Posted by: lavernewaddington | December 7, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Wee Fingers

Hello! I am back.

Last year I met up and wove with 5-year old Lily’s mom when I was in California. Lori went home to show her weaving to her daughter. I didn’t get to meet Lily but she made and sent me a paper bracelet with the words…Mitakuye Oyasin which, according to Wikipedia,

is a phrase from the Lakota language. It reflects the world view of interconnectedness held by the Lakota people of North America. It is a prayer of oneness and harmony with all forms of life: other people, animals, birds, insects, trees and plants, and even rocks, rivers, mountains and valleys.

lilys bracelet
lily plain weaveLittle did I know that the tiny hands that had fashioned that paper bracelet and written those lovely words would soon be weaving!

Lily would sit by Lori’s side and watch as her mom did, what they came to call in their household, ”some Laverne weaving”. Of course, after some time, Lily wanted to try. Lori set her up with some warp threaded through a small rigid heddle. It wasn’t long before Lily really wanted to try using string heddles, just like her mom. Lori shared a video with me of Lily deftly opening the shed on her tiny backstrap warp using all the coordinated hand and body movements to weave her wee band. Her joyous exclamation part-way through the moves of ”Oh dorgy, this is easy!” makes me smile every time. There’s a screen shot from the video at left.


This year I got to meet Miss Lily herself, now 6 years old, and watch her weave. She is left-handed, as is her mom, and uses the two-finger method to create a picking cross that I was shown here by one of my Bolivian weaving teachers. It was such a kick to see her at work. As her focus shifts from basic loom operation to pick-up, she has stopped using some of the moves that we use to smoothly raise the heddles but, never mind, her yarn is friendly and she can get clear sheds. One thing at a time. It will all come together soon.


Here’s a video of Lily doing some two-finger pick-up…

And here she is doing a little Andean Pebble Weave pick-up using the two pencils in place of her fingers as a permanent picking cross….

lily pebble weaveMeanwhile, Lily’s mom’s continues to explore backstrap weaving and pick-up patterns. This is what she completed after my visit…


Her balanced-weave piece, something she has been studying on her own, is gorgeous! She is achieving a nice balance without the aid of a reed.

loris balanced weave piece backstrapLori’s friend, Eden, came over to weave with her. She brought along her daughter, Isabella, who is almost 11. Isabella went home wanting to weave too and her 8-year old brother, Oliver, got into it as well. More wee fingers at the loom….

oliver and isabella 8 and almost 11And then, while hanging out in Florida with my weaving friend, Gwen, I got to see what she has been teaching her young friend Mariana to do. Mariana is 11 and can weave up a plain-weave band in minutes! She hasn’t started doing pick-up yet, but she can wind a good warp and make her own string heddles, While Gwen and I chatted and watched, Mariana wove a band which turned out to be just the right size for a pouch for her weaving sword. She then wound a new evenly-tensioned warp, made string heddles and proceeded to weave away again.

mariana backstrap weavingIt is so delightful to see these wee fingers at work and see my weaving friends passing on these skills to young ones on opposite sides of the USA… in California and Florida.

Gwen and I wove some double weave together. Here is Gwen’s sample with her own pattern…

gwens double weaveMy travels took me through such a variety of landscapes and temperatures…

From Florida, with its glorious old oaks hung with Spanish moss….lakes abounding in elegant strutting birds…and expanses of lily pads suspended on glassy surfaces…

spanish moss

lake in florida

lily pads florida…to expanses of fallen fall foliage and all those classic colorful New England hillside scenes…

fall foliage

new england fall foliage

…Pacific Ocean sunsets and Spanish Missions…

sunset pacific

Southwestern deserts…

desertAnd, of course, there was lots and lots of backstrap weaving along the way with friends old and new….wee fingers and not-so-wee ones in among the warp threads.

I will show you all the weavers and textiles in my next report. That one will place me back in my regular Thursday night/Friday morning posts.

Here are some gifts and purchases that I brought home with me…

gifts and purchasesThe gold and blue tubes of 60/2 silk were a gift. I am excited about that and can finally make something large-ish in silk. The colors are gorgeous! The tubes of 60/2 silk that I have here at home hold very small quantities…just enough to make some cuffs and to be used as supplementary weft.

The large tube of Navajo warp was also a gift from a friend who does a lot of Navajo-style weaving. I have been looking for light-weight Navajo warp to dye and use for a discontinuous-warp project. I happened to mention that fact and…! I just didn’t get my act together enough to buy wool dye to bring home. There isn’t any to be found here. Oh well, I have plenty to weave in the meantime.

The plastic snaps were a gift from a Canadian weaving friend. My metal ones are already rusting. These plastic ones will save my cuffs from getting rust stains.

You can see 5 buttons there. After spending a long time at WEBS touching absolutely everything, that is all I bought. It seems that I will be planning weaving projects to go with the buttons rather than the other way round.

charting shipibo patternI got some more charcoal pencils and a ”disappearing ink” pen for marking  my ikat projects.

And, I bought a lot of DMC #12 cotton for another double weave wall hanging. I have decided to make a series based on the Shipibo-inspired one that comprises solid lines and squiggles. A weaving friend on this trip showed me pictures she took in India of wooden lattice-work window shutters and from there comes my inspiration for the next double weave project….more solid lines and squiggles. I will be back down on the floor with charting paper and pencil for that.

I was given lots of naturally-dyed cotton from Mayan Hands in Guatemala. It was part of several towel kits that a weaving friend had bought. Those are just a few of the lovely colors that you can see in the photo.

