Posted by: lavernewaddington | August 4, 2017

Backstrap Weaving – In the Bush

At the loom and in the bush…what a perfect mix of activities. Hiking! This used to be so much a part of my life and something I have been neglecting since weaving became such a major part of my daily activity. I have been out and about in Australia enjoying yet again the soft colors of rural sunsets, this time on the far south coast of NSW…

…colors that inspire projects on my backstrap loom…

And now I have a whole new palette of colors from the Australian bush to work on. While on the south coast I met Tabitha who came to weave with me. Tabitha has yarn spun from the fleece of her Lincoln Long Wool and Awassi sheep..”100% Bega Valley yarn” she tells me.

She told me that those long locks are from lambs. She spins a 3-ply yarn and I bought several dyed balls and one natural to try on my backstrap loom. It will be a nice souvenir of that part of my Australian visit…

There among the balls of wool you can see some other little treasures that I picked up in my travels around the southern tablelands. We stopped to take a look at Longbarn provincial antiques. Owners Gary and Jane Kendall travel to France every year to pick up new pieces and it was fascinating picking through their rustic store. As you can see, I found a spindle which I am actually planning on using as a shuttle and two small wooden things that look like shuttles. These ”shuttles” were part of a large fishing kit and are actually not shuttles at all. My traveling companion, Cornelia, bought the whole kit and shared some of the pieces with me. What look like shuttles are, in fact, small fishing reels. They came complete with line and sinkers. Now they will carry yarn for me as I weave on my backstrap loom. They are full of character. They have traveled all the way from France to Australia and will now head to Bolivia.

We also spotted this in the store and hope it goes to a good lace-making owner…

The hard case around the lace-making pillow has a hollowed section at the back which is filled with bobbins and a few pattern sheets.

I wove with two groups when I was down on the south coast.

The place where we gathered was nestled in the most gorgeous sheltered bay and while we wove we could watch its changing moods as the tide came in and out and the sun crossed the sky.

One moment there would be fierce crashing waves on the rocks and at other times sublime serenity.

On the last evening, we had a bit of rain which with the low evening sun created a spectacular double rainbow.

In one of the serene moments, the dark clouds and the golden light of the setting sun painted quite a picture…


The winter sun was so pleasant that Karen and Maeve decided to weave outside, each one adopting the position in which they felt most comfortable…

And here ‘s Maeve indoors getting the hang of using multiple swords…

There’s one of our happy backstrap weaving groups. A couple even have their bands still attached to their waists and have slung them over their shoulder so they can get straight back to weaving!

I loved the far south coast and had some time to take a look around. Karen and Rachel took me out to see some sights around the various bays, beaches and harbors. We lunched on fish and chips at my request, browsed cute stores that carried works by local artisans and strolled among the majestic Norfolk Island Pines on the sea shore….

The Gallery and workshop of Aboriginal artist Merryn Apma.

Driving here and then from town to town there were blissful rural scenes of cows contentedly grazing. This is prime dairy country. In late afternoon, cow-dotted fields would be replaced by ones dotted with dozens of kangaroos. You can tell I am a city girl, right? It was heavenly!

I was happy to meet British weaver and braider Helen Deighan who came to weave with us fresh off a flight from England. She has written books on braiding and dyeing and studied with Rodrick Owen. She always brings exciting and fresh activities to share with the local fiber group and I know that she has come this time armed with many foam discs to share her kumihimo braiding skills and knowledge. She enjoys giving to the group and has been particularly enthusiastic about having the opportunity to weave on a backstrap loom with us.

She went right out and made herself a cloth backstrap and fashioned some swords from wooden spatula handles. She also has one of Terri’s (Magical Moons) cherry wood swords.

I think she is really enjoying operating the backstrap loom without necessarily doing any pick-up. There really is something magical about the rhythmical body movements that are used when doing plain weave. More than ever you become aware of the fact that you are part of the loom itself. Here Helen is doing plain weave with a ”threaded-in” pattern. Using weft in a contrasting color adds yet another attractive design element.  I am guessing that this wide piece will become a backstrap…

John was the only male member of our group and he has been working on his pick-up skills since I left. It takes a while for the mechanics of operating the loom, handling multiple swords and developing strategies for chart-reading to all fall into place and it all seems to be coming together nicely for John.

