Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 17, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Sunrise, Sunset

Do you know the song ”Sunrise, Sunset” from ”Fiddler on the Roof”? I have had that in my head for a couple of weeks as the hours and days fly by, I travel from place to place and winter becomes spring before my eyes..

From Florida sunrises ro Pennsylvania sunsets and a whole lot of activity in between…

Sunrise at the Florida Tropical Weavers Conference

Sunrise at the Florida Tropical Weavers Conference

The ast rays of the setting sun over the creek at The Mannings Handweaving Studio in Pennsylvania.

The last rays of the setting sun over the creek at The Mannings  in Pennsylvania.

Sunrise, Sunset. This is the name of one of the songs that we sang gathered around the table while David played the guitar at the Passover Seder in which I participated at my friend Claudia’s home in Maryland.

10471195_10206350602506701_1973694388140159785_nThat was one of my stops on my way to my current ”home” in Pennsylvania. The journey took me to New York,  Ohio and Delaware.

I attended the monthly gathering of the guild in Wilmington in what is the prettiest meeting venue I have come across so far…Greenbank Mill. As we drove by, I was just about to ask Carol if we could stop to take a picture of the mill and its wheel and then I realised that this was the meeting spot and I would have all day to enjoy and explore it. It was a short stay in Wilmington and I left with images and stories of Dupont, grain and textile mills and lively, gushing, cascading creeks and a desire to return and see more.

greenbank millInside Greenbank Mill along with all the preserved mill equipment – stones, wheels, cogs – a hefty post surrounded by plenty of open space allowed us to hitch up our backstrap warps and stretch out like wheel spokes.

???????????????????????????????A visit to the Hagley Museum the previous day brought us to an unexpected sort of ”yarn bombing” of the entry gates…

yarn bombing Hagley Museum

In Ohio, at Tracy’s home, I knew I had come to the right place when I saw this…

???????????????????????????????Tracy’s warp weighted loom stands like a work of art in her living room along with the Tonkinese cousin of my own cat back in Bolivia.

warp weighted loomI got to throw a couple of shots of weft, just enough to see how to operate the the two sheds. I realised pretty quickly what hard work it is on the shoulders to be standing and reaching up to pass the weft and beat with an upward motion.

We wove together at the Canfield Fair Grounds, home of the largest county fair in the US. I have never been able to plan my visits to coincide with a county fair in the US and would love to go to one.

Tracy and Marjorie had woven with me a couple of years ago. They worked on their own projects while the rest of the ladies tackled simpler projects.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Tracy had bought some Harrisville Highland wool on that trip to The Mannings and had saved it for a backstrap. The red and green are the Harrisville Highland wool (the kind that is sold washed in skeins rather than on cones). The grey is a mystery  wool which is slightly heavier than the other two. It gave Tracy’s Andean Pebble Weave design a nice three-dimensional look. This wool was really fabulous….not at all sticky…a real pleasure to work with. Tracy is using it here to weave a backstrap. It’s the perfect weight for that. She chose a pattern from my second book.

???????????????????????????????Marjorie went to the other end of the yarn weight spectrum with a very fine alpaca yarn that she bought on giant cones on one of her trips to Cusco. This is not what I would call easy yarn to work with and I have all my fingers crossed for the success of this project. She also worked on a backstrap using Plymouth Yarn Fantasy Naturale mercerized cotton but, at the same time, was curious to see how the alpaca behaved.

Marjorie also brought in this marvelous llama bone tool that she had acquired in her travels in Peru. I have never seen a carved one like this….how beautiful!

???????????????????????????????Here’s Tracy’s backstrap off the loom, braided and finished…

???????????????????????????????In the evenings, I had tatting lessons with Tracy and I got the chance to be a student,  which is always a useful experience. I would be going along with a nice rhythm convinced that I had it all down and then suddenly completely lose the plot and create an ugly string of knots instead of hitches.

My friend Vonnie in Sacramento had also taught me to tatt but Tracy showed me a different way to hold and manage the shuttle which doesn’t require the ”flip”. It is is less elegant but it is nice to have options. I was sent off with a couple of shuttles and thread. I hope to go back to Ohio some time and learn bobbin lace with Tracy. Those of you who are into lace will probably already know Tracy in her former business as The Lace Maker. She was even at Convergence in 2010 in Albuquerque as a vendor when I was there. I had been attracted to her stand because of the small warp-weighted loom she had on display but we didn’t meet.

In fact, Tracy’s home was a showcase of all the fiber activities and techniques in which she has been involved. I enjoyed the opportunity to learn a bit about the Theo Moorman technique from the runner on her dining table. You all know that I am a big fan of supplemental weft…

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I’m hoping that she will feel confident enough and find the time to use the handspun and naturally dyed yarn that she got when she attended the Tinkuy in 2010 in Cusco.

Yes, we were both there in 2010 and had a brief encounter. It’s about time we spent some more time together.

She has a large supply of the handspun dyed yarn in her plastic hamper as both she and her boyfriend took the natural dye workshop at the Tinkuy and I know that she will do something spectacular with it.

Hands have been busy and continue to be so as I move along from place to place. It is always great to hear from people as I move on and find that they have been working at their warps.

