Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 13, 2013

Backstrap Weaving – What I love about sharing backstrap weaving

What do I like about sharing my weaving?   One of the best things for me is how much I manage to learn myself from my interaction with my weaving friends. And, there are many other things about it that I love, both tangible and intangible. Let me try to list at least some of the things that make this such a wonderful  experience…..

1.Receiving a picture like this via email shortly after weaving with a group:

Karen's pebbel weave bands backstrap weavingKaren, who wove Andean Pebble Weave with me,  sent this picture to show me what she has been up to since then. She completed the bands that we started together and wove more bands as she continues to work her way through my book. Not that many people rush home and weave and get to this point so quickly but it is just the simple fact that she wanted to show me what she has been doing and keep in touch that makes me really happy.

2.Getting a picture from an onlooker who captures the interest and delight on people’s faces while I am busy showing samples and talking:

134demoThis picture of (from left to right) Karen, Nan, Laura and Stephanie was taken by Franco. I miss some of these little moments while I have my eyes on the textiles.

3.Getting to spend “fiberholic” evenings with my friends, while chatting and cluttering up the place with WEAVING STUFF:

vonnie backstrap weavingMy friend, Vonnie, sits back at home with a very interested onlooker to weave a little on the band that we started itogether.

Vonnie showed me how she makes her tablet weaving a “weave anywhere any time” craft. As always, I am happiest on the floor.

tablet weaving at vonnie's houseI have a stretchy hair band around my neck to which the band is attached (this is just in case you are not wearing a belt to which you can attach) and the other end is hooked to my shoe lace. It was very comfortable!

4.Reconnecting with people I met on previous visits who have now become dear friends:

annie and barbara in santa cruzThat’s Annie and Barbara tackling a skein of hemp (next to Ginna). I  am here to just hang out for a few days with them. We will probably see that beautiful rusty red hemp woven into one of Annie’s gorgeous one-of-a-kind inkle woven guitar straps soon.

5.Meeting lots of fun and enthusiastic people who are interested in something about which I am passionate – backstrap weaving and South American textiles – and helping them to perhaps realize a dream or simply enjoy spending some time trying something completely different:

???????????????????????????????Stephanie, Betsy and Vonnie have just made their first set of string heddles and are putting their newly acquired skills to work  on a narrow band.

6.Having the opportunity to spend time with long-time online friends who have been so helpful, supportive and fun for years. If you are part of any fiber-related online weaving group, you are bound to know Franco Rios!:

franco backstrap weaving7.Putting faces to my more recent online acquaintances:

laura and nan backstrap weavingLaura is a fairly new member of the Ravelry Backstrap Weaving Group and we look forward to seeing more of her. She and her mother, Nan, came to weave together with me.

8.Exchanging ideas and learning new skills:

???????????????????????????????Vonnie knows tatting and now…., so do I! The picture above is, of course, of Vonnie’s fine work. However, I am rather proud of the way mine is coming along in both fine cotton and wool.

my tattingVonnie gave me a shuttle to take away and showed me how pospsicle sticks can do the trick nicely as well. When practicing with the heavier wool yarn, it is very easy to use the yarn straight off the ball rather than place it on any kind of shuttle. However, you can’t help enjoying looking elegant holding the wee shuttle daintily between thumb and forefinger.

lucet cord and braidVonnie taught me to make cord using a lucet (the wooden instruments seen on the left) and I taught her to make a braid using a piece of cardboard and the fill-the-gap technique, something I learned thanks to the ladies of the Braid Society that I met while in the UK. Here is a close-up of my cord and Vonnie’s braid:

lucet cord and vonnie's braidAnd, there are also surprising connections to other Ravelry group members. Vonnie showed me the sweetest homemade rigid heddle that group member Janet had made for her using a sushi mat. It is touching to see how many firm behind-the-scenes friendships form between members of the Ravelry groups.

jenat's heddle and my lucet giftAnd that is the pretty lucet that Vonnie gave me!

