Posted by: lavernewaddington | October 20, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Coasting Along

cincinnati from kentuckyOn the road again….from Florida, from which I just escaped before hurricane Matthew hit, to the golden leaves of western Massachusetts to the Ohio River and on to mission country in southern California. I have been covering some ground. Unfortunately, I spent a lot of this time with the most awful chest cold. It stopped me from doing some sightseeing but it didn’t keep me from weaving with lots of backstrap weaving buddies at every stop.

Janie’s daughter had had an interest in learning to pole dance. A pole was installed in the basement and now it makes the most perfect backstrap weaving post.

jane backstrap weavingJanie’s guild in Cincinnati has its own house! We were very comfortable there weaving Andean Pebble Weave for three days…

guild houseIt’s pretty cool when a weaver can arrive in the morning by bicycle with the potential to carry her loom, fold up the bike, stash it under the kitchen counter and then sit down to weave….

janie and karen with bikeI am afraid that I was far too ill in Cincinnati to think about taking more pictures. I enjoyed the chance to speak at the guild and weave with this lovely group of ladies but I simply had to crawl into bed at the end of each day. Taking it easy paid off…I am well again. 🙂

In western Massachusetts, the fall hadn’t quite taken over and we found that it was really very pleasant to be outside winding warps for Andean Pebble Weave in the sunny afternoon. I got to catch up with old weaving buddies here, put a face to an online weaving friend and meet a new backstrap weaving enthusiast.

warpingfor backstrap weaving outdoors in western massIt’s a close group of weavers here and they have started a monthly study gathering. The first one was on the weekend immediately after I left. They are keen! These kinds of get-togethers where weavers help each other through their planning, warping and weaving make such a difference and I know that  next time I see these weavers they will be more than ready to advance their backstrap weaving skills.

Jacquie, above left, is already confidently creating her own Andean Pebble Weave patterns and is planning a band with dancing figures and drums. I love this idea and can’t wait to see it.

backstrap-weaving-in-massachusettsJacquie sent me a picture of the first study group gathering. Amy, who didn’t weave with us this time, also came along to the study group. It seems that the backstrap weavers in western Massachusetts are very well connected! I hope they don’t lose momentum with the inevitable interruption over the holidays and that they continue gathering to weave on backstrap looms well into next year and until the next time I get to see them all again. We might have a study session by Skype some time if I decided to upgrade my internet connection in Bolivia this summer.

group-meeting-1Martha, pictured on the right, made some Andean Pebble Weave contributions to an Ethnic Weaving exhibit in which her guild is involved. Maybe you can go along to see it if you live in the area. You can see some of Martha’s work in this postcard that advertises the event…martha's pebble weaving

Back in Florida, I had left three of my weaving buddies working on wide warps. The width of their planned projects depended on how much experience they had with their chosen pick-up structure. As Cyndy had only just learned Andean Pebble Weave, she settled on a 2’’-wide band that is the perfect size for a guitar strap. She wants to gain confidence with this larger number of ends and finer thread.

Jennifer and Berna, who both have more experience with Andean Pebble Weave, spent most of the first day warping wider projects and dressing their warps. I think they are both planning some sort of bag and are confident that the project they warped in class will be more than a sample. Berna worked hard to prepare for this gathering by weaving a sample, pictured below, with her chosen yarn which she used to calculate the number of ends she needed for her larger project.

bernas-sampleHere’s the gorgeous warp that Jennifer created. There was much talk of Harry Potter house colors. I haven’t seen the movies so I wouldn’t know about that.

jennifer's backstrap warpShe has plans to weave bee and flower motifs in the center strip and plain pebble weave in the two outer ones. I like this idea of having strips of plain pebble weave as accents rather than having a strip of pick-up patterns.

Here’s Berna ready to weave after having picked up the threads for her two pebble sheds and then enclosing them in string heddles.

berna ready to start her backstrap weavingCyndy quickly installed her string heddles and was ready to weave. She had wound her warp before our get-together and was able to get underway well before the others.

cyndy heddled and ready to weaveHere’s Jennifer picking up the threads for her pebble sheds…

jennifer creating pebble shedsBerna shows us how she smoothly and cleanly opens a pebble shed using her heddles and adjustments to the amount of tension she applies to the warp with her body. She has got the moves down!

berna opening pebble shedsAt last the pattern starts to emerge. She has combined a Celtic knot motif with a classic Andean motif.

bernas backstrap pattern emerging

bernas celtic knot and Andean river patternsI love the small amounts of black she used to make those colors pop.

cyndy's sun moon and river patternCyndy chose a particular combination of motifs that I like to call ‘’The sun, the moon and the meandering river’’.

