Posted by: lavernewaddington | May 26, 2014

Backstrap Weaving- The Flying Kangaroo

I took pictures of both sides of a lovely little square of weaving that my friend Virginia purchased when she was at Tinkuy 2010 in Cusco, Peru. It was to be part of a piece submitted for the annual weaving competition between teams of weavers from the various communities that form the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales de Cusco.

The competition challenge had been for weavers in each community to weave a series of thirty-six thirty-centimeter squares that would be sewn together to form one large piece. Many squares were woven but only the best selected. Each weaver had to create a perfect four-selvedge square that could be sewn to the others to form a seemingly seamless piece of  fabric. Attempts to include a square that was even ever so slightly off would result in an imperfect overall piece of fabric.

Here are some of the winning pieces from that competitionin 2010….

competition winner bThis entry has squares that were created using the ticlla, or discontinuous warp technique for which the community of Pitumarca has become renowned. Each colored square has a rectangle of pick-up patterning embedded in plain weave, something that only be achieved by using discontinuous warps.

competition winner aThe weavers of Sallac included squares of ikat amongst squares of complex pick-up patterning.

??????????????????????The takers of first place from Chahuaytire presented a deceptively simple piece entitled “matrimonio”. You have to look very closely before you realize that the piece comprises thirty-six masterfully color-matched and pieced-together squares.

Here are some of the pieces from last year’s competition…

cttc competition 2013But, as I mentioned above, not every square submited by the weavers can be accepted for the final piece. I imagine that there is much frustration and disappointment as hard work and dedication is rejected.

The sweet piece that Virginia had bought back in 2010 was actually one such rejected square. At least it managed to find an appreciative owner and a good home and the weaver was compensated for her hard work. I love the figure on this piece. To me, it looks like she is hitch hiking. She looks strong, bold, and independent yet, friendly and good humored.


??????????????????????It is such clever and creative use of the supplementary-warp technique. I am amazed at how each and very finger on both hands is clearly defined and at how nicely the legs have been shaped.

I am guessing that this figure was supposed to be just one small part of a story told in the finished piece with its thirty-six squares. I am intrigued by this and wonder what role this humorous lady played. What is she doing….what is she saying? What is that “hitchhiker’s” thumb indicating?

Maybe someone who was at Tinkuy 2010 took a picture of the entire piece. I would love to hear from you if you did. These pieces were hung in the co-op store in Chinchero and I somehow missed this one. Quite likely if I had seen the entire piece I would not have even noticed this one female figure and would have been captured by the piece as a whole rather than by its individual parts.

Other pieces that Virginia shared with me during my stay with her at South Lake Tahoe included this very colorful ticlla piece with three-color complementary-warp pick-up patterns. The four selvedges in each half of the cloth were created without having to abruptly interrupt the pick-up pattern.

??????????????????????There were also pretty tubular bands woven independently and as edgings…..

??????????????????????And sprang bags from the tropical lowlands of Peru…

??????????????????????And a reminder that not all highland weaving in Peru has gone the way of the textiles that are being produced by the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales de Cusco with their fine handspun naturally dyed yarn and intricate pick-up patterns. Cheerful pieces with relatively simple patterns made with heavy yarn and bright synthetic colors are still very much in use in many places…..

???????????????????????????????Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at Lake Tahoe and the group with whom I wove there. From beautiful mountains…


….to  Donner Pass and tales of the ill-fated expedition after which it was named…(Suzanne showed me around the Truckee area)


….to the glorious lake itself…

??????????????????????Virginia took me out on a boat crossing and it was spectacular!

??????????????????????And what about the weaving?….three days of Andean Pebble Weave in a resort on the lake shore…what fun!

??????????????????????There were ladies who liked to get down on the floor for a session of “team charting’, broken leg and all! Several members of this group had been playing with pebble weave on their four-shaft looms using the instructions in my Andean Pebble Weave book. They were now keen to set it up on a backstrap loom and found that the backstrap loom has a few advantages over the floor loom especially when it comes to saving sheds and creating pick-up shortcuts.

Here is a gorgeous bag that Jen put together from fabric she wove with pebble weave patterns on her floor loom…

jens pebble weave bagAfter the gathering, I stayed with Jen and her sister Elizabeth in Reno with this gorgeously distracting view from the kitchen window…

??????????????????????While all that was happening outside and I tried to stuff all my gear back into the massive bags that I lug about with me on these trips, Jen and Eizabeth calmly wove on their backstrap looms and worked on the Andean Pebble Weave pieces we had started together.

??????????????????????I am thinking that those looms in the background might be left to gather dust for a while!

This is what Jen was weaving…her own adaptation of a Tarahumara pattern…

??????????????????????Elizaebth wove as far as she possibly could so that she could squeeze in the last parts of her design and have a matching start and finish…

??????????????????????I will be seeing these ladies back at the Lake for another gathering in the fall…yay!

