Posted by: lavernewaddington | November 21, 2013

Backstrap Weaving – Home!

HOME! While I am settling into my visit to my “other home” here in Australia, I would like to share with you three cool websites I found while on my US trip.

ScreenHunter_0011. PROJECT GUTENBERG: Perhaps I am one of only a few people who knew nothing about the Project Gutenberg site and its thousands of free e-books. It seems that everyone I excitedly tell about it discovered it a long time ago. I ran across it while looking for a used copy of Silas Marner to buy. There it was free to enjoy as part of the Gutenberg Project.

As is The Wind in the Willows and that was meaningful to me because…

On my final night in the US I spent time with a weaver friend who had a copy of The Wind in the Willows from which she has been reading aloud each evening.  I was reminded of the part about HOME that had touched me deeply even as an eight-year old child reading the book for the first time.  It seemed so appropriate to re-read that part as my US trip ended and my thoughts turned to the home in Australia that I hadn’t seen for four years (a collection of people, memories and experiences rather than a structure) and the one I had left twenty years ago to venture to South America. I faced the trip with very mixed emotions as my mother, my “anchor”, had died in September.

I wanted a copy of the book so I could sit quietly on my own and read the passages about home. And then Ruth wrote to me later to tell me that The Wind in the Willows too could be enjoyed for free via the Gutenberg Project site.

I’ll quote the part about home here. All you travelers out there will surely have felt like this at some point.

From “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame:

Tsao-093Home! That was what they meant, those caressing appeals, those soft touches wafted through the air, those invisible little hands pulling and tugging, all one way! Why, it must be quite close by him at that moment, his old home that he had hurriedly forsaken and never sought again, that day when he first found the river! And now it was sending out its scouts and its messengers to capture him and bring him in. Since his escape on that bright morning he had hardly given it a thought, so absorbed had he been in his new life, in all its pleasures, its surprises, its fresh and captivating experiences. Now, with a rush of old memories, how clearly it stood up before him, in the darkness! Shabby indeed, and small and poorly furnished, and yet his, the home he had made for himself, the home he had been so happy to get back to after his day’s work. And the home had been happy with him, too, evidently, and was missing him, and wanted him back, and was telling him so, through his nose, sorrowfully, reproachfully, but with no bitterness or anger; only with plaintive reminder that it was there, and wanted him.

The call was clear, the summons was plain. He must obey it instantly, and go.


The weary Mole………soon had his head on his pillow, in great joy and contentment. But ere he closed his eyes he let them wander round his old room, mellow in the glow of the firelight that played or rested on familiar and friendly things which had long been unconsciously a part of him, and now smilingly received him back, without rancour…..

…….He saw clearly how plain and simple— how narrow, even— it all was; but clearly, too, how much it all meant to him, and the special value of some such anchorage in one’s existence. He did not at all want to abandon the new life and its splendid spaces, to turn his back on sun and air and all they offered him and creep home and stay there; the upper world was all too strong, it called to him still, even down there, and he knew he must return to the larger stage. But it was good to think he had this to come back to; this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome.


On to the next cool website….2. THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM of ART’S PUBLICATIONS PAGE…..Many thanks to Kathleen for telling me about this site which has five decades of Met publications on art history, available to read, download, and/or search for free!!! Kathleen had downloaded and was enjoying a book on African textiles. There are hundreds of titles.

For example…

books 2Cochineal Red: The Art History of a Color.  

Andean Four-Cornered Hats, Ancient Volumes. 

Next stop on the trail of interesting sites…..3. THE BIRKBECK UNIVERSITY OF LONDON’s pages on Weaving Communities of Practice which were first brought to my attention by an article in Hand Eye Magazine on Facebook.

Instituto de Lengua y Cultura Aymara, La Paz Bolivia

Images byInstituto de Lengua y Cultura Aymara, ILCA, La Paz Bolivia


The Weaving Communities of Practice website is the result of a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council . The project focuses on textiles, culture and identity in the Andes.