I hope I get progress pictures soon. These ladies get together regularly in Berna’s home to encourage and help each other and it is wonderful to see their progress. Study groups, people…hint, hint…if you have the chance to form one, do it!

close up circular warpCyndy gave me this wonderful example of a circular backstrap warp which has been set up for hanging. It was one of those miraculous thrift store-like purchases. We have no clue as to the origin of the piece but I love it as a super neat example of a circular warp with all its bits and pieces. There is a wonderful shaped sword and sweet shuttle sitting with in a shed. The coil rod is in place and you can see the split beams at the front of the loom which help secure the warp and allow the weaver to beat without having the warp slide around the beams.

The woven cloth is interesting with its simple warp-float pattern and strips of weft twining. It is the ideal size and weight to carry about and show people how a circular warp is typically set up.

I used to carry my own circular warp around to show people…


my example of a circular warp …but this new one is far more interesting…

circular warp and toolsJennifer brought her new backstrap loom. She had purchased the wooden pieces as a set online and then had a friend of hers burn beautiful patterns into the wood including the image of Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of weaving. What a special loom!

jennifers loom with burned decorations

jennifer-backstrap-loomCyndy also brought interesting tools to show…some lovely shuttles for band weaving that a craftsman in Estonia makes…

cyndy's shuttles from estoniaOver In southern California, we were back outdoors enjoying the mid-fall warmth. Out on Ginny’s lawn, we wove double weave for two days…both one-weft double weave and the two-weft embedded version.

14650616_10207682302997089_3010964772416597055_nThere’s some progress on Ginny’s one-weft double weave piece….

ginnys double weave band backstrap weaving

brown and blue wool jewely backstrap weavingOn the third day we wove a tubular band pattern.

I had woven the ñawi awapa tubular band with this group before and so we tackled a different pattern which involves the use of multiple string heddles. I saw this kind of band being woven by weavers from the community of Chahuaytire in Peru.

Recently I made a nice bangle to add to my woven jewelry collection using this particular tubular band pattern. You can see it at left on the left of the two brown flat bands.

I gave the group some magnetic barrel clasps so that they could do the same if they chose.

We also learned to weave and sew the band as an edging as it is used in Peru. We had to develop the skills necessary to be able to operate and keep track of multiple heddles on wool without excessive scraping or sawing.

We used up to 5 colors and the different color choices produced bands of vastly different character.

Yarn and samples ready for weaving the tubular band.

Yarn and samples ready for weaving the tubular band.

Judy joined us at this gathering. I had woven Andean Pebble Weave with her last spring. We started talking about horse hair and horse hair braiding and hitching. Melinda joined in as she too has experience with this craft. I had started looking about online for information about horse hair hitching after the BRAIDS 2016, the conference of the Braid Society in Tacoma WA last July. One of the instructors from the UK was teaching cylindrical braids in raw hide and told me about the work of the Argentine cowboys, or gauchos, who use braided raw hide to decorate their horse tack. He showed me pictures online of gorgeous examples of fine work. This led me to images of horse hair work and I was intrigued. My friend, Betty, showed me a hitched key fob that she had bought in Montana which had been made by prisoners. So, I ended up ordering a couple of technique books online which I will pick up later in this trip.

In the meantime, along comes Judy, who has owned and worked with horses all her adult life and she brought examples of horse hair braided key fobs and hat bands as well as decorative embellishments made with hitched horse hair for various pieces that she owns.

horse hair hitching

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd here is something else I have picked up along the way….

wayuu ply split braidsThese are ply-split braided bands made by the Wayuu people of the Guajira Peninsula that straddles Colombia and Venezuela. They are used as the straps for the crocheted bags, or mochilas, that they make. I have included examples of these bags in several blog posts in the past particularly after I went to visit Mirja Wark in the Netherlands and got to see the bags she collected when she lived in Venezuela. My friend Dorothy has one of the bags, see below, that has a very similar strap to the one above right. You can see the tapestry crochet technique that is used to create the bags themselves.