9.Coming to weave on a second morning and finding that people had woven at home on their own: 

admiring backstrap bands on day two of classLaura, Caroline, Vonnie and Betsy admire bands on the morning of our second day together that had grown in length overnight. Some of the patterns the ladies wove were of their own invention without the use of charts. Seeing that skill develop makes me exceedingly happy!

supplementary weft patterned bands10.Meeting someone new who shows me what she has managed to learn at home, either by using the free tutorials on this blog, or by following my books:

carolines pebble weave bandThat’s Caroline with a pebble weave band she has been weaving at home.

11.The trust and support that develops among the weavers as they work together. Folks applaud and encourage each other and, with this support, are able to accept little mistakes and mishaps with good humor: 

warping for backstrap weavingTeam warping: that’s Janet on the left with Caroline in the center warping under the watchful eye of her warping partner, Stephanie. This is where I get a chance to stand right back and enjoy watching how people work and solve problems together.

12.Seeing a first-time-ever weaver being nurtured by the rest of the group, taking to it and having fun and seeing the movements used by everyone…experienced weavers and beginners alike… to open the sheds and operate the loom become increasingly automatic and relaxed:

karen new weaverThere’s new weaver Karen working at opening the sheds. She soon learned that a sweater on her lap made a great tool tray.

backstrap weaving group sacramentoHere’s “Team Backstrap” enjoying the sun. We had some spectacular spring weather for us. Many thanks to Betsy and Franco for inviting everyone. Franco kept us entertained with various bird-spottings. We were working right by a large open door and could enjoy the outdoors without being out in the harsh sunlight.

13.Understanding a little more about people’s different learning styles.

14.All the cool stuff I get to do and see and the cool people I get to hang out with. Like…

redwoods sant cruz california…a) roaming around the redwoods….

santa cruz mission…b) admiring and exploring local sites such as the only building left of the mission in Santa Cruz established in 1791. That building would look very much at home in downtown Santa Cruz, Bolivia with its white adobe walls, wooden pillars and red tile roof. Many buildings where I live resemble this one although most are in a state of advanced decay with tropical greenery threatening to take them over….

tapestry in progress by Zapotec weaver sergio martinez…c) seeing other kinds of weaving and sometimes meeting their makers. I had the wonderful luck of being able to examine a tapestry in progress by Zapotec weaver Sergio Martinez. He weaves and shows his work in Old Folsom just down the road from Vonnie’s place. Unfortunately, Sergio had just left for the day when we arrived but I wrote to him to ask permission to show his weaving here and we have been corresponding. The piece in progress is an image from the Aztec codices. Sergio’s woven themes, as far as I could see, are very different to those used by Zenon and Jaime Hipolito whom I visited earlier in this trip. It was very interesting to see how widely the work of  Zapotec weaving artists can vary.

stitched shibori samples by rachelle weissshibori-like fabric in fasion…d) learning about other textile arts such as the art of stitched shibori at a workshop give by Rachelle Weiss at the Santa Cruz Handweavers Guild. Dyeing expert Kris Nardello assisted. It is a technique that historically was largely practiced in Japan and is a way to decorate cloth using dye-resist techniques.

The workshop was very well attended. Rachelle’s instruction and inspiring samples created a lot of excitement and chatter which made it a really fun morning. Participants learned three kinds of stitching techniques, some of which also involved folds, for creating wood grain, undulating lines and circular patterns. Everyone will return in June to complete their projects by pulling the stitiches to ruffle and pucker the cloth and then placing the pieces of fabric in the dye bath. I will have to take my kit home and play with it there….

It was fun to go on from there and find shibori-like fabric (at least to me eye!)  used for a dress in one of the trendy clothing stores along the main street of downtown Santa Cruz (pictured above).

A couple of days later, I visited with Barbara  and she showed me a gorgeous piece of shibori cloth that she had created and sewn into a garment.

barbaras shiboriShe had used techniques that we had not seen with Rachelle. Rather than creating areas of resist and then dyeing the fabric, she applied bleach. You can see how leaves were placed on the black fabric and then bleach was sprayed around creating the reddish background. Pieces were clamped to the cloth to create the bar-like patterns which I think look like sticks of bamboo.