I was happy to see that Elvira Espejo, pictured at left, worked on this project as the ILCA’s Textile Expert. I got to meet Elvira at the Encuentro de Tejedores de las Americas in Cusco last year where she was presenting the books she wrote with British anthropologist Denise Arnold: Ciencia de Tejer en los Andes:estructuras y tecnicas de faz de urdimbre and Ciencia de las Mujeres: Experiencias en la cadena textile desde los ayllus de Challapata.

Amongst other things, the site contains video segments of various aspects of backstrap weaving  which accompany information about the stages of learning for young weavers-in-training in the Quechua and Aymara cultures. I have only just begun exploring the site and have barely scratched the surface. It is an amazing resource and there we have it at our finger tips,

Image by ILCA La Paz, Bolivia

Image by ILCA La Paz, Bolivia

From the site’s front page…..

The project is based at the Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies (CILAVS) and the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems at Birkbeck, University of London, with the Instituto de Lengua y Cultura Aymara (ILCA), in La Paz, Bolivia, in partnership with museums in the UK, Bolivia, Peru and Chile.

The principal feature of this website is a database of Andean textiles. There is also a detailed guide to processes of textile manufacture, including images and video clips of techniques, instruments and structures; a glossary of textile-related terms in English, Spanish and Andean languages; an introduction to textile heritage; and bibliography. 


??????????????????????And so the sun sank on my final days in Santa Cruz, California. It was time to follow those birds west across the Pacific Ocean to Australia. Time to think back on the six weeks that had passed and “all its pleasures, its surprises, its fresh and captivating experiences” many of which I have already reported here on this blog.

One such captivating experience…Annie and I got to visit with Joy Totah Hilden, author of Bedouin Weaving of Saudi Arabia and its Neighbours, in her home in California.


??????????????????????bedouin_piecesIt was a thrill to be able to meet Joy and sit on the sofa amongst the richly patterned pillows and beneath that enormous woven tent divider listening to her stories.

Then we got to  touch and examine the textiles that I had been admiring online on her website and in her book…textiles that had inspired me on several occasions to weave pieces of my own (at left) using the traditional Bedouin colors and patterning techniques. 

Camel adornments and all kinds of bags decorated the walls of her home. Many more treasures were carefully stored away and Joy was happy to unpack and bring many of them out one by one to show us.


bedouin collageTwining, weaving, braiding, wrapping, stitching…all sorts of bands and tassels and ineresting edgings….colors!!!….heaven! It was particularly interesting for me to be able to examine the pieces from Oman where the weavers cleverly use a second weft to tie down the long floats that are typically created by the warp substitution technique on the back side of the fabric. Having experimented with this with the guidance of images of Omani textiles that Tracy Hudson had provided, it was a wonderful opportunity to at last be able to examine the textiles themselves.

front and back Omani textile

With Annie Mac Hale and Joy Hilden surrounded by gorgeous textiles.

Happy with Annie MacHale and Joy Hilden surrounded by gorgeous textiles.

Moving on….Here are some of the books and publications that I picked up on this trip…

??????????????????????I had my issues of the Complex Weavers Journal all delivered  at once so that I could take them back to Bolivia with me.

Bue Eye/Prayer Flags by Miryam-Chavah

Bue Eye/Prayer Flags by Miryam-Chavah

After searching online many times over the last years for a reasonably-priced copy of the out-of-print Soumak Workbook, I finally found one and snapped it up. I have been admiring the creations of Julia Miryam-Chavah online, many of which have been done using the soumak technique. She has often named the Soumak Workbook as a resource and so, I am excited to have been able to get a copy.

I got the One Needle, One Thread book from Pam Nadjowski at Textile Treasures in Santa Fe NM when I was there in July but left it behind at my friend DY’s house by mistake. Now that I finally have it in my hands, I will be able to read about some of the wealth of braiding and embroidery techniques used in Chinese textiles that this book covers and maybe incorporate some in my work.

