Posted by: lavernewaddington | December 20, 2013

Backstrap Weaving – Summer Weaving in Australia

Ah, the Australian summer….while my weaving friends in North America and Europe post pictures of snow drifts and talk about extremely low temperatures…swathed in sweaters and blankets with snow falling outside in the -25 degree cold….the Australian cricketers are out in the field in their whites under the summer sun winning back the Ashes and I get to enjoy a little lakeside barefoot weaving…. ???????????????????????????????I stole a little time to warp and weave a band down on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. Behind me, athletes were competing in a half-Ironman event in which my nephew won the amateur section and placed 6th overall. Having finished in just over four hours, he took a cooling dip in the lake while I wove and the other 1600 or so competitors continued to strain and sweat in the summer sun running along the lakeshore. They must have hated seeing me there as they ran on by. I was weaving a wool tubular band on which to hang the little button baubles I recently learned to make . I think I will turn them into a Christmas tree decoration and leave them behind on my brother’s tree as a memento of my visit.

Here they are nestled amongst some gum tree bark.???????????????????????????????In keeping with the Australian theme, I decided to try a two-color version inspired by the native Australian flower, the scarlet banksia. The banksia has the same ridged appearance as my wee baubles. I had red wool but no white so, yellow would have to do. bauble inspirationUse your imagination and you might see a resemblance in the two-color bauble in the center 😉 ???????????????????????????????I will add these little guys to my repertoire of finishing techniques for woven pouches. Smaller versions of these will make cute dangling pom poms.

???????????????????????????????After the race and back at our Canberra trailer park, we stepped out for a walk and found these guys happily grazing just meters from our door….there’s a mumma with her joey crammed into her pouch…white cockatoos screeched by in the soft evening light and kookaburras “laughed” unseen in the distance.

???????????????????????????????Of course, it was only at the end of our three-day stay that I discovered two amazing exhibits that were on in Canberra…darn! Well, you can’t have everything. exhibits in CanberraNow I am back in Sydney and I need to get to work and weave a cell phone pouch for my sister-in-law. I hope she doesn’t read my blog as it is supposed to be a surprise. I can just scrape together enough wool left over from my travel stash to make this work.

???????????????????????????????I have used this wool before for very narrow band projects and loved how well it worked straight off the skein without having to respin it. I wasn’t sure, however, how it would stand up to a wider warp so, here is my chance to test it. Would it be too sticky for warp-faced weaving? Would it be too weak and break with the abrasion from the heddles and the scraping of the beater?

debs cell hne pouch backstrap weavingHere’s the simple pebble weave pattern taking shape. So far, so good! There is no sign of weakness and the sheds open quite easily. This is enough for today…Deb will be home from work soon and I am doing this in secret.

Back in 2008, I wove a pebble weave bag for her and was surprised to return to see it still going strong. It is her favorite travel bag and has been to Dubai, Egypt, Turkey, Spain, India and Switzerland with her. Next year it will go to China where my nephew will represent Australia in the World Long Distance Triathlon Championship. Look out for him! I wish I could go too. I would love to take the train from Beijing to Lhasa.???????????????????????????????I also got to see some hangings that I had made for family members some years ago on previous visits… ??????????????????????The one on the left is an embedded double weave piece with typical bird motifs of Potosi, Bolivia  and the other one has pebble weave Guaraní patterns of lowland Bolivia in the center and a highland design on the edges. I had made that for my mum. It has inspired me to start planning a double weave piece for my red, black and white wall hanging series but first I want to weave a triathlon banner for my nephew’s bedroom wall.

And now for some more inspiration….

A new Facebook friend of mine from India sent me a picture of this piece of textile which he tells me was woven on a backstrap loom.

adi tribe arunachal pradesh nth east indiaIt looks like twining or soumak in the middle of a piece of warp-faced weaving.It is part of women’s costume from the ADI tribe of Arunachal Pradesh in northeast India. And this makes me keen to get into the soumak book that I recently bought and experiment with embedded designs like these. I have tried embedded twining in Bedouin design work that I have done, as in the example below.

