Posted by: lavernewaddington | January 29, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Rhythm


second motif finished backstrap weaving This week has been about rhythmic weaving , weaving, weaving. I have never really set myself a schedule for a weaving project before. I just weave as much as I feel inclined to do each day. I’m in no hurry. But, I found myself falling into a one-motif-per-day challenge with my latest wool piece. Maybe it was because I was so concerned and nervous about not being able to get the motifs to line up on the two panels. Even when I had the first one aligned, I was not convinced that I would be able to do the same with the next…as I always say…a different day, a different rhythm. And even if the first half of a motif was behaving well, I couldn’t trust that the second half would play along.

As it turns out, it seems that my rhythm wasn’t that different from day to day. All six motifs fell beautifully into alignment and, although I constantly paused to relax tension on the warp and compare my progress with the first panel, I only had to back up once for a re-do in the very first motif. I sighed and figured that would be the rhythm for this project…weave,  back-up, re-do…but it wasn’t.

I was really pleased about that as I have found maintaining consistent proportions in motifs rather challenging in the past. Maybe I have developed a good rhythm from the large amounts of plain weave that I have been doing lately. I have to admit that it is really fun to just open a shed, beat and pass the weft again and again without having to stop and hand-pick a shed. It is nice to take a break from all the pick-up work and do that from time to time. The silk piece I recently wove gave me that opportunity. There was lots of plain weave to enjoy between each of those star motifs…perfect for developing a regular rhythm and beat.

silk bandanna backstrap weavingOnline weaving friend, Paula, was taking her first steps in the Andean Pebble Weave structure using my book and was having some concerns. It was all about her beat. It is difficult to convey to someone how hard they should beat. Luckily she showed a picture and I could read her concerns which enabled me to help her by suggesting adjustments.

paula beat comparisonThere are different weavers with different beats who will produce bands that look different and who is to say which one is better or ”correct”? But, there can be problems when beating too hard. Paula is used to weft-faced weaving and giving her work a good thumping beat. I can remember pounding away with a fork on my tapestry pieces. I loved that. Paula’s motifs, on the right, are of consistent size and shape and look really sweet. The problem with that kind of heavy beat when using cotton, is that the warp threads get forced apart and reveal the weft, which is something you may not want. The blue weft is exposed outlining the diagonals. A lighter beat produced the band on the left. I did have a student once who threw up her hands and gave me a ”look”. I had suggested lightening her beat and then had to tell her an hour or so later that she probably wasn’t beating hard enough. That’s the way it goes. It takes time to find that beat and rhythm.

Here are the two panels in my latest wool project off the loom. I folded the edges and placed them together so that I could enjoy the fact that everything lined up…phew!

two wool panels with aligned motifs

ticlla or discontinuous warp Now I need to wet finish it which, quite frankly, freaks me out!

I once had a bad experience with some handspun wool from Peru.

I wove a discontinuous-warp, or ticlla, piece with it. It had four squares of four natural alpaca colors..two in each panel… and I had needle-woven to finish each of the two panels to create the selvedges. It was a small piece but it had been a lot of work!

I washed it (apart from the finishing, it really needed a wash as the wool was pretty dusty and dirty) and each color shrank in an entirely different way. The piece was badly deformed.

I did manage to sort of work it back into shape but it never looked as nice as it had before the wash. I am hoping that I don’t have any such problem with this industrially-spun wool.

2 panels of wool project backstrap weaving

full view wool panels backstrap weavingThis is how the two panels will sit together when I connect them with the joining stitch.

All kinds of tools took part…a Guatemalan shed rod used as the front beam, a Bolivian broom stick for the back beam, two long Guatemalan swords, a Guaraní sword (which I had to put aside as, although it is fine for cotton, it really needs some sanding to work with wool), a pick/beater from Ecuador, a polished sword from Maryland Sheep and Wool and a good ol’ Ashford shuttle.

various tools backstrap weaving wool project

60 2 silk tubesNow to think about the next project. I have two in mind that are competing. I am thinking about making this latest wool piece the first in a series and so I would love to get into my wool stash and make another of the same size with the purple and other jewel colors that I have. I’ll use a different pick-up structure…maybe intermesh or perhaps supplementary-warp.

