Posted by: lavernewaddington | June 23, 2017

Backstrap Weaving – A Job Worth Doing….

I wonder if you recognize this….

If you don’t, it’s because the last time I showed you this warp, it looked like this…

I had put this warp together very quickly so that I could be filmed weaving it for a documentary that friends Marilyn and Rainer are making. Marilyn offered me yarn from her stash and, between other weaving activities with a group of backstrap weaving friends, I quickly chose colors, wound the warp and wove off as much as I could before filming.

It’s 10/2 perle cotton with embroidery floss as supplementary weft. There wasn’t time to sample which broke my Golden Rule and, for that reason, the weaving gradually widens as it goes along. I hadn’t discovered through sampling the ”sweet spot”…that is, the width at which this particular number of ends in this 10/2 cotton wanted to settle.

I didn’t weave a sample when I used this Harrisville Shetland wool as I was in a hurry to get this band made. Nevertheless, I managed to hit that sweet spot straight away….just got lucky that time!

Once I have found that sweet spot, I never have to worry about the weaving width again. The width will stay consistent without constantly having to measure and control it. It is a lovely place to be. I let the yarn tell me where it wants to be.

Another clue to the fact that the warp ends were pushed too close together at the start was the fact that I had to beat extra hard –  too hard –  to get the picks per inch that I needed to make the supplementary weft pattern look right. By looking ”right”, I mean that the shapes have a nice solid look rather than having gaps between the weft floats from one pick to the next (although, having gaps between the picks is a certain effect that works well in some cases. It’s a matter of personal preference).

Once I got home and finished my big silk project, I decided I really needed to finish Marilyn’s cotton piece before venturing into something new. I pushed all the new ideas that I have competing for space in my head to back and pulled out the warp with its lovely pinks and purples.

However, I found that I just couldn’t face it with its width difference. Even the fell was beginning to slope as it seems that the warp ends were pushed closer together on one side than the other.

I took a deep breath and un-wove it so that I could start over with my new measurements in mind. Boy, did that feel good! So, the piece with the leaf pattern turned out to be the sample that I should have made in the first place. You know the old adage…A job worth doing…..

Now it is rolling along nicely and quite effortlessly. I am using motifs that I created for my silk piece and it is weird weaving them in this much thicker yarn. The cotton is so much more forgiving. I found when using the 60/2 silk that if I pulled too hard on any one warp end as I was doing the pick-up, the end would magically lengthen and not want to go back into place! Of course, it’s much easier to work with, let alone see, these strands of 10/2 cotton!

While I work on this piece I am planning my next silk one. I have a nice collection of colors in 120/2 silk that I would like to somehow combine in one piece….lots of lovely berry tones with some golds.

There you can see the black silk wrap that I recently finished rolled up in plastic ready to be taken to Canada. It will be in one of the Exhibits at ANWG this year. Quite a few of my backstrap weaving buddies will be there and I am looking forward to seeing Tracy and Yonat again and meeting Kristin, who also recently finished a silk weaving on her backstrap loom using a Japanese reed and her own handspun and naturally dyed thread. She has labeled this piece ”naturally dyed striped silk tsumugi” and it is stunning. She will be bringing it to ANWG where I will get to see and touch it.

I love how the colors in this post are going so well together! Here’s another finished backstrap loom project from weaving friend Wendy. She wove a hatband for her fisherman husband’s hat…

Marilyn and the backstrap weaving group in the northwest got together to encourage each other and weave some bands…

I love how these backstrap weaving study groups are sprouting up! Marilyn has a nice wooden post which she calls the ”village tree”around which the weavers gather.

I met Cindy at ANWG 2013 and do hope that she will be able to come to ANWG this year too. This is something she has been working on recently…a nice Andean Pebble Weave pattern from my second book. I love her arrangement of stripes in the borders.

Rosemary sent me this picture of the lovely backstrap weaving set-up that she has in her yard. She told me that she refers to my second book there alongside on her tablet. I love that my book sits there in excellent company with the Cahlander and Cason classic publication.