EldersCover_ClothRoads1-500x497And, finally and surprisingly , I managed to get a copy of  Faces of Tradition: Weaving Elders of the Andes by Nilda Callañaupa and Christine Franquemont. The book details interviews conducted with elders from various communities in the Cusco region of Peru. The importance and urgency of this project is underlined by the fact that some of the elders that were interviewed died before the book could be published. And before I could even open the book’s cover I was shocked and saddened to learn of the very recent death of Christine Franquemont in Cusco.

My last days in the US were spent in Santa Cruz, California with some weaving friends. Here are some of the ladies working on decorating their plain-weave bands with supplementary wefts….

??????????????????????This is my fifth visit to Martha’s studio and, as usual, we were dazzled by the interesting pieces in Martha’s collection that she would bring out to share with us….

??????????????????????This double-pocket saddle bag, made from what I am guessing is agave fiber, was collected somewhere in Latin America and given to Martha many years ago. It has an interesting combination of weaving, braiding and sprang work. The sprang and braid work has created a springy, stretchy and open area that would lie over the back of the pack animal. It contrasts with the stiff and rigid nature of the woven pockets. I have not seen anything like this in my travels in South America and I would love to know its place of origin.

sprang and woven saddlebag

discontinuous warp pieceI loved the simplicity of the discontinuous-warp piece that Janette brought to show with its combination of natural and dyed colors. The join where the two colors dovetail, seen on the right, was so incredibly smooth.

My final night in the US had me dozing in San Francisco airport beneath stunning woven tapestries which were designed by local artist Mark Adams. These had apparently been stored away for a couple of decades shortly after their creation in the early 80’s and are now on display behind glass. It was a peaceful place to spend the night before my early morning flight to Los Angeles and so unlike many other airports where I have spent the night slumped outside Dunkin’ Donuts!.

mark adams tapestries sfo

mark adams sfo

Meanwhile, news of backstrap woven projects arrived in my inbox…

fr kyriakos and lausanneFr Kyriakos and Lausanne sent me pictures of their backstrap weaving pursuits. Fr Kyriakos has a pebble weave pattern in progress and he started his band with a nice bit of weft twining. Lausanne shows how she has set up a comfortable way to weave in her home while still giving attention to her furry companion.

???????????????????????????????Here is a silk ribbon with pebble weave patterns that Lausanne made for her husband.

noreen horak (1)Noreen Horak sent me a picture of bands she wove on her inkle loom using a variety of patterning techniques. The darkest one is a sampler of pebble weave patterns that are charted in my first book.

rosemary thomas (1)Rosemary Thomas shows that backstrap weaving isn’t only about warp-faced structures.

joanne knit4fun (1)Joanne’s band is also a nice sampler of the various 4-rev designs that are charted in the Andean Pebble Weave book and shows her experiments with using two and three colors in her designs.

img_1100And to finish, I would like to tell you about my friend Wendy Garrity, a fellow Australian weaver. Here I am in Australia and so is she, but it isn’t really a chance to meet up as she is oh, so far far away over on the other side of the country, in Perth!

Wendy has put together a wonderful blog in which she writes about textiles she has encountered on her travels through Asia and particularly about her experience learning to weave in Bhutan.

That is how I found her. I was trying to reproduce Bhutanese patterns based on textiles that I had had the opportunity to examen. Wendy’s site provided some vital information that was missing and preventing me from getting started. Once I had found Wendy’s site, I just had to write and thank her and, with that, we started corresponding across the miles. She was in Bhutan and, later India and I was in Bolivia.

We got to meet in person at last when she came to South America and I taught her some Andean pick-up techniques in my home.

wendis visit to BoliviaIt was during that visit that we discovered that we both had plans to go to the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe NM….another chance for a fun meet-up and, even better, my friend Annie was there too. 

???????????????????????????????From there, Wendy headed home to Perth. I wonder if she had those same feelings I experienced when she returned home after several years away.

