Posted by: lavernewaddington | January 15, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Taking Notes

large patternsI was rustling around in my pattern chart folders looking for ideas for my latest wool project.

It was a fun bit of nostalgia looking at designs I had charted many years ago. I haven’t woven every single one of them. Some half-charted motifs, which I guess I had abandoned because they were somehow not quite right, suddenly looked pretty good.

Some of the charts are huge, like the one I did for the Wayuu inspired wall hanging and the Shipibo song lines hanging. They are folded this way and that, a bit smudged and crumpled, with notes scribbled on the sides. I like charting on paper even though my charts often end up in this state.

In one of the folders, I found pages from one of my old project journals and I was astounded.

Wow, when did I suddenly lose the discipline to write up my notes so meticulously?! Each page has photos, miniature pattern charts and layout in colored pencils labeled with neat hand written figures.

These were made in the times when I had not yet discovered online weaving groups and did not own a digital camera. I am thinking that the time that I now spend online was once spent making pretty project pages.

old project notesAll the projects described on these pages have gone to live in other homes.

I still make good notes. They just aren’t pretty. The pattern charts do not stay together with the project page, there are no pictures or colored pencil layouts and my hand writing is an impatient scrawl. Here’s the project page for the two brown panels that I wove late last year and recently joined into one piece.

current project notesIt’s not quite as attractive as those earlier project pages! but I guess that all the information I need is there.

I have been watching a tapestry artist friend show online her process for her latest work. She finds her subject…quite often it is something from nature… a plant, flowers, sticks, pebbles. She then photographs it, paints it in water colors and then creates a black and white outline cartoon from the painting which sits up behind the vertical warp. She then proceeds to weave it. Each stage is a work of art in itself. A book of the paintings alone would be wonderful.

As for me, I took the trouble of making a rough image of what I had in mind for my latest wool project in my drawing program. No colored pencils this time. I wanted the colors to be as close as possible to my yarn colors and figured I could do that better with software tools. The result is hardly a work of art but it did help.

planning next backstrap weaving project

wool project designBut, first I had to choose the colors. There’s something about wool that says ”earth tones” to me even though I have some pretty blues, ruby red, greens and purple in the yarn that I bought in my last trip away. I guess I haven’t used wool enough to have gotten over the fixation with earth tones yet.

Apart from the bright Bolivian cloth that covers my backstrap weaving cushion seat you can see that my environment is otherwise pretty earthy. I chose, dark brown, brick red, tan and off-white yarn.

I got out a pile of books and those pattern chart folders and yes, even my own book is there. I stood over it all and looked and looked. It makes my head hurt trying to visualize how the colors will look together and how they should be placed and that is why I made the drawing. I just threw some large X patterns on there until I could figure out what design I wanted to weave.

There will be two panels like this that I will connect with a decorative joining stitch. The left edge of the drawing will be the joined edged and I hope to edge the entire piece with a decorative technique that I haven’t used before.

I finally chose the patterns. The large ones are a nice combination of Andean outlines with my own ”fillers”, tweaks and embellishments. There’s also one that I adapted from raffia Kuba cloth. The narrow ones in red and white are pretty much my own thing but there are definitely Andean influences at work.

It was time to crunch numbers based on the wool sample I wove last week and this is where the not-so-disciplined note-taking became a problem.

wool sample both faces

When I was winding the warp for the sample, I decided that the number of ends that I had written in my notebook wouldn’t be enough to give a good reading and so I added a bunch more. Did I adjust my notes? No! The added ends were so obvious, I couldn’t possibly miss them, right?

So, I measured my sample and used the numbers in my notebook (the wrong numbers) to make my calculations and happily wound the two panels of my new project. I was very pleased. The warping had gone wonderfully and I liked the way the colors looked together. If the warping goes well, I just know that the project will be a success. I even put all the heddles on one of the pieces and it was only then, as I started moving the threads around and settling them, that I realized that the panel was way, way too narrow. Then, I figured out what had gone wrong. Back to the warping board to double the amount of ends in all the solid color sections. I wound the extra ends and added them.

