Posted by: lavernewaddington | December 21, 2012

Backstrap Weaving – The Weft-Patterned “Neck Wrap”

I suppose that it is normal to want to look back a bit as the end of the year approaches. This time I decided to jump back to the end of my blog years in 2011, 2010 and 2009 and take a look at what was going on. It is interesting to see that supplementary-weft patterning was a part in some way of all those December posts.

This time last year I was in a downsizing phase and rummaging through my closet to see what could be tossed. That was when I came across this wildly colorful supplementary-weft sampler that I made after having studied some of the patterning techniques in a few different communities in Guatemala. I included it in my blog post…(no, I didn’t toss it!)

supplementary-weft-pattern-detailYou can see that all the patterning elements that I am using in my current supplementary-weft project are present in this piece and this is barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the different ways to create patterns with supplementary wefts that are used by Guatemalan weavers.

In December 2010, I was posting about the practice piece I made after studying with the Montagnard (Vietnamese hilltribe) weavers in North Carolina.  While the piece is mostly about the warp float patterning technique that they use, it also includes twined ends and a couple of their traditional motifs woven with supplementary wefts.


And finally, back in December 2009, when I had been blogging only a few weeks, I wrote a post on weaving wider projects which included this…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI included a tiny bit of supplementary-weft patterning  in the center of this placemat and mug rug set. I gave the pattern a thin striped look instead of a richer satin-like finish so that it would mimic the stripes in the two outer bands. The simplicity of the outer bands were inspired by a Guaraní textile.

So, this wonderfully fun patterning technique, which allows quite a lot of spontaneity, (the patterns on both the Montagnard and placemat projects were not planned and could have been just as easily cut out and removed if I had decided that I didn’t like them) has been in my weaving skills kit for quite some time.

hatbands of PotoloI remember the first time I saw a Bolivian highland weaver sitting in the street of Santa Cruz making a hatband only days after I had arrived here in 1998. The base weave was off-white sewing thread-weight cotton and she was creating patterns with bright acrylic threads. I crouched and chatted with her, watched what she was doing, and noted the name of the street so that I could return the next day and watch some more. I never found her again nor have I ever seen another weaver making a hatband since! I have seen plenty of beautiful hatbands but never one being woven again.

The hatbands above adorn the hat of a weaver from Potolo in the Bolivian highlands….bright colors on a black ground, much the same as the color scheme I have chosen for my scarf project. I have decided to call it a “neck wrap” as it is not going to be all drapey and flowing as one would normally expect a scarf to be. As long as I don’t have to actually bend and fold it around my neck, I will be happy!

start of Bhutan design scarf

Here it is, a little bit further along from the little I showed you last week, after all the messing around and lesson-learning. I am trying to think if I learned any more lessons from this wicked warp this week….I think I probably just convinced myself even more that I love putting in a second cross stick behind the shed rod and using those two sticks to help open the heddle shed. (Of course, this is just one of many ways that backtrap weavers operate their looms).

Second cross stick backstrap loom

Above you can see the second cross stick and shed rod in place. The third shorter stick sitting between them is the pattern stick.

If you watched the video of the Tacabamaba weaver in last week’s postyou will have seen how she places her sword on top of the warp and rolls that together with her shed rod to help open the heddle shed. Below, you can see Montagnard backstrap weaver, Ju Nie, doing the same using a bamboo slat instead of her sword.

montagnard weaver opening heddle shedI have a video on my page about sticky sheds showing this system in action.

I prefer to have the second stick permanently in the warp. One of the weavers that I met at the recent conference in Cusco used this system, with the second stick permanently in the warp, to open her heddle shed.

Her set-up is so cool. I wish I had a forked stick like that…must go out and look for one. The prong of the fork nearer the weaver holds the stick shed open while the other prong sits within a second cross.

Usig a forked stick in the warpShe would simply grip the place on the fork where both prongs join and twist the fork away from her while relaxing tension and pulling up on the heddles.

In the picture above, she is about to slide her sword under the warps raised by the shed rod. She will then turn the sword and clear those threads through the heddles and down to the weaving line. I have wonderful video of this weaver operating her loom and doing very fast supplementary-warp pick-up and I had every intention of showing it to you. Too bad my internet would not behave and allow me to upload it.

So, my warp has been behaving like a dream…sticky threads have been defeated and no more have broken. The odd loose ones here and there have been dealt with smoothly and calmly.

