Posted by: lavernewaddington | December 8, 2017

Backstrap Weaving – Mother Nature

Mother Nature! From Wikipedia:

The Virgin Mary/Pachamama taking the form of Cerro Rico, the mountain of silver, in a painting from colonial Potosi.

Pachamama is a goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes. She is also known as the earth/time mother. In Inca mythology, Pachamama is a fertility goddess who presides over planting and harvesting, embodies the mountains, and causes earthquakes. She is also an ever-present and independent deity who has her own self-sufficient and creative power to sustain life on this earth. Her shrines are hallowed rocks, or the boles of legendary trees, and her artists envision her as an adult female bearing harvests of potatoes and coca leaves. The four cosmological Quechua principles – Water, Earth, Sun, and Moon – claim Pachamama as their prime origin, and priests sacrifice llamas, cuy (guinea pigs), and elaborate miniature burned garments to her. After the conquest by Spain, which forced conversion to Roman Catholicism, the figure of the Virgin Mary became united with that of the Pachamama for many of the indigenous people. In pre-Hispanic culture, Pachamama is often a cruel goddess eager to collect her sacrifices. As Andes cultures form modern nations, Pachamama remains benevolent, giving, and a local name for Mother Nature. 

This trip away (which began for me way back in the last weeks of September!), has had its share of acts of Mother Nature. First, a cluster of hurricane activity threatened, but fortunately did not hinder, my flight into the USA. Then, I arrived in a devastated Santa Rosa, California just a week after fires fed by raging winds had destroyed hundreds of homes and taken lives. I saw the devastation. Solidified pools of molten metal on sidewalks were a shocking revelation of the incredible heat that the fires had generated. All so terribly sad. And now other weaving friends in southern California are on standby as fires rage in Ventura county.

from the website of

On this side of the world (currently Australia), Mother Nature made her presence felt in the form of an erupting Mount Agung in Bali.

And, this time my plans were indeed disrupted! I was five hours into my flight to Bali. We had already left the Australian coast behind when the Captain made an announcement. I fully expected him to tell us that we would be starting our descent in 20 minutes. Instead, he told us that after months of threatening rumblings, Mt Agung had finally erupted and that our flight had to be diverted to Darwin because of the threat of ash clouds in the vicinity of the airport in Bali.

Reports said that tens of thousands of people from surrounding Balinese villages and settlements had already been evacuated back in September when the volcano first began to show signs of high activity. It was a waiting game and I decided to take a chance. For me it is a blip, a slight detour, in my plans. Here I sit safe and comfortable in Sydney while a reported 30,000 people’s lives in Bali have been dramatically changed.

So close! A picture from the inflight flight tracker….

It was all quite chaotic with a further diversion to Cairns along with passengers from four other flights. However, Mother Nature did provide some awesome distractions on the flight home from Cairns…views of the famous atolls and reefs off the coast of far north Queensland…

And, Sydney harbor always puts on a splendid show as we descend towards Botany Bay and the airport. You can see the bridge and Opera House…

I must give a shout out to Jetstar Airways who were amazing. They kept us safe, got us all home and gave us credit vouchers for our flights… for something that wasn’t even their fault.

Well….back in Sydney, I decided to make the most of my time. I wove and wove during the time that I was meant to be in Bali!

I got to work on my next book of pick-up patterns and I am pleased to say that I have 95% of the patterns woven and ready to be photographed. Then, I will start working on tidying up the charts. Many of the patterns I had in mind are way outside the ”Andean Box” and required a lot of weaving, un-weaving, chart adjustment and re-weaving. After over twenty years of weaving these intriguing structures, I am pleased to say that I am still learning!

I have been granted the use of many wonderful contributions from weaving friends around the world…motifs and shapes that I never thought would be possible to carry off in this structure. My weaving friends out there are awesome! So, it has been an interesting exercise in discovering the possibilities as well as the limitations of this particular structure. And, it has been interesting, challenging and very rewarding being able to find work-arounds for some of the limitations.

I have a lot of my weaving kit with me and it was just a matter of getting some yarn and finding a place to anchor my warp. Some railings in my brother’s home and a nice cushy bit of rug gave me the perfect spot in which to work. I have set up this warp for Andean Pebble Weave with its two additional sets of heddles. Setting up the warp this way is slower but it makes weaving these particular patterns faster as only every other shed needs to be picked up by hand.

