Posted by: lavernewaddington | June 6, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Majestic

MAJESTIC – I took the title of this post from the new name of the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park. Yosemite….just one of many majestic things I saw during my trip in the U.S. this spring.

I was already jumping up and down at this first sighting of Half Dome. While I took pictures, Anne took a few pictures of me. My friends in Sonora made sure we had a day to spend together in the park. Thank you!

I was already jumping up and down at this first sighting of Half Dome. While I took pictures, Anne took a few pictures of me. My friends in Sonora made sure we had a day to spend together in the park. Thank you! This has always been a dream of mine.

I am back in Bolivia now to a rather cold and soggy winter. There’s nothing like travel to show you how climates are changing in different places. I just left southern California where people are seriously wondering if they will ever see rain again. Back here in Santa Cruz, our dry season is on hold, with day after day of dreary drizzle which is seeping into the walls. Wet Season used to mean hot humid mornings with clouds building up to tropical downpours at 3pm daily. They were a joy and a relief. Twenty minutes later, the sun would be out and the clean streets would be steaming.

One thing about those endlessly warm dry days in southern California…you can weave outdoors! This is something I have been wanting to do on all the visits I have made to the U.S and it has just never happened. The weather wouldn’t cooperate.

This time, it was simply perfect with just enough breeze to cool things down. And it remained perfect day after day after day. We had fun weaving tubular bands and Andean Pebble Weave patterns on Ginny’s sheltered patio and then out on the grass as more people came and we needed extra room.

backstrap weaving outdoors

Here is some contrasting scenery from the south and north along the west coast…

Hills in southern California.

Hills in southern California looking sandy and dry.

Hiking in the forest with Betty in Washington state.

Hiking in the forest with Betty in Washington state.

And then, of course, there’s Yosemite! My friends saved this overlook for me for the end of the day after having done some hiking and some sitting about in the sunshine in the valley. Majestic!

I love the two soaring birds against the face of El Capitan.

I love the two soaring birds against the face of El Capitan.

And, there was lots of weaving to be done, fun people to hang out with and beautiful textiles to be seen along the way….

…like the opportunity to meet Taylor Cass Stevenson whom I had first encountered via my blog while she was learning to make string heddles from my tutorials. She came to visit with Betty and me in Washington and brought bundles of beautiful Bhutanese textiles to show. There were large backstrap-woven panels and tablet-woven belts that she had bought and been given in Bhutan as well as books and remarkable pieces she had made herself.

Tablet-woven belts and fabric that Taylor wove herself while in Bhutan.

Tablet-woven belts and fabric that Taylor wove herself while in Bhutan.

Gorgeous Bhutanese cloth that Taylor acquired during her stay.

Gorgeous Bhutanese cloth with fine supplemental-weft motifs that Taylor acquired during her stay.

Taylor had spent two years in Bhutan working on a project which involved weaving with recycled materials. She worked on weaving bags made with recycled plastics. The large green bag in the next picture is woven with strips cut from plastic soda bottles. A small simple device that uses the blade from a pencil sharpener is used to cut the bottles in strips. The best part of this story, for me, is that the bags have found a strong local market.

I’ll quote from Taylor’s Live Debris website…

Live Debris workshops demonstrate and develop techniques and products for reusing and reducing waste materials, while also addressing the social and personal significance of reintegrating our discards. The workshops are site specific, taking into account local waste production, resource availability, need and interests. They also demand mutual education, asking participants to share their own skills and ideas around reuse and alternative waste management systems. Artist and waste researcher Taylor Cass Stevenson has taught reuse craft and design in the context of peace and security to kids and adults around the world. Workshops can be conducted in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese or Sharchop.

recycled plastic bags live debris Bhutan

See more bags here. You’ll be hearing more from me about Taylor in future posts.

I got to go to several guild meetings and see Show and Tell, hear about weaving challenges and see the results, get lots of ideas for my own projects, as well meet people who have been following my blog.