close up of Dorothy's Wayuu mochilaI am thrilled to have these examples and will find a way to use them as straps for a backstrap woven bag that I plan to make one day. It’s amazing how similar the strap on the left is to the one I happened to see on a Wayuu bag in a beach-side boutique on my recent trip to Sydney…

wayuu mochilas in sydneyI am hanging out with my friends Ruth and Lise for a few days. Ruth captured me, the ”mop with a nose”, weaving some double weave motifs…

weaving-at-ruthsI got a lesson in the basics of power-tool use from Ruth and she is sending me home with a dremel-type tool!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe gathered a group of friends to weave double weave for two days. After learning to weave some basic shapes by simply ”eyeballing” and not using charts, we moved on to more complex patterns. Ruth charted a sweet llama that would fit on our 12-thread warp and you can see me weaving it, starting with its four little legs.

weaving double weave backstrap loom

Here are Ruth and Cookie setting up their slightly wider and finer warps…

cookie-and-ruth-setting-upAnne and Dorothy are weaving patterns…

annes double weave

dorothys double weaveDorothy cleverly managed to keep the scroll pattern going while swapping the pattern and background colors. Kathy and Kathleen who have woven with me several times before were there too.

We looked at one-weft double weave and the two-weft or ”embedded” version as well as the technique used by some Bolivian weavers who set up additional sets of string heddles.

samples of double weave for backstrap weavingCookie works with all sorts of fiber crafts and brought her latest finished crochet piece to show…cookie's marilyn monroe crochetAnne brought a piece that she had woven with me years ago when we had studied Bedouin weaving techniques with my Santa Cruz friends. The upper face of a double weave band and that of a Bedouin Saha weaving are identical in structure. However, the bands as a whole are vastly different because the Bedouin weavers leave the long threads- those that are created by the substitution of one colored warp thread for another- floating on the back of the band. Bolivian weavers use those hanging threads to create a lower shed through which they pass weft. This creates the second layer of the double weave. Double weave bands have two ”good” faces. The pieces created by the Bedouin weavers have only one ”good” face as the other one comprises long floats, some of which are often startlingly long.

bedouin weaving and double weaveAfter weaving over the weekend with my friends, I found that Mary, a recent Facebook and Ravelry acquaintance, lives just a few blocks away from Ruth and so I visited and spent a day with her playing with the basics of backstrap loom operation. I gave her some tips on how to manage narrow and wide warps and I had a ball looking at her collection of zentangle books while she wove on the balcony. Just having those few hours to sit quietly and thumb through the zentangle and weaving books left me with my mind exploding with ideas!

mary and lola weaving a narrow project on the balconyAnd later, she learned how to change the basic set-up and modify her moves to weave wider warps. Here she is making string heddles on a stick…

mary making string heddles on a stick

The following day, Ruth, Lise and I went to the De Young Museum in San Francisco….

We went to see this exhibit…

The idea is to draw pieces from the museum’s textile arts collection which exhibit the characteristics normally associated with Minimalism…including regular, symmetrical, or gridded arrangements, repetition of modular elements, direct use and presentation of materials, and absence of ornamentation.

But for me, who has never been to the De Young before, there was plenty to be excited about in the museum’s permanent exhibit of pieces from its vast collection. As a result, we didn’t get to the Minimalism exhibit until after lunch.

Here’s a wee taste of the very old and not-so-old in the museum’s permanent display…

I emjoyed seeing this piece from the coastal province of Manabi in Ecuador as I have spent time there with cotton spinners and weavers.. This is a hollow figure from 1500-1300 B.C. The incised patterns on the figure's lower body are suggestive of textiles.

I enjoyed seeing this piece from the coastal province of Manabi in Ecuador as I have spent time there with cotton spinners and weavers.. This is a hollow female figure from 1500-1300 B.C. The incised patterns on the figure’s lower body are suggestive of textiles.


A burial offering for a high-ranking official.t A.D 600-900 Huari culture. The mosaic of colored shells, stone and bone represent teh motifs of a tapestry-woven tunic-feline heads, rectangular bars and concentric circles.

A burial offering for a high-ranking official A.D 600-900 Huari culture. The mosaic of colored shells, stone and bone on a wood and bitumen base represent the motifs of a tapestry-woven tunic suitable for a person of such high rank with feline heads, rectangular bars and concentric circles.

