Posted by: lavernewaddington | June 15, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Folk

It’s been a while! Here I am back in Bolivia with stuff that I brought back from this latest trip. Not much to show for two and half months away, is it?

weaving stuffIn fact, the silk warp that you see there was made from silk I took away with me. I wound a warp with it early on in the trip so that I could make a bookmark for a friend. And that was as far as I got. I was just way too busy on this trip to make a start on it. I made those heddles just last night.

ikat bird shapes filled with pebble weave backstrap weavingI brought back loads of black dye so that I can continue my ikat projects. There are three pieces I want to make for my next set of wall hangings, all with curved shapes. I have found curved motifs that I like from cultures around the world that represent the north, south and center. I bought a used book on ikat which I hope will give some tips to add to the body of experience I have collected so far in my own experiments.

But first, I have to get those three bird pieces off the loom. I need to add some red weft twining to finish them and thus create another common thread to connect the set.

I bought the charcoal pencils that you can see in the first picture…at last! Now I have a better way to mark the motifs on the warp threads before placing the ikat ties. Marker pen, in one of my experiments, bled yellow into the white spaces after dyeing and regular pencil just doesn’t do the trick. I saw, via video, that some of the design masters in Uzbekistan use charcoal to draw the patterns onto the warp before handing it over to those who specialize in the tying process.

valdani cottonI got some Valdani cotton at the Northwest Folklife Festival. I don’t know yet what makes this thread from Romania so special (I’ll let you know once I have used it) but I liked the ladies who owned the stall and the thread is one of my festival souvenirs. I will weave a ”folky” wrist cuff with it in memory of the three fun days spent at the festival with Marilyn.

And then, there are the hairsticks. You can see just one of them in the picture. There seems to be an endless supply of these at all kinds of folk art and ethnic textile and craft stores. I go over each and every one to find the ones with nice points so I can use them as pick- up sticks when I work with supplementary weft.

peggy's backstrap warpI bought the three skeins of wool from a small yarn store in Skagit Valley.

I decided that I need a wool backstrap to add to my collection and the colors were totally inspired by Peggy’s beautiful project that she was weaving when we met up….indigo, purple and apple green.

I wonder where Peggy is with that project. I can’t wait to see it finished.

The Valdani cotton that I bought is a selection of variegated and solid colors. I love the look of variegated yarn and thread but have never used it myself in a project. I have never really been sure what to do with it! After seeing Peggy’s project and getting to weave Sara Lamb’s beautiful reeled silk warp, I feel more inclined to start using strips of color that are not solid.

You may remember this next shot from a previous post…that’s me all excited about getting to play with Sara’s dyed and hand painted reeled silk warp. Sara, in what I have come to learn is her typical generous way, gave me her warp. There are two of her narrow hand painted strips amongst the solid colors. I would never in a million years think of putting these colors together. The warp contains, fuschia, copper, blue, orange, yellow and purple. Could this experience launch me into a whole new color palette? Well…maybe after I have finished all the red-black-and-white wall hangings for which I have ideas that will keep me busy for several more years.

Laverne2I used deep red tencel (another choice of Sara’s) as a supplemental weft to weave a hook pattern I designed in the central copper strip. reeled silk warpThe transformation after washing and pressing was very exciting. I picked it up off the ironing board and it turned into liquid color that simply slipped through my fingers….luscious! Sara has used this reeled silk in a reeled silk with supplemental weft backstrap weavingbalanced weave project having made fabric for a bag and commented on the fact that the reeled silk tends not to ”bed”, that is, warp and weft do not entirely bond to make cloth after the wet-finishing process. Even with a cotton weft and a warp-faced structure I can feel what she means in this band.

Nevertheless, I love this piece and really enjoyed weaving it in the brief moments I had available during this trip. Thank you, Sara! I have enough length to make two cell phone pouches and have already promised one to my friend Betty.

Other things I bought to add to the tool box….extra skinny cable ties, long tatting needles which I will use for weaving, not tatting, and music wire for creating third selvedges in wide pieces….all things about which I got extremely excited. Imagine me skipping around Michael’s triumphantly waving those skinny cable ties.

