Posted by: lavernewaddington | October 1, 2013

Backstrap Weaving – Getting in Sync

I have never been so happy to get something off the loom. I am talking about THIS:

weft inlay black panelThis is what I was weaving to be the black center panel of my red, black and white wall hanging. It was to sit sandwiched between the two red panels I wove some time ago.

2 of 3 anels supplementary weft inlayWhile I suppose that the black panel looks nice enough on its own, as do the red ones, the three simply weren’t working together for me as a whole. They just weren’t ‘in sync”.  Apart from that, I was learning lots of “what not to do” while weaving the black panel and I wanted to start anew using all the lessons I had learned.

And so,I wove on and on so that I could squeeze in as many lessons and discoveries as possible on that one piece of cloth before abandoning the project. But my heart wasn’t in it and I just wanted to get it OFF the loom!

So, finally it is off and folded and taking shape on its way to being ”something”. I have to admit that now I like it on its own despite some of the wobbly lessons learned along the way. As long as it is nowhere near the two red panels I can be pleased with it.

??????????????????????In the meantime I dyed a skein of green Guatemalan cotton black in preparation for the second attempt at the black panel. Then I took a break and wove a backstrap for Terri. I really needed to warp and weave something that I was pleased with and get my head together before diving into the black panel thing again.

backstrap weaving at ANWGFor those who don’t know, Terri is Magical Moons. She makes beautiful swords for backstrap weaving as well as other cool wooden tools and implements. I asked her to make wooden hangers for my three wall hangings so that they could be shown in an Exhibit at ANWG last June.

After exchanging several emails with measurements and ideas, Terri knew exactly what I had in mind and her finished work far exceeded my expectations.

Then Terri suggested I make her a backstrap in exchange for the hangers which I thought was a cool idea…two craftspeople exchanging our handwork. All I knew was that she liked “earthy colors”. So, out came the terracotta dye.

I like a backstrap to be wide and thick…wide enough to spread the job it does comfortably across the back and hips, and thick enough so that it does not fold in on itself on the sides.

This is a backstrap that I would like to have….sturdy and butt-cradling….

Tacabamba backstrap

A nice sturdy hide backstrap from Otavalo, Ecuador. The hairs tend to tickle while you are weaving.

A really sturdy hide backstrap from Otavalo, Ecuador. I own this one but don’t use it very much as the hairs tend to tickle while I am weaving.

But, we can’t all have backstraps like those.

I used Aunt Lydia crochet cotton size #3 for Terri’s backstrap. I wouldn’t consider #3 heavy enough for a good backstrap in just warp-faced plain weave. I wove a center strip of pick-up pattern which was thick and made the plain borders match that thickness by weaving them in the intermesh structure (this “thick border” structure is taught in my first book).

This made for a nice thick and sturdy strap.

terri's backstrap

Terri's backstrap 2I hope she likes it!

I have bunches of backstraps! My “favorite” regularly changes. Right now, I am using a simple piece of fairly thin leather with shoelace ties that a friend in the US found and gave me. It does the trick. It is actually pretty rare to find a backstrap weaver here in Bolivia who has gone to any particular trouble over her backstrap.

Peruvian woven backstrapHere’s one from Peru where someone has taken the trouble to make their backstrap decorative (or maybe it was just some left over piece of band being re-purposed).

But then again, just how badly do you want to weave? Sometimes you will put up with anything to get your hands into a warp!…like just a piece  of string around the back as you can see below.

discontinuous warpOkay, so I wove Terri’s backstrap, got my thoughts and ideas in line, and then felt ready to get back into the black panel project. I just love winding that black warp and sitting in my loom looking at all those threads stretched before me.

??????????????????????This time around I am making a conscious effort to ensure that the black panel sits happily between its red partners. I had made the mistake before of thinking that the design on the red panels was quiet enough not to interfere with what was happening on the black one…not so.

???????????????????????????????Here, I have just finished the first half of the center motif. I am hoping to use this motif, or something similar, in the weft twining which I will use to join the three panels across the top.

Finally,I am feeling much happier about it  and darn, now I have to leave it to travel! In sync and then out again…oh well.

What to take as an on-the-road weaving project?  I have to take clothes for two seasons….the cool to cold US fall and then the warm to hot beginnings of the Australian summer. I will need to think carefully about a small project to squeeze into the bulging bags.

Here are some projects from Icha in Chile who has both my books and is getting along just beautifully with the Andean Pebble Weave structure.

IchaShe has two projects going at once on her frame. Carolyn, an aspiring bee keeper, contributed her original bee pattern on the left to my second book. The hummingbird motif on the right is from my first book and comes from Taquile Island in Peru.

Now, here’s something just for fun….

A friendly gentleman from Cochabamba that I met the other day noted that I am more or less bi-lingual. (I say “more or less” because, despite being here for so many years, I find myself always apologizing for what I perceive as my imperfect Spanish. I think that being a language teacher makes me very hard on myself.) He then went on to tell me that he, too is bi-lingual. He of course, speaks both Spanish and Quechua. I then had the idea that it would be fun to record some phrases in Quechua so that you can hear how it sounds.

I have recorded the phrases along with a slide of the phrase in English that would perform the same function.

Delfin’s Quechua is that of Cochabamba and I gather that it varies from region to region. When I was at the Tinkuy in 2010 in Cusco, Peru with a group of weavers from Cochabamba, they talked about how the Quechua spoken in Cusco differed from the Quechua they know from Cochabamba. They said that the Cusco variety was more pure than theirs as speakers in Cochabamba have adopted many Spanish words which they mix with Quechua. There were quite a few Quechua words being used in Cusco that they simply didn’t know.

