Posted by: lavernewaddington | September 25, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Color Catching

I have been washing all the pieces I have made with the cotton my friend Betty brought back from Guatemala. Two of the pieces were recently made and two were made quite some time ago. Why have I waited? Well, the Guatemalan cotton was around 30 years old and that might explain why the color was coming off the thread as I wove. The most serious case was the purple thread in the spring scarf I made. It is flecked with white where the color had completely come off in places while I wove giving the cloth a sort of denim look. To tell the truth, I really liked that denim look. But, I was afraid to wash the piece thinking that it would lose a lot of color and that perhaps the purple would bleed into some of the silk supplementary weft.

I suppose that people who have more experience with fiber and dyeing would have told me that that wasn’t likely but, what did I know? I didn’t want to take the risk. And so I waited.

supplementary weft patterned scarf backstrap loomI had been hearing about Color Catcher cloths in one of the online groups and my friend Claudia got some for me when I was visiting her in the U.S. They work like a dream. You throw one in the wash with the garment and it magically takes up all the color that is released and is roaming about loose in the water. So, I washed all the pieces and there were no disasters. I can’t tell you how happy I am with the results after giving all four pieces a good press. They feel so wonderful!

The purple scarf doesn’t look any dfferent for having lost what seemed like a lot of color in the water.. I was worried that it might end up looking quite worn. It looks as bright as ever and feels gorgeously soft.

Four pieces got washed and three of the four were a great success. The fourth piece was the subject of a mini disaster. It taught me how the use of different kinds of silk supplementary weft in the same piece can effect the way the fabric shrinks.

Let me show you the red ”leaf” piece that I recently made. This is one of the successes.I finally got around to hemming and finishing it with a wash and press.

red and brown cotton panels backstrap weaving It’s sitting on top of the two brown panels that I showed you last week that are now off the loom. I used the same kind of silk throughout this piece and all went well.

As soon as the brown pieces were cut off the loom, I couldn’t resist placing some of my small woven samples on them to see how they looked. As you will know from my previous posts, I want to sew the two panels together into one piece using decorative stitches to cover the join. Here they are fresh off the loom. I haven’t even tidied up the broken warp threads yet.You can see the replacement threads still pinned to the cloth.

two panel display cloth backstrap weavingAnd now you see them, tidied and hemmed….

two brown panels backsrap weavingAt this point, I was a little unhappy with the fact that the brown color wasn’t nice and solid. The off-white supplementary-weft was showing through in several areas where the warp threads were spaced slightly further apart than in others. I could have called that a ”denim” look and been happy with it but I didn’t want that denim look in this piece.

What I was really pleased with were the edges…good and straight. That is something that I have under control. Once I have figured out the width a piece wants to be, I easily manage to keep it there and don’t need to fuss with it. The two panels were going to join up beautifully. I was excited. I was also happy that the motifs on both pieces lined up nicely. Although I didn’t have to measure and check on width as I wove, I did have to check and compare the length of the two pieces as I finished each motif to make sure that my picks per inch were the same on both.

I washed and pressed the two panels. The Color Catcher cloth drank up the significant amount of brown dye that was released into the water….yay.

The good thing:   as the piece shrank, the warp threads smooshed together and gave me a much more solid brown piece of cloth.

The bad thing:   my edges got messed up.

I had used three strands of one kind of off-white silk as the supplementary weft to make the double hook pattern and four strands of another kind, in yellow, to weave the diamonds. The parts with hooks pulled in more and now my edges are scalloped. The scalloping is so regular….the fabric draws in for the hooks and out again for the diamonds…that it almost looks like it was planned! My two panels are not going to join together as neatly as I had hoped. I will have to come up with another plan and perhaps sew the tiniest seam possible. I read somewhere that the strips of Kente cloth that are sewn together are connected with 1/8” seams. Maybe I can pull off something like that.

guatemalan cotton backstrap weavingAbove, you can see the even edge of the red piece next to the wavy brown edge.

I so love the way the red piece feels and looks now. The floats of supplemental weft in the leaf pattern are quite short and now, after pressing, the patterns have really become embedded and it looks as if they were printed on the cloth rather than created with supplemental threads. The patterns on the brown piece don’t quite look that way as the floats, particularly in the hook pattern, are considerably longer.

I hope I can get more of this Guatemalan cotton. I love working with this weight of thread and there are empty loom bars asking to be filled. In the meantime, I will continue with my curved ikat experiments and see where they take me. Now to see how I go with my decorative sewing.

backstrap weaving Guatemalan cotton










  1. WOW! Those are truly beautiful pieces! I can’t wait to see the larger bag you’ll be sewing. I’m hoping to figure out how to make larger bags also, so maybe your piece could be my “pattern”.

    Good luck with all your work, and thank you very much for sharing!
    Amanda Cluxton

    • Sorry, Amanda. I am not making a bag with the brown cloth. I will just sew the panels together and use it as a flat piece of cloth on the table. A couple of people made fantastic tote bags when we ran the Plain Weave Weave-along on Ravelry. I showed them on my blog.

      • Ah, sorry for the goof. I’ll have to hunt them up. I still can’t wait to see the final project with the decorative sewing.


  2. Beautiful as always, Laverne! Thanks you for sharing…..

  3. Hi, Laverne,

    I hope you are well. Your recent woven pieces are beautiful. Before washing them, fill a recipient with enough water to cover the pieces, include a soup spoon of salt, and add 2 soup spoons of vinegar. Leave the woven pieces in this blend for a while (half an hour or so), then wash them normally. I´ve already done this with a woven bag in yellow and black. The black yarn realeased a lot of colour, but using this procedure it hasn’t bleeded into the yellow. I think it is worth trying. Abraço Helena

    • Thank you, Helena.Just salt and vinegar…simple! When I run out of Color Catchers, I will try this.

  4. Hello Laverne, your work is beautiful. I wonder if decorative edge stitching would mask the waviness? Of course a narrow rolled hem would probably do the trick too. I think it’s beautiful the way it is, though.

  5. Exquisite work, Laverne! Beautiful designs that flow through the weaving. Thank you for sharing your pieces in your wonderful blog.

    • You are very welcome, Nancy. Thank you for the comment.

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