And then, I went a little mad at Vavstuga and bought lots of fine wool which I hope will work for backstrap weaving. I will make it work! I bought LOTS! I have been inspired by the pictures that the CTTC has been posting of the annual backstrap weaving competition among individual weavers from the various Cusco communities….gorgeous wool pieces in natural dye colors. This one in particular caught my eye…

12308639_905019236200663_1944169302157504867_nUsually, two pieces are sewn together to make these very large cloths. The join is covered with embroidery which makes a  very attractive central line. You may remember that I wove two identical pieces recently with the intention of joining them in such a way. However, this piece has a band of pick-up weaving in the center and the join is not to be seen. I am guessing that the weaver wove one panel wider than the other to include the central band of pick-up patterning and then joined her two pieces so cleverly that the seam is not noticeable at all. I would love to take a closer look at this piece. Unfortunately, the photos on the CTTC site are not labeled and I do not know from which community this weaver comes. The style of pick-up patterning on the shoulder cloth that she is wearing is so very different to that on the piece she is holding.

Anyway, I am toying with the idea of making a poncho with the wool I bought at Vavstuga. I bought lots but maybe not enough for a poncho. That’s okay, I can always get more. Hopefully, I won’t be cursed with what has so often happened in the past….I find a yarn that I like only to find that it gets discontinued shortly after my great discovery.

warps I brought home for backstrap weavingreeled silk pouch backstrap weavingAnd here are some ready-to-go projects that I brought back. Above right, you can see a warp of reeled silk that Sara Lamb dyed and wound and gave to me. You may remember that she gave me one the last time I visited with her and I had so much fun with that…feeling the cloth I wove transform from a sort of crunchiness to liquid smoothness after washing and pressing and then sewing and dressing  up the cloth as the cell phone pouch pictured at left. I can’t wait to weave this!

On the left is a cotton/linen blend yarn that my friend Liz thought would work well for backstraps. So, I bought a skein. You can get a backstrap out of one $11 skein. It is not as cushy as the Plymouth Yarn that I usually recommend for backstrap projects but it makes a nice sturdy backstrap and is super easy to weave with. There is a hint of intended unevenness to the coloring that gives it a very natural look. I love this stuff!! I wove that blue warp up last night and will finish the braids for the backstrap today. You will see it finished on Thursday when I post more details about the yarn. This is the first time that I have woven with any kind of linen and there is more to come. The center warp in the picture is 100% linen. Lori let me wind a warp with linen in her stash and I am looking forward to trying it out.

I am leaving all the textile fun for the next post. I met with all sorts of cool people. Friends have found textile gems in Goodwill stores, bought textiles directly from indigenous weavers and created their own marvels on their backstrap looms. I also saw some cool homemade weaving gadgets. I have plenty to show you next time. This post was about the wee fingers. The next one will show what the grown-up fingers have been up to.

I will leave you with a picture of a former weaving buddy who used to get down on the floor with me to chart…

charting helperIMG_20151203_095045I had to part with her almost three years ago. It simply wasn’t fair leaving her all alone when I traveled. I hadn’t seen her since. Now she has just moved a block away from me and there has been a happy reunion. It was first thing I did after dragging myself home from the Miami-Santa Cruz red-eye and changing into clothes better suited to the tropical heat.

She remembered me!

Thanks to all who opened their home to me on this trip and to those who wrote to me concerned about the lack of blog posts. I am back 🙂














  1. So happy to hear from you! Welcome home! I’m taking a different path now, but hope to get back to weaving again someday when I have more free time. xxCheryl

  2. North Americans getting an early start in weaving….that’s great! I especially like the green, yellow and purple balanced weave band by
    Lori. Well done.

  3. Oh, Hurrah, hurrah! You are back and your beautiful, dear weaving buddy is with you again!! She’ll never forget you. All those amazing young weavers! So exciting to see the tradition being continued with the wee ones. Looking forward to hearing more of your travels and adventures.

  4. Hi Laverne, I love your images and stories of the weaving kids! And all the enticing yarn photos. I LOVE linen, can’t wait to see what you weave with it. (Just wait til you wash a finished linen piece, it turns into quicksilver!) Welcome home!

  5. Hi Laverne

    Really great post, especially focusing on the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next. So important! Looking forward to hearing more about your adventures!

  6. Missed seeing your posts but glad to know you are back. Looking forward to Thursday’s post to see what you have been up to.

  7. Those kids are inspiring! Maybe if I stop over-worrying and just make like a 5-year-old, I’ll have more success in getting back into it. I love your discussion of the yarns too; all so helpful.

  8. Hi Laverne, What fun to read this! Glad you are home safe and sound. I haven’t forgotten your question about the Huichol book, just need to go back to it to best explain my response to it, it is all mixed in with my shamanic learning that I have gotten. . . The diagrams were what face me the big “ahas” though. . .



  9. I really enjoyed this post and hearing about the little ones weaving! I would love to see you again on your next trip to North America.

  10. Thrilled to see your new blog post, and delighted to have spent time with you when you were state-side. Wishing you a peaceful and productive respite at home!

  11. We loved having you and can’t wait to see you again, on your next trip to the U.S.! Maybe we’ll have a new teenager to introduce to weaving then!

  12. Home sweet home! Glad to see you are back safe and sound. Enjoy the comfort of home. See you in the spring. Hugs. Michèle

  13. Estimada Laverne, extrañaba tus post.
    Gracias, son siempre bienvenidos, agradables e inspiradores.
    Saludos desde Argentina, Mabel

  14. Yay! Your travels look like they were a lot of fun. I loved the focus on wee fingers – really made me smile 😀 welcome back home.

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