Posted by: lavernewaddington | May 29, 2012

Backstrap Weaving – New Looms, New People, New England!

I have a Facebook friend who posts up to ten of those motivational/inspirational quotes a day…all in a row on my newsfeed. I must admit that I don’t read them but for some reason this one caught my eye…

If A equals success, then the formula is A=X + Y and Z, with X being work, Y play, and Z keeping your mouth shut. -Einstein

Now, I don’t find anything particularly remarkable about this and I don’t know why I paused to read it. Perhaps it was the name “Einstein” that attracted me and the fact that we tend to think that everything and anything a famous or much admired person says, no matter in which field they excel or excelled, must be deeply profound and noteworthy.

This could have been said by Joe Eintstein of Blogsville Pennsylvania who is just having some fun with his famous last name for all we know.

I don’t claim to know what the meaning of success is but the short saying had me thinking a little about the proportions of “X and “Y” in my life and I was happy to find that at least at this stage of my life both elements seem to have pleasantly blended. As for keeping my mouth shut, I am a pretty quiet person, but I was given a fun t-shirt by some of the Ravelry gals who live over in the northwest which serves as a reminder!

Can you make out the t-shirt slogan? Could this be the formula for success? Something to keep one focused! And I needed focus with this particular project as it had to be done in a hurry. I needed a long wool warp-faced band to which we could attach tubular bands as Pam was having groups of friends coming to weave in her barn. She helped get me set up on this new-to-me equipment with Harrisville Shetland wool from her stash and away I went.

 A little strumming was required to get the sheds to open cleanly but I am well used to that from weaving on my backstrap loom.

I think that I could have gotten in more picks per inch if I had woven it on my backstrap loom. The higher tension on this Macomber loom did not allow me to beat the weft in as well but I love the feel of the resulting band…long and flowing. Tony the cat loved it too.

So, this is what we used for sewing tubular bands. Yes, the band got cut into pieces. I know, I didn’t want to do it either but that was its destiny right from the start.

This is the plain-weave tubular band that Chris was weaving and sewing to the edge of the fabric. One of the keys to achieving a nicely woven and sewn tubular band, in my opinion, is knowing exactly where to insert the needle in the fabric.

And above you can see Chris’s ñawi awapa tubular band in progress. Tubular bands can be woven as independent bands or attached to fabric, in which case, they are woven and sewn simultaneously to the edge of the textile.

I attached one to the edge a mug rug at left.

We also used bands that I had commissioned from PAZA in Cochabamba Bolivia which were woven on leaning vertical looms with hand spun wool dyed with natural substances.

One of the young ladies in the club de chicas who is learning to weave produced this band and I was pleased to be able to buy and put one of her learning pieces to good use. I know you might be horrified by all this cutting up of these lovely bands but the weavers in PAZA themselves also do this to make cell phone pouches to sell.

The handspun yarn is overtwisted and the beat when weaving is firm to say the least. Of course this band had an entirely different feel to the one I wove on the floor loom and behaved in an entirely different way when I cut it into pieces.

I just folded the pieces in half and pinned them together. Having them sit like that for a couple of days settled them quite a bit and they served their purpose. The two bands were very different but suited our needs equally well.

Here are the ladies weaving away. In my experience so far, weaving and sewing a tubular band is usually accompanied by a lot of mumbling and whispers. One has to resist the urge to talk one’s way through the moves in a loud voice so as not to disturb the rest of the group. These groups, however, were particularly silent and seemed to be relying on the wee voices in their heads to help  them work through the process.

I will be heading home tomorrow (Tuesday) and thankfully have all day today to pack and organize my stuff.

I have been staying a week here with Pam and her barn is weaving paradise! The Buddha in her field will soon be hidden as the grass grows to form a maze. I have never been here at the right time of year to enjoy that.

One day was spent at Ravelry member Jeen’s home nearby where we wove pebble weave together.

It was wonderful to meet Jeen after having “known” her for so long online.

It was nice to see in person some of Jeen’s warp-faced bands.

On Tuesday I met more of Pam’s weaving friends who come to work in the studio under her guidance on a variety of looms and learn different techniques from Navajo and card weaving to overshot and boundweave. This was the second last week before summer break and so I got to see quite a few pieces being cut off their looms.

Joanne and Sheilah are obviously very happy with their pieces. Joanne’s is bound weave which she will sew into a bag and decorate with finger looped braids and Sheilah, with her quilter’s eye for color and pattern, made a rag rug with beautiful color progression.

Bev is trying her hand at double weave pick-up and Joan, who introduced me to a local Burmese backstrap weaver on my visit last year, is threading a rigid heddle to do tapestry on the Leclerc Penelope tapestry loom. And that’s not all…Pam has more weavers working away on all kinds of things there on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the studio is open for whenever one wants to drop by and continue working on their project.

Pam’s studio is as always a treasure trove of ethnic textiles from around the world. Joan has been working with a basket weaver from Burundi, Patricia Kayobera, and Pam has a display of her pieces. When Patricia was unable to find the materials with which she was used to working at home, she used cut up plastic rice bags. The baskets she made in Burundi were white and the plastic bags were an acceptable substitute.

Now she is starting to work with raffia.

The flyer and baskets are posed on a piece of  indigo dyed cloth that Pam recently bought from an exhibit of textiles of Ghana.

