Posted by: lavernewaddington | February 14, 2014

Backstrap Weaving – Let the Games Begin

I think that there will be many people around the world right now in need of a splash of color…for example, those in the US watching the snow pile up outside or the ice slowly encasing everything, those in Europe battling mud and flood waters. Here in Bolivia we have our own weather-related problems. In the highlands, floods and mudslides have caused deaths. Here in Santa Cruz it just rains and rains….hasn’t stopped for any significant period of time since January 19. It was welcome. It kept the temperature down. But now I have a small stream running down my bedroom wall…..

DSC04308_mediumSo, here is some color courtesy of Julia from the Ravelry Backstrap Weaving Group. The Games have begun, we are in the midst of our Ravellenic Games weave-along, and Julia chose her colors from her stash of 10/2 cotton. You can see the Guatemalan band which will inspire her project. And amidst all the white outside in her northeastern US home, she photographed her warp and the start of her weaving.

juliaThe large project that I warped this week isn’t exactly cheery. It will be the center panel of my next wall hanging which will have a design inspired by textiles of the tropical lowlands…

???????????????????????????????I have wound black and white strands together as one to create a warp for warp-faced double weave. There are just over 500 doubled ends. The woven piece won’t be as wide as the warp you see here as all the threads that are now lying in one plane will be used to create two layers…a double weave. I was taught this structure in a very simple way in Potosi, Bolivia using just two sheds…one held by a set of string heddles and the other by a shed rod. However, many Bolivian weavers use four sheds…three sets of string heddles and a shed rod… and that is what I shall do with this piece as the thread is fine and there are lots of them. Having the threads divided amongst four sets of heddles will make the pick-up a lot easier.

Weaving on the staked-out ground loom in Potosi

My lessons in weaving warp-faced double weave with two sheds on a staked-out ground loom in Potosi.

Belts made in one-weft double weave technique in Potosi

Double weave belts from Potosi

A double-weave chuspa made for the Carnival celebrations by Beatris Flores of Independecia, Bolivia

A double-weave chuspa (with some strips of complementary-warp pick-up) made for the Carnival celebrations by Beatris Flores of Independencia, Bolivia. Photo by Dorinda Dutcher.

four heddle double weaveI am doing the same with my double-weave Ravellenic Games piece. I opted for four sets of string heddles. I am using 60/2 silk and 200 ends and it is easier for me to do the pick-up with this set-up. The disadvantage is that the warp is cluttered with heddles and they take up a lot of space which means that I may not be able to weave as close to the end of this warp as I usually would. However, I always have the option of easily reverting to the two-shed method if I so choose.

I wanted to choose a project with a sports theme as the Ravellenic Games are being run in conjunction with the Sochi Winter Olympic Games. This Ravelry event is a nice way to do something together online and create some community spirit.

This project is a silk bookmark with an inspirational quote for my nephew who is a triathlete. He has many such quotes on his bedroom wall which I am sure help him through his rigorous training program. The one we chose says “The pain of discipline is nothing like the pain of failure”. I am sure that he must recite that when he has to get up pre-dawn on winter days to swim laps.

first lettering sample in clea cottonFirst, the sampling.

I had to figure out what kind of letters to use. I used Linda Hendrickson’s book Please Weave a Message for inspiration. The book has charts for many different beautiful fonts to be woven with tablets. I tried a letter “T” in the intermesh structure (at left)  and it took a few attempts to get it right. However, I decided that double weave would give the letters a smoother look.

Charts for tablet weaving differ to those used for the double weave I do in that the cells are stacked one on top of the other. I had to adapt them to the double weave charts which have staggered cells. I chose a font from Linda’s book and used it as a guide.  I completely changed some letters as I simply didn’t like their form in that particular font so, the letters I am using in the end are a bit of this and a bit of that.


Then came more sampling on the purple warp, this time in double weave, to check proportions and then another sample in the silk. My project was shrinking fast!

I warped the silk to weave the quote in three lines rather than in one long line. Linda’s tablet-woven phrases are woven in one long ribbon and look beautiful that way as banners on the wall. I wanted my project to be a bookmark. It will be a rather wide one at just under two inches, but should be the right length for a book.

silk bookmark backstrap weavingI have to admit that weaving the word “pain” not once, but twice was not the jolliest thing. Then for a while I was left reading  “The pain is not the pain” which sounded like something over which I needed to go meditate! Thank goodness new words are now appearing. I have “discipline” and “failure” to look forward to!

Now I am thinking that fancy lettering like this might look better in one long strip. It wouldn’t make a very practical bookmark, though.

Here are some projects from other participants in the Ravelry event….

kim's warp for backstrap weavingWe all come up with different ways to wind our warps depending on the space in which we can work . This is Kim’s system.

joyful's warp for backstrap weavingJoyful warps on a vertical frame and weaves with a backstrap set-up. She is planning on decorating a plain weave band with patterns in supplementary weft.

kimyurt bandKim has been practicing the yurt band border that I have in a tutorial here. I showed you some of her samples last week which were woven in lighter colors. She is going for a stronger contrast in this project and it looks spectacular.

Jennifer is weaving the side panels for a bag for which she wove the fabric recently. Then she will weave a strap….

jennifers strap backstrap weavingShe wove from one end and created a third selvedge for one of the two panels and has now turned the loom around to weave from the other end.

Paul is weaving a plain-weave sample with wool. It is his first backstrap weaving experience ever and says that it is going along well.  His goal for the Games is to wind a warp, set up continuous string heddles, and weave cloth on a backstrap loom. He is well on his way. He was the one who suggested we form this group for the Games and we look forward to seeing what he has been creating.

A weaving of the Jalq'a people of Potolo, Bolivia.

A weaving of the Jalq’a people of Potolo, Bolivia.

I have been doing some fiddling about behind the scenes on the blog.

First, I created a new page called “Structures and Terminology” on which I hope, with pictures and videos, to explain some of the terms that I frequently use when describing the pieces that are woven by indigenous weavers here in South America.

The first part is on the Complementary-Warp structure, a very complex  example of which can be seen at left.

The second thing I did was create a whole new web page which I would like to use as a GALLERY. The new page is subtitled “Textiles with muli-cultural influences woven on a backstrap loom.”

It is mostly visual with very brief descriptions of some of the ethnic textiles and motifs that have influenced my projects. There are only two items on it so far. It has been sitting unpublished for over a year while I wait to take better pictures. Well, I never did re-do the pictures but I may replace some of them as time goes by. What better motivation to do so than to just go ahead and publish! Now it is out there and I need to get to work. I hope you will take a look.

I am expecting a box from Cochabamba any day now from Dorinda and Maxima from which will pour forth COLOR!…lots of bands made by the weavers of  Independencia. I hope that I can show them to you next week.


  1. Laverne, how exciting and inspirational it is to see yours and everyone’s work in progress! Can’t wait to see your “box of colors”!

  2. Dear Laverne,
    I am so sorry about the stream running down your wall! And yet, you keep on weaving and sharing your discoveries. Thank you for your inspiration. It is always a treat to hear about what you and others are working on.

  3. The new gallery page is really cool! I look forward to seeing more there!

  4. […] Backstrap Weaving – Let the Games Begin […]

  5. Laverne es muy emocionante todo lo que Ud. publica y explica estoy estudiando el telar mapuche con sus instrucciones. Gracias por compartir sus conocimientos

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