Jean, who recently got back from Guatemala where she had weaving lessons, sent me this picture of a prepared warp that she bought to take back to the USA. She knows that I like to use bicycle and umbrella spokes and other bits of wire and needles to secure my warps to the beams and she was tickled to see some Guatemalan weavers using such things in their warps as well. It seems that the spoke is tied in place to stop the warp ends from falling off the beam while Jean packs and transports the loom. I am looking forward to seeing what she weaves with this lovely cotton warp. I believe the cotton has been dyed with plants.

Dorinda, who works with the weavers in Cochabamba, is back after her visit to the USA. I had been hoping to travel to the highlands this month for a quick visit with her and Maxima and the young ladies who were having their first weaving lessons back in January but I just couldn’t find the time. I will have to leave that for the end of the year. One of the young ladies, 11-year old Nelva, has been weaving and also drawing and Dorinda sent me this picture she has drawn based on a photo of some of the Huancarani ladies strolling and spinning yarn. I guess the lady on the back of the card is collecting dye plants.

Dorinda keeps them all busy with various art and craft projects. She always arrives from the USA with new craft supplies and ideas for activities.

To finish, I will leave you with the good news that the second volume of Rodrick Owen and Terry Newhouse Flynn’s work on Andean sling braids is coming out this November. I am excited that the sling pictured at left that I made with my teacher in Peru back in 1997, makes an appearance. I made this one with the braid pattern that my teacher called the ‘‘palma’‘.  After finishing my sling, he taught me another pattern called ”margarita”.

This new book teaches 50 beautiful patterns as well as how to create and embellish an entire sling.

Here is the blurb from the Schiffer catalog…

Sling Braiding Traditions and Techniques: From Peru, Bolivia, and Around the World

Rodrick Owen & Terry Newhouse Flynn

Available November 2017 $39.99

This comprehensive, full-color guide features dozens of images of slings from various cultures, both ancient and contemporary. Slings had great significance in many cultures, particularly in the Andes, and were often used as both prehistoric weapons and herding tools. The book shows novice and experienced braiders how to make 50 designs, from 8 to 32 strands, on a braiding card or with a braiding stand and bobbins. Learn step by step how to make an authentic Andean-style sling with braided cords and a tapestry-woven cradle. A range of techniques useful for beginning, ending, and embellishing slings are included, and can enhance a wide variety of other items, like jewelry, garments, and accessories. This book is a key resource for historians, ethnologists, textile artists, weapons experts, and others to learn the practical skills for understanding sling braids’ structure. Includes braiding card and plans to make core stand.

Size: 8 1/2″ x 11″ | 457 color photos, charts/drawings, and weaving diagrams | 176 pp
ISBN13: 9780764354304 | Binding: hard cover


  1. The berry project looks great! I like the new pattern even more than the leaves… and that is saying a LOT :-).

    • So glad! Now you must start thinking about what you would like this to be.:-)

  2. Good morning, Laverne!

    Do you know of backstrap weavers in or near Olympia, Washington? I’ll be going there to visit my son and would dearly love to meet new folk.

    At our Texas Conference, I purchased a backstrap loom. Now…I’ve only woven your small bands and don’t want to wind a large warp, but something for a starter project. This is exciting, for me.

    Thank you so much for your wonderful posts…Charlotte


    • Hi Charlotte,

      It seems that Olympia isn’t all that far from Seattle. I could connect you with some people there if you happen to be in the area when they have their meet-ups.

  3. Gracias por compartir tus experiencias.

  4. Oooooohh, so excited to see that 120/2 silk. Can’t wait to see what you do with it!

  5. Aww… what a nice surprise to see my umbrella spoke picture included in this great post! I wrote about the trip in my blog, so if anyone wants to see more, it’s here:

  6. PS – The sticks weren’t secured in that warp I bought in San Juan la Laguna and, you guessed it, I unrolled it to admire it and the heddle stick fell right out. It only took me about a half an hour to straighten things out again and add a safety string to each stick. I’ll start weaving today. I should have asked what it was meant to be, but I forgot. The cotton is so soft and fine.

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