The fabric has been used to create a jacket with simple twisted yarn ties for closures. That was in Barbara’s pre-braiding days. Now she will be able to replace those simple ties with some kind of fabulous braided tie using her takadai or marudai skills. Here are some of her examples created on the marudai and takadai…

barara's tkadai and marudai samplesMy day spent at Barbara’s was her regular twining get-together with Yonat. Both Yonat and Barbara weave with me on every visit and it was nice to see what they had learned when Ravenstail twining expert Cheryl Samuel visited the area. You know how much I love twining! A Google search tells me that Ravenstail is a type of twining and surface braiding that was used by native Americans along the Pacific Northwest coast to create dance aprons, blankets and robes.

Barbara had obviously been very much absorbed with this since last fall as she has already made these three adorable pouches…

??????????????????????I learned a few tricks while Yonat and Barbara worked for making the ending of the twining neater. The basic technique of twisting the “wefts” and changing colors is the same as the technique I use to create the twined patterns that I use on my backstrap weavings. However, there are many specialised moves involved with creating the patterns that you see above with their outlines and embellishments.

yonat's ravenstail leggings??????????????????????Yonat and Barbara are each working on a project to make traditional leggings. This is Yonat’s piece. The working frame alone is a thing of beauty. Barbara’s husband made hers and Peggy’s husband made a few for various members of the group.

ravenstail frameLook at the  inlay work created by Peggy’s husband! What you are seeing there is the lid of a tool box that he cleverly incorporated into the basic framework. The frame comes apart easily so that Yonat can pick up her work and take it home at the end of her study day with Barbara.

And, while the ladies were twining, I got to weave on a discontinuous-warp project that was part of a workshop given to members of the Santa Cruz guild by Nilda Callañaupa way back in 1997! This particular piece was not touched after the workshop and its owner has since passed away. Yonat has been keeping it and is now passing on to another of our backstrap group members, Dorothy. On its way to Dorothy, it fell into my lap and I just had to weave on it! I will be spending this weekend with Dorothy and we will get to play with this together.

discontinuous warp backstrap loomI hadn’t taken a backstrap to Barbara’s place and so just used a piece of cord. It was pretty comfortable, believe it or not! The wool yarn was quite friendly and I got quite a bit woven before lunch. What was unusual for me to see was that this had been warped to include complementary-warp pick-up patterning. All the discontinuous-warp pieces that I have had the luck to examine so far have been either plain warp-faced weaving or patterned with supplementary warps.

discontinuous warp backstrap weavingThe horizontal bars that you see above tell us that the piece was warped for complementary-warp pick-up. Yonat, who also took the workshop back in 1997 remembers having woven a double-faced hooked “s” pattern on her piece. Barbara was also in that workshop and neither of them have worked on their pieces since. I am happy to report that they now feel those unfinished pieces calling to them and, hopefully, they will get motivated to get back to work on them with confidence sixteen years after the original workshop. (By the way, the piece is posed on top of Yonat’s latest clasped weft project in which she used the technique to create a beautiful landscape.)

dovetailing of two color warpsIt was interesting to see how the two colored warp threads in the pattern area were carried while warping. You can see that they were wound together as one thread. They were then separated into two sheds when the heddles were installed.

So….on one short visit with a couple of my now, very dear weaving friends I learned about SO much!…shibori techniques, ravenstail techniques and a bit more about warping for discontinuous-warp projects.

tablet woven wool bands…e) getting ideas from weaving friends and the fun stuff they have lying around.

I saw a bunch of very long wool tablet-woven bands overflowing from a basket in Annie’s living room. Annie acquired these after a deceased guild member’s belonging were given away at a meeting. Each band is ten feet long. Who knows what the weaver’s intention was for these but I am seeing some kind of interlaced project along the lines of the fabulous weaving bench cover I showed here some weeks ago.

The colors are so rich and appealing. What if these were laid out vertically and interlaced with sandy colored bands running horizontally….oh, yes!

Let me show you what Jennifer Williams, aka inkledpink, made by interlacng some inkle-woven bands…

Jennifer williams inkledpink

So, what do I love about sharing backstrap weaving with people? What’s NOT to love?!



  1. This is really refreshing Laverne… Being able to do what you enjoy and keeping the Art alive by sharing with others.


  2. It was so fun to have you come out! I have a renewed spirit for getting the fingers going again. Thank you so much for coming out to Sacramento. Please me know when we can do this again!
    It was a good day!