Limetone monument, or steal from the southern Mayan lowlands A.D 761 shows a Mayan queen proclaiming her legitimacy and power

Limestone monument, or stela, from the southern Mayan lowlands A.D 761 shows a Mayan queen proclaiming her legitimacy and power.

Seed jar Hopi Pueblo late 20th century by Jacob Koopee

Seed jar, Hopi Pueblo, late 20th century by Jacob Koopee

Looped wire sculpture by Ruth Asawa late 20th century. i loved the way the lighting in the museum cast shadows of her work on the cinder block walls.

Looped wire sculpture by Ruth Asawa late 20th century. We loved the way the lighting in the museum cast shadows of her work on the cinder block walls.

Very subdued lighting made it difficult to capture the often rich colors of the pieces in the Textiles and Minimalism exhibit. It was wonderful to see a few Aymara pieces included with their rich red, blue and brown stripes…incredibly fine pieces woven with four selvedges with subdued decorative edgings and often an absence of patterning along the joins of the panels. Ruth’s camera captured the colors better than mine. I like these simple late 19th century plain-weave Aymara pieces more than some of the intricately pick-up patterned pieces that we usually associate with Andean weaving.

Fingers were itching to touch the textiles and further appreciate their fineness. We bent over with our noses as close to the textiles as we dared without upsetting the security guard in order to better see the threads and study the patterns along the edges.

Once again, I feel it would be a shame to cram all the wonderful things my online friends have been weaving into the end of what has become a pretty long post. I think I will save them for next time when you will get a very large shot of inspiration all at once! I can tell you that Adem has finished a marvelous Mapuche-style piece in which he incorporated some traditional Turkish motifs. Tracy has been in Laos weaving on circular warps on foot-tensioned backstrap looms so, as you can imagine, there is plenty to share there. Julia W has not only been weaving but has also been piecing together bands she wove some time ago into lovely purses and bags. Julia T is back at the loom designing Andean Pebble Weave motifs after what feels like along absence and I have new online weaving friends who are making cuffs and balanced- weave cloth and all sorts of exciting things on their humble backstrap looms.

I’ll leave you with a few more pieces from the museum visit…

I lobe the detail of the facial scarification on this kneeling warrior. Maya, Jaina Island, Mexico A.D 600-800.

I love the detail of the facial scarification on this kneeling warrior. Maya, Jaina Island, Mexico A.D 600-800.

I could look at Moche pieces all day! The pre-columbian museum in Santiago, Chile has a wonderful collection. Moche, nortn coast Peru, 400B.C -550 A.D

I could look at Moche pieces all day! The pre-columbian museum in Santiago, Chile has a wonderful collection. Moche, north coast Peru, 400B.C -550 A.D.

And I really enjoyed Ruth Asawa's work and the way it has been displayed. What is real and what is shadow here?

And I really enjoyed Ruth Asawa’s work and the way it has been displayed. What is real and what is shadow here?

Until next time….






  1. Thank you so much, Laverne! I can’t tell you how much your visit and beginning lesson meant to me. You are awesome! I am practicing away and hope to attend one of your workshops when you are back in the area. I’ll post photos of my progress. Have a good and safe trip!

  2. Thank you for sharing. Would love to weave with you. Do you ever come up to Canada?

  3. Thanks to you, I’m looking forward to seeing the exhibit this month of Green Mountain Guild’s Ethnic Weaving in Massachusetts. I didn’t know there was a weaving guild so close by to Vermont! I would love to learn more about the tubular woven bands of Chihuaytire, Peru. The study group of weavers that started with your visit to Vermont in October, 2013 is alive and well and growing… July’s monthly gathering included 16 weavers, the most ever. We recently hosted a wonderful Dutch tablet weaver, Annelies Tijman who taught two different weekend groups. Once more your second book of complementary warp patterns is getting a workout and I am having so much fun modifying your design ideas to fit my warp…. I’ll send photos soon. We hope you’ll come visit Vermont next April so that we can learn from you again!

  4. Wow, that circular warp piece is cool! I want to say it’s from Burma, but that’s just a hunch….
    So glad you got to see the show at the DeYoung – I’ve been thinking quite a bit about minimalist textiles lately……
    Keep up your health!!

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