And I just now received this photo from the group of their first backstrapping get together since my visit. A warm winter’s day allowed people to be outside weaving. Apparently too much good conversation and food kept some of them from setting up their warps and weaving.

While out and about once again, I loved seeing the ”cathedrals” of spotted gums that are so typical of certain parts of this southern region…

I was lucky to be able to stay with Delma and Doug Roseman. I had seen one of Doug’s hand crafted weaving benches in one of the stores that supports local artisans and I asked him if he would consider making me a couple of swords using Australian wood. He was happy to do so and made me four!

From left to right, these are made from manna gum, forest red gum, spotted gum and NSW blackwood. What amazing souvenirs to have from this part of New South Wales.

Here’s the loom that Doug built for Delma…

It’s the result of a collaboration with Australian Master Weaver Kay Faulkner. The plate on the side of the loom names this one as the fourth Faulkner Loom to be made. I think Doug has made nine of them so far.

I had a whole other day away from looms to explore the area. A group of us decided to climb Mount Gulaga at 2644 ft (formerly named Mt Dromedary by Captain James Cook). From Wikipedia…

Gulaga is the place of ancestral origin within the mythology of the Yuin people, the Indigenous Australians of the area. Gulaga itself symbolises the mother and provides a basis for Aboriginal spiritual identity; the mountain as well as the surrounding area holds particular significance for Aboriginal women. For the Yuin people it is seen as a place of cultural origin. The mountain is regarded as a symbolic mother-figure…..

We were lucky to have Bernadette and Richard with us who shared a lot about the local flora. That’s Bernadette below telling us about the Rough Tree Ferns which were my favorite things along the way.

After lunch at the saddle we followed an unmarked trail…thanks to Mog and her local knowledge… to a large section of strangely shaped and balanced granite boulders, or tors, or ”standing stones”. To the Yuin people, the boulders represent guardians of time that are interlinked with the well-being of the mountain and of the people. While the boulders are looked after by the Aboriginal custodians, the guardians will look after the mountain.

It was a place where I felt that I needed to talk in whispers and I lagged behind on my own for a bit. There was certainly something very spiritual and even eerie about it. I wasn’t the only one to find that I had pan-pipe music in my head as I wandered about the giant stones reminiscent of the soundtrack to the 1970’s Australian movie Picnic at Hanging Rock. Take a listen and you will find the hair on your arms standing on end! What weaving will come of this?

This was one area where the bush was open enough to give us views of the ocean below…

It was a fabulous day…thanks so much for making it possible, Mog, John, Sue, Bernadette and Richard. My calf muscles reminded me of the ascent and the scrambling for several days after when I got out of bed in the morning!

Visiting Canberra was lovely. My gosh, the weather has been kind to me! I have been seeing lots of activity from some of the ladies who wove with me in Canberra since my return to Sydney. I am so happy to be leaving behind enthusiastic backstrap weavers. It certainly isn’t absolutely everyone’s cup of tea and I am happy that people have followed their curiosity and have wanted to try it out.

Double-pocket saddle bag.

Pam brought this lovely weaving still on the backstrap loom from the Piura province of Peru to show us. This is an area where cotton double-pocket saddle bags are typically woven. The weavers use a single-faced warp float pick-up technique and their work is unique in the way they use small pieces of  supplemental weft to add splashes of color. I was once shown a completed saddle bag (at left)  from this region when I was traveling in California.

The piece that Pam brought has been left on the loom and has been obviously made as a souvenir of the township of Catacaos. It is interesting that the weaver has used two sets of string heddles…one holding all the red threads and the other the white ones…rather than one set of heddles and a shed rod as backstrap loom weavers would most often do.


