Posted by: lavernewaddington | October 31, 2012

Backstrap Weaving – Safe from Sandy in Pennsylvania

I am taking a little detour from my series of posts on the Encuentro de Tejedores de las Americas in Cusco to write about the first week of my fall travels in the US. Part Three in the series will be entitled ‘Weavers in Action” and will have several video clips and pictures of both spinning and weaving. Here are links to Parts One and Two.

Just as I hit the very first key to write this post, the lights went out…sigh…it was bound to happen at some point. You see, I am not in Bolivia  right now. I am in “Hurricane Sandy Zone” in Pennsylvania. But, as it turned out, Sandy was just teasing that time. Seconds later the lights were back on and all continues to be well. Coastal areas, on the other hand, are devastated.

This is my fourth  visit to the Mannings staying with Ron, Carol and Helen and the second time that we have been in crisis mode due to extraordinary weather events.

It was windy and rainy all night but nothing too terrible.. One of the lovely things about the Mannings (apart from obviously being yarn, weaving, spinning and knitting heaven as well as the base of weaving teacher Tom Knisely) is the beautiful creek that lies at the bottom of the front lawn.

I spent some lovely evenings last spring on that lawn close to the creek backstrap weaving.

On this fall trip I arrived to a gorgeous display of golden leaves mirrored in the waters. It seems that the leaves were turning later than usual this year and I got to see them for the first time in all their glory.

This early wet snow event is the one that hit in October last year. I sat out the three-day power outage in Ron and Carol’s beautiful motor home.

Halloween was in the air and a new batch of kittens took care of my pet withdrawals. There were four. One had gotten whisked off quickly to a new home.

There was plenty of time for play which, in a big yarn and equipment store and school like the Mannings, meant getting to watch how Tom Knisely’s beginner weaving students were getting on, discovering new yarns that could be suitable for backstrap weaving, hanging out with the spinning group that came to visit, unearthing some really cool hand made weaving swords that will be brilliant for my loom and even getting to do some dyeing.

I am looking for wool so that I can continue my experiments with the discontinuous-warp technique that I studied in a workshop in Cusco a few weeks ago. Well, you are probably thinking that I could probably just spin my own but I would really like to get the technique down before I plan a big project with my own  handspun.

Here’s some Navajo warp I found in the store that Sara dyed for me. Of course it only comes in natural. I kept some natural and then chose these three colors for dyeing as I thought that they looked like the kinds of colors that one could get from natural sources. I have had success using Navajo warp for warp-faced weaving on my backstrap loom before.

I wove this bag with its supplementary-warp patterns many years ago using Navajo warp that I dyed and it worked beautifully. Another yarn that I bought at the Mannings, which I am not yet sure will work as well, is this Malabrigo merino from Uruguay. It is lace-weight single which I will re-spin and ply. I got four colors to make a discontinuous-warp square much the same as the one I made in Cusco.

It remains to be seen if this will actually work but I have brought my Cusco spindle with me and can get started right away with the re-spinning.

I wove with some terrific people. Here are two of them, Lauren and Karen…

Karen went to Guatemala, bought a backstrap loom, and took it to a weaver who warped it and wove a little way using supplementary-weft patterns to decorate her plain-weave cloth. It was nice that we got to weave Bolivian as well as one of the many styles of Guatemalan supplementary-weft patterning techniques. Karen brought the loom to show me so that I could show her how to continue weaving the patterns. I played on this loom and I knew exactly how to weave this cloth with its patterns as I had studied in Guatemala in the very village where it had been created.

You can see below the two patterning sticks (the thinner slightly darker ones) one on the upper surface of the weaving and one below, which are used to raise the warps under which the supplementary wefts pass. The thickest stick is the shed rod. Another stick at the back holds a second cross.

I have a tutorial here on how to set up a warp like this and insert and use the patterning sticks to create small supplementary- weft motifs.

Janet visited the next day to weave complementary-warp pick-up. A friend of hers had bought a woven band still on its loom in Peru and given it to her as a gift. Janet was keen to weave the patterns, some of which were not pebble weave.

Here she is forming the picking cross from which to pick  the threads for the tanka choro pattern.

On the following Friday I started weaving with people I had met on previous visits.

Patti, on the left, had first woven with me in spring last year and Marge first joined me in spring this year. She says that she has been hooked ever since and joined the Ravelry group.