But, as always, the best things I bring back from these trips are intangible…such as:

Inspiration… in the form of the colors used by Peggy and Sara as well as this Andean Pebble Weave band woven by another Sara who wove with me last Spring…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASara used some of the original patterns that I created for my first book, Andean Pebble Weave. These are colors that I would never have thought to use together and I love the way this has come out.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMore Inspiration…this time, in the form of patterns. Meg brought an embroidered pouch from Mongolia and I can see an adaptation of the lovely curved shapes being included in my ikat project.

Knowledge…for example, I now know and have experienced the difference between reeled and spun silk having made a cuff in spun silk and a band from Sara’s reeled silk warp.

And, I know a little more about the takadai having spent a few days backstrap weaving with the talented John Whitley during which I had the chance to see some of his takadai creations.

He cleverly edged his beautiful scarf with finger-weaving.

john whitley takadaiSkills...I tried ice dyeing for the first time, thanks to Elinor, and now have a ”new” ice-dyed shirt, plus I know another way to use a shuttle to tatt, thanks to Tracy in Ohio.


Dye covered ice blocks are ready to melt and seep into my shirt.

Experience…the thrill of actually touching, examining and operating an Atayal loom from Taiwan about which I had enthusiastically written in a blog post some time ago. I also got to see some hard-to-get books on Taiwanese weaving that Marilyn has in her textile library.

Marilyn sat and tensioned the warp while I got to use the ''twisty'' stick to open the heddle shed.

We didn’t have a backtrap on hand and so Marilyn sat and tensioned the warp so that I could to use the very cool ”twisty” stick to open the heddle shed. You can see a coil rod has been placed toward the back of the warp.

Marilyn's feet are braced agaisnst the ''box'' around which the circular warp is positioned. Relaxing tension on the warp in order to open the heddle shed is a simple matter of turning the feet to allow the box to roll forward.

Here’s a closer look at the ”twisty” stick that I so love. One prong acts as the shed rod while the other allows the weaver to apply tension to one layer of warp ends while raising the other. Marilyn’s feet are braced agaisnst the ”box” around which the circular warp is positioned. Relaxing tension on the warp in order to open the heddle shed is a simple matter of turning the feet to allow the box to roll forward.

And, I got to experience the Northwest Folklife Festival, once again, after having attended it way back in 1992 while on a backpacking trip through the U.S. I fell in love with Seattle back then and abandoned my planned trip to Canada to stay three weeks in Seattle instead. Many thanks to Marilyn who took me along on three days to enjoy the art, crafts, music, dance and food. On the second day we were part of a Fiber Arts Flash Mob on the green. We also spent some time practicing arts in one of the booths along with spinners, embroiderers, knitters, quilters, braiders and basket makers. Marilyn demonstrated one of the many things she teaches, Viking Knitting.

Bcakstrap weaving on the green at Northwest Folklife.

Backstrap weaving on the green at Northwest Folklife.

From Bulgarian folk song and dance on stage in spectacular costumes, to teens in tshirts banging away at marimbas on the grass…

bulgarian choir northwest folklifeThe Bulgarian singing was certainly not like anything I heard before…strong, throaty, earthy voices in harmony presenting songs from various Eastern European countries. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd, speaking of traditional folk costume, my hosts Elinor and Einar in Skagit Valley showed me theirs. Einar is Sami from Finland and Elinor has both Swedish and Norwegian background. Here is Elinor’s black Norwegian costume from Gudbrandsdalen…

swedish costumeEinar has examples of ”every day” wear for a Sami man (on the left) as well as an outfit from the Trondheim area of Norway. I was also treated to his playing folk music on his accordion in the evenings…

sami man everyday and formal wear

Trying to drive one of the barn looms. My feet could barely touch the pedals.

Trying to drive one of the barn looms. My feet could barely touch the treadles.

Yes, it has been a busy time since the last blog post a whole month ago.

I headed down to central California (to those stunning impossibly round hills!) where, amongst other things, I was taken to visit guild members Kay and Rosemary’s amazing barn weaving studio.

The upper floor is full of magnificent big ol’ barn looms and the entire place is decorated with textile treasures that Kay and Rosemary have picked up in their travels.

I hope I get to weave there some day and listen to more of Kay and Rosemary’s stories over a cup of tea. There is certainly no lack of heavy things in the barn to which backstrap warps can be anchored.