In Los Angeles, I got to see a fiber art exhibit which included Anna Zinmeister’s amazing work, The Beatles, which I believe also appears in the latest edition of Handwoven magazine. On my visit last year when I stayed with Anna, I saw her pieces depicting John and Yoko which she had made as part of her guild’s Beatle-themed weaving challenge.

Anna Zinmeister Damask Weave The Beatles

Anna Zinmeister. Damask Weave. The Beatles.

At this same guild meeting, I was given two beautiful Bolivian awayos one of which is labeled as having been made in the late 19th century.


Here it is folded up. As you know, one of my latest ”things” is the siray, or joining stitches that weavers here use to connect their woven panels into larger pieces. This weaver has used a couple of styles to decorate the join in her carrying cloth. Look how small the terminal area is where she had to stop doing her pick-up pattern and resort to plain weave in order to complete the four-selvedged cloth. You might be able to make out what look like stripes in the black solid-color section. Those are formed by using Z and S-twist yarn in alternating narrow strips.

In this next picture you will be able to see more closely the changes in the direction of twist. Now I think this is something that I would like to try.

awayo with z and s twist ''stripes''My friend Betty has an enormous textile collection and each time I visit is another chance to look at things. Each time I have something else on which I want to focus. This time it was joining stitches. As you know, I don’t buy textiles any more when I am traveling in Peru and Bolivia unless I really can’t figure out how a piece was made. I will then buy it so that I can examine it more closely at will.  I just take pictures of textiles now and so I don’t often get a chance to handle and inspect things as closely as I would like.

sirayI love all the pebble weave figures on this one and the jolly joining stitch down the middle.

narrow band with heddles on a stick

I used another piece in Betty’s collection as background for my band with its heddles on sticks. This band is too narrow to warrant heddles on sticks but I was teaching friends how to make them  and this narrow warp served the purpose. The heddles are just so darned cute on those tiny sticks. It took me a while to recognize this pattern which I copied from one of Betty’s pieces as simply the kuti hook pattern woven connected head to tail and flipped back and forth. That is the way so many of these patterns are formed…by simply mirroring, flipping and sometimes connecting small simple motifs.

One of my weaving friends took this very classic Andean hook motif and flipped it this way and that, separating each motif with a white horizontal bar. I love the look of her own innovation. It sits on a piece with the beautiful natural dye colors used by the weavers in the CTTC in Peru.

That particular Andean hook pattern is more often seen woven like the examples in the next set of pictures Focus on the white threads in the picture top left and you will see the basic hook. Focus on the black threads in the picture bottom right and there, again, you will see the simple hook motif.

andean hook patterns

Here’s another version. If you focus on the white threads rather than the red, you will see that this is the same classic hook woven tail to tail and then head to head. I charted this one from this textile in Betty’s collection and sent the chart to a couple of weaving friends with whom I had spent time on this trip. Here’s Elinor’s version…

elinor 2

I love charting and like to share my enjoyment of it with the people with whom I get to weave. I like to walk them through a couple of simple charting exercises in the hope that they will find patterns on textiles and online that they want to weave and have the skills to do so. I was very pleased when Tina grabbed the Tarahumara band that Sofia had brought to show and started charting it. I hope to see her woven version of it one day. It wasn’t an easy one to chart!

tina charting

There was double weave fun to be had too in northern California. Wendy had charted her own butterfly motif but didn’t get to weave it in the time I spent with her. I hope she sends me a picture of it soon.

double weave cali

We got brave and later added extra heddles to make the pick-up process faster…

Tubular bands and decorated pouches were also on the weaving list…

annie's pouch with tubular bandThat’s Annie’s pouch with ñawi awapa tubular bands along the sides, coil stitches along the bottom and some cross knit looping along the mouth.