She has colorful strips of Kente cloth woven by the Ashanti and Ewe people of Ghana. (Also see Tien Chu’s fascinating blog post on her visit to Ghana and contact with the Ewe people). The vast difference in use of color between the two groups is interesting. I can’t decide which I like better.

The dyeing technique in the other piece, I am told, is called plangi and involves sewing thread into the woven cloth which is then pulled to pleat and ruffle the fabric before dyeing. The dye is able to penetrate some areas more easily than others and that is what creates the patterns.

A piece of Palestinian cross-stitch embroidered fabric and a sweet example of soumak on a tiny piece from Azerbaijan. While I doubt that I will ever get into cross stitch embroidery, as beautiful as it is, (there simply isn’t time for everything) I definitely see soumak in my future!

As for my weaving, another on-the-road project went on the loom and one came off.

A week in Pennsylvania gave me another chance to hitch to a tree and weave the camera bag project.

At Pam’s place I warped the small red band because this time I wanted to make a more complete replica of the bird design on the textile fragment that Tom Knisely had showed me at The Mannings.

I liked the way that the bird motif changed from white to red and I learned a lot by weaving this piece.

The camera bag project was finished at Pam’s indoors because the weather was quite gnarly when I arrived (now we have been enjoying days of the most gorgeous spring weather).

It came off the loom to be sewn. I want to cut and shape the flap and sew a tubular band to it and I need to find a nice button closure.

Here is the “bird” band about to come off the loom. I just wanted to weave the two color versions of the bird and I will most likely make this into a keyfob.

The purple and black piece will make a bag for the camera just in time for me to put it back on the shelf. It has served me very well since my bigger Olympus camera died in Oregon but now I have the camera that you see at left!…

A friend of my brother’s in Australia gave me his Olympus…the exact same model as the one I have been using and loving these past three years.

Apparently he bought it for a trip to India in 2007 and then decided that he would rather have something that he could slip into his pocket.

The Olympus has sat untouched since then…just waiting for me!

So I am back in business with a camera with which I am already very familiar. Now to weave a strap for it and find a suitable woven gift for Surrey who gave me the camera.

You can see the double weave strap I wove for the other camera at left.

Now, if I had been smart, I would have made a strap with the “bird” band. Well, there’s nothing stopping me from weaving another, right?

Oh, and the book on which the cameras are posed…that is a beauty, and has enabled me to read more about some of the Colombian textiles that Laritza brought to show me when we wove together.

And the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival report still does not appear. I miss blog posts and get overwhelmed with stuff! I will however show you what I bought at Sheep and Wool…

These are examples of the rug wool colors that I bought for my Moroccan weft substitution project.

You may remember that while I was visiting in California, Yonat showed me a piece woven in Morocco. We suspected that it was a rug. I was excited to see first hand an example of the weft substitution technique about which I had heard and immediately started dreaming about trying it.

Part of Yonat’s “rug” can be seen above. Wool simply does not exist in the lowland area of Bolivia in which I live and so I knew that I would have to find something while here in the US. The main colors are cream and black with tiny bits of red and mustard yellow bordering each pattern section and I think I found just the thing at Sheep and Wool.

Betty in Oregon gave me some fine wool warp from her stash and I am hoping that with all this I will be good to go. I can use one of my Navajo forks to beat and I guess I will set it up on my backstrap loom. I will need to play around with the sett to find what is ideal. I am NOT planning on making a rug!  Perhaps it will be center piece for a table. It is a long long time since I did anything weft-faced. I will need to sample for sure.

After looking around online I found a site called The View from Fez –  Beginners’ Guide to Moroccan Rugs which shows these kinds of Moroccan pieces. These images are from there…

The article tells us that these pieces are cloaks rather than rugs but that they are often sold in stores as rugs. They are called hendiras. It explains that the cloak is worn with the loose loops of wool outermost in the snowy weather as the snow tends to fall off the wool loops rather than accumulate and soak the fabric. There is more on the site mentioned above. Do take a look. The latest issue of Shuttle, Spindle & Dyepot also has an article on a cooperative that is preserving the Berber weaving tradition of Morocco in which the beautiful hendiras also appear.

Well, I think I am done with this week’s blog post. This is my last day in the beautiful Massachusetts spring weather and it is calling me out to play. I will be heading home to a Bolivian lowland late fall which will most likely be every bit as hot and humid as any other time of year!

I will leave you with Pam’s husband Jim Engberg’s photo of an iris taken in their garden…spring in New England.

Eating lashings of pistachio icecream on the porch at the end of a perfect spring day looking down towards Pam’s barn weaving studio….a lovely way to end this trip. Tomorrow…back on the long road home!


  1. Thanks Lavern, loved that blog!!! safe travels, I know you’ll keep us posted.
    and let me know when you come up with new tricks… would love to be the guinea pig …

  2. Have a safe trip home! Thank you for another great post with lovely photos.

  3. Thanks laverne, for this blog. . beautiful photos
    I wish you a nice and safe travel !

    • Thank you Yonat, Jeanne and Caroline for the good wishes for my trip home. I am home!…back in Santa Cruz, Bolivia..all went well…now the nasty part…the unpacking, the sorting, the laundry…urgh!

  4. The iris photo is beautiful! How cool that you found that article about the Moroccan cloaks. Love those photos of him wearing one!
    Hope you enjoy the slower pace of being at home. ❤ Annie

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