I got yet another glimpse of Eastern European folk costume in this tapestry that Kay and Rosemary have decorating the barn studio that was woven in Transylvania.

I got yet another glimpse of Eastern European folk costume in this tapestry that Kay and Rosemary have hanging in the barn studio. It was woven in Transylvania.

I then took the train, which slowly wound its way back north up the escarpment, through the drought-ravaged hills, and onward to Oregon and Washington. The forests of Oregon, which had been heavy with snow the last time I took this train, were a vibrant green. The tracks were lined with brilliant yellow Scotch broom.

train north I spent the weekend with my friend, Betty, and we wove in her studio. It is such an inspiring environment crammed as it is with Andean textiles she has collected in her travels.

As I headed north and then beyond to Skagit Valley to finish my trip, I liked to think that I was leaving behind a trail of eager backstrap weavers….

Fourteen-year old Dana was so eager, she went home  and wove a wrist band for herself while showing her family what we had done together…

dana and stacy Stacy was already designing her own Andean Pebble Weave motifs and Susan (below left) also went home to design a pretty one that she calls ”River of Love”.

susan amy marilynSusan is now happily backstrap weaving in her garden at home. Amy is finishing her supplementary weft piece using a borrowed backstrap that is too big for her (she  added a pillow to make it fit!). Hopefully her next project will be to weave one of her own. Marilyn took off to teach at a spinning seminar and still managed to find some time to weave in her dorm room!

Here’s progress from Jan and Jane further south…

jan and janeThe first two pieces are Jan’s. She wove with me twice, has finished her backstrap and has moved on to Andean Pebble Weave. We can see Jane’s big piece moving along at a get together of the ”String Sistahs”.


Marilyn and Terri with some Andean Pebble Weave warps.

It was a very A ”folky” trip!

As always, it is the people…the folks… who make each trip so special…all those who open their homes to me, come to weave with me, bring textiles to share, take me to see places and meet people and do so many little things to make my travels easy and comfortable.

I am sending you all big hugs. Keep in touch, keep weaving. I hope we can get together again soon.



















  1. Great to hear that you are home again and ready to return to a steady diet of weaving again. I know you value the traveling time to meet new people…to see new places, soak up inspiration and to gather that precious small handful of essential supplies, but I’m sure I am not the only one who has been missing your steady stream of posts which document the progress of your projects! A question…the garters on the man’s Trondheim outfit look (from a distance) as though they might have been finger woven in a chevron pattern…Is that true? One doesn’t often see much finger weaving from Norway, though I have seen samples in my book on Lithuanian sashes. Just curious!

    • Hi Lausanne,
      Yes, those garters did seem to have been finger woven. I’ll be back to the steady stream of posts soon, once I have gotten my little home back in order!

  2. Great post – glad you had a good trip – l’m going on a knitters retreat early Aug with girls I use to work with and have had a request for me to bring and show them an intro into backstrapweaving – so I shall set up a couple of warps and with your book we shall have a go – I do enjoy your posts – take care Helen xxx

    • Have fun on the retreat, Helen. I hope you find some new backstrap weaving fans.

  3. Hola, casa vez que recibo tus post, muero de ansiedad con la traducción. Ya , esta lista, me lanso a leer y envidiar a tus alumnos por compartir este hermoso arte. Yo tejo telar mapuche, aún continuó con mis estudios. Mi profesora, una mujer mapuche, no sólo nos enseña su técnica también un poco de su lengua y tradiciones. Ya se viene la celebración de su, “” año nuevo”, sus alumnas estamos invitadas a esta ceremonia de agradecimiento a la madre naturaleza.
    Esperó algún día poder ser parte de tus alumnas y amigas. Desde Santiago de Chile un caluroso abrazo. Marianela

  4. Welcome home, it was wonderful to weave with you this year, Thanks

  5. Thank you so much for coming to the Pacific Northwest! Betty’s studio was so inspiring! Glad you are home safe and sound. Looking forward to your return next year!!

  6. I’m so glad you were able to include Skagit Valley in your trip! Thank you for the wonderful days! And thank you for introducing me to Dorinda. I just got a fabulous handwritten letter from her. It’s wonderful to be able to help a small Bolivian co-op!

    • I LOVED Skagit Valley, Dori. I am so glad that you were able to connect with Dorinda…thank you!

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