Wendy is planning a trip to the US in the fall of 2015 and would like to share what she learned during her stay in Bhutan. She will be available for workshops and presentations at guilds and I asked her to write a little about what she has to offer for inclusion in this post. All the pictures that accompany the text are Wendy’s own work. These are the samplers that she wove with her weaving teachers in Bhutan.

wendy (1)Hi everyone, I am planning to visit north America in the fall of 2015, and would like to hear from guilds or groups interested in hosting a workshop in Bhutanese kushutara techniques, used to weave gorgeous brocaded festival dresses. 

Kushutara means brocaded dress, and refers to cloth decorated with the intricate kushu techniques, involving discontinuous supplementary wefts.

Bhutanese refer to two types of kushu techniques: Thrima and Sapma. Both are woven by lifting selected threads with a pickup stick before inserting the supplementary weft threads in such a way that the stitches only show on the front of the fabric.

wendy (3)Thrima means “to coil” and involves twining the pattern threads around the warp threads. This produces a beautiful textured effect, with the pattern threads creating a raised surface. In fact, when the first Bhutanese textiles were examined by experts in the west, there was much debate over whether their designs had been produced by embroidery or were woven into the fabric!

wendy (2)I learnt to weave kushutara when I was living in Thimphu, Bhutan for a year teaching music. I was given a loom next to a master weaver in the local weaving centre, and for 8 months I went before and after school and on weekends to weave. Word spread, as it does in Bhutan, and I often used to find I had local weavers stopping in to see for themselves the spectacle of the foreigner who had learned to weave as well (if not as fast) as the Bhutanese.

In addition to weaving on a Bhutanese backstrap loom, I have adapted these techniques to western looms, so classes can include weavers more comfortable on rigid heddle or shaft looms. Participants would need to be familiar with their looms and comfortable with plainweave, but the work would also extend experienced weavers who may have experience with weft twining from other cultures such as Guatemala (Bhutanese twining is a related structure, but the techniques of execution differ).  

Wendy can be contacted through her blog or through me on this blog. Who knows? I just might get myself over to Perth on this trip to see her.

I don’t have any Aussie pictures to post yet! Imagine…after weeks and weeks of fabulous weather in the US, the weather has not been kind so far here in Sydney. I will hopefully have plenty to show in the next post. See you soon.


  1. Laverne, we have perfect weather in Perth this week – get yourself over here!! 🙂

  2. Thanks a lot, Laverne, för all colourful joy, richness and inspiration that reaches me on this cold, rainy day! By the way, The Wind in the Willows was one of my favourite books as a child! Take care on your journey!

  3. Danke für den spannenden Bericht und die Bilder.

    Thank you for telling the story and showing the pictures.

    greetings from Ate

  4. Well, you were not the only one unaware of these great websites – neither was I until you shared here. Thank you.

  5. The saddlebag is gorgeous! I wish you were on deviantArt so I could introduce you and your blog to all of my watchers. Your blog is an inspiration. I do a lot of work with sisal.

  6. Your posts are so overwhelming!! It’s a thrill to see you with Joy, the book by Nilda and Chris F moves me to tears, especially right now, and I’m already trying to think of how to get myself into Wendy’s path through the US…

    Thanks for everything you do, Laverne.

  7. The Braid Society journal Strands for 2011 features two saddle bags of similar design, together with a couple of small images of them being made. The article was by Kathryn Rousso, and her examples were from Guatemala. These bags are made of maguey fibre (agave), which is white, and some elements have been dyed blue or purple to give a pattern. That helps understand the different textile structures being used.

    • Thank you, Steve. I wish I were at home now so I could get my hands on that Strands issue!

  8. Hi Laverne! This post contains a wealth of information as always. Thanks for the links. I hope you are enjoying your visit to Australia.

    I will look for copies of The Wind in the Willows for my sons to read to their children. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Hi Laverne,

    I’m so happy you found the Gutenberg Project. I’ve used it often with my children; they have a very good Beowulf on there as well. The Wind in the Willows is a favorite of ours and is so rich in prose.

    Also. so wonderful to see you in so many wonderful places and that you’ve reconnected again with your first home.

    Happy travels!


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