Posted by: lavernewaddington | August 16, 2013

Backstrap Weaving – Pebbles and Panels

If I needed an excuse to be a little less productive than usual this week, I had one.  It was my birthday!

Another was the arrival of another wave of cold weather. It was perfect for lying on the sofa under a blanket with a hot beverage and a pile of textiles books. I was getting and consolidating more ideas for the next series of wall hangings.

The dilemma: My current wall hanging project has been woven in three colors: red, black and white. I have three pieces so far and have just started the fourth…

4th in textile trail series backstrap weavingThese are two of three panels that will form the whole piece pictured with the weft inlay sampler I made with this project in mind. I have a plan for a special way of uniting the three panels once they are done. There will be two identical red panels flanking a black. You can see that I have decided to weave both the red panels at once. Why? Because I am simply not confident about being able to weave one red patterned panel alone and then go on to produce a perfect replica.

???????????????????????????????And this is the thing about backstrap weaving and the fact that part of the loom itself is ME, a living, breathing thing with changing moods and attitudes  which are so easily reflected in the cloth I am producing.

Just the way I am seated in any one weaving session and a change in the amount of tension I am applying can have an  effect  on the way the motifs look…more rounded, more elongated. Some days I weave in half hour bursts and barely settle into it. On others I can sit for three hours at a time and get into a wonderful flowing rhythm.

This means that if I write down the fomula for my first panel, for example, the number of picks of plain weave I need to do between motifs and follow that to the letter for the second panel, there is no guarantee that panel number 2 will be identical to number 1. However, I am happy to report that this is less and less of a problem for me as years go by and I become increasingly experienced. BUT I am not taking any risks with this wall hanging project and its two red panels!

Solution: weave them both together!

Of course, the  weavers here in Bolivia and Peru don’t have that option when weaving the panels for their carrying cloths. Due to the width of the pieces, they can only manage one panel at a time on their backstrap loom. Look at the Peruvian piece above. You can see the zig zag red stitching that joins the two panels. All that patterning you can see on the right is perfectly duplicated on the left. They can weave for months and months with the myraid of interruptions and distractions that running a household entails and still produce two perfectly identical panels.

And then my mind is blown completely when I see the competition pieces that are made for the annual events held by the Center for Traditional Textiles in Cusco (CTTC). The 2010 event required weavers from each community to work as a team to produce pieces comprising many individual panels. Some communities challenged themselves to the max!

competition winner aThis is one of the winning pieces (I believe that it is from Sallac) from the 2010 competition and is being presented in this picture at the Tinkuy. I don’t know how many weavers were involved with this but I imagine that they must have had to work very closely together to achieve such consistency in those individual squares. Each weaver would have had to include the same amount of pattern with exactly the same dimensions as the others in his/her square. A weaver who applied more tension or who didn’t beat as hard would have created motifs that were slightly more elongated than the others and would have not been able to fit as much pattern into the square. Goodness knows if or how many squares had to be rejected. There were stories of tears, disappointments and frustration when weavers representing the various communities spoke on the podium.

I can see that the top ikat panels on the left and right don’t have the same orientation. I bet there is quite a story behind that!

The community of Pitumarca added yet another dimension by weaving panels of pattern within panels using the discontinuous-warp, or scaffolding, technique for which they are famous…

competition winner bThe CTTC has been posting pictures of some of the finalists in this year’s competition on their Facebook page (see below). I don’t know what the theme or requirements for this year’s event have been. The winners will be presented at the tinkuy in Cusco in November.

1002198_535042066544713_262793797_nSome more detailed pictures posted by the CTTC….

cttc competition 2013Any guesses for the possible theme?….animals? twill?

And, are you going to the Tinkuy this year? It’s in November. There’s still time to register. Sadly, I am not. It was a tough decision but with my idea of going to Australia and possibly a trip to Mexico some time in the near future, I have to sacrifice some things. Even Australia is a bit iffy at this point.

Two of my backstrap weaving students, Dorothy and Karen will be going and I am already pestering them to send me daily reports. You can read my reports on the 2010 event here and here.


As for the dilemma that I mentioned way back in the beginning….before getting sidetracked by spectacular panels….I have taken up my studies of 3 and 4-color pebble weave again after having put it aside for several years and I now I want to include the 4-color version as part of my wall hanging series.

Four colors in a series of red, black and white….does not compute. So,  a whole new series will be born. Those of you who have been following my blog and looking at my weavings for some time may already have a pretty good idea of what colors I will choose. If so, do tell, because I haven’t made that decision yet myself!

The red, black and white series will continue as I still have a bunch of ideas for that. However, while I have the 3 and 4-color pebble weave studies fresh in my mind, I would like to start a large piece with these techniques. I am still at the sampling stage, of course.

4 color pebble weave wool bagMy first task will be to make a new strap for the four-color bag I wove years ago when I was still living in Chile.

It’s a wool bag with a cotton strap that is too short. It must come off. I have some wool that might work and I want to make a strap with a very small 3 or 4-color motif that won’t be overpowering.

I will have to dye the wool to suit and must look for wool dye in this land of cotton.

I continued with the three-color piece that I had started last week. This was more about creating some of my own patterns. I am sticking with flowery type things for the time being so that the band has some kind of theme. There’s a  hummingbird which comes from a two-color pattern on a sash from Taquile Island. Carolyn’s bee pattern, that I included in my second book, would look good on this band. Sharon sent me embroidery designs for butterflies which were helpful.

???????????????????????????????There isn’t enough contrast between the light blue and yellow to be able to appreciate the figures  on the reverse of the blue band. This band is made with tencel.