The other project that has been turning in my mind is another in 60/2 silk. Deanna gave me the tubes of teal that I used in my bandanna project as well as some bright yellow.

While I am not crazy about the bright yellow, I have an idea of how to tone it down if I use it in a scarf project. I can cover it with continuous supplementary-weft patterning using the supplementary weft to fill the negative space and reveal little motifs in the underlying yellow silk. That is what I did in the first and third rows of patterning below. There will be splashes of yellow here and there rather than having it be the dominant color. I found a pattern on a Mexican rebozo that has given me ideas. I am glad I took the picture of the tubes of silk as it reminds that there is less of the yellow silk than the teal so I won’t plan too big a project and run out of thread while warping.

Calcha flower motif in supplementary weft inlayAnother online weaving friend, Hilary, sent me a picture from her recent trip to Cusco.

Cusco….of course you expect to see LOTS of weavers and textiles and backstrap looms. I wasn’t expecting this….

Picture by Hilary Hopkins Criollo.

Picture by Hilary Hopkins Criollo.

How cool is that? I wish I could see more of what was going on. I wonder what kind of rhythm the weaver gets going. Maybe the book cover I bought in Santa Cruz airport was made this way. I was intrigued by it because it had the typical motifs of Chinchero, Peru, was made in acrylic, and was being sold with its ”Bolivia” label as a Bolivian souvenir. The consistent repetition of three mistakes in the widest band of pattern convinced me that it was not woven on a backstrap loom with a weaver doing all the pick-up.

Craylic knock off chinchero pattern Lastly, here’s something I saw online and wanted to share…

hmong triangle coin purses little mango importsThey are the work of the Hmong people of Thailand and are little coin purses. You can see them and maybe buy one on the website of Little Mango Imports. I can’t quite tell how they have been constructed and how much fabric they use but they are very sweet.

Now to ponder the next project…wool or silk?









  1. Laverne that new piece is stunning. Can’t wait to see you in the fall. Cyndy from Orlando.

  2. Those pieces are gorgeous. Oh, funny Cyndy should post right at the same time I did.


    • Hi Berna. Yes, you and Cyndy are on the same wave length. Thanks for your comments 🙂

  3. Laverne, what lovely work u have produced. I sent u my blackstrap loom from Guatemala I had from a 1979 weaving stint I did there in Todos Santos. I’m wondering if u are using those sticks in ur loom made of parts from everywhere? That would bring me happiness, knowing my gift was being used… Thank yoy

    • Yes, Lorriane! In fact, I mentioned you in a post a couple of weeks ago as the large shed rod in the photo is from the loom you sent me as well as one of the swords.I used the shed rod as the front beam as I didn’t have anything else long enough. There was one tremendously heavy sword that came with your loom that I have used in other projects and the very thin sword you sent me is invaluable when I close the weaving on a four-selvedge piece. The front and back beams of your loom have been used numerous times. I still have the pages of notes and stories that you sent me. Your gift is being used and loved!

  4. It would be very scary to wash those two perfectly aligned pieces. You probably already know this, but shampoo and conditioner make very good wool wash – it is hair after all. Maybe the technique that knitters use of blocking after washing would work well for your weaving. But if by any chance things don’t work out the way you hope I’ll send you my address and you can just mail it to me! 🙂

    • I didn’t know about the shampoo and conditioner, Julia. Thanks for that. I washed it yesterday with regular detergent and all went well. I ironed it and the wool softened…it was kind of scratchy before. No disasters so, sorry, I won’t be mailing it to you. But, thanks for offering a good home to a possible fail 😉

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: