Posted by: lavernewaddington | March 28, 2014

Backstrap Weaving – Yards of Deserts and Dreamlands

Great width and great length are two things that I cannot hope to comfortably achieve on my backstrap loom and so it was nice to be able to spend time with my friend Claudia and be there just in time to see her pull yards and yards of  soft Hawaiian sunrise fabric off her floor loom. Claudia and Janet, who together form Lotsaknots Studio, have been weaving baby wraps….yards and yards of custom baby wraps. It seems that many new moms out there in the Western world like to “wear” their babies these days and put a lot of thought into the color of their custom-made baby-carrying fabric. Claudia cut the fabric off the loom and then pulled and pulled out over 8 yards of fabric for two wraps. It tumbled onto the floor in a pile of  luscious soft sunrise tones.

Of course, mothers in Asia, Africa, Central and South America  and many other regions around the world have always carried their babies either in front or back wrapped in fabric so that baby can accompany them in every aspect of their daily lives…on a trip to market, working bent over in the fields or at the stove, carting water from the well…

One of my weaving teachers in Guatemala shows me her nephew which she carries in a woven sling. His little cap is a woven piece which has been decorated with a double faced supplementary-weft technique. Therectabgle of fabric has a draw string through the top which is pulled to the form the cap.

One of my weaving teachers in Guatemala shows me her nephew which she carries in a woven sling. His little hat is a woven piece which has been decorated with a double faced supplementary-weft technique. The rectangle of fabric has a draw string along the top which is pulled to close the top of the hat

A lady in Bolivia carries her randchild on her back leaving her hands free to spin yarn on a drop spindle. The carrrying cloth is traditionally hand woven although this lady is using a synthetic factory-made piece. These cloths are used tocarry any kind of load...goods being taken to and from market or "luggage" on a trip.

A lady in Bolivia carries her grandchild on her back leaving her hands free to spin yarn on a drop spindle. The carrying cloth is traditionally hand woven although this lady is using a synthetic factory-made piece. These cloths are used to carry any kind of load…goods being taken to and from market or “luggage” on a trip.

When I went to the Tinkuy in Cusco in 2010, I accompanied a group of weavers from Cochabamaba. We had quite a trek to make from the bus stop to our lodgings and I was very envious of the ladies as they wrapped their duffel bags in their carrying cloths, tossed them on their back and headed off down the dusty road. I lugged mine, handles over my forearm and with bag clumsily bumping along against my hip. Guess who made better progress.

My Vietnamese weaving tecaher Ju Nie showed us how she wraps a baby sling. The Montagnard baby slings are woven on backstrap looms and often decorated with motifs in supplementary weft. made

My Vietnamese weaving teacher Ju Nie showed us how she wraps a baby sling. The Montagnard baby slings are woven on backstrap looms and often decorated with motifs in supplementary weft. Using a circular warp on a backstrap loom make these kinds of lengths more manageable. They are usually woven as two separate panels which are then sewn together.

I enjoyed learning about the whole process involved in the creation of one of the Lotsaknots custom wraps. First, the mother will describe her needs and  usually provides a picture which contains the kinds of colors that she would like to have in her wrap.

dreamland inspirationThis is the picture that was used for the latest wrap on Claudia’s loom which has been entitled Dreamland. The yarn is ordered and Janet wraps colors around card to help determine the final layout. She has amazing talent for this and I think that she has captured the tones and mood of the picture beautifully. As I stick to red, black and white for my entire series of wall hangings, this talent for combining colors is one that I envy.



Then comes the job of winding all those yards of warp. One half will be the custom wrap made to the mother’s specified length. The second wrap will have a different weft color which will give it quite a different look and this “sister wrap” can be sold online.

I loved seeing these chained sections of warp sitting on the floor ready to go on the loom. They reminded me of snakes of berry-flavored soft serve icecream oozing out of a machine.

??????????????????????I am often mystified by the way people gasp at all that is involved in setting up for backtrap weaving. People roll their eyes when they look at all the string heddles I have to make. I don’t get it.  I have to say that that is nothing compared to the process of getting this kind of warp onto a floor loom! Now I know what rough sleying is and understand the need for a trapeze when warping. Then there are all those heddles to thread and then the reed. Some of it seems really hard for one person to do all alone.

??????????????????????Here are all the threads on the apron rod after having been rough-sleyed. Doesn’t that look gorgeous! I learned a lot watching Claudia do all this and I was even able to lend a hand now and then. I was sorry not to have been around long enough to witness the entire process.

We could have finished it but Clauda wanted to take advantage of my being there to get in a little backstrap weaving so we spent some time on that. She has been wanting to do rep weave and, as she has never done it before, I was happy to be able to get a sample project set up and started on her loom.

???????????????????????????????Here’s the start of a pink and lavender rep weave. I love the kind of ikat effect that appears in the warp threads as you are in the process of changing sheds. Rep weave is a piece of cake for me as I am used to doing warp-faced weaves and rep weave simply involves alternating a thick and thin weft.  The effect is lovely and it weaves up so very fast with that thick weft. Claudia would like to make a set of four placemats in repweave on her backstrap loom and will use a circular warp to get the desired length for all four pieces. The width is one that is easily manageable on a backstrap loom.

rep runner on tray tableHere’s the rep weave piece that I made some time ago for my tray table. It is decorated with complementary-warp pick up pattern.

