Posted by: lavernewaddington | October 31, 2014

Backstrap Weaving – Bouncing in the Woods

In and out of the woods…leaves, trees and fall colors!…beauty all around despite the obvious effects of the California drought. I have been on a long run of bouncing here and there…travel, weave, and bounce over to the next place t see friends. Now, I am still for a few days and able to catch up with my blog.
Follow the sign to the cottage in the woods…a schoolhouse for pre-schoolers…which we used for a backstrap weaving gathering.

Although we warped on low tables seated on teeny tiny chairs, we did get to weave using grown-up tables and chairs. It was fun eating lunch in the back garden seated on the tiny swings and weave surrounded by artworks created by tiny fingers.

???????????????????????????????My weaving friend, Abby, has a store in Bodega, CA….the Organic Cotton Fabric Shop.  Hitchcock fans will know the grand wooden building, pictured below, from the movie “The Birds” which is across the street and up the hill from Abby’s store.

birds buildingWhat is surprising when entering Abby’s store of cool, crisp, fabrics in natural organic cotton colors, is the added splash of vibrant natural dye colors in wool and alpaca of highland Peru. Abby also sells handwoven pieces that are made by the CTTC (Centro de Textiles Tradicionales de Cusco) and her story of how all this came to be is extraordinary. You’ll have to go visit her and get her to tell you.

I always welcome the chance to handle these textiles as I am not often in that particular part of Peru. Abby wanted to experience creating cloth with body-tensioned looms and gathered together a lovely group of ladies from near and far.

A short drive took us to Bodega Bay in the evening to watch the sunset and whirling pelicans.

abbys storeIt was fun staying in Abby and Steve’s home on Bodega Pastures and being welcomed home every day by goats and donkeys as well as being awoken each morning by crows and brays.

From the woods of Bodega to the Holly”woods”…I had a whirlwind tour of L.A with my weaving friend, Anna. She lives in Burbank with Warner Brothers studios just a few blocks away. We visited the Walk of Fame, saw the handprints in cement, drove Sunset Boulevarde and the Strip as well as going to an amazing exhibit of Timorese textiles at the Fowler in UCLA.


I have ordered the book that accompanies the exhibit and can’t wait to look through it and see all those pieces again. I have seen textiles from Timor, having met Australians who have traveled there recently and brought back examples, but I was not prepared for the cloth that Anna and I saw at the Fowler. And it was so much fun to be seeing it all with someone equally enthsiastic. I am not a “bouncer” but I found myself doing just that as we walked from one piece to the next. If you live in the area, do go and catch that exhibit!

So, there I was in those Holly-woods and hills. You never know what you will see if you peer through the trees…

??????????????????????????????? Above…outside Disney Studios.

I visited the local guild. In that meeting, guild members presented the results of a themed weaving challenge…The Beatles…and the results were astounding. Many pieces had been based on the bright colors of the Yellow Submarine and Sargeant Pepper’s album covers while others were more subdued…a white-on-white piece mounted on a vinyl record was inspired by the White Album and a black scarf with white horizontal stripes at one end and edged with black feathers was entitled Blackbird on Abbey Road.

I will show you Anna Zinsmeister’s contribution (which includes the “5th Beatle”)…and this will blow you away. I stood up to help Anna hold and display these to the audience and got to see all the jaws drop!

???????????????????????????????The visit to L.A also brought an encounter with textiles and tools of backstrap weavers in The Philippines. One of the people who wove with me collects such things and brought some pieces to show.

textiles and tools of The Philippines

The piece on the left is a skirt made from the fiber of a plant in the pineapple family (EDIT: correction…not pineapple family but rather, a species of banana…thank you kijro). The other piece is cotton with warp-float patterns on one face. It is a long piece with its ends folded in to form two pockets, like a very narrow saddlebag. And the woods!…you can see the shaped and decorated wooden backstrap loom pieces….the envy! I would love to be seated with a warp stretched out on those!

And then there was a Guatemalan backstrap that Anna owns made with a ply-split braiding technique. The instructions were included in one of Interweave’s “White Papers”. I have them and want to make one.

ply split braided backstrapAnd what visit to L.A would be complete without seeing a piece of television or film in the making? My flight out from Burbank was delayed which gave me time to hang out and watch an episode of “Hairport” being filmed with an apparently well-known Hollywood stylist, Ken Paves, as host.

And here is Anna herself, knitting away in a scene from Gilmore Girls (to the right of Lorelai in blue coat and knitted hat). I loved that show!

David Larson and Anna on Gilmore Girls Knit People Knit 2006Having said earlier on that I am not a “bouncer”, that is, one who gets openly excited with physical displays of enthusiasm, I have actually found myself bouncing away on several occasions during this trip. One such case was at the Fowler and another was on entering the place chosen for a weaving gathering in San Diego….

???????????????????????????????We were in an enormous rug repair workshop with exquisite rugs and yarn draped and hanging everywhere we turned.

rug repair shopAnother bounce-inducing moment, also in San Diego… Deanna picked me up from the airport and took me over to her friend Gay’s home. Gay’s husband had been an avid textile, artefact and folk art collector. Since her husband’s passing, Gay has been in the process of finding new homes for the pieces and Deanna thought that I might be interested in seeing some of the collection. Are you kidding? Yes, please!

A forest of figurines...part of Gay's husband's collection of folk art.

A forest of figurines…part of Gay’s husband’s collection.