  3. Greetings Laverne and as always so enjoyed your blog. Delighted to see tatting in your post and as coincidence would have it, I uncovered my tatting shuttles recently and was thinking about how to incorporate tatting with my woven band projects. Am considering using the tatting in a corresponding color to cover the seam area of bands that are sewed together…will keep you posted…meanwhile, happy weaving and tatting! Carol

  4. It was such a treat to spend extra time with you yesterday. I look forward to your return to Santa Cruz (northern hemisphere) and hope we can repeat the experience.

  5. love the adventures and the new forms of textile arts you bring in,
    it was really fun to share the day with you, and your happy excitements over Barbara’s bands, the scaffolding warp etc… looking forward for your return ,
    safe travels

  6. Laverne, I can see why you love your trips so much. You have had such lovely experiences and met such wonderful fiber friends. It is obvious that people are inspired by you. Maybe one day I too will have the fortune of weaving with you. Until then, I’m loving your blog and learning so much. It is a wealth of information. Enjoy the last of your trip.

    P.S. I’m “inkled pink” that you liked my basket.

  7. Isn’t it amazing the way people can take a few strands, of animal hair, or a plant, and with imagination and creativity and, in some cases, need turn them into the most dazzling array of finished articles. I marvel at so many ways to do this! And then Laverne brings it all together for our enjoyment and inspiration. Thank you, Laverne!

  8. Great post! It takes a lot of effort on your part to travel as much as you do, but now we all know why you do it. How wonderful to know the rewards that you get from it. I am lucky to be a part of your latest tour of textile thrills!

  9. I had such a great time having you at my place! You were the perfect guest. Safe journeys!

  10. I love reading about your adventures and weaving! Three or four years ago, I stumbled upon your blog and it helped encourage me to take a beginners weaving class (on a rigid heddle loom), and eventually I bought a 24″ RH when it was over. Due to unfortunate circumstances in life, I just haven’t had time to learn to weave any more, but when I feel too out-of-touch with my goals (seeing the whole wide world, and learning everything I can from it – being just a few!), I visit your blog and it makes me feel hopeful again. I thoroughly enjoy reading about all the different people you meet and the different places you see, and all the things you learn from these experiences. It’s so refreshing and inspiring!

  11. Hi Laverne! I was wondering…in my experience, backstrap weaving produces a very firm and stiff fabric…I want a soft fabric suitable for clothing. Is the feel of the finished fabric dependent on the force in beating, the yarn, or both? Any tips?

    • I sent a lengthy reply to your personal email recently in reponse to your first long comment in which you asked many questions. I am wondering if you got it. You might want to check your spam folder.

    • You have already written a comment here about rigid heddles and balanced weaves so, I know that you know something about that. I emailed you a detailed response to that comment. “Backstrap weaving” is simply weaving on a backstrap loom. It does not refer to a particular kind of cloth or structure. The question you ask is asked by all weavers and is not specific to the backstrap loom. You have to decide what kind of cloth you want to produce and then research and sample to see what kind of yarn and more importantly what kind of woven structure will help you to produce it. You need to do some reading about structures and how they affect the drape and feel of the cloth…what kinds of structure are best suited to the item of clothing you want to create….cloth for a jacket will be different to that used for a drapey shawl. I imagine that you would want something other than just plain weave. Then you need to see how you will set up your backstrap loom to work with that….perhaps by adding a rigid heddle, multiple string heddles and a reed etc. In the end you may decide that you would be better off choosing another kind of loom which is already equipped for multi-shaft weaves.I suggest joining and joining the Warped Weavers group to see the kinds of things they are weaving. This will be an easy way to get some exposure to many different woven structures.

  12. This is really interesting to me. I do very small scale backstrap weaving with a rigid heddle. I don’t understand how to do the string heddles and beautiful designs with the weft. I wish I could take a class just about backstrap weaving because it appeals to this old guy. I’m going to Ecuador in February. Do you have a contact where I could take a class for a couple of days? Thank you. Jim

    • Hi Jim,
      I have tutorials here on the blog showing how t make the string heddles. There are step-by-step pictures as well as videos. Hit the TUTORIALS tab at the top of the page and take a look at what is on offer. I don’t know of any formal classes in Ecuador. I would try at the many schools that teach Spanish. They quite often organize classes like that for the students in their free time.

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