Here’s a closer look at that tubular band…

nawi awapa

Here’s one of the outdoor weavers, Carl, enjoying Andean Pebble Weave…

carl andean pebble weaveGinny got tired of having to pick up her sword when it slipped out and fell to the ground and Snap the dog was probably tired of being bonked in the head with it. I offer two solutions…sit on the ground so that sword doesn’t have far to fall…weave lots more because experience will help you find that ”sweet spot” and ideal tension that allows the sword to stay in place. But now, Ginny has a third solution: apply some double sided tape and stick a piece of fine velvet on the sword…

ginny velvet sword

And while Anne was taking pictures as she Patty and I were hiking in Yosemite park, my weaving friends from the U.S and around the world were sending me pictures of their work and themselves at the loom…

Heading to Yosemite Falls

Heading to Yosemite Falls.

destin washingtonThat’s Destin a day or so after our time spent together. She was camping at a lake and her husband set up a post so that she could do some Andean Pebble Weave. How idyllic is that?

In Florida, Berna and Cyndy got together to make their backstraps…

berna and cyndy

Lori in northern California made a backstrap too…


As did Wendy…

wendy backstrapI love those colors!

cindy andean pebble weaveCindy sewed three bands together and made a pouch. She covered the joins and decorated the edges with red cross knit looping. While I haven’t seen cross knit looping sewn flat in Peru and Bolivia, my Montagnard backstrap weaving teachers use it flat, as Cindy has done, as a joining stitch when connecting woven panels.

Adem in Turkey has just about finished the adorable poncho for his 1-year old niece. You can see that he split the piece while weaving to make a neck opening for her. I told him that I want to see her wearing it in the next picture. Adem uses a vertical Mapuche-style loom rather than a backstrap loom. The patterning technique he is using is the one I call Simple Warp Floats.

adem (1)

Alicia Wilches in Argentina, under the instruction of my friend Susanna Vallejo, wove a pattern that I charted in my second book. Alicia also uses a Mapuche-style vertical loom…

alicia wilchesHungyingyu in Taiwan has been dabbling in double weave. She used the llama figures that I have charted here on my blog. This is her first attempt. I see great things coming!

hungyingyuDawn, in the Netherlands, sent me pictures of things she has been making following my blog. I cannot tell you how much admiration I have for people around the world taking up their sticks and learning all this via the internet and my blog without ever having had face-to-face instruction. They are inspiring!

First we see her beautiful backstrap…

dawn mul backstrap

Then she tried some Andean Pebble Weave using my book

dawn apw 1…as well as some supplementary weft patterning. This is a pattern I charted from a scrap of pre-columbian fabric that I have.


dawn supp weft

Sobahime has been delighting us in the Ravelry group with the fabulous towels she has been weaving on her backstrap loom in cotton. Sometimes she uses her own handspun cotton as weft. She made her own reed to achieve a balanced weave structure.

sobahime reed and project

sobahime finished towels one with handspun cottonHere are two of her finished towels. The one on the right uses her own handspun cotton as weft.

What else?

I bought yarn, I was given yarn, I stayed in Susie and Rex’s yurt again, this time with its new painted door..

Betty had read about my use of 60/2 silk in backstrap weaving and brought out some unused cones of Lunatic Fringe 140/2 silk for me!! Dare I??

 Later I showed these to Sara saying that they were kind of her colors. She agreed but said that the pink was a bit wimpy. She likes fuchsia. The next day she showed up with cones 140/2 silk from her own stash to add…Thank you!

I will be making cuffs to start with to see if this is actually doable! It will be interesting to see how much pattern I can squeeze into a cuff width using this fine thread. In this picture you can also see a bunch of buttons and charms that I picked up all over the place for bag closures and more woven necklaces and bracelets. I really enjoyed wearing those things on this trip. There’s also a sweet zipper adornment that Cindy made in tatting and gave me.

