Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 27, 2017

Backstrap Weaving – What is a Loom?

I am on the road and have finally had the chance to hold my new dvd, Operating a Backstrap Loom! I filmed this last November and returned to Bolivia before I could see the editing and final product. Once in Bolivia I selected the music, took the cover shot and chapter title pictures and sent it all to Rainer Romatka of Taproot Video for editing and inclusion in the film. However, I wasn’t able to see the finished product. It was released on February 14. Thank you to everyone who has bought a copy so far!

So, here I am with unopened case in hand. That was very exciting! I still haven’t watched it! It is very difficult to watch and listen to yourself, as you can imagine, and I may have to wait until I return to Bolivia to do so. But, I have to say that it was very exciting holding it in my hand and seeing how my design worked on the cover. It was also wonderful to be able to meet many people who had bought it and thank them in person….so much lovely feedback! You can order one here.

It seems to be a common comment among the many people I am seeing on this trip who have woven with me before that even though they can remember how to set up the loom and pick up patterns after not having woven for a while, they often find themselves struggling with the sheds. They have forgotten how to use their bodies to operate the loom. My dvd is the perfect way to refresh those skills.

This picture was taken in Georgia at Ann Lynn’s place. We had been weaving all day with her friends and  decided to relax on her deck in the woods with a nice cold beer. Spring had certainly taken hold in Georgia and we enjoyed some glorious days before bad weather came through. Ann Lynn’s deck is amazing. It winds its way with raised paths and stairways deeper and deeper into the forest until you feel like you are sitting on your own little perch in among the trees. It would have been nice to have our group out there weaving with looms lashed to the rails but there is also something very nice about being seated all together in the one room and being able to chat.

As usual, I have been traveling a lot, meeting lots and people and doing lots of weaving. This was the first time I had spent time in the south eastern states. I found that there is quite a preoccupation with weather events there and particularly with tornadoes…quite rightly so. Some very nasty weather ripped through Georgia shortly after I left. I enjoyed seeing some pre Civil War town houses in a historic district near Ann Lynn’s home through a wall of falling rain…it was too heavy for photos.

I didn’t get to weave with my Florida friends this time but Berna did send me a picture of the almost-finished Andean Pebble Weave backstrap that she had been working on during my last visit.

I met a long-time Facebook acquaintance, Cat, in Alabama. She wove some patterns with me and then showed up the next day with product!

I met, Kathryn, a Ravelry weaving friend in Alabama too and was able to give her some weaving tips…

 I also met Miriam Omura in Alabama. She came to weave on a backstrap loom with me. She creates beautiful ”soft focus” portraits on her loom. She explained that she first weaves white cloth on her floor loom and then paints an image on the cloth while it is still on the loom. She then un-weaves the piece, carefully winding the weft onto bobbins ,and then re-weaves it. The image then takes on the lovely feathered softness that you see here…

You can read more about her and see her work here. It is always thrilling when someone who weaves amazing things like this wants to come and experience the simple backstrap loom. 

I, too, got the chance to experience the other end of the spectrum when in Pennsylvania at Kathy’s place I wove on this…!!

Kathy told me that she had set up her draw loom specially for me with a pattern based on one from my second book. She invited me to weave on the loom and I was very hesitant…what are all those strings and pegs? Will I even be able to throw the shuttle without having it fall out the bottom to floor? Will I mess up the selvedges?

As it turns out, Kathy had already done all the hard work setting this up. All I had to do was pick the pattern following the chart in my own book. I pulled a peg down for a dark square on the chart and raised a peg for light squares. And, I only had to operate pegs for half the pattern. Each peg raised threads on both sides of the center of the pattern to automatically lift threads for the motif’s mirror image. After arranging the pegs for a row of pattern, I worked my way through 6 treadles and  voila! my pattern appeared. Kathy tells me that the ground structure was a 6-shaft satin and that the loom was set up with a 50-shaft point unit draw, if that means anything to any of you!! It certainly sounds impressive. The pattern is based on one that is commonly woven in Tinkipaya, Bolivia. Tjis is what some of their patterns look like in warp-faced structures…

In no time I had woven a full repeat of the pattern and thoroughly enjoyed myself! Kathy even cut the piece of the loom, serged the edges and gave it to me the next day. What fun!

It is a far cry from the simple stick-less looms used in the Bolivian highlands. I felt like I was driving a piece of heavy equipment. These ladies in Bolivia are the equipment. And that’s how I feel when I weave with my backstrap loom…I like being the loom but sitting in front of one and ”driving” it is also a fun experience.

These are some of the ladies with whom I wove when I went up to the highlands in January. Maxima and the ladies in the co-op have been weaving bands that my weaving friends in Florida and Arizona ordered last year. Some of the Arizona weavers ordered some extra wide ones to cut and turn into bags. I expect they will decorate them with tubular bands and some of the decorative stitches that we practiced together.

You might remember from my blog posts about this trip that I had taught young Maribel to weave a certain pattern. She even likes to tie her band to her waist like I do. The traditional way in this community is to tension the warp on the index finger and big toe when weaving narrow bands like these.

Here’s the new pattern appearing…

Later Maribel eagerly copied patterns from my book to take home…

And here’s her first contribution as a new working member of the weaving cooperative! I am so thrilled about this!! She has done a beautiful job in that beautiful handspun and naturally dyed yarn. I wonder if I will see her using some of the other patterns that she copied from my book.

I have been working on this same pattern with weavers here in U.S. Here’s the band that Kyoko made when I wove with her in Pennsylvania…

It’s funny thinking about my weaving friends sitting in Pennsylvania and the Bolivian highlands creating the very same pattern.

Here’s another kind of simple loom that Luise, a weaving friend in rural South Africa with whom I correspond, is using. She is doing Andean Pebble Weave on a bow loom…a simple branch that she has picked up from her property which serves to hold her warp under tension. I guess, after all, that is all a loom is…something that holds warp ends under tension. It could be your very own body. It can be something very complex like Kathy’s draw loom or something as simple as Luise’s bow loom.

I am tickled that she is doing Andean Pebble Weave patterns on her bow loom using my book. My friend Marilyn weaves beautiful beaded weft-faced bands that she makes into bracelets on a bow loom. She has a video class on how to make the loom and the bracelets that you can buy from Taproot Video. It’ s fun to see Luise using the bow loom to make warp-faced bands. She has come up with various ways to attach the warp ends to the bowed stick.

Annie and I tried bow loom weaving using a simple dowel rod as the bow when we visited with Marilyn last year.

Here’s another loom stretched between Carlos’s body and his radiator. He has added complexity to his loom in the form of multiple string heddles so that he does not have to pick up threads by hand to form the pattern sheds. He is also doing Andean Pebble Weave patterns.

I like that a backstrap loom can be rolled up and taken almost anywhere. Sometimes you have to get creative when it comes to anchoring the far end of the warp. Here’s my friend Anne weaving at one of her husband’s classic British car events…

Mary’s cat, Gator, watches over her weaving spot. I wove with Mary and other Big Hill friends again this year and was excited to have Stephenie Gaustad don a backstrap and join us as well.

This Big Hill turkey put on a show for me…

On this US trip I have been weaving with friends in Alabama, Georgia, Pennsylvania and California. In Grass Valley I was thrilled to hear that the Nevada County Fair has agreed to create a category just for backstrap weaving at the annual fair. How cool is that?! I bet this is the first county in the USA to do so. My Grass Valley weaving friends have regular study group get-togethers and are making wonderful things. There are plans to enter several things in this year’s fair. Janet came to weave with us. She is the one who said she feels like a ”shed whisperer” now that she knows how to move her body to operate her backstrap loom smoothly. That has to be one of my favorite dvd compliments.

Here’s the ukulele strap that Wendy wove…

The hardware is from my friend Annie’s etsy store.

Karen is new to the group and is happiest down on the floor doing Andean Pebble Weave. Becky, also a new-comer, is getting on just fine with her Andean Pebble Weave…

Jane refreshed her double weave technique during my visit…

Here’s the hatband that Diane made for her fisherman husband’s hat. These patterns aren’t in my books but will appear in my new Andean Pebble Weave pattern book!

