Posted by: lavernewaddington | December 22, 2017

Backstrap Weaving – Starting Small

I am back in Bolivia and as much as I wish I could throw all the lovely silk I bought at the ANWG conference in Canada earlier this year onto my backstrap loom and weave something large and lovely, I realize that I am simply not in the best state to do so. Why?… Jet lag. I’ll say it again….there is something about flying from west to east through all those time zones that makes the jet lag particularly brutal. I have been at home six days now and still struggle to stay awake long enough to be able to finish a meal!

So, I decided it would be wise to start with something small. Better still, I decided to finish off some projects rather than start something new.

I have been thinking about the lovely cloth that my weaving teacher and friends in the central Bolivian highlands make ever since I wrote my last blog post. In that post I told you all about the unsold pieces that Dorinda had taken with her to the USA after having attended the Tinkuy in Cusco. What a response! Many pieces were sold. Dorinda was thrilled and can’t wait to get back to Bolivia to tell the ladies. THANK YOU SO MUCH everyone who bought the long fajas and yoga mat straps. Julia showed all of us in the Ravelry group the three lovely pieces she bought…

Those are all natural dye colors. I hope that everyone who bought pieces will enjoy hanging them on their walls or maybe cutting them up to make bags or pouches. Don’t feel bad about cutting them up. That is exactly what the weavers themselves in the co-op do with these pieces. I know that Julia is thinking about using one of her pieces to sew a case for a charka that she is having built. Julia sews beautifully and constructs gorgeous bags. I have shown the bags and other items that she has made with her backstrap woven cloth on this blog many times and I can’t wait to see what she constructs with this cloth.

My own projects with this cloth tend to be a lot more basic. My sewing skills are very limited. I like to make small pouches similar to the ch’uspas that the ladies use to carry their coca leaves.

This is one of the bands that I had bought from Dorinda to use when I teach tubular bands and sewn embellishments to my weaving friends. I cut it into pieces so that each of my friends could have a piece with which to practice and perhaps later turn into something useful, like a pouch. While holding the beautiful cloth in my hands and breathing in that special aroma of the highlands it is hard to imagine the amount of work that went into its creation.

(The following series of pictures of Maxima and my Bolivian weaving friends are from the PAZA Bolivia blog and were taken by Dorinda Dutcher who works with the ladies.)

From shearing the sheep or purchasing skins and then washing them in the river…

…to preparing the clean fiber and spinning it…

…to gathering plants for dyeing and watching the pots as the skeins of singles take up the rich colors of the countryside… (if you are curious about the intense yellow color in this picture, read the PAZA Bolivia blog post on the ”magical dye pot”)

…to plying and then warping the looms, dressing the warp and eventually weaving…

For a long long time I have been demonstrating decorative stitching on a piece that I had cut from the long band pictured way above. I have created the stitches and then cut them out, created them again and cut them out again as I demonstrated the method over and over to my weaving friends. I decided that it was time to ”retire” this particular piece of cloth, that is, make it into something more than a demonstration piece and allow it to sit in peace on the table as a sample when I am not using it. So, I sewed it into a pouch and decorated it with stitches and bands that are typically used by weavers in Bolivia.

I like using Cascade 220 yarn and KnitPicks Palette as they have colors that very closely resemble the natural dye colors of the Bolivian highlands.

Here’s the finished pouch. I used ”coil stitches” along the bottom, wove and sewed a tubular band along the sides, decorated the top edges with cross-knit looping and wove a pebble weave band for the strap. It is just the right size for carrying my small purse when I travel.

Here’s a closer look at the tubular band with its ñawi  pattern and the cross-knit looping. I wove the tubular band and the strap with KnitPicks Palette yarn. It is much finer than the Cascade yarn and the handspun that was used for the pouch itself and makes a a very neat tubular edging. See how perfectly the colors match? I used the Cascade yarn for the coil stitches and the cross knit looping .

And here’s a closer look at the coil stitches. I love those chunky coils!

With that project under my belt, I turned to something else that I could finish off. I really won’t trust myself to the critical task of warping with my 60/2 silk until I feel that my feet are completely back on the ground again…and they are not quite there yet!