Of course, you don’t have to use the two sets of heddles. You could just set up the warp with its two basic sheds…one dark and one light as seen above… and pick up every row by hand. People who work on fixed tension looms, like inkle looms, Wave looms etc might find this method more comfortable. This is the method I teach in my latest book Complementary-warp Pick-up. With this method, you can weave any of the various complementary-warp structures which include Andean Pebble Weave.

The first warp pictured above, was for a lovely pattern of galloping horses, ”Eldy’s Mustangs”, that my friend Deanna created. Then I moved on to a band of pink and purples with flowers, leaves, birds and butterflies, patterns that I have drawn and woven and developed over the years…

One thing that was missing from my kit was a small shuttle and I was glad for ice cream sticks that I had been collecting and throwing into my tool bag as they made sweet shuttles for these projects. I am not a fan of the combined beater/shuttle tools. They just don’t suit my rhythm. So, I always have a sword/beater and a separate shuttle. You can see one of the lovely Magical Moons maple swords in my picture above and some of the little shuttles I use below.

I like having a nice collection of shuttles of all sizes. The ones pictured above were made for me by my weaving friend Jim Smith. South American indigenous weavers use simple sticks around which they wrap their weft thread. If you need a new shuttle for a particularly wide piece of weaving, you can just go out and find one on the ground or on a tree! I am not fond of using those kinds of shuttles even though I see how practical it is to be able to just step outside and pick one up from the garden and cut it to the exact size you need.

Here’s a short video of two weavers loading their simple stick shuttles. The first lady is one of my Montagnard Vietnamese teachers and the other is from the Cusco area of Peru.

If the band I am weaving is particularly narrow, I don’t use a shuttle at all and prefer to work with weft lengths of a yard or so. I love just being able to whip the weft back and forth. My cat always found that very amusing! Plus, it makes un-weaving super easy! As for joining in new weft, the joins don’t show when I am weaving a warp-float structure which means that working with short lengths is not a problem. However, the joins do show when I am doing plain weave. So, I avoid running out of weft for plain weave and will load up a shuttle with a good amount of weft for that.

Here’s a video, just for fun, to show how I work with short weft lengths on a tiny warp. It also shows the speed of using multiple heddles…in this case I think there are seven. This is not the way I prefer to weave. In this video, I was pumping out one of several promised products and just wanted to weave fast!  I am usually less concerned with product and more in love with the process and I enjoy having my hands in among the threads picking up the patterns.

In the video, the two light green heddles closest to me hold the pebble sheds. These are alternated with the other heddles that hold the pattern picks. I never put down my sword when weaving narrow bands and even do simple pick-up while holding onto it.

As for a Travel Weaving Kit and what one decides to take ”on the road”, one of my students, Kyoko, showed me what she has packed for her backstrap weaving while she takes a trip away…

Back to my ”get-over-Bali” weaving therapy: next came a Christmas-themed band. This was fun as I got to weave patterns that I had only charted but never woven. There was a bit of un-weaving and some adjustments to be made.

Yes, you will notice that I am not showing these delightful patterns….yet! They will be in the book! Things are still developing….I don’t like to tease but I do like surprises. 🙂

In the meantime, I have been receiving mail from friends who attended the Tinkuy in Cusco last month. I was most curious to know how my teachers and weaving friends Maxima and Justina had enjoyed the event. It was Max’s third time and Justina’s first. Dorinda, who accompanied the ladies and who was responsible for raising the funds to make the trip possible, has written a blog post about it. Here are Max and Justina on Day One getting ready to join the pre-conference parade through the streets of Cusco.

Photo by Dorinda Dutcher

Photo by Karen Sprenger  The ladies delivered a Power Point presentation on weaving traditions of their Central Bolivian communities.

I had been hoping that Max and Justina would present early on so that they could then relax and enjoy the rest of the conference but, no, it turned out that they were the very last pair to present just before the closing ceremony! I hope that they were able to put their nerves away during those first days.

Photo by Cat Bordhi. Max and Justina, sold products from their weaving co-op, participated in demonstrations and spinning competitions and took part, as students, in some of the workshops.

Please take a look at Dorinda’s PAZA website and blog post to read more about Tinkuy 2017. Like me, Dorinda is currently in her ”other home” in the USA and has taken much of the unsold product from Tinkuy with her. Are you still looking for Christmas gifts? Dorinda has a nice selection of yoga mat straps that the young weavers in Bolivia produce. They run at $21 and $22 and can be purchased by contacting Dorinda via the PAZA site…

Pictures courtesy of PAZA Bolivia.

If you have woven tubular bands with me in my travels, you will be familiar with the gorgeous lengths of handwoven naturally dyed cloth that I bring to sew into pouches. Dorinda also has these lengths of cloth available for $35. You can easily make four pouches with flaps from these lengths…

Visiting with Maxima last January sitting alongside one of my completed band orders.

But, HURRY! Dorinda can only accept orders until December 14! Order through the PAZA site.

Pictures have been arriving from people with whom I have woven on my trips away as well as from people I have never met. I love getting this kind of feedback from people who have been using my books and free tutorials on this blog. Thank you!

Caroline, who recently wove double weave with me with friends in Arizona, finished one of the bands she had started with a cute llama motif and attractive twisted fringe. Thanks go to Karen in Cincinnati who adapted the llama motif to a narrow band from one of my much wider pieces.

Claire in Tasmania, with whom I wove in August, used one of the patterns from my latest book to weave this elegant band in linen and cottolin. She commented that after a good hard press, the linen looked and felt beautiful. I haven’t yet worked with linen and  I love the look of this band. I am excited that I will be able to return to Tasmania to weave with Claire again next year.

Bob Seymour followed my double weave tutorial on this blog and designed his own Kokopelli motif. Fabulous!

Below, you can see work from Julie using her Mini Wave loom and using the technique I teach in my book on Complementary-warp Pick-up. The first pattern is from that book and Julie is using the method to weave the second larger pattern which is in my second bookOne of the members of the Ravelry group told me that she learned to weave patterns by picking up all the sheds by hand from my latest book and likes that method so much that she is using it now even for the patterns for which she could use additional heddles.  Once people learn how to do complementary-warp pick-up and see how simple it is….just hands and sticks and no extra heddles….they quite often do not feel the need to add the optional extra heddles for the Andean Pebble Weave technique.

Jörg has combined two 12-thread patterns from my latest book. I love the combination of colors!

Karen Sprenger showed me how she has been progressing with the double weave bands we started together.

And, Kathy sent me a picture of what she has made on her draw loom using a traditional pattern from my second book. You might remember that she had me weaving on her draw loom when I visited with her some time ago…

You can just see a bit of the Tinkipaya-inspired motif and the marvelous system of pegs and cords that I am pulling to lift the threads for the pattern.

Here’s Kathy’s finished piece…

Vatinee in Thailand is currently into Andean Pebble Weave patterns as well…great colors!

And, here’s Wendy’s finished band in Andean Pebble Weave…we have pebble weave in luscious pinks and blues on looms in different parts of the world! What fun.

As for me, I am about to weave some cats! And yes, I do love those two sets of heddles for the pebble sheds!

The collection of new sample bands is expanding!

Heading back to Bolivia soon to throw this silk on the loom!













  1. please tell me how to use the wooden piece with the hooks featured in Kyoto’s photo of her travel kit. I have this and don’t know how to use it. It was a gift.

  2. How sad that you didn’t get to go to your double ikat class – but better safe than full of ash. Will you be able to work it into your schedule in the future? Are you planning to come to Reno for Convergence? You can always stay with us before or after if you’d like. I’m sharing a room with Kate Colwell (I think you met her when you taught in the Bay Area – she’s an MD and volunteered with us at the bereavement camp in Tahoe several times). And you could camp out with us if you’d like.

    • Hi Virginia. Thank you for your sweet and thoughtful comment. Yes, new plans are already afoot for a trip to Indonesia…some time! Your offer for a camp out with you and Kate for Convergence is certainly tempting. I’ll let you know. I had a great time at Convergence Albuquerque in 2010 just hanging out in the vendor hall for three days backstrap weaving and visiting.

  3. dear laverne,
    what a detour you made, you sound so positive about what you did with the time but Im sure in your heart you would’ve been sorry to miss out on the double ikat course. looking forward to your next book! xx

    • Thank you, Anna. Yes, I was quite devastated but what can you do? I had to be productive and am so glad I made good use of the time.

  4. Your posts are always a feast for the eyes and for the soul. Thank you!

    • You are always so supportive. Thank you, Deanna. I am glad you enjoy the posts!

  5. I made a dent in Dorinda’s PAZA inventory. For anyone interested in buying, she makes it easy to choose items and to pay for them. While waiting for my items, I’m reading her whole blog.

    Laverine, I just finished reading your blog for the second time, have all your books and the DVD. The terms and techniques make more sense the second time around. I’m sorry you didn’t get to Bali, but glad you were very productive towards the next book.

    • Thank you, Ginny. The weavers in Bolivia will be delighted with your purchase. Yes, it was a good productive time for me…I was determined to make good use of that lost opportunity! Thanks for your comments.

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