Diane is also decorating some of the handwoven cloth made by my Bolivian weaving friends and turning it into a cute pouch. She has added tubular bands to the sides and coil stitches to the flap.

My friend Collyer in Arizona has been doing the same on a larger piece. Her tubular edging band is also the strap…

Phoenix is another place where my weaving friends gather regularly for backstrap weaving study groups. They often meet in small restaurants where they can clamp to tables while inadvertently entertaining and educating other restaurant patrons. Christine and Louise told me that the little girl in this picture was fascinated by what they all were doing.

Here is a band of happy band weavers in Pennsylvania. We got together for just a few hours one afternoon and got a taste of backstrap weaving and got some pick-up bands underway. I hope they are motivated to continue. Maybe we will be able to spend more time together on another visit.

They can always check out my free warping video here on the blog for further instruction and watch my Operating a Backstrap Loom dvd for a refresher on how to use the loom.

Rose sent me a picture of her band that she continued weaving at home…nice work! She is looking very relaxed!

Online weaving friend, Amy, has been teaching her 11 and 14-year old children to weave on a backstrap loom. Here you can see some young hands skillfully handling the weft to create neat selvedges…

While in Pennsylvania, I got to visit Red Stone Glen Fiber Arts Center in gorgeous spring weather. This is Sara Bixler’s new place where she and Tom Knisely teach.My friend, Norma, came over from the U.K to weave with us there. I had stayed with her on a visit to the U.K back in 2012. Red Stone Glen is simply gorgeous! It is strange sitting on the patio there looking at the river going by…the very same one that flows past the Mannings beside which I had sat and woven. It brings back sweet memories of the Mannings.

Peeking in at Norma weaving in one of the studios at Red Stone Glen.

Then it was over the mountains to California where things were less than spring-like but I have to say that it was glorious flying in and seeing how green everything was after all the rain. Who knew I would be donning my down vest in California after sitting in a t-shirt on the patio in Pennsylvania? We drove from the airport past cow-dotted green fields backed by blue hills… moist and rich…it was heavenly. The Sierras had record snow levels this year. The rain stopped and the sun gave us the most spectacular day to go snow- shoeing! I had never done this before even after all  the years I had spent in the snow living and working in ski resorts. It was amazing being in the snow and in the mountains again and connecting with something that had been such a big part of my life for many years. Many thanks to Peter and Diane who took me there.

I spent some rainy days indoors winding dozens of warps for my next trip to Australia…

Diane gave me this beautiful olive wood sword that she had made. I used one of Diane’s exotic bocote wood swords in my dvd.

And now I find myself with Marilyn and Rainer in the home office of Taproot Video. Have a whole five months really gone by since I was here making the video last year?!We got some backstrap weaving friends together and decorated some beautiful handwoven fabric from Bolivia with tubular bands and sewn embellishments…

It has been fun being here with them just as a customer in Germany was clicking on the website and ordering my dvd. It is interesting seeing the whole process in the dvd ”warehouse”…a wee corner in the basement… where Marilyn prepares the dvds to take to the post office. Marilyn tells me that several other instructors are lined up making videos for inclusion on the Taproot Video website.I need to start thinking hard about what I want my next one to be!

So, that is basically what I have been up to this last month. There are so many more details to share but so little time to do so while I hop from place to place visiting my weaving friends. If you buy my dvd while I am here, maybe I can sign it for you 🙂











  2. So many great photos! I like the fish hatband, seeing Wendy’s uke strap, the turkey, the Sierras from above, you snowshoeing and us at Marilyn’s! A nice surprise to see myself here!

    • Happy memories, Annie! If you have a more direct link to your uke hardware on Etsy, let me know, please.

  3. Great blog! So fun watching all the talented people you weave with! It was fun seeing you and Annie weave on Marilyn’s bow loom! Just ordered your DVD and am looking forward to seeing you in July!

    • Thanks, Pam. I was just with Betty weaving with the backstrappers up this way.

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