???????????????????????????????Julia has been “intermesh-ing’ and inspiring the Ravelry group members with her beautiful projects. As always her pieces are beautifully finished.

Julias intermeshThe piece on the left has both Mexican and Japanese influenced patterns which work so beautifully together. The piece on the right has a motif that I recognize from Bhutanese weaving. Julia has adapted it to the intermesh technique. It is a very elongated and slightly different version of one that I chose to weave with supplementary weft some time ago.

cell 1I learned the intermesh  structure from the weavers in Peru who taught me Andean Pebble Weave. They used it to weave single-color borders for their pebble weave patterns.

It was only when I had spent time with my Guaraní teacher much later, that I discovered that the two-color patterning technique that she called moisy was actually the same intermesh structure woven with two colors.

I teach this structure in my second book, More Advemtures with Warp-Faced Pick-up Patterns.

At left you can see the first piece I wove after this discovery with Angela, my Guarani weaving teacher. It is a fun technique and realtively fast as it uses two sets of string heddles…every second weft pass is a free ride!, that is, no pick-up is required.

Now, I have an exquisite piece of wood working, precision, balance and engineering to show you. My friend Barbara was given the gift of a new spinning wheel and stool to celebrate the completion of her Master Weaver certificate. This was created by Tom Golding…anyone who is into spindles must know this name and must have drooled over his fine pieces of work at some point! Tom’s wife and sons all had their hands in the finished product.

Barbaras Golding wheel and stoolI will leave you with one of my friend, Annie MacHale’s latest creations. I never get tired of looking at the straps that Annie produces on her inkle loom. She never weaves two the same and has the knack of creating just the right custom pieces for her clients.

This one one is stunning!

558685_700776486599821_1305194224_nLet’s see if I can make it back to Bolivia before the next blog post. As much as I hate to leave, all good things must come to end and there are wall hangings to be woven, a long list of things to research, patterns to be charted and books to be read. Keep your fingers crossed for me that I make it back home without too many interruptions. Goodness knows where I will be spending Christmas Day!





  1. I would love to learn how you make those baubles. Maybe you could do a tutorial? The ones you made are awesome!!

  2. Love your banksia-inspired ball, and I notice that you have used Aussie green and gold pencils to hold the cross on Deb’s bag 😉

    Did you notice that the red double-diamond shapes in the centre of the Arunachal Pradesh piece resemble Sturt’s Desert Peas? They just need some black dots instead of the white dots from the seam stitching!

    • Ha! All kinds of Aussie things at play there! What fun.

  3. Congratulations to your nephew on his success!!

    Those new little baubles are so cute – and very much like the the scarlet banksia. They will look great as decorations on a tree or on a weaving.

    My goodness, Kangaroos, cockatoos, kookaburras! The stuff of songs and stories of exotic lands. So beautiful.

    The world traveling pebble weave bag is gorgeous! So many designs and details. And the double weaving is exquisite!

    That spinning wheel is AMAZING!!

    Annie made that on her inkle loom? Wow. Beautiful!

    Safe travels back to Bolivia. Happy Holidays.

    • Thank you, Julia. Barbara is keen on my trying out that lovely wheel.I am not much of a wheel spinner and probabaly won’t appreciate how lovely it is to use. It is good enough to just stand back and admire it.

  4. Thank you for another inspiring post. Happy Holidays, Laverne!

  5. Hola Mabel,

    Varias personas en Chile y Argentina han comprado mis libros en el sitio de Patternfish sin problemas. El mayor problema es que me dicen que pocas personas en Argentina tienen tarjetas de credito.

  6. Lovely and most interesting post! Thank you. Your weavings are beautiful.

  7. Hi Laverne,
    The textile from Arunachal with the decorative multicoloured band (called ‘porey’) is something we’ve been trying to study and decode. The National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad has been working on a research project in that region, focusing on the textile traditions (lots of backstrap weaving). They plan to put out a publication soon.

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