??????????????????????Here’s Claudia’s piece underway. I was having fun with it and had to try not to go too far before letting Claudia take over. She was busy hemming her just completed pair of wraps while I worked on this. Above you can see where I have just started making a change of dominant color by swapping the sheds into which I place the thick and thin wefts.

??????????????????????Claudia does some backstrap weaving every time I visit and goes back to her floor loom when she finishes her project. Therefore, it takes her a little time to get back into the swing of things after having had a long break. Above, you can see that she is well underway. We used a pick-up stick to make that small block of color change and now she is back into the original sequence.  It is just a short warp for sampling. Now she has a nice width sample which will help her calculate how much warp she needs to wind for her placemat project. She is using 3/2 perle cotton.

This was a nice break for Claudia between baby wraps. The baby wrap business is never ending with 47 people on the custom order waitlist!

Here’s one of the earlier wraps which was called Sedona. I love this one!

The color arrangement was inpired by this painting…

sedona inspiration

And here is the fabric….it is a wonderful representation of the painting, don’t you think?


This next one was entered in a Facebook wrap challenge which had a theme of Wizard of Oz…

wizard of oz swirlThe metallic red threads, which I think are such a nice touch, represent Dorothy’s ruby red slippers.

Unfortunately, I didn’t photograph the Hawaiian sunrise beauties when they came off the loom but, no doubt, they will be on the Lotsaknots blog page soon. Doing custom-made pieces is quite a challenge, I think. With only phone calls, email correspondece and maybe a photo, a major piece like this has to be designed and constructed to match what the mom envisions as being perfect for her baby.  I really believe that Janet and Claudia are a good team for this. Janet doesn’t weave but is so good at putting the colors together while Claudia has years of experience at the loom and sewing machine. I can’t wait to see Dreamland when it comes off the loom.

snow2Last Saturday I wove at Terri’s place. Some of you may know Terri as Magical Moons on Etsy. Terri makes beautiful swords for backstrap weaving as well as spindles, pick-up sticks and other tools for fiber artists.

She weaves with me whenever I am in the Maryland area. Laritza joined us. Stephanie, who has never woven fabric before, (she studies basket weaving with Terri) came to have her first-ever try at backstrap weaving.

It was a spring day…a REAL spring day… and we all felt guilty for being indoors in Terri’s workskop while the sun poured down and warmed the air outside. For everyone who had endured the long long winter it was a truly unique day.

It didn’t last long as you can see at left. That was the following Tuesday. I felt guilty about being so pleased with it when everyone just rolled their eyes and said “not AGAIN!”. I didn’t want so much snow that my travel plans would be disrupted…just enough to make things pretty.

We didn’t have to be out in it. We were weaving away warm and snuggly in the studio looking out and watching it accumulate.

Stephanie backstrap weavingHere’s Stephanie making her first patterned band using what I like to call the “barefoot method”…no sticks… just string and fingers.

Laritza and Terri wove intermesh. This technique was taught to me  in Peru with two sets of string heddles. This gave the ladies some good heddle making practice as a warm-up before they could get into the weaving. This is one of the patterning techniques that I teach in my second book.

Laritza backstrap weavingLaritza’s warp goes well with her sweater. Inside it was sweater weather…outside, it was almost warm enough to shed them.

Terri backstrap weavingThat’s Terri working on her intermesh warp.You may remember from previous posts that Terri spends a good part of the year living on Nantucket Island where she has studied basket making with the master weavers there. Below you can see an example of one of her friendship baskets. The little dog figure was contributed by another artisan but the basket is Terri’s. Everything she does including her woodwork is impeccable. I love using her swords.

Sam on friendship basket N Chase T SackettHere is a gorgeous keyfob that she gave me after our time together. It has a piece of whale tooth which Terri shaped and polished. It is a “worry” piece, Terri tells me, as the piece of tooth is just the pefect shape for holding in your hand and rubbing with your thumb when you are feeling agitated. The smooth polished surface really does have a soothing feel.

whale tooth keyfob Terri Sacketttrisha and april at the mannings spinning seminarSo, now I am in South Jersey ready to weave with a group tomorrow..

I met Trisha and April from this group at the annual Spinning Seminar at the Mannings last summer and the idea for this gathering was born. How time flies! I had known Trisha for a long time as part of the Backstrap Weaving Group on Weavolution from way back in 2009. Now we finally get to weave together.

I just received one of my new books from the printer. It looks very handsome with its new red coil binding in place of the black comb that I have been using. I love it.

See you next week from Massachusetts.
















  1. Wow, Claudia’s work is so inspiring! Thanks for that.
    It’s hard to believe I have eyes for new input, having just spent three days in Jordan at a textile conference. Must share with you the presentation from Sophie Desrosiers – took pictures, thinking of you.

    • Hi Tracy. Can’t wait to hear about the conference. I heard Sophie Desrosiers speak at the Encuentro in Cusco in 2012. Drop me a line when you have blogged, if you will.

  2. Hi Laverne! Thanks for the shout out. It was great fun having you here. It is always a treat. Looking forward to when you can come again.

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