Here are a couple of pattern samplers that were made by the weavers before moving on to finer yarns and more advanced techniques and patterns. On the right is a band made by Dianne with her version of the Breast Cancer Awareness symbol. I love it when people use the structure to create patterns that are personally meaningful. In my new book I show other unique creations contributed by readers who have woven images from the context of their own lives and experiences.

And, speaking of the new book, it was very exciting to get here and see it in print for the first time 🙂

Dianne is also a very talented tapestry crocheter and brought along her notebooks and phone in her own tapestry-crocheted bags and pouches. I am seriously tempted to take this up if I ever find the time. I already have Carol Ventura’s wonderful books on the topic.

Here are two of Dianne’s pieces finished with a card-woven strap and a band made on her inkle loom…gorgeous! I also had some talented braiders come to weave with me. Marjorie has taught braiding at Convergence and it was nice to meet Tracy who was also at the Tinkuy in Peru in 2010. Marjorie gave me a couple of quick braiding lessons on cool things to do with just three and four strands while taking a breather from the backstrap loom.

Marge was happy to try the four-strand round braid (above) which I show in a tutorial here as she wasn’t happy with the way her multi-colored three-strand ones were turning out. I have recently added a new video to that tutorial page which you might want to check out. Finishing techniques are always fun and make such a difference to even the simplest projects.

Before weaving with this group, the creek was still showing its pretty face…

And then there were two…I spent part of one morning looking for the third boy kitten only to find that a Mannings’ customer had taken him to his new home.

That tree with the orange sign is my weaving tree. Then we started hearing the first snippets of news about what was dubbed Franken-Storm, aka Hurricane Sandy. Everyone got home safely on Sunday night. My plans to get to Massachusetts on Monday were thwarted when Amtrak sensibly cancelled all services.

And then came the rain and the wind and the creek turned into a cranky swirling and swelling brown mass.

Impressive flood pictures on Carol and Ron’s freezer door serve as a reminder of just how cranky that creek can get and I decided to pack anyway in case a fast get away was in order.

We didn’t lose light or wifi…how lucky can you get… and this despite the fact that the storm passed right over the top of us.

Those of you who have been lucky enough to visit the Mannings and stay in the family home will know the view of the creek from the dining room window. This is where I am sitting while writing this blog post. Yesterday a swimming pool with deck still attached floated on by! Below you can see my weaving tree surrounded by creek.

In the Ravelry group, where things have been rather quiet lately, Rob showed us his latest projects…

 Here are two Andean pebble weave projects using motifs that are charted in my first book. He says that he is working his way through the book so that he will be ready for the weave-along we run based on my second book.

Here’s another lovely band he made in which the design was created simply by the way he made the warp…

In the background I can see a yellow and black double weave key fob.

As you know, when I am on the road, my posting days and frequency get all out of whack. Some weeks there might two posts and some weeks none at all! The next post will be Part Three of the Cusco trip and I do hope to have that up very soon. Hoping to move on to Massachusetts tomorrow or the next day (where there is no power, by the way…but all are safe and sound).


  1. Its good to know you are OK! The media here in Oz has concentrated on NY and NJ and ignored other areas, so every blog post I come across is fantastic, and gives hope for many more familiar names to come back online shortly.
    The photos are stunning, a beautiful place to inspire and create!

    • Thanks Caroline. It’s hard to imagine the damage on the coast from inland PA and MA. It was shocking to see it on the news after the storm passed very mildly by us at the Mannings. As Carol at the Mannings says…we dodged a big bullet.

  2. what an adventure…. i miss not having you this fall. please keep one hard copy for me (of the second book). love the creations of Rob, and your great idea of dying navajo warp…smart. Malabrigo might be tricky, never tried to over spin it, but it’s usually to soft for the tension, are you going to ply it?
    missing you. stay dry, have fun, and be safe!

    • I am going to ply the Malabrigo, Yonat. I have just respun the first ball. I hope it works as this stuff is too gorgeous to ruin!

  3. Was so worried that your visit to Massachusetts might be cancelled because of the “Frankenstorm! But we were truly spared the worst of the feared monster here in Western Mass.!! Hearts go out to all those in the devastated areas! But am very glad you will still be weaving this weekend. Looking so forward to it! Hopefully power will be restored by then!

  4. Great that you were able to weave uninterrupted! What a storm! I love the over-all pattern on the project one of the weavers brought in. Please save a hard copy of your book for me, too!

  5. Message received Sue! Thanks 🙂

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