However, I did find something silky to get into. It must be a couple of years ago now that I was offered a whole bunch of tiny naturally dyed skeins of silk from a guild member’s estate by friends in Grass Valley.  When you are a backstrap weaver, amounts like these are not too small!

What fun I had rolling the skeins into balls while thinking of ways to combine the colors. There was cochineal, logwood, madder, indigo….

I didn’t want to risk wasting any of it and so I chose some colors and first wove a small sample as a width gauge. That sample has since become a wrist cuff. After that, I was free to plan some bigger things combining the reds and berry colors, then the purples and golds, the browns and tans and finally the greens and sandy colors.

First came ”leaves among the berries”using gold-color supplementary weft…

…followed by ”leaves on the snow” in double weave…

I designed a creeper pattern with leaves for the green piece…

…and finished with my own original pebble weave leaf pattern on the browns…

And, the pieces have sat since then waiting to become something.

I had the idea to use them to cover notebooks or journals but what were the chances of finding books of exactly the right dimensions to fit all four pieces?

Well, as luck would have it, I know a gentleman who makes books and who has a whole studio devoted to it in his home. On my first visit to his studio, I hadn’t taken the pieces of fabric but was thrilled when he offered me off-cuts of beautiful pieces of decorated paper that I could use inside the covers of the books. I had to try and imagine which bits of paper would best suit my woven pieces.

A year later, I visited him again and remembered to bring the fabric. He agreed to cut some books specially for my project. By scratching around in the stores here in Bolivia, I had found two suitable books and the project was at a standstill until could find two more. Each of the four pieces of cloth is a different width as I had just thrown together random amounts of the various colors until I liked what I saw.

So, there are my two beautiful custom-made notebooks for my project! We chose paper with a grid of squares so that I could use the books for charting. I intend to fill them!

Then came the time to match the paper with the weavings, something which I hadn’t yet bothered to do. Without all four books ready to go, I had had no interest in the project. I am really pleased with the way the paper and cloth look together. I think I just got lucky and managed to choose well.

Then it was time to get out the glue and construct. I use contact cement. It works well with the fabric and does not penetrate and stain it. It is tricky stuff however, as once those two glued surfaces make contact there is very very little wiggle room for adjustment.

I turn the edge of the fabric to the inside of the cover and glue it in place. It looks pretty rough at this point. Once it is holding there nicely, I apply glue bit by bit to the front cover, the spine, the back cover, and then finally turn the edge to the inside of the back cover. I don’t let the glue completely dry. While it is still wet, and there is still room to maneuver, I wrap the cloth all the way round the book and then open and close the covers to make sure that I have stretched the fabric just the right amount. Then I peel it back, wait for the glue to dry and make the final contact…that’s the point of no return!

Then I cut the paper to fit the inside cover and glue it into place on top of the raw edge of the cloth…

Two down, two to go…

What’s next before I launch into the big project?

I am trying to think of what best to do with the piece of cloth I wove for Marilyn. You might remember this piece in pink and purple I called ”sunrise, sunset”  which I wove using Marilyn’s 10/2 perle cotton.

All I am seeing right now is a tool bag but I don’t have the right colors of yarn to decorate it to my liking. Perhaps I should just give the fabric to Marilyn and see what she would like to do with it. Or maybe tomorrow I will wake up with a whole new idea. I’ll let it rest for now.

Oh, and the other thing I have been doing since I got home is charting…lots and lots of charting… for my next book of complementary-warp/pebble weave patterns. I am drawing out the spotted charts and then my friend Sharon will draw up the block charts for me. So, yes, I have been pretty busy and quite productive since I got back.

And, I upgraded my internet. It pays to keep checking with the providers every now and then (which I have neglected to do) as prices drop and I find that I can now afford the faster and more reliable service. No more having the signal cut off every 40 seconds which means I can even use Skype now…yippee! And I have an unlimited Megabyte allowance.

I celebrated by listening to the WeaveZine podcasts, Weavecast, that I have never been able to listen to before. Seeing as the second volume of Rodrick Owens’ book on Peruvian sling braids has just come out, I decided to listen to his podcast first. These podcasts are wonderful things that Syne Mitchell has created for us along with all the marvelous WeaveZine articles that she published.

