Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 15, 2014

Backstrap Weaving – Scattered Drops in the Ocean

Sometimes I am fooled into thinking that just because I am in several online weaving groups, whose forums I read, contribute to, or simply lurk in on a fairly regular basis, I am seeing a good representation of what is going on in weaving in the USA , Europe and other regions of the developed world. Of course, what I am seeing online are mere drops in the ocean. Consider this blog post a peek at a scattering of drops in the ocean as I try to gather the bits and pieces that have come my way, both online and off, whilst on the road.

Let me first show you some pictures of beautiful textures of ocean currents and sand alongside quilt-like patches of color in the Massachusetts landscape. I went flying with my friend Pam’s husband in his Cessna to Cape Cod, over Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard on a perfect spring day. We had hoped to do such a flight on my visits in previous years but the weather had always been against us.

massachusetts sea and landDrops in the ocean….a corridor of  islands stretch along a bed of blue and green ocean. Those patches of deep red are the cranberry bogs amongst the various tones of green in forests, lakes and fields.

river and ocean and sandSquiggly lines on the ocean floor and across the land make me think of my “Shipibo songs” woven piece at home on my backstrap loom which is awaiting  my return.

???????????????????????????????I have managed to visit three fiber guilds so far on this trip. Some are devoted to all kinds of fiber arts while others are exclusively about weaving. I see the items in the Show and Tell sessions and am astounded by the variety and beauty of the cloth and the humility of their creators.
Many of the weavers simply do not use the internet as a way to connect with other weavers. Their guilds provide a wealth of kindred spirits with whom they can share their projects, ask questions and supply answers. …more drops in the vast sea of weaving.
I like to hear the personal stories behind the woven items from people who are more at ease with sharing within a small group of people with whom they have become well acquainted over many years rather than posting things online for all the world of friends and complete strangers to see. And, of course, the added bonus at  the guild meetings is that we all get to touch and examine the pieces.
We heard the story of Pam’s wool/silk  tallit, or should I say, tallits. You can see two being passed around in the picture. It was only after having twisted the fringe and completed the piece that she realized, on folding it, that the stripes didn’t match on the two halves. One colored band had been woven slightly differently and had, therefore, thrown all the others off. I can imagine that sinking feeling in her gut as she discovered the error. It was back to the warping board to start all over again. She told us of the kindness of the person for whom she had woven the piece and why it was so important to her to have the piece come out just right. He received it in its handwoven bag in tears and says that it wll now be a family heirloom.
At the same Show and Tell session I was pleased to see a piece of warp and weft ikat from Thailand that a  member had brought along just after I had mentioned this technique in a blog post.
Again, I wonder how many lifetimes I will need to try out these techniques. I may perhaps try weft ikat one day when I am done with experimenting with the warp version and then, if I have a decade to spare, I might get to try warp and weft ikat!
It was nice to see another kindred spirit of mine, Ute, at the Springfield meeting. Ute is part of a group with whom I have woven in Northampton and her sharing of  her collection of Bhutanese textiles and her encounter with Bhutanese backstrap weaver Leki Wangmo were great sources of inspiration to me.
Meanwhile, back in the internet world, with its blogs and weaving forums, my friends Claudia and Janet  showed off their latest custom designed handwoven baby wrap, the colors of which were based on a photograph of a Hawaiian sunrise supplied by the mom. Unlike most internet encounters with beautiful cloth, I have been able to touch this piece ansd heard the story about its creation from concept to fulfillment when I visited with Claudia a couple of weeks ago. Janet took the picture. I think that yardage is difficult to photograph and Janet has found a very effective way to show off the cloth.
lots aknots
Ravelry friends have been at their backstrap looms. Kim is currrently exploring the world of the Bedouin weavers using their striking red, black and white al’ouerjan patterns for a set of mini rugs. These designs are traditionally woven using a warp-substitution technique which means that the back of the cloth will have very long warp floats. One of our group members, Tracy Hudson, showed us Bedouin examples where the weavers had cleverly used an extra weft to tie down the excessively long floats and create a much neater, more attractive and practical “wrong” side. I have tutorials on the technique and these kinds of patterns here and here on this blog.