The center of Bhutan scarf project bacckstrap loomI decided to make the long motif the center of the scarf and work from there on repeating the designs from the first half of the project. However, I am not repeating the  motifs in the side bands as there are still plenty of those that I want to try!  I have no discipline sometimes!…I should just keep it simple and symmetrical…

starting the other half of the Bhutan scarf projectHere starts the other half….

I managed to almost squeeze in one more green motif before it was time to stop and write this blog post. It’s addictive and I don’t want to stop! The motifs are new and I am anxious to see how they turn out. Plus, I can’t weave it at night so, I really try to make the most of daylight hours. All that black thread is just too much at night and I am on an economy drive so, no super high powered lamps allowed!

one more green motif bhutan scarf

In the evenings, I have been spinning away tightening up the twist on the Malabrigo wool singles I bought while in the US. I am hoping to then ply them and weave a discontinuous-warp piece. As I am not confident about trying any warp float patterns on one of those yet, I will decorate the panels with some wool supplementary-weft designs.

respinning wool for discontinuous warp projectWhat has been happening in the Ravelry group?  ”It’s dead in here!” exclaimed Bobbie recently but she livened things up a little by posting her recently finished guitar strap made for her granddaughter…

bobbie guitar strap intermesh

This was made using the instructions for the two-heddle intermesh technique from my second book. Bobbie used Annie’s guitar strap kit to convert her beautifully woven band to a guitar strap.

Rob has been using my first book to weave some lovely bands with Andean patterns but we may have lost him to a four-shaft loom which recently appeared in his life. Now he is also turning out beautiful towels on that. Here are some of his latest backstrap, inkle and four-shaft loom projects….

rob's weaving projects

There have also been some mutterings in the group about using the 24 sets of string heddles to weave one of the fabulous fajas saras after I showed a picture of some of the belts of San Ignacio de Loyola Peru…

fajas saras san ignacio de loyola peruThat could be a fun weave-along but I don’t think I will join them on that one. While I do love making string heddles, I enjoy doing pick-up even more!

ikat textiles of the AndesOn another topic, a couple of interesting ikat resources came my way recently in my internet ramblings…

Quite by chance I discovered an e-book byMarguerite Gritli Pfyffer entilted “Ikat Textiles of the Andes”.

The book is the result of the author’s two years spent traveling in the Andes researching ikat patterned textiles. There is one section devoted to the pañones of Tacabamba that we saw last week.

From the other side of the world in China, Chris Buckley sent me the link to his recently finished paper entitled Investigating Cultural Evolution Using Phylogenetic Analysis: The Origins and Descent of the Southeast Asian Tradition of Warp Ikat Weaving.

The paper can be viewed online here.

Chris has always been very generous with his resources and, on several occasions, has allowed me to use images of textiles in his collections in these blog posts and for my charting.

Christmas will be done by the time I come to write my next blog post. I don’t do Christmas but I wish all of you the very best for whatever you get up to in the coming week. Now, back to that “neck wrap” thingy….


  1. Dear Laverne, I´m so happy that “the beast” finally surrendered…
    Your scarf is beautiful.!
    Thanks again for your tenacity, and determination to get over .
    Cariños desde Chile

    • Thanks Luzmila. We backstrap weavers are a tenacious lot, or maybe just plain old stubborn! I know that you have done your share of un-weaving too.

  2. Hi Laverne:
    Always enjoy your blogs, tho’ how you find the time for them and all your weaving project amazes me. I guess I am too distracted and busy with my pet sitting engagements.
    I just wanted to THANK YOU for the connection to the paper by Chris Buckley! I was traveling in Indo. last year and especially island of Flores visiting ikat weavers and this paper will be fascinating. Only thing is I can see I will be trying to digest it instead of actually ‘doing’ fibre work.
    Judith, from Vancouver Island, Canada

    • Hi Judith. Lovely to hear from you. Are you going to the next Tinkuy? I bet you have some wonderful pictures and stories to tell about your trip to Indonesia. I am going to Canada next year…maybe we can catch up there or, at least at ANWG.

  3. So glad you did not listen the that little voice that told you “I have no discipline sometimes!…I should just keep it simple and symmetrical…” What you’ve done is magnificent! Your work continues to inspire me. Thank you.

  4. Wow! Bobbie’s guitar strap is fabulous! I hadn’t seen it!
    Maybe after this weekend, I will be able to weave something cool using the two heddle intermesh technique!

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