Another thing I have been able to enjoy with my new internet service, without stops and splutters and various other interruptions, is a new free video on Sprang Braiding that expert Carol James has made available on Taproot Video. In this free video she teaches the basic technique using a method that does not require any kind of loom or frame. It’s awesome!

My friend Tracy, who took a sprang class with Carol earlier this year, made this cool pouch for me. The technique is very versatile. The vest that Carol is wearing above was made with sprang braiding and you should see the gloves, hats and other items she shows in the video…

Julie has been showing pictures of bands she has been making using her MiniWave loom. She is well and truly hooked on the complementary-warp pick-up technique and, after studying the ”picking cross” method in my latest book and weaving some of the patterns there, she is now gobbling up the larger and more complex projects in my second book….This particular pattern is very dear to me. It was the pattern on the very first piece of weaving I bought on my first trip to Peru. It was a mere scrap I found in a street market and all I felt I could afford at the time and I bought it before I had found my first weaving teachers. I puzzled over the pattern for quite some time trying to replicate it before I realized that weavers quite often combine more than one kind of arrangement of floats in a single piece. Julie’s piece is beautiful.

Now she is weaving another great favorite of mine that I like to call the ”Rolling River”. I love this picture with Julie’s two swords nicely holding the picking cross and her pretty pick-up stick, all made by Terri at Magical Moons.

I am hoping to get the big silk project going soon and I think I will be able to show it to you in the next blog post.

I’ll be announcing the ”Cuffs and Bracelets” Weave-along on Ravelry soon. I am hoping to get it started in the first week of January once all the festivities are well and truly over. The idea is to weave several short and narrow projects in plain weave or pick-up that can be made into bracelets by applying ribbon clamps and other jewelry findings. I’ll write more about that in the next blog post.

Christmas will be happening in the meantime. I hope you all have a happy one.













  1. Oh, tool bag! Defiantly a tool bag 🙂
    Merry Christmas to you too, Laverne!

  2. I am always amazed at how much you weave. Do you ever just sit and relax? I really love the yellow on the fajas. (and the story of the magical yellow too) I just received 2 fajas and a yoga mat strap from Dorinda and I’m thinking about what I’m going to make from them. I wish I had been able to take your class on tubular edgings. I learned when I was at the Tinkuy but one lesson wasn’t enough. Maybe another time I’ll be where you’re teaching and will be able to really master the technique. !Felíz Navidad!

  3. Nice to see your beautiful weaving applied to books!

  4. What a wonderful blog! I really enjoy seeing what you and all these other weavers around the world are creating! The books are fantastic, and I agree that you chose the perfect paper for each one. My favorite color mixture is “leaves among the berries.”
    I’ve completed lessons 1-3 in your Andean Pebble Book, and have been struggling along with #4. As Karren said, “some projects seem to be cursed.”
    I think (hope!) I have it under control now and can continue on. I am also going to start a backstrap like the one on your tutorial, but warping for stripes and designs such as the various combs. My current backstrap was made using your pillowcase method and it definitely needs an upgrade!
    Your pouch with all the different stitches and techniques is also quite beautiful.
    Thanks for the link to the magical dye pot post. Their articles and photos are very interesting and that yellow is eye-popping!
    I look forward to information about the Ravelry weave-along. It sounds like a fun way to learn. Thanks for all you do for the weaving world – I don’t know how you keep up with it all!
    Feliz Navidad!

  5. Thank you for your beautiful work, it is truly an inspiration to me. I am an inkle weaver and use the patterns in my weaving but would love to learn backstrap weaving so I can do wider pieces.

  6. Your blogs are always a looked forward to treat! Have you addressed how to weave the ñawi tubular band pattern in any of your publications? If so which one?

    Again thank you for sharing such amazing and beautiful work.

  7. Thank you for all you do, and share !

    • You have always been very supportive. Thank you, Ellen.

  8. Best Christmas present of all is a new post to your blog! Thank you for that loveliness, and thank you to your jet lag, for giving you a break so you could share this. 🙂 Abrazos!

  9. I love the leaves patterns. The colors you chose, as always, are perfect. Enjoy your new connection to the wide world of internet.

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