Kristy has been busy since the class checking her local yarn stores for suitable and yarn and weaving a backstrap. The yarn is Katia Bombay and it comes in a beautiful range of variegated colors…no solid colors that I could see on the website. This plain-weave backstrap has come out beautifully.

Jo has finished off two of the three sample bands we started together…

If I had had a wee bit more time in Canberra, I may have managed to visit the National Gallery and see this beauty…

Some pieces of literature say that The Bronze Weaver is from Indonesia while others say possibly Borneo. It was collected in Flores, Indonesia and dates to the 6th century. Isn’t it wonderful how she remains seated, being the loom, while she suckles her infant. I love the detail in her hair and backstrap in this view…

Here is an excerpt from the National Gallery of Australia’s description of the piece…

The woman, feeding a young baby who touchingly clutches her other breast, is clad only in a calf-length skirt, typical of everyday wear of the more remote regions of Indonesia, especially Borneo, until recent decades. In contrast her carefully braided hair and plait are most unusual. While her necklace is simple, the large bold earrings, probably plugged earlobes, strikingly frame her serene face. The figure is seated at a simple loom. The foot-braced body-tension loom depicted has not been observed in Flores in historical times although local looms, where the warp beam is braced by poles, are very closely related. Identical foot-braced looms, however, have survived in remote districts of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Taiwan, and Hainan Island in the South China Sea. The creator of this sculpture was obviously very familiar with loom technology as the apparatus and the loom patterning are accurately depicted. The circular warp, the cloth and warp beams, the shedstick, the weaving sword and the delicately rendered plaited back strap speak of an era when bronze casting and textile weaving were already prominent gender-specific arts.

You can read more here.  

Cornelia made a trip to the National Gallery to buy me a postcard of The Bronze Weaver while I was weaving.

From there it was back up to Sydney, away from the loom for a bit and into the bush with my brother, sister-in-law and friend. I love the Blue Mountains. This will be where I settle the day I decide to come back to Australia.

This was yet another day of amazing colors and textures in trees and rock with wanderings through canyons and glow worm tunnels among enormous Rough Tree Ferns…

From the cool depths of canyons we looked up at a piercingly blue sky with the sunlight bouncing off sandstone walls…

We spotted a lyrebird…the first I have seen in the wild…look closely!

Here’s our view of a little piece of fern paradise from within the old railway tunnel which now houses hundreds of glow worms.

Many thanks to Wayne and Debbie for supplementing my photos and for making the trip possible.

I’ll be weaving this weekend with Sydney friends including Emerald with whom I always weave on my Sydney visits. She made a trip to her homeland, Myanmar earlier this year meeting up with U.S tablet-weaver and ply-split braider Linda Hendrickson. I am looking forward to hearing about it. I was lucky to be able to spend a morning with Linda on visit to the USA in May.

There will be more travels to follow….time at the loom with friends new and old and, hopefully, some more time for the beautiful Australian bush!























  1. What a fantastic place to weave & explore! Loved your post. I can’t wait to try my hand at weaving next week.

  2. are you selling the lace pillow or are you only showing a photo?

    • The pillow isn’t mine. It was in shop that I visited and yes, it was for sale. You could send a message to Longbarn about it. They have a Facebook page Longbarn and string. The lace making pillow is on their Facebook page at $120 (Australian dollars) plus postage from Australia.

  3. Wow, just wow! Beautiful sharing! As always, you are such an inspiration! Thanks!

  4. Nice pics on your travels!

  5. I really enjoy your posts Laverne and your interest in the Aussie Bush! I grew up in the lower Blue Mts and ever since have waned to live in the bush even with the threat of bushfires. I’m lucky now to live in a bushy spot not far from the Brisbane CBD. Thanks for your posts and wonderful photos.

  6. Just amazing Laverne! The pictures inspire new color combinations and designs for sure! The patterns in the gum tree are incredible and the ocean view through the trees, wow. Your pictures bring out such beautiful textures and patterns. Clearly through an artists’ point of view. Thank you so much for sharing your travels with us. Next best thing to being there.

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