So much for the glitch-free success-guaranteed warping session. It wasn’t too bad fixing the mistake. If I had discovered this error the following day, I would have unwound the whole thing and started again…a different day, a different rhythm.

The heddles had to all come out. I quickly destroyed the evidence and pretended it had never happened.

wider warp on loom ready for heddlesNow, that’s  what I like to see…a fresh warp with the right number of ends, all evenly tensioned, stretched out before me.

hairiness of the wool warpYou can see the hairy little fingers of the wool yarn just waiting to cause mischief. Yes, it is pretty sticky stuff but as long as the threads don’t break, I can patiently deal with it. Well, even if they do break, I can deal with it but perhaps not so patiently.

I was 10 ends short of brown yarn when I fixed the second panel. That’s 10 short out of 1 980 between the two warps. So, I just took 10 ends off the first one to even things up and it’s just as well I did as I need brown yarn to fix breaks should they occur….so far so good. I have to use black for weft instead of the brown I had intended to use which is not a problem with warp-faced weaving. And yes, I adjusted my notes for these changes! My notebook will sit right by the warping stakes from now on.

second motif underway backstrap weavingHere’s the second of the large Andean Pebble Weave motifs underway. You can see that I am using the extra long beam that I used for the silk project. It is not necessary for this one but I have grown to really like the feel of that beam.

second motif finished backstrap weavingThe second motif is finished and the next will be the one inspired by Kuba cloth. I will probably just stick with those three unless something else leaps out at me in the meantime. I am really pleased with it. Of course, the challenge will be to weave an identical second panel. I think the secret for me will be to just keep weaving and not take too much time off…get a good rhythm going. I am glad I have already warped (and adjusted) the second panel.

The wool is fine and the fabric feels light and lovely, if not exactly soft. I’m getting used to the springiness of it as I beat.

And now for some projects from online friends…

Julia has been weaving with the KnitPicks Curio cotton and has been wanting to do something asymmetrical with all the gorgeous colors she got. She has an Andean Pebble Weave pattern lying within and amongst stripes of varying widths. My head would have broken putting this together as asymmetry kind of freaks me out. Julia has a great eye for design and layout and this piece is stunning!

julia asymmetryPamela in New Zealand (whom I am happy to say I met when she came over to weave with me in Australia) has been working on some Andean Pebble Weave projects and adding eyelets. I take my belts down to the market where I just mark the spots where I want the eyelets to be placed and the ladies use a big punch-like machine to take care of it. Pamela gave me some notes on the process, with which she is just getting comfortable, for anyone who would like to try…

I was advised to use an awl and then a chopstick to open up the hole, which of course would work well. Much closer to hand was my knitting needle collection and I found that it supplied a well graduated series of hole openers which worked well too. Then you ease the eyelet into the hole carefully. You may need a needle to flick any catching threads onto it.
The backs of my eyelets aren’t great; my hammer work needs improving but they are perfectly functional.

pamela nz

moniek deroo 2 mtrMoniek Deroo in Belgium wove two meters of gorgeous band on her inkle loom. She used combinations of Andean motifs with her own embellishments to make a unique pattern. The gold and white look fabulous together.

And, to finish, and just for fun, Diana Maria allowed me to use her picture of the baggage carousel in La Paz airport. There you can see one of those brightly colored cloths that are used here to carry babies and all manner of things, being given yet another good use as a piece of checked luggage. When I think of my monstrous wheely bags covered with TSA locks I think how nice it would be to travel so simply!

Picture by Diana Maria Azero Saravia.

Picture by Diana Maria Azero Saravia.

















  1. I think we’ve all been there. Have a pattern; decide to change the pattern; think we’ll remember the change so don’t write it down; forget the change and proceed down the wrong path. Figure out how to extract oneself from the mess.
    I certainly recognize the scenario. Hope the rest of the project goes smoothly. Kate

  2. I’m not often stunned by people’s textile work, but the fineness of thread and tiny design details of your weaving always astound me. I love the colors of this particular piece. Very inspirational!

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