While with weaving friends in northern California, I was invited to select things from a deceased weaver’s estate. There were so many GREAT books. It was nice to see them go to good homes but inside I ached…it would just be too troublesome getting them back to Bolivia. Instead, I picked up all the wonderful silk natural dye samples you see below. They are all beautifully organized and labeled and I think I can weave something nice with all these soft tones. There are samples of logwood, indigo, cochineal, madder, osage orange, cutch, fustic, mixes of two or three of these and overdyes.

I am thinking of picking one color group and weaving small projects with dark solid supplementary-weft motifs on the background of soft tones. I wonder how that would look. I am inspired by Mollie Freeman who posted a hand painted warp project on Facebook on which she stamped dark leaf motifs.

Speaking of natural dye colors, I got to visit with a textile collector in southern California. I can’t even begin to tell you about this collection. The color work on some of the older mantles, the incredible fineness of the yarn and the width of the backstrap loom woven pieces were astounding. What would appear as a blackish purplish solid-color piece in indoor natural lighting would simply shimmer with all sorts of tones when held up to the light.

I was struck by the piece you see below from Bolivia which the owner estimated as being possibly made in the 1880s because the colors look just like those that are being so expertly produced by the CTTC now in Peru. I like the plain-weave tubular band edging. It is interesting to see the ripples across the solid colors in the terminal area which shows how the weaver must have labored to finish the four-selvedged piece picking up the extremely fine threads with some kind of needle to form those final sheds.

Mary, with whom I stayed on this trip, is running an online natural dye class. The first sessions are on yellows. I got to see all her prep work for the classes as well as some of the finished work from her students. Future classes will be on reds and indigo. What fun to be able to do this online from far away interacting with teacher and fellow participants online.  A kit is sent in the mail.

marys online class

I will leave you here with one more picture of that special day in Yosemite…

the weaving gang at yosemiteMany thanks to all those who opened their homes to me.










  1. Thank you for a very interesting and diverse post. Yosemite is one of my favourite places and I am just starting to think about going there again in a few years. How wonderful to read about the very wide weaving community that you belong to. I admire your focus and your considered approach to developing your knowledge and skills. It is a lesson in itself.

  2. Wow! So many adventures! Thanks for sharing. Yosemite is indeed magical, spent four days there a couple years ago, wish it could have been more.
    Love the “new” hook pattern from Betty’s collection. I’ll have to chart it for use later.

  3. Hi from Tahoe – 140/2 – is that even visible to the naked eye?!! OMG But the colors are beautiful. Is Mary’s online dye class open to the public? I realize that it’s already started for this cycle, but will she be offering it again in the future? I took a natural dye class with Ric Rao this year and found it fascinating. AZ is a perfect place to play with dyes, but I’m not quite ready to go out on my own. Feel free to give Mary my email if there’s a possibility that she’ll be repeating the class. Thanks – have a great summer in Bolivia. un fuerte abrazo – Virginia

    • Thanks, Virginia. I don’t know if Mary is planning more online classes but I will certainly let her know that you are interested.

      • Thanks so much.

  4. Thanks, Laverne for sharing your wonderful trip. Love all the inspiring pictures. Connie

  5. so sorry Ace and I missed you. Two weeks ago my granddaughter and I had a quick visit there also. To have seen her face of awe. Can’t wait until your next visit.

    • Hi Pam! Wouldn’t it have been fun to bump into each other there in the Park. I hope I can get up your way soon and see you all. Janet and I have a lot of catching up to do.

  6. I’m so glad you got to Yosemite! We passed through recently, and the waterfalls are at their peak. Such a great time to visit.

    I’m taking notes on the rebar stake for backstrap-while-camping, and was going to ask for the link to Mary’s natural dye classes.

    Enjoy being home, and thanks for coming our way 🙂

    • Thanks, Tracy. I was so lucky to have friends take me to Yosemite when the falls were looking so beautiful. It was great finally meeting you although our time together was so brief. Hopefully, we can do it again soon.

  7. So glad you enjoyed your short time in Yosemite with our group. We were excited to take you there.
    I have some information on using reactive dyes that I promised to send to you. What is the best way to get it to you?

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