From there I headed northwest to stay with my friend Betty. We had two gatherings there…one for beginners and another for learning all kinds of pretty finishing techniques. We used handwoven pieces of fabric which had been made by my Bolivian weaving teacher Maxima and other ladies in her co-op. One piece was used for sampling the new techniques while the other was to become a wee pouch. The pouch could be dressed up with the embellishments that we had practiced together.

linda's nawi awapa bandsLinda really took to the tubular band weaving and came  on the second day with  two finished “eye” bands.

finishing touches class backstrap weavingSharon’s sample cloth has a sewn tubular band and cross knit looped edging. She also applied coil stitches to one end which is the embellishment that Bolivian weavers sometimes use to decorate the bottom edge of their chuspas.

???????????????????????????????Here are some of the ladies weaving and sewing accompanied by snoozing  Trouble, the cat.

Weaving in Betty’s studio is the closest thing you can get to being outdoors with its floor-to-ceiling windows and skylight.

betty's studio for backstrap classDuring my stay a group of us went to the meeting of the Portland Handweavers Guild where Rosalie Nielson presented A Cacophony of Kumihimo….a talk on the history of these braids in Japan and her own personal explorations with the techniques.

???????????????????????????????Dozens of Rosalie’s gorgeous braids were displayed amidst her stunning rep weave work.

Next stop… Seattle…. to re-connect with people I had met at ANWG in 2013 and Braids 2012 as well as to meet new weavers. A talented group of tablet weavers came who slid very easily into the basics of backstrap loom operation and basic patterning techniques. John, a skilled braider and ply-splitter, decided to try his hands at weaving. His wife Stacey quickly settled into it and both she and Lynn found themselves very much at home on the floor while the others were happy to stay in chairs.

Lynn at home on floor backstrap weavingSeattle was glorious in pre-summer warmth…gardens in full bloom and vistas of the Cascades at every bend. It is little wonder that my planned weekend stay in Seattle back in 1992 turned into three weeks!

Annie brought in an old exquisite hair sash from Jaceltenango, Guatemala which had been sold to her by a weaver from Laos many years ago in  midwest USA…how these wonderful weavings get around! John brought some of his ply-split work to show as well. I haven’t been able to find John’s website but he has some Youtube videos on his Takadai work….it’s a lovely process to watch.

I can just imagine Braids 2016 in this corner of the US. It’s going to be HUGE!!

hair sash and ply split braidsHere is the next stop…

??????????????????????Did you guess Austin, Texas? And that was not the only display at the airport. The Weavers and Spinners Society of Austin had an exhibit there too aptly entitled ”Flying Shuttles”. I had met seven of the weavers who had things on display ranging from felted sculptures to basketry to wall hangings to wearable fabrics to ply-split braided jewelry. Three of these talented ladies later wove with me.

I wove Complementary-Warp Pick-Up with some new faces as well as returning weavers. It s my third visit to Austin and third stay with Eileen and Guy. Eight weavers came aged from 18 to 79 producing sweet bands decorated with pick-up patterns. Eileen and Guy’s park-like back yard perched above a pretty creek along with a Saturday evening symphony concert made this a perfect venue in which to wind down at the end of my trip.


And then it was…..Hello Sydney!!

??????????????????????The Flying Kangaroo comes to rest at Sydney airport…


A couple of weeks to recharge with family and then I shall be doing some weaving here. It is strange to have the days getting shorter, see the fallen leaves and feel the slide into winter after the lengthening days and blooming gardens in the US. Still, the garden is full of color and sound with visits from flocks of raucous lorikeets every evening!

See you next week….
















  1. Do you have the pattern for the Bolivian tubular band? That and the others above the sprang look more like sling braids?

    • No,they are not braids. Those are all woven tubular bands with the “nawi” design.

  2. Thank you for a lovely read, Laverne, I was transported. Best wishes for a great time in Sydney, I lived there many years ago, it’s my favourite city in the world. Ann.

  3. Laverne, thank you for sharing! Again I am inspired by you! I enjoy so much seeing all the pictures of your travels and reading about your adventures! ~maggie

  4. It didn’t cross my mind that the designs in your book could also be used on a four shaft floor loom?! I may need to give this a try at my next class where the instructor can help me out. Cool!

    • Well, there’s no getting away from having to hand manipulate the pattern sheds, Jamie, but you can set up so that your four-shaft loom creates the pebble sheds. It is a faster way to get to the point where you can make really wide pieces.

  5. Hi Laverne…you had mentioned that Cascade 200 would be a good fiber to use. Picked up some fingering weight Cascade 200 and the 4 revolution motifs were only 1/4″ wide! Big oops! What weight should I get so that the motifs will be about 1/2″ wide, or so? Thanks, Jane MIlner

  6. Jane, I am pretty sure the Cascade wool I got at the Mannings was 220. The 4-rev bands I made with them were used as narrow straps for bags. My 4-rev motifs with 2 rev borders came out to just over 1/2″ wide.

    • Hi Laverne! I looked up Manning’s online and it appears they have only one weight of Cascade 220, 100 Gm 220 yards 4.5 sts on #8 needles. I got fingering yarn at Ben Franklin (in town) and it is a 50 Gm skein with about 270 yards on it. Will check tomorrow at Ben Franklin to see what weight is the 100 Gm/220 yds…They have DK and worsted weight too. I had the 4 rev pattern and 4 rev borders and used the “thick border”. It is taking FOREVER to weave a 1 yard warp! Jane

  7. Feliz estadía en Sidney…!!! Saludos desde Chile

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