And, while on the subject of red black and white, from which I never seem to stray too far, I got to see once again the stunning looped bag made by the Ayoreo people of lowland Bolivia that I had given to Pam some years ago. I often visit the co-operative store which sells the work of the various indigenous artisans in the region of Santa Cruz where I live and I have yet to find another example of the looped bags where the work is quite as fine as this one. Perhaps the best pieces are being taken to the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe (although, I have to say that I don’t remember seeing pieces this fine there either). I am hoping that the quality of the work is not deteriorating as older more skilled artisans die and younger ones sacrifice a little quality as they strive to produce pieces quickly for international markets.
More from the Ravelry group…Julia is celebrating the arrival of spring (although rumor has it that it will snow here tomorrow as I make my way to California) with a double weave piece inspired by her blossoming garden.
She has framed the flower with vertical stripes and weft twining and I can’t wait to see where she goes from here. I am wondering if she will create a series of flowers, each within a little frame.
Here in Pennsylvania, the daffodils are in full bloom. It got warmer and warmer as I traveled from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania, staying with Susan, then Beth along the way and now with Ron and Carol.. It was interesting to attend the guild meeting in Boston….more like a mini conference than a guild meeting with four well attended workshops running side by side in the morning followed by a guest speaker after lunch.
Founded in 1922, it is the oldest guild in the USA and the book that they published to celebrate their 90th anniversary is a treasure. The meeting was the largest I have attended with a surprising amount of familiar faces…online backstrap weavers and people I have met at other guilds. It was nice to see Laurie Autio again and meet Deb Watson.
On the way to the Mannings I spent an evening in Beth’s home accompanied by the work of Jason Collingwood….well, what do you know….red and black! (with some white wall space between to complete the favorite color combo)….
I had a fun weekend with a group of backstrap weavers…
Laura is a natural and quickly found that “sweet spot” where the sword would sit up nicely in the shed without constantly clattering to the floor. You can see how she is practicing controlling the edge warps to make nice even edges.
Julia was back for a second time. Jeanne, whom I had met at the Spinning Seminar last year, was there too as was Karthika..
Julia has a lovely collection of old Guatemalan textiles that she collected in the 1970s. It was very nice to have these textiles on hand to look at. They show examples of both single and double-faced techniques.
This panel from a huipil of San Antonio Aguas Calientes is well used and very faded. The bird motifs were executed in the double-faced technique and the colors on the reverse are bold and bright.
This piece, which is covered in double-faced motifs, would have been a baby’ cap. A string along the top would have been drawn to close the top. What is most likely the baby’s name has been worked in. It is so incredibly fine!
This hair sash is a lovely example of single-faced techniques. The back of the sash is solid red with a  few very fine stripes. We don’t know the exact origin of this sash.
I had two days to wander the Mannings store, see what’s new and catch up with staff including resident weaving instructors Tom Knisely and Sara Bixler. The ladies from Just Our Yarns came in to give a two-day class on weaving with their fabulous hand painted tencel.
I have been using one of their handpainted varieties as supplementary weft for years…a little goes a long, long way… and now I have several more of their color combinations to add to my stash. The first was given to me by my friend Lisa before I even knew what tencel was. Using it for weft inlay creates motifs that look as if they were made from mother of pearl.
There was also work to be seen by other past instructors and I discovered that rug hooking is not the same as latch hooking…
Debra Smith, editor of Rug Hooker’s magazine teaches at the Mannings and has created a small gallery of her work amongst the tools and other supplies for this craft that the Mannings sells.
This last piece ,with its colored vertical lines on black, reminds me of the reverse applique molas of Panama and Colombia…
nawi awapa tubular bandsSo, I am off to California tomorrow. It has been a wonderful visit meeting new people and old on this east side of the US. It is always sad to leave the Mannings. This visit was too short.
I got to play around with some of my tubular bands trying to devise ways to finish the ends. I found that I could make a neat blunt finish on the blue band and I could also finish the end with a sizeable knob, as on the gold band,which could be used along with a loop to close the band into a bracelet. I am still working on making that as neat and compact as possible. I need to keep practicing.
I will leave you here with a beautiful video that showed up in my Facebook newsfeed. I mentioned this to Karthika, who was born in India like me, and she knew straight away about the famed Jamdani weaving of Bangladesh. The incredibly fine and almost transparent fabric is woven on traditional looms with two weavers seated side by side. It is decorated with supplementary wefts. Watch as they prepare the yarn, warp, thread the fine yarn through the reed and then watch the speed with which they create string heddles!

See you next time from California.




  1. Thank you for sharing your travels and information on textiles of the world. I really enjoyed the video.

  2. That video was a real treat! I am very fond of Indian saris (I just ordered a khadi sari from India), but I’ve never heard of Jamdani. How exquisite. Thank you.

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