Here are some shots of busy hands at the loom. This first picture was taken by Sara Norine James at the Florida Tropical Weavers Conference and shows Berna expertly working the two sets of string heddles to open a shed on her Andean Pebble Weave warp…

berna FTWG by Sara Norine James

???????????????????????????????It was nice to meet Facebook friend, Alison, who came down from Ontario, Canada to weave with me. She wove the leaf pattern and then continued on her own to weave it as a negative image. In the picture you can see her busy hands selecting threads under which to pass her supplemental weft. Alison has been weaving using my books in her home in Canada and has made some lovely Andean Pebble Weave pieces….

???????????????????????????????And whose hands are these? Well, those are mine with the silk Andean Pebble Weave cuff on wrist.

Laverne at the ManningsAnd now….no hands…not even any arms!

Laverne in huipilWe guessed that this must be a child’s huipil. I just managed to get my head through the opening but there was no way my arms would pass through those armholes. Yet the piece is so big! All that purple and green work is embroidered. Amazing.

Kristen got herself set up with a pillow case as an improvised backstrap. She said that she was challenging herself to let go of the pattern chart by guessing what came next in the pattern by reading the cloth and then confirming by looking at the chart before passing the weft. Her cat helped, as cats like to do, by lying on the chart.

kristenHere’s Sarah, amongst the looms and spnning wheels, using hands and head to figure out the next step in the process…

???????????????????????????????I have a whole week staying here at the Mannings. You can be sure that there is no shortage of things to do and see when you are practically living in a yarn store. Linda and Carol dropped by on Tuesday to weave with me. Linda had read both my books cover to cover without touching a piece of yarn. Yet, she had somehow absorbed the technique and I needed to just to give her a little guidance before she was underway weaving lovely Andean Pebble Weave patterns. I figure that she must have amazing powers of visualization.

???????????????????????????????Here she is preparing her warp with its second set of heddles.

???????????????????????????????Carol came with something completely different in mind. She had been given an ikat warp from Guatemala. The warp had been wrapped and dyed and was ready to go on a floor loom. Carol wanted to weave it on a backstrap loom. She had put a similar warp on her floor loom and woven it as a balanced plain weave cloth creating a mobius shawl. Although the threads shifted more than she probably would have liked, I think that the finished piece is lovely. I hesitated over posting a picture of her shawl as my picture really does not do it justice.


Carol is no stranger to ikat having studied weft ikat in Thailand and bringing home her dyed thread to weave stunningly fine cloth on her floor loom. She came  on Tuesday with the idea of putting the Guatemalan warp on a backstrap loom and weaving it into a warp-faced piece of fabric. We spent a great part of the day getting it sorted onto loom bars as it had somehow become almost hopelessly tangled. Here’s Linda holding one end of the warp while Linda and I try to straighten things out. The original warp was multi-colored and the several colors were bundled and wrapped together to create the motifs.


???????????????????????????????Now it’s starting to look like something but there is still a long long way to go and with each handling those threads are shifting.

???????????????????????????????Carol has just inserted the cross sticks. That horizontal line at the start will be helpful but it remains to be seen if the upper layer and lower are well aligned. There are many many string heddles to be made before weaving can begin.

On other days, I decided to work on a ”three-fer”, that is, one project with three purposes. I wanted to get my hand back in with a Bolivian embellishment technique that I call the ”coil stitch”. This project would give me practice in something that I am not doing all that often, provide an additional technique sample, as well as a little slip case for my new iPod. One of my online studnets who has become a dear friend, along with her husband, gave me this iPod. I have never owned one before and am thrilled.

Bolivian embellishment coil stitchesYou can see some of the handwoven fabric made from naturally dyed handspun yarn that I use as technique samples. I had a small leftover piece that was just the right size for the iPod. I have started by edging it with coil stitches and will dress it up with all kinds of doo-dads. I love doing that and it gives me practice in the various techniques. Next, I’ll make a pouch for the charger and cable using the fabric with the cochineal tones that you can see above.

bolivian embellishments coil stitchesI am using Cascade 220 superwash yarn for the sewing and the colors match so well. It’s a fun little project which mostly keeps me out of the yarn store where there are too many lovely things to buy.

???????????????????????????????I have one more fun thing to show you.

I was persuaded to buy new sneakers and got a kick out of the laces on the ones I chose which have a classic little inkle weaving pattern which matches the strap on my own woven handbag.

Now I will be able to hike some light trails when I am invited. Hiking was such a huge part of my past and I miss it.


I will leave you with a shot of the sun casting its golden glow at The Mannings. Another day ends and I enjoy my time in this lovely peaceful place before I start bouncing again across the country












  1. Thanks, Laverne for sharing your story. Safe travels!

  2. Hi Laverne. You always pick such wonderful travel photos.
    While I cannot chose a favorite from among all the weavings in this post, I really like the texture and colours of Tracey’s backstrap.
    Thank you for sharing.

  3. I’m glad I went to the Mannings last spring because I can imagine the hikes around the lovely rolling farmland you are taking with those zippy new sneakers of yours….and all the beautiful yarn you need to resist buying while you are there!

    • You are right, Lausanne.Imagine 10 days practically living in a yarn store!

  4. You will have to show me the new tatting technique you learned, Laverne! I love learning new ways to do things. I also LOVE the bracelets! Perfect for my love for small, quick projects;)

  5. Safe Travels Laverne. I hope that we cross paths again.

    • Thanks, Hillary. I really enjoyed learning a little about Mexican rebozos from you.

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