I have not written the phrases in Quechua to go with the recordings. When I was traveling and learning to weave, I would have someone repeat a phrase several times and invent my own way of noting the sounds on paper in order to memorize them. Sometimes one of my weaving teachers would ask me to teach her a greeting or a question in English for fun. It is interesting to hear how beautifully someone repeats exactly what you say without seeing it written down and then how distorted it gets once they have seen the written words and then start to reproduce their interpretation of them rather than just the sounds.

The word that Delfin uses for “beautiful” is the same one I learned in Potosi. I didn’t hear it being used in Cusco.

The word for ”delicious” is always useful as, when I have visited people in the highlands, I have always been offered food. Even if you can’t say anything else, that one word and a smile will go a long way to show your appreciation.

I once spent an entire day on a mini bus in Peru getting to Ayacucho. Everyone on the bus was highly entertained when the gentleman sitting next to me decided to teach me  numbers in Quechua. No matter how convinced I was that I was pronouncing the Quechua word for “one” correctly, everyone on the bus would crack up when I said it….and the numbers get progressively more difficult from there! The only one I could manage without sending everyone into fits of laughter was chunka…the number ten. It was a long road from one to ten! That was a fun trip.

Of course, nothing was written down. It was always a very good exercise for me, as a language teacher back then, to be put in the learner’s position.  I realised how quickly I arrived at the point where my head was about to explode trying to memorize and reproduce all the strange sounds. I would go back to the classroom as a teacher with a different approach after that little reminder.

Here’s a Youtube video with the numbers:

To finsh I will show you what Kristin from Ravelry wove on a backstrap loom using a beautiful reed that she made herself…

kristin (2)

kristin (1)Please visit Kristin’s blog for details of this spectacular project and more about that gorgeous reed. I am in love with this neat little set-up!

See you soon again from the  US with some beautiful fall colors, I hope.


  1. I love your wall hanging !

    • Thank you, Lizou. And many thanks for the other comments you have left here in the last few months…all very much appreciated.

  2. Hi,
    Thanks again for an inspiring blog. I am up to simple warp floats in your suggested list for learning backstrapping, and I am having a ball! Can’t wait to achieve Andean Pebble Weaving. I have bought both books, and they are just waiting, teasing me to increase my skills.

  3. Your wall hanging is looking gorgeous! I look forward to your blog entries. They are so interesting and inspiring. Thank you.

  4. love the language bit! us is cold!!! cover up 🙂
    see you soon.

    • We’re enjoying a wave of warmth over here in Vermont, Yonat and the woods are gorgeous.

  5. Love this post. ESP the Language snippets.

  6. Oh Laverne! I love, love, love the backstrap! It is beautiful! I can’t wait to receive it. Thank you so very much! Mwah!

    p.s. Thanks for all the work you do in producing an educational and inspiring blog.

    • So glad you like it Terri. Sorry that all the blog readers got to see it before you could even receive it!

  7. Laverne, I have learned so much from you and your blog and learning more all the time. I have both of your books downloaded. Thanks for all the time and effort you put into this blog and allowing us to peek into your life.

  8. What an exquisite backstrap! And your panels are really working together this time.

  9. Hi, Laverne.
    Very rich looking wall hanging —– Congratulations!
    Safe journey.

    • Thank you, Fr Kyriakos. I am always curious about what you might have on your loom right now as you have been getting on so well.

      • Hi, Laverne.
        The sampler I was weaving using thick yarn and a single vertical repeat of Julia’s Japanese pattern turned out well, so a backstrap with 3 colours and 3 vertical repeats is on the way with the same thick yarn. Slow going because the wool is hairy. I will send you a photo when it is done.

        I reread your post about the red and black wall hanging: Would you consider weaving all three at once? or is that going into too much complication? As for the patterns, i agree with Annie that they are not too much.
        All the best.

      • Hi Fr Kyriakos,

        Your pebble weave project sounds great and must look fabulous in wool…worth the extra time and effort I am sure. As for the wall hanging, I could have woven all three panels together but I wanted them to look like separate pieces, each flowing freely. It seemed to suit the very lightweight yarn that I am using…the idea of them slightly fluttering in a breeze…and just connected by the twining across the top.

  10. Laverne i was drooling over the first black piece that you didn’t like!
    And the successful 3-panel combo, and the backstrap!
    Have a great trip!

  11. Hi, Laverne, I’m a long-time reader, currently stalled-out weaver due to time constraints … I have downloaded both e-books.Have a safe trip!

  12. Hi Laverne, I am new to weaving, but not on the backstrap loom yet. I ran across your website a few months ago and have followed your weaving adventures since then. For now I am content to weave bands on the inkle loom. Your articles inspired me to give pebble weaving a try. I tried some of the patterns from your first book and really loved it! Then I purchased the download of your second book. One I got over the shock of the new pattern graphs, I gave it a try and still love it. I am looking forward to giving backstrap weaving a try at some point, as inkle weaving does have its limitations. Thanks for your inspiration and the beautiful weaving that you share with all of us. Sincerely, Noreen Horak

    • Hi Noreen,
      Thanks for telling me about your experiences with pebble weave on your inkle loom. I know that the new charting system in the second book looks weird and unfamiliar at first. I am glad that you were quickly able to adapt to it. Yes,maybe one day you will try it on a backstrap loom if you have the desire to weave wider pieces. On the other hand, you can always sew inkle bands together to make wider pieces, right?

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