Posted by: lavernewaddington | August 9, 2013

Backstrap Weaving – Outside the Andean Box

backstrap weaving at ANWGI came back from Santa Fe with a different mind set…time to CREATE!

I told myself….Enough of the endless sampling and experimenting and getting distracted with new structures and designs from here, there and everywhere.

Use all the things you have been studying all these years and create some large pieces to hang. Perhaps it was because I was still so thrilled by how well my wall hangings had been received at the ANWG conference or perhaps I had soaked up some of that special sort of arty atmosphere in Santa Fe….

In any case, it seems that I just can’t help myself. I am back to sampling, sampling and playing with structures. Meanwhile, the ideas for those large pieces that I am talking about stack up in my head. I’ll get there.

I spent the whole week playng with the three-color reversible pebble weave. Slow going but fun….LOTS of fun. And that is why I keep coming back to experimenting like this.

And so, another band takes its place in the sample basket, mistakes and all…many lessons learned.

 3 color pebble weave 1

3 color pebble weave 2And yet another gets under way…

3 color pebble weave in tencelThis one is in tencel and was a lesson in the selection and placement of three colors  that would work well together in this structure on both sides of the fabric. I didn’t manage it. The reverse of this piece has a yellow background with the design outline in light blue and the design gets rather lost due to the lack of contrast between those two colors. This motif has a small element of a two-color  pebble weave piece from the Colonial period that I had seen in a book.  I added several of my own ideas to it, expanded it and inserted a third color.

I am really happy with this motif as I want to try to start thinking more outside what I call the “Andean box”. I would like to create designs using the structures that I have studied here in South America that are more and more my own and which do not necessarily have anything to do with traditional Andean patterns. The second motif that I have just started will be an original – a butterfly. Let’s see how that turns out. And then I have a few leaf motifs and some flower ones that I need to sample.

The plan is to weave something using the three-color technique in this color scheme…

tencel and color influenceThe base color will be navy blue and then I will need to choose two of those three tencel colors which will interact on the two faces.

And, speaking of thinking outside the Andean box, here is Julia’s latest pebble weave creation…

julia riverJulia calls this River with Eddies. She used four shades of blue for the river and I love the various browns that border it…pebbles along the shore.

Of course, Julia has been venturing outside the Andean box for some time now. Once she got the hang of the Andean pebble weave technique, there was no stopping her.

julias workFrom an adaptation of a tablet weaving pattern on the left and back to a traditional Andean one on the right…all her work is beautiful.

I am happy to see that Jennifer is back at the loom. We have missed her in the backstrap group. Summer tends to take people away.

Her latest warp is lovely. She says that it is going to be plain weave but I don’t know what the final product will be yet. Perhaps she is like me and doesn’t decide that until the piece is finished!

black_and_purpleAnd, for something completely different, Bethan in France sent me a picture of the twill tartan piece that she made on a backstrap loom using her own handspun wool. She will weave another identical piece and sew them together for a shawl. Spinning for the second panel is underway.

bethan (1)Janet handed her young granddaughter a pencil and had her “connect the dots” on the pebble weave charting paper that I use in my second book to create her own design. She chose the colors and  Janet wove the piece which Celia will have for a bag.

more_backstrap_stuff_011_mediumThinking outside the Andean box…this idea first requires a definition of what exactly I mean by “Andean” . That may become harder and harder to define as Andean weavers these days look at their surroundings and often weave “non-traditional” patterns for themselves. Take a look at this Bolivian hatband…

??????????????????????It has three colors in play  and I SO want to see what’s on the other side! Don’t you?

PS….This showed up in my Facebook newsfeed the morning after writing this post. Just had to throw it in here!



  1. I know what you mean about having so many ideas floating around in your head, and too little time to actually weave them! For me it’s not so much the sampling that gets in the way, it’s finishing other projects. I think the creating is the part that really gets me going, and finishing not so much. But I hang in there, and hope to actually create all the ideas I keep having! Thanks for all your comments and great photos.
    BTW, I really liked the woven edge finish you posted last week. Another something I want to try.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jan. Yes, I am a very much about process too so I know what you mean but, fortunately I am good about finishing things too as I enjoy that particular part of the process immensely. Good luck with your projects and I hope you get to use the edging tutorial some time.

