Posted by: lavernewaddington | May 1, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Where will it lead next?

I have just said goodbye to my latest group of beginning backstrap weavers. They had just taken their first baby steps in using their bodies as part of a loom in order to create patterned cloth. I so often get the chance to connect with people like these again and again… perhaps in another gathering, at a conference, at a guild meeting or fiber fair… and find out what they have (or haven’t done) with the basic set of skills that they take away from weaving with me. Everyone comes to weave with different goals. Some people get hooked and go on to create amazing things, some people are more than happy to have just been given this brief taste of the world of South American backstrap weaving, while others, having had their curiosity sparked, are even inspired to take a trip to South America.

Who knows where it all might lead?

amber and janetMy dear friend Janet, who has hosted me for many backstrap weaving gatherings over the years, is heading off to Ecuador in July with Amber, who wove with em as a beginner last fall. There they will connect with my anthropologist friend, Kathie, and spend some time on the coast studying with cotton spinners, dyers and weavers. Above, you can see their busy hands at work creating patterns with supplementary weft and tubular techniques.

Speaking of these wonderful kinds of connections amongst weavers, I got to write an article for Handwoven magazine about just this kind of thing and it has been published in their current (spring 2015) issue….

handwoven mag article

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am excited to think about where these ladies may be led if they find themselves truly drawn to this kind of weaving and I hope that they will form some close connections in their love of it, as members of past groups have.

Below, you can see a piece that continuing student, Jane Milner, who is part of the Foothills ”String Sistahs”  made recently.  The ”String Sistahs”, named I think by Jane, is a group of ladies who have woven once or twice with me and who now meet regularly to weave and study techniques together.

A few years ago, I adapted tablet-woven motifs that were created by Ursel Studemann to the Andean Pebble Weave structure and wove a short sample band. Jane’s beautiful rendition shows the four fish motifs repeated along the length of  her piece….

fish motifs adapated from abelt weaving to Andean Pebble WeaveJane will be weaving in my ”Thinking Big”session soon in which participants will challenge themselves to take the techniques that they have woven with me and go wider, longer, or finer….we ”think big” in terms of width, length or number of warp ends. Everyone is busy preparing their project and I have had lots of interesting emails with questions and ideas. I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with.

At my friend Diane’s home, I have been able to watch her work through the preparation process for this class….finding inspiration, deciding the final product, choosing yarn and colors, warping and weaving a sample, calculating the number of ends based on her sample and, finally, warping the main project. She  decided to get a bit of a head start on the rest of the group by preparing as much as she could before the actual get together.

Diane was inspired by the pieces of Bolivian handwoven cloth that I had brought for another gathering. These pieces are made from handspun and naturally dyed yarn and the colors are spectacular.

weaving highland BoliviaShe lined up her balls of Aunt Lydia’s #10 crochet cotton to decide on the color order of her stripes and planned a thin black-and-white Andean Pebble Weave strip bordered by red amongst the colorful stripes. Her project is a pouch for some of these beautiful long swords that she makes…

dianes swords

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext, she needed to decide on the structure of the stripes…plain weave or intermesh?…and then she created her wee sample….

dianes sampleWe spent one evening, when we were both tired, crunching and re-crunching the numbers for the wider project based on the information the sample band provided.

Then, it was onward to wind the warp…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is all happening in beautiful California.

I left the east side and The Mannings the day after a severe storm and tornado watch was in force. I watched the clouds build in the evening sky but not even a puff of wind made it our way. I was able to enjoy an evening walk while the heavy and menacing bank of clouds slid by in the distance…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy last weaving session at The Mannings before heading west brought me many familiar faces and a couple of new ones as we wove tubular bands and complementary-warp pick-up. Linda returned after having worked with Carol and me during the week to set up Carol’s Guatemalan ikat piece.

linda at the manningsI love taking pictures in the showroom there which doubles as our weaving space….we are attached to looms surrounded by spinning wheels and other fiber toys. A few days later, Linda posted her  samples….some finished and some with significant progress….makes me so happy seeing this!

dianne tapestry crochetThe weaving get togethers are a time for sharing all kinds of tips and techniques. Dianne showed Emily how she creates her beautiful tight multi-colored crocheted bags (see above) and Cathy, having read on my blog about my recent dabblings in tatting, brought along a cute Christmas decoration that she had tatted in what looks like a nice manageable thread size for me at my beginner stage.

sharing techniquesCathy also brought a bag which she had created since weaving Andean Pebble Weave  with me. She embroidered the body of bag with cross stitch and wove the sides and strap using motifs from my two books.