You might remember that some time ago, I was looking at images of Huichol belts online that were woven and decorated with motifs using a balanced double-weave pick-up technique. I wove a piece in blue and white using motifs that I had chosen from a variety of bags and belts that I had seen online…

finnweave_storyI have never had the chance to handle a Huichol belt that has been made with this technique. There amongst the pieces in Gay’s home lay this…

Huichol beltNot only was it my first chance to hold one of these textiles, which was in itself awesome, but the motifs on this belt were so very close to the ones that I had chosen to weave in my own piece. Even the wavy lines at the bottom of my piece are included at the very start and end of this belt. I bought it. I had to. And I bounced. It was especially nice to be able to examine the back of the band where all structural secrets are revealed.

Was there any more bounce left in me? Yep!

When I was staying in northern California with Diane, I discovered a letter between the pages of a book I had been given. It was a letter written in 1977 by weaver and author, Adele Cahlander. Any of you who have an interest in South American backstrap weaving will know that name. The letter had been written to the book’s owner, Verda Elliot (weavers may also recognize this name). It is type-written on small note paper that has a black ink image of a backstrap weaver. The type beautifully follows the contour of the little backstrap weaving figure and the letter is signed in ink by Adele Cahlander. It is a little piece of “history” for me and something that I will treasure.

cahlander letterMany wonderful things happen to me as I bounce along from place to place. Not all of them get my feet off the ground, but they most certainly make me happy and have me smiling A LOT.

Jane brought a big smile to my face. She has woven with me many times and joined me at one in Truckee on this trip, a gathering that was closely followed by one in Grass Valley. Most of the time, I never really know what my weaving friends do with their half-woven samples after our get-togethers. Some people send me photos of their completed pieces but I rarely get to see the work in person and certainly not within a mere week of having been part of a group.

Jane showed up with this…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese are her finished pieces….

Jane’s pieces are posed on the clever set-up for backstrap weaving that Diane created that fits snugly within their pool table. Her home, with this cool set-up, has become the gathering place for an enthusiastic group of weavers and they have regular study groups. I so enjoyed the gathering we had where we played with Andean Pebble Weave.

More “woods” to enjoy….Diane made these swords and gave them to me. The two kinds of wood have wonderfully exotic-sounding names…Bocote above, and Paduak.


We made time for sme cat-petting therapy at the Humane Society in Truckee where Suzanne volunteers. She gave me this cool tshirt.

We made time for some cat-petting therapy at the Humane Society in Truckee where Suzanne volunteers. Suzanne gave me this cool tshirt.

It was wonderful to be in Truckee with Suzanne  with another group of familiar faces which included those of the tenacious sisters, Jen and Elizabeth, Nancy, Kathy, Jane , Suzanne, as well as some new ones….another Kathy and Karen.

Karen friended me on Facebook and now I get to enjoy pictures of her trip to Japan to braid with Makiko Tada and hear her stories of braiding at Fort Bragg with Roderick Owen in years past.

I smiled big when I saw what Suzanne had done with the strip of handwoven fabric that I had given her on my last trip through. It is a piece that was woven by women in a weaving co-operative in Independencia, Bolivia and is made from handspun yarn which has been dyed with natural substances. If you follow my blog you will have read about Dorinda and Maxima and their roles in this co-op.

Suzanne made hers into a backstrap. I am always so envious of people who can sew!

She used ultra suede as a backing and made a sleeve which enclosed braids that she had made with thick cotton yarn….a beautiful backstrap!

suzannes backstrap

Nancy brought a piece that she had started after our get-together last spring. Having put it aside for a while, she asked for a hand to get back into it. She had been weaving a motif from one of my books and had unknowingly veered off track. I thought that it would be fun to go with the flow rather than unweave and fix the mistake in the pattern. Now the design is entirely her own and she is reversing it. I think it will look great woven in succession along the entire length of the band. She is aiming at making a guitar strap eventually.

???????????????????????????????The wooded valleys of Truckee…heavenly.

truckee forestYeah, I got a little pine cone crazy. They are just so darn pretty and we don’t have them in the Bolivian jungle.

Suzanne is a trekker as is Karen and they had me out on the trails walking at a cracking pace. There was altitude to contend with. I visited Karen’s kumihimo workshop and store in her home with Suzanne. It was full of treasures. If you have ever encountered the website What a Knit, that’s Karen and her mom. She creates all sorts of wonderful pieces using her kumihimo braids and beads but I fell in love with this  tapestry square that she bought in Mexico and transformed into a gorgeous bag by adding knitted pieces in matching colors and braided strap…

karens bag


And, speaking of knitting, here are some more pieces from Gay’s collection…sturdy, tightly knitted bags from Guatemala (one had the word Guatemala knitted into it and it is simply my assumption that all the bags are from there)…

knitted bags GuatemalaThis fine couple in Gay’s husband’s collection reminds us that Halloween and Day of the Dead are drawing near…

???????????????????????????????The days grow shorter, the trees are barer and I find that the leaf pattern in fall colors is a popular choice when I weave with people and show them my supplementary-weft work. Rocio struggled with it and then enjoyed a moment of triumph. I am sure that had she not been attached to her warp, she would have been bouncing…

???????????????????????????????I have lots of great projects to show from friends in  the U.S and online weaving friends from various parts of the world…Australia, the USA and Chile, for example, but I think I will save these up for my next blog post from Humboldt County.

By the way, my nephew will be entering his first triathlon as a professional in Australia on November 9th. Because of the time difference, I should be able to follow along on the night of the 8th. And, in other sports news, it has been fun being in northern California for the World Series!

Time is flying by……









  1. Great post, thanks Laverne. Looking forward to seeing you next week.

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed your stay in LA. We all enjoyed it too. I saw Shannon yesterday at the guild’s weaving festival. Keep in touch. Let me know when you get the book.

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