  2. An airplane and what looks to be a steeple chase rider on the hat band are great! I am really amazed by this multi-color weaving. Looking forward to seeing more of that!

    • Thnks Julia. I am so excited that you and Cindy met up today and have been thinking about you two all day. I hope you had a blast and wil wait to hear a report.

  3. Laverne, that fine balance between endless sampling and focusing on one large idea is the dilemma we all face. It’s what keeps the work exciting, I think. One feeds the other. Your samples are so wonderful—have you ever considered that your samples ARE your work? Just a thought.

    • Thank you, Alice. You are right. I am sure that all weavers face this. It IS all exciting, isn’t it?

  4. I am in awe of your wall hangings and to me, they ARE large projects! 🙂 And I love everything you make, even samples! Glad you’re investigating three color reversible pebble weave – I hope to be there someday too. Weave on!

    • Thanks Jennifer! I have plans to do more in that series of wall hangings. Those are large enough for the time being. Thanks for the encouragement.

  5. Hi,
    Thank you for another great blog. It is so good to see people’s work and get inspired and encouraged.
    I have a question that I hope you can help me with I live in Australia and am new to backstrapping. I live 45 mins outside the nearest town with any yarn supplies, and that is mainly Spotlight. I am having so much trouble getting yarn to weave with. I am hoping that some of you Aussies can guide me to a good buy. Presently I am using Milford Satin Perle No. 5 2 ply, and am finding the sheds get sticky very quickly. I don’t know if this is due to my inexperience or the quality of the yarn. Help please?

    • Hi Bek,
      Perle cotton is mercerized cotton and should behave well for warp-faced weaving. I would say that the problem you are experiencing with the stickiness is more to do with your being new to backstrap weaving.
      It is typical for beginers to haul up on theh heddles and scrape them back and forth along a taut warp to help clear the shed. This is deadly, especially when working with cotton. A big part of learning to operate a backstrap loom is learning how to use your body to increase and relax tension on the warp when needed. Opening the heddles smoothly and avoiding the scraping involves a series of coordinated moves which takes time to learn. The heddles should be pulled straight up while relaxing the tension on the warp. There are several ways that your free hand can interact with the threads while you are pulling up on the heddles to make this operation smoother and easier.

      A certain amount of fluff will accumulate on the heddles and can’t be avoided but it shouldn’t be appearing early on in your project. It certainly shouldn’t be so much that it interferes with the operation of the loom. Check out the videos I have here about sticky warps (FAQ section).

      • Thanks so much for replying. It is a bit disappointing that the problem is due to me! (Would have been easier to blame it on the cotton.) I will continue to persist – I love back-strapping, and I have no other access to mercerised cotton that is not a smaller size. I did find a bamboo/cotton yarn with which to make my backstrap, but it comes in only 4 colours. Not much fun there.
        Thanks again, it is so good to have someone experienced to call upon when I have difficulties.

  6. Three color pebble weave! It looks super! I’ll be sure to show Celia that her bag is in your post.
    I love Bethan’s cozy shawl! And Julia’s beautiful pieces, too.

    Thanks, Laverne, for another lovely blog. Keep on sampling! OK, go ahead and make some big pieces, too.

  7. Hi Laverne!
    Bravo to you for sampling. It takes a lot of patience (which somehow I don’t have) but I am sure rewarding in the end.

  8. Hi Laverne,

    The wall hangings are stunning! I hope you continue to create pieces that make your heart happy.


    • Thank you, Alaa. I was just thinking about you recently and wondering about not having heard much from you lately. I hope you are well.

  9. Hi Laverne, love the three colors and the snow flake like design, look forward to seeing more. Is Bek near Hobart by any chance? I’d be happy to show her/ weave together. Ciao, Anna

    • Thanks, Anna. I sent Bek an enail to find out where she lives. It would be great if you could get together….sweet of you to offer 🙂

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