Posted by: lavernewaddington | March 25, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – A Little Online Globetrotting

I’ve been playing with lanyards this week. These are nice tiny projects which have kept me entertained at the loom during breaks from other things not related to weaving that I have had my head in this week. I have been adding more and more string heddles to my bands to make them more and more loom-controlled and it has been a fun exercise.

Here are the first three finished bands which I will send away, as promised, for lanyards…

three lanyards backstrap weavingThe one on the left has the heaviest yarn, the center one I will call ’medium and the one on the right has the finest –  the 60/2 silk. I set up the center black and white band with 11 sets of string heddles. I could have made the eleventh heddle a simple loop but I got carried away with the fun of making heddles…

11 heddles on band backstrap weavingUsing a system of colors certainly helped. Every second heddle is white. I knew that when my weft was on the left, I needed to use a white heddle. Then it was just a matter of remembering the color of last heddle I had used when the weft was on the right to know which heddle was next in the sequence. I worked my way up through the heddles and then back down again. The thread I used has a lot of twist and is super smooth. That helps a lot when using multiple heddles.

I had to advance the warp as often as possible so that I didn’t have to lean far forward to reach the last heddles. This black and white band is the one with the most heddles and the one I enjoyed weaving the most….so far.

bands for lanyardsNow I have four made. The last blue and white one is in the 60/2 silk using the intermesh structure that I teach in my second book. However, I am going to re-do that one. I didn’t start it at its ideal width and the width changed a bit before settling. Now that I have a sample from which to work, I can make a better one. I am finding the the silk is the hardest to work with when using multiple heddles as it has more of a tendency to fluff with the extra abrasion.

Before getting into the second version of the intermesh lanyard, I warped another band in a different weight of mercerized cotton…

lanyards with multiple string heddlesAgain, the colored heddles help a lot with keeping track of the pattern. I am using the Andean Pebble Weave structure for this one with its two Pebble Sheds. I know that after every black heddle I need to use Pebble Shed 1, and then, Pebble Shed 2 after every orange one. These little tricks help keep the process fun rather than frustrating.

Last week, I posted a video that was shared with me by Adem in Turkey. It showed backstrap weaver Kay Seng demonstrating the use of multiple pattern sticks rather than multiple heddles on a piece that she was patterning with simple warp floats. The floats were formed from threads that were in one of the two sheds.

12895472_10154144034673629_611384756_nAdem has been weaving a band using this technique. He found a picture of a band online with this sweet butterfly pattern and tells me that it is from a book published in Japan. The image at left is the best I can do to show you the name of the book. Here is Adem’s band….


adem pattern sticksYou can see that he has half of the pattern stored on his pattern sticks beyond the shed rod. Many thanks to Adem for sharing a video he made of himself weaving the pattern and showing how to operate the loom with those sticks.

And now for some more globetrotting…from Turkey and Japan, let’s now travel to Nigeria where I have a new online weaving friend, Roli.

Roli and I had similar experiences when we were first introduced to the wonderful String Heddle. The Question of the Week in one of the online weaving groups was about an epiphany that we had experienced in the course of our learning to weave. I don’t know if mine was exactly an epiphany, but it certainly felt like the light shone down and the choir sang, the moment I was shown these things called String Heddles. I was with the teacher who taught me Navajo-style weaving. How I love them!

Until that moment, I had been using a plastic ruler to go over and under warp ends to create sheds on a very crude wooden frame I had knocked together. The cardboard rigid heddle I later constructed kept breaking and I was becoming frustrated with the whole business of trying to create fabric. This was back in 1994 and 1995.

Roli told me of a similar experience. In 2006, she was trying to revive the traditional ancient costume of the particular group of people to which her husband belongs in the Niger Delta. She tells me that the royal cast who were priests and kings wore the cloaks you see below and still do. She wanted to construct caps and bags and cloaks using strips of cloth that she had woven on a frame loom she designed and made from pieces of the raffia palm tree. It is a very lightweight material.

niger deltaShe, too, was using a stick to pick up every other shed and found it so tedious she almost lost interest. Then, one day, she came across my blog where she learned to make string heddles and she tells me that she has now resumed in earnest.

Not only does she use the raffia palm tree to provide pieces for her loom and tools, she also uses the fiber from the leaves as warp and weft. Often she combines it with colored acrylic yarn.

loom and tools


textile and hatShe produces fabric decorated with pick-up patterns. Bands are sewn into caps and several bands can be sewn together to make the cloaks and bags you see below.

cloaks hats and bagsI had never seen a raffia palm tree before. Here is a picture of one from the Wikipedia page. Hopefully, I am showing the same species that Roli knows in Nigeria.

Raphia_australisUsing wood from the raffia palm, she has created four looms of different sizes to accommodate the different widths of cloth that she needs for her projects. Right now she is working on a custom order for a white cloak and has used a lettering and patterning technique from this tutorial on my blog to create a band for the center of the cloak. She will weave six white panels of 6” each for the cloak and then make a matching bag and cap. Beautiful work!

Roli at her loom

pieces for cloakRoli’s loom is of her own design. She sits it with one end in her lap with the other end on the back of a chair. It can be adjusted to compensate for take-up (unlike the frame loom I built for myself all those years ago. I had no idea about such things as take-up!) She tells me that the traditional loom for these garments is a vertical frame. However, the clothing, the weaving and the stripping of raffia leaves for fiber are all shunned practices now as they are considered ‘’fetish’’. She explained ‘’fetish’’ as meaning that these items of clothing were associated with traditional worshipers.

I hope to see more from Roli. I would love to know more about how she strips the raffia leaves and processes the fiber and I can’t wait to see the finished white cloak. I am hoping its new owner will allow himself to be photographed with it. Many thanks to Roli for sharing this with us.

From Africa let’s move over to North America…..Amanda showed us the backstrap she wove for herself using Plymouth Yarn Fantasy Naturale yarn. That’s my favorite yarn for backstraps. She chose of the variegated options and did a beautiful job.

amanda set up

amandaAnd, Janet has been using her gorgeous handspun once again to weave beautiful things using the Andean Pebble Weave structure. The pattern is her own design and she says she might use this as a guitar strap.

janet handspunIt’s nice seeing these large projects as I head back to my tiny lanyards. I am having fun. I have always loved things in miniature.

My purple panel sits by waiting for me to produce its twin. I have decided to call it the ‘’lady bug’’ project after seeing the colors in this beautiful picture online

finished purple panel on loom



  1. Wow, I feel honored to be placed on your blog! Thank you for all your help. I have so many ideas running through my head that I really don’t know where to start. I’ve been slowly reading through your first book, and I really enjoy it! Hopefully I’ll have more goodies to share with you soon.

    Thank you so very much!

  2. It’s so wonderful that Roli is reviving a traditional costume. Raffia is such an interesting fiber!

  3. Inspiration from Turkey and Nigeria! Many thanks to Adem and Roli, and to you as always, Laverne, for bringing us all together. I’m getting ever closer to working seriously with simple warp floats, and Adem’s video will help with that. And the raffia is very intriguing…. I have some, which I’ve used for resist dyeing (it’s great for tying, as in ikat, just so you know!) – Roli’s weaving with it looks wonderful!

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