Cathy K pebble weave strapArriving at The Mannings was a little different this time as I came in from Delaware and passed through Amish country. It was intersting seeing the local businesses and restaurants providing parking spaces for horses and buggies.

After enjoying the views from the plane of the pretty snow-capped mountains just outside of Denver, and then the great salt lake, I arrived in sunny California where every evening has given us a spectacular and slightly different sunset looking out toward the Yolla Bolly Mountains in Mendocino County…

grass valley sunsetsWe hiked along the Yuba River (I got to use those new shoes!).

yuba riverThe Foothill Fibers Guild invited Vicki Fraser of the California Rug Project to their monthly meeting and I got to attend as a guest. Here is Vicki’s description of the project….

The California Rug Project is the result of fourteen years of design, spinning, dyeing, weaving and knotting. It reflects my reverence for the land, it’s bounty and that part of our consciousness reserved for California.

The warp, weft and pile were handspun using California-grown materials and natural dyes and the hand knotting has been executed in the oriental tradition.

As Diane was hosting both Vicki and me in her home, I got a preview before the meeting as we unrolled the fifteen-foot long piece in Diane and Peter’s home…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI will show small parts of the rug here and leave you to read Vicki’s description which appears on her website.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the southwest corner where you can see native plants of southern California and a Los Angeles skyline in flames.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMoving northward you can appreciate the sculpted knotted pile hills and freeways of southern California before you drop into the agricultural areas and on to the central valleys.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACalafia’s face magically appears in profile from amongst the leaves and foliage of northern California and it is only then that you realize that many of the lower features on the rug are actually parts of her body. Calafia is, according to Wikipedia, a fictional warrior caliphess who ruled over a kingdom of Black women living on the mythical Island of California.

The rug is Vicki’s gift to California and we were invited to take off our shoes and walk the length of the woven state enjoying the luxurious texture of the gorgeously thick and dense knotted pile while Vicki pointed out the various features. It is wonderful that the California Rug is out there being appreciated. It is looking for a home, preferably in California, and who knows where these contacts might lead?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVicki’s visit was completed with a visit to The Magic Carpet in Nevada City where she had a chance to examine exquisite knotted pile rugs. I was side tracked by the Kurdish salt bags and camel adornments with their interesting stitched edgings and tassels.

salt bags and edgings

Sadly, I will miss the Magic Carpet’s presentation on Magic Carpets of Turkey on May 9 at 7pm. It’s a Turkish travelogue and exhibit of DOBAG Rugs: Returning to the Roots of Natural Dyes presented by Eileen Jorgensen.

As I finish this latest post, I wonder what magic this evening’s sunset will bring as the light softens between branches of Ponderosa Pine and Valley Live Oak. I am off to Sonora this weekend. I can’t believe that I will be so close to Yosemite National Park but without enough time to visit it! I must return. My nephew is competing in a triathlon this weekend in Buselton, Western Australia. I hope that the conditions will allow him to give his very best and I hope to watch it online on Saturday night. Wish him luck!

I will leave you with an online backstrap weaver that I have yet to meet in person….hopefully we will change that one day soon. Here is Chris in Texas weaving her backstrap, down on the floor and looking right at home with it…..

chris fort worthWith her new backstrap around her hips I am looking for ward to seeing where she is headed next.




  1. Thanks once again, Laverne. Happy travels!

  2. Just recently found your site; it’s so full of wonderful information! Started a narrow band with a few colour stripes and the intention to do a bit of supplementary weft – have never blackstrap woven before but am a weaver. It wasn’t a super smooth process, that first warp but am very pleased with how it is going. Am going to Peru and Bolivia mid May for 2 months and wondering if you have any recommendations for weaving teacher(s) as my goal while there is to learn to backstrap weave. Will be around the sacred valley in Peru, and possibly Huancayo and Ayacucho. In Bolivia, la Paz, Sucre, Isla del sol, Cochabamba. Thanks so much for your incredible web presence and any suggestions you might send my way. Coby

    • Hi Coby,

      Thanks for your comments. You are going to places where there are lots of weavers and you have lots of time. You could start in Cusco where you can have an ”organized” class. Go to the CTTC there. Once you have a base you could then find weaving teachers by perhaps asking for contacts in museums thatwork with weaving co-ops and sell their products, or by going to the street markets and connecting with the ladies who sell the spindles etc. Show them things you have woven and eventually you will find someone who is willing to teach you. Good luck

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: