Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 1, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Multiple String Heddles in Action

The lanyards are done and packed away ready to be sent off. I made six in the end and really enjoyed the task.

6 lanyards backstrap weaving

With so many structures and techniques at my disposal, it was hard to decide which to use for the sixth. I made another Andean Pebble Weave one. I would have liked to have made one in double weave and another with supplementary weft patterns but the idea was to weave them quickly and Andean Pebble weave was better suited to the use of multiple string heddles. I could still make a fairly complex pattern without having to go overboard with the number of heddles. One day, when I am in less of a hurry, I would like to make a set of lanyards representing each of the structures that I have learned in my twenty years of backstrap weaving.


multiple heddles Andean Pebble weaveThe lanyard on the right is the last I made using a 2-ply crochet cotton that is similar in size to #10. In addition to the two Pebble heddles, this one only needed four sets of string heddles. One shed was repeated within the pattern which made things even more efficient.

I made a short video of myself weaving this last band. The two light green heddles nearest to me hold the threads in the Pebble Sheds. They are alternated with the other four sets of Pattern heddles. I use a Pebble heddle and then a Pattern heddle, a Pebble heddle and a Pattern heddle and so on.

I work one Pebble heddle against the other as an aid to opening a clean shed. The idea of the video is just to show you the use of multiple heddles and what that involves. There is a constant process of straightening and moving the heddles so that the sheds furthest from me can be cleared to the front of the loom. After a few pattern repeats, the sequence becomes second nature. I was surprised, when viewing the video later, how gentle my little tappity-tap beat looks. There is actually quite a bit of firmness in that beat.

On a visit to Peru, I was able to watch a weaver from Chahuaytire using multiple string heddles to weave the tubular band that is used in her community to edge textiles.

chahuaytire weaver with tubular band

Picture by Virginia Glenn

Picture by Virginia Glenn

You can see the pattern on the band emerging along with the weaver’s hands hard at work. This pattern requires four sets of heddles. I used it myself to edge a tool pouch that I wove using my own handspun llama fiber….

pouch edged with chahuaytire tubular bandIt is certainly a faster band to weave than the ñawi awapa of Chinchero, the pattern for which requires some fairly radical moves and, therefore, all manual pick-up.

In this next video you can enjoy watching a weaver from Chahuaytire using her various sets of string heddles while she weaves and sews the tubular band to the edge of the cloth.

And, finally, I would like to show you a weaver from San Ignacio de Loyola in Peru who uses many sets of string heddles to make her complex band pattern entirely loom-controlled. I think there is a definite limit to the number of heddles that I would want to use while remaining comfortably positioned at the loom. This weaver spends a lot of time with arms extended and leaning forward to reach the far heddles. I imagine she has a strong back and firm abs.

weaver san ignacio de loyolaShe is using a similar method to that which I showed in my video in that she alternates the Pattern sheds at the back of the loom with the two heddles nearest her. She also works one of the two front heddles against the other in order to easily open a clean shed. This is the two-heddle intermesh technique that I teach in my second book. This is the structure that I used for the blue and white silk lanyard. I only needed six sets of heddles for the simple pattern…four pattern heddles and two intermesh heddles.

Here is a video of the weaver from San Ignacio de Loyola showing how she works her multiple heddles….

silk bookmark backstrap weavingI’ve decided that I am not entirely finished with lanyards. I  want to make one for my nephew who is a triathlete. Some time ago, I attempted to weave a silk bookmark for him with the words of one of his favorite inspirational quotes for training… ‘’The pain of discipline is nothing like the pain of failure.’’ My letters are adapted from fonts provided in Linda Hendrickson’s tablet-weaving book ‘’Please Weave a Message’’.

I felt that the bookmark looked too cluttered with its three lines of text and so I am now weaving it as one long line of text on a lanyard. I would like to flank the text with triathlon symbols…a swimmer, a cyclist and a runner. This is one of the many nice things about warp-faced double weave….it gives a lot of designing freedom. However, I only have 35 pattern threads with which to work. Let’s see what I can squeeze in there. The bookmark has been washed and pressed to show off the glorious sheen of the silk.

I wove a width sample for the lanyard in 60/2 silk. It looks quite dull in its unfinished state. It was quite some time ago that I wove the bookmark and I didn’t trust it to give me a reliable width reading. Years go by, your weaving changes, and old pieces can’t be relied upon to give accurate information.

double weave warp backstrap weavingAnd it’s a good thing I sampled as my width estimation was off and the band widened. Now it has settled into a consistent inch and I can start over with a fresh warp and get the pencils and eraser out for some charting.

The heddles you see there are not pattern heddles. They simply hold threads in the two sheds for the two layers of the double weave. I was initially taught this structure using only two heddles but I find four heddles handy when using many warp ends or very fine thread. With few threads or heavier yarn, I find it easier to use just two heddles and use my fingers to select the threads. The pattern sheds in both methods are all picked up manually.

Narrow warps like this one have also been on some of my weaving friends’ looms. Janet made a hatband in cotton using the Andean Pebble Weave structure. It’s gorgeous….

janets hatbandAnd, Anne decorated her hat with an intermesh band in cotton…

annes hatbandThere are so many cool things for which narrow bands can be used but, even if you don’t have a particular use in mind, they are simply fun to weave. They can be displayed on a wall with no other purpose  than to delight the eye. They can be kept rolled up in a trinket or treasure box and taken out now and then simply for the fun of running them through your fingers and enjoying the different textures.

I hope that whoever gets my lanyards will enjoy them.

6 lanyards front and back




  1. Love it !

  2. I bought my first set of loom bars online, and they offered several sizes but I got the smallest set to try it out. They are 8 inches. I was able to comfortably make the 4 inch backstrap per your tutorial, but it wasn’t hard to see that they wouldn’t be able to handle anything much bigger than that. Before I make my own though, I was wondering how many size ranges you use or find to be helpful? Also, how many sets of loom bars do you have? Are there pieces that don’t stay with the sets and migrate to whatever you are working on?


    • Hi Vikki. I use the same size loom bars all the time. I have some 18” ones simply because it was efficient to buy a 1-yard dowel and cut it in half for two bars. My others are 19”-23” and I have one set of much longer ones that I made and used recently for a wide silk piece. I bought a 14” loom when in Guatemala simply because it was cute but, after trying it once, I have never used it again. It is not comfortable for me….too small.

      The things that vary in length are the heddle rods, cross sticks and shed rod which are too clumsy when they are much wider than the width of the weaving. I also have many sizes in swords and shuttles. I have many many loom bars and the pieces all migrate. They just sit mixed up in bins and I grab them as needed. I don’t try to match them. The swords are in another bin as are the cross sticks and heddle rods. Shuttles are in another. I just pick and choose according to what I am weaving.

      If I am weaving a very narrow band which is just a sample, I don’t use loom bars and just pass cord through the end loops and tie that to my waist. However, if the band is not a sample, I will use loom bars…my long ones…even if the band itself is only 1/2” wide. I like the stability of the bars.

  3. […] hatte ich das schon gesehen. Laverne Waddington hatte 2016 in ihrem Blog eine Weberin aus San Ignacio de Loyola (Peru) abgebildet, die Gürtel mit eben diesem Motiv und […]

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