The four-color one in the next shot is cotton. There it is, mistakes and all.

3 and 4 color pebble weave 1Julia was taken with the multi-colored Bolivian hatband that I showed last week and wove a multi-colored band of her own…

julias multi color bandAndean Pebble Weave…there’s a lifetime of study and creation for just this one structure.

It is not a beginner technique. With some warp-faced band-weaving experience and a bit of pick-up under your belt, you can start with my first book to learn the basics of the Andean Pebble Weave structure.  Then you can go on to the second volume to deepen your understanding of Andean Pebble Weave and other complementary-warp structures while learning how to design and chart your own two-color pebble weave patterns. If you are new to warp-faced band weaving there are plenty of free tutorials here on my blog to get you started. Don’t rush into pebble weave.

book covers

Jennifer is enjoying the simple pleasure of creating plain weave without ridges (there has been much written on this blog about the pesky ridging problem and the final logical solution!)

photoHere are her pieces ready for finishing touches. The small needle case will have a tubular band edging. Jennifer followed my Cutting Corners tutorial but notes that the wood glue she used does not dry clear (the glue I get here known as carpenters’ glue does). Look at that lovely smooth plain weave.

I have added a coil rod to my two red panels to eliminate the ridging that often occurs in warp-faced cotton pieces on the backstrap loom. Coil rods are often applied by backstrap weavers to circular warps. Mine is not circular but I am using one anyway. The most common way to eliminate ridging on cotton single-plane warps is to weave an inch or so at the “wrong” end of the loom to lock everything into place before starting to weave at the “right” end. However, I didn’t want to do that on this project because I believe that it will make my planned finishing and joining technique for the three panels more awkward. The coil rod is doing the trick…what a marvellous piece of equipment!

Curious about the coil rod? Read here.

Until next week, let’s enjoy this beautiful old four-color piece that I found in an antique store right here in Santa Cruz about ten years ago…

??????????????????????And here is a last minute addition because I just went to Facebook and this leaped right off the page at me!

1004828_505362782865210_1204457938_nThese are sashes woven by the Pueblo weavers and owners of Woven Dreams Textiles. This is part of their inventory for the Santa Fe Indian Market this week. One year I will get to that! Go to their Facebook page and take a look at the kilts they make.


  1. Hi Laverne:
    Congratulations on your birthday! What wonderful ideas are brewing for you now. So glad you mentioned the CTTC competition pieces are on facebook I must look for them. It was such a difficult thing in 2010 when I was asked to be one of the judges for that year’s pieces. One of my comments to Nilda was did we really HAVE to take into consideration if the size was not accurate? Of course we did and pieces lost potential marks for this. When the judging was over I said to Flora to please let the communities know they missed lots of points for this. I could not begin to imagine how they could achieve it in any case! but, or course, some had done it correctly.
    I look forward to see the progress of your 2 red panels. Hugs from
    Judith (Crosbie not MacKenzie)!

  2. Happy Birthday! Always inspiring!

  3. Happy Birthday!
    My jaw dropped when I looked at the photo of that enormous discontinuous warp piece. As always, many inspiring pictures. bb

  4. Happy Birth day and may god bless you with great ideas that shall help to creat textile weaving helpful to all crafters…

  5. The brown, green, tan and cream color combination is certainly beautiful. Maybe that’s the color combination you will use for your new four color project(s). So is the Brown, Rust, Cream and Blue. No doubt the colors you end up choosing with be perfect. Jennifer’s weaving could be called “Plain Weave that Isn’t Plain”! Her’s are also very beautiful colors.

  6. Hi Laverne,
    My thoughts on perfection. I am in awe of those who can achieve it. I am not one. I have come to terms with that. I love the Navajo idea of the spirit trail and am happy to say that I have many “paths” in my weaving that allow the spirits to enter. There are even times when I purposely allow it.

    The first time was many years ago as I watched Neil Armstrong on TV when he took the first step on the moon. As I watched, I was knitting a baby blanket for my friend’s first child. I purposely, consciously, knit a “mistake” in the pattern when he took that memorable step so the yet unborn child could know someday that he was a child of history.

    Since that time I have made other conscious “mistakes”. When I painted my studio in the garden with its board and batten exterior, I tinted the paint for one wide board on the readily visible side to commemorate the wedding of a long-time friend who had overcome alcoholism and found the love of his life. I also used that paint for one long narrow batten on the back that pointed to the peak of the roof for a weaver friend who had just lost her bout with leukemia. Now when I work in my studio these remind me that I am weaving surrounded by friends.

    I am sure your side panels will come out perfectly even. But if they don’t, they will still be perfect to me.

    • Beautifully spoken.

    • Thanks for the lovely stories about your planned “mistakes”. When talking about not seeking or expecting perfection, I think that it is a different thing all together going out of your way to create an “imperfection” for a specific purpose. The “imperfection” was then part of your plan, part of your design, and if that is what you wanted, then your piece is, in fact, “perfect” as it followed your plan for imperfection.

  7. Hi Laverne! Happy very belated birthday! I am catching up on your blog after being away from my computer most of the summer, what a feast!
    My own take on mistakes is that they sometimes reveal new possibilities that I never would have thought up if everything I did went according to plan. Your showing your mistakes (although I have to say I couldn’t even see them!) and what you learned from them is so encouraging, makes me feel better about my own, Thanks! Your big wall hanging projects sound very exciting, I’m looking forward to seeing them develop. Congratulations for thinking big and outside the (nonexistant) box! And for all the effort involved with that…

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