk’s belt weave with embedded electronics and she runs workshops on how to create cloth with lights. She has Swedish roots and showed me the Scandinavian-style backstrap set-up with its linen backstrap and clamping system.

Then it was off to Deb’s place. Deb is another Weavolution original and we had met previously during a hectic get-together at MD Sheep and Wool in 2010. Now there was this golden opportunity to spend an entire leisurely day with her!

Mickey and Eileen took me out to Deb’s place…another home in a very non-urban environment, surrounded by flowering prickly pear cactus plants and apparently in rattle snake country (no pictures of those!). All eyes were down as we strolled around her garden looking at her lichen sources, flower and dye plant beds. Sadly there was much evidence of Deb’s losing battle with deer and crickets for some of the plants. There were also signs of the long hot and dry summer ahead with its accompanying fire hazard.

She has a dye studio full of jars of liquids in various stages of readiness and it is exciting to hold them up to the light and catch a hint of the color that may be obtained.

Deb has studied with weavers from Laos and gives presentations on the looms, techniques and fine cloth they create. At MD Sheep and Wool she had attempted to explain to me the ingenious pattern shed storage system that the weavers use on their floor looms which allows them to quickly and easily raise the warps under which they pass their fine supplementary wefts. Sticks or threads hold the chosen warps and are stored on a vertical frame. I have to admit that I didn’t quite get it but this visit was my chance to see the system in action and that demonstration by Deb was priceless! Okay I get it now! It’s brilliant!

She has just come back from a textile tour of Vietnam with a group of weavers and collectors so there were pictures and videos to see of all the looms and techniques in which I am interested as well as lots of fun footage of typical market and street scenes. What a treat all that was, not to mention the piles of textiles she also brought back. Really there wasn’t enough time to see and absorb everything.

Deb is another Weavolution original member so I guess we have been online acquaintances for almost three years and she was always a strong supporter of the backstrap group sharing tips with us from her experience with the Laos weavers and their equipment.

Dye plants in Deb’s garden and a clever weaving tool from Vietnam which is used to pick up threads as well as to hook the supplementary wefts through the sheds.

One of the exquisite pieces that Deb brought back from Vietnam and a display of silk that she has dyed with natural substances.

And then came weaving day!….

Here are Sandi, Susan and Penny…all Ravelry folks but not yet active on the Backstrap Group. I hope we see them soon. Penny has since dropped by the group to show some of the things we wove together.

I met Sandi online some time ago and she sent me a shawl that she had bought in Mexico when I expressed an interest in gauze weaves on this blog. Penny brought along a fantastic backstrap loom that she was given by someone who had bought it in The Philippines. I have never seen a loom from there before and it was gorgeous. The sword is spectacular as are the shaped loom bars…green with envy!!

Some more members of the weaving group…Marylou in her laid back position and Susan. Everyone finds their very own favorite position eventually! Susan owns Yarnorama in Paige and extended an invitation to visit. Unfortunately that was one of the arrangements that got ruined by my late arrival in Texas. In any case, she brought me a lovely goody bag of yarn in lots of yummy colors to try.

Here we all are still smiling at the very end…smiling but exhausted…well, at least I know that I was.

Eileen is on my right with Marie and Ruth on my other side and you have already met the others.

Many thanks to Sue, Mickey, Meg and Marie who, behind the scenes, helped make this visit happen.  Eileen knows that I can’t thank her enough. She is British and we found that we shared the same tea drinking preferences as well as the evil secret of liking Nescafe!

I also met Lydia from the Ravelry group as well as Gina, a very new member who has just started backstrap weaving. Lydia was one of my testers for the four-shaft instructions in my book. (Lydia, why didn’t we take a picture?!) I didn’t realize there were so many online friends in that part of Texas.

All the bits and pieces went back into their bags, the balls of yarn got rolled up and the whole kit was stuffed back into the big wheely bag so I could hit the road once again and now here I am at Claudia’s place in Maryland with friends Janet and David…my home away from home… and the good weather is following me, it seems. Let’s hope we have a good weekend for Sheep and Wool. Deb is coming from Texas too.

Time to give Claudia a refresher in backstrap weaving.  She knows that she can get a refresher whenever I am in town and I don’t think that she practices between visits!

Here she is practicing her heddle shed opening technique and doing a great job on a warp that will make enough fabric for two cell phone pouches.

We were in Rockville yesterday and visited the “Ten Thousand Villages” fair trade store. This is going on my to-do list for my  ikat experiments somewhere down the track…

The Ravelry members have been doing some very cool things while I have been on the road but I think I will save those for you to see in another post…unless of course you join group, be part of the fun and inspiration and take a look for yourself.

See you at Maryland Sheep and Wool! There’s a Weavolution meet-up open to all at 12.30 in the Rabbit Barn on both days. Come by and say hello.


  1. I am still in the tool-making stage of backstrap weaving.I do hope you’ll come to Texas again. Most people in the world, even in the United States, have no concept of how big Texas is. Although I live in Texas, I am almost 500 miles from Austin or San Antonio, more than 500 miles from Houston, and about 350 miles from Fort Worth or Dallas. Lubbock, where I live, is a city of about 220,000 people, but very few weavers, spinners or even knitters as far as I know. The social aspect of weaving or knitting is totally foreign to me. Thanks for being willing to share your skills and to shine a light on the collections and skills of other weavers.

    • Hi Kathryn,

      I would love to go back and see other parts of Texas, meet you and other keen backs trap weavers and revisit all the people I met on this trip.

      • Laverne, thanks for the encouragement. I do look forward to the time I can begin to weave.

  2. Oh, I wish I could have been there. Great pictures and descriptions!

  3. hello laverene, i would like to say a big thank you for all the help and encouragement you give on your web site i have wanted to do back strap weaving but didn;t know where to start . I have just woven my back strap and have gone on to fine threads now . I have a floor loom and table loom as well but i find this more fun . thank you.

    • Hi Hilary, thanks so much for stopping by to say hi and you are very welcome. I love hearing that people are trying backstrap weaving and enjoying it and making use of the tutorials here.

  4. El pequeño telar rojo es de Chiapas México.

  5. So glad you came to visit! Hope to see you sometime again Laverne!!

    • Yes, it was all too brief, Marie. I hope to be able to come again some time and stay longer.

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