Posted by: lavernewaddington | January 5, 2018

Backstrap Weaving – A New Year and New Ideas

A New Year and New Ideas…. but let’s look at the end of the old one first. There were projects to finish before diving into the new ones and a couple that got carried over into the new year.

There were the little journals that needed to be covered with my silk fabric and lined with the pretty paper that John had given me over a year ago.

It was fantastic seeing this project finally come to its end. It must be almost two years since I was first given the gorgeous collection of little naturally-dyed silk skeins that I used to weave these pieces of fabric. Now I just have to make myself use the little books. I don’t want them sitting on the shelf as ornaments.

Here’s what the insides of the covers look like with the decorative paper that I was given. I really am very pleased with the way the books turned out.

The next project that needed finishing was Marilyn’s tool bag. I had been wondering what to do with the finished fabric and had only come up with the idea of a tool bag. Marilyn read my last blog post and assured me in her comment that she would be more than happy to have one.

It has been ages since I sewed in a zipper. I sew by hand and I was not looking forward to the trial-and-error process that is usually a part of my efforts to sew anything. Luckily, I got the zip positioned correctly first go. And then I sewed a patterned tubular band, a nawi awapa, to the edges and flap of the bag. I managed to find colors that would match the bag and went ahead with the edging even though I would rather have used thread that was a wee bit heavier.

So, there’s Marilyn’s bag holding a nice assortment of tools. I am sure that she will have plenty of tools with which to fill her new pouch.

The little balls of thread that you see next to bag are the ones that I plan to use in the Weave-Along (WAL) that we are running in the Ravelry Backstrap Weaving Group starting this Saturday January 6th. It is a ”Cuff and Bracelet” weave-along which people can join at any time. I expect it will run until the end of the month. You can never tell just how many people will participate and how long there will be interest.

Some people have already started making the cuffs from bands they wove some time ago. It’s just a matter of getting the right findings…clasps and jump rings, ribbon crimps etc or buttons, snaps and braids…deciding on a structure (plain weave is also very much encouraged!) winding a short warp, dressing it and weaving.

Hopefully, many bands will be made giving participants a chance to really get comfortable with the warping and heddle-making process. I hope that my Basic Warping for Backstrap Looms video, which wasn’t around for the last WAL, will be useful for new participants.

We had some amazing plain weave contributions to the last Weave-Along we ran back in 2015 (gasp!…really? Was it that long ago?) where we wove bands that were made into key fobs.

Here are Julia T’s fruit-inspired patterns in plain weave. We had all kinds of structures represented in that Weave-Along but I particularly enjoyed the creativity that went into layout of the plain weave ones.

Any kind of loom can be used in the WAL. Julie is using a Gilmore MiniWave loom. Others will use backstrap looms and I am sure we will have a few people using inkle looms. Who knows who might drop by and what equipment they will use?

There have already been some interesting ideas thrown out there, such as this one from Katherine: starting and ending a band as a tube and then inserting the tubes into barrel clasps to connect the two ends. It would be better suited to a bracelet rather than a cuff and I can’t wait to try it!

Here’s a band with pick-up patterning that Julie made a short time ago and has turned into a cuff.

I love Claire’s braided loop and the earthy look of this cuff…

Wendy has shown us the yarn that she plans to use. She is interested in further exploring the use of variegated thread. Those jewel colors will look fabulous with the black in pebble weave. She also found ribbon crimps that are just the right size for an Andean Pebble Weave band that she recently wove.

As for me, I plan to use the thread pictured next to Marilyn’s bag to start with. There I have some Valdani cotton (on the left) and some DMC #12 on the right. I have fond memories of buying that Valdani cotton while at the Seattle Folk Life Festival with Marilyn a couple of years ago and I was out and about with Ruth and Lise when I got the DMC at Lacis in the Bay area.

Julie continues her exploration of complementary-warp pick-up on her MiniWave loom and has just woven one of my favorite patterns from my second book, the one I like to call the Rolling River…

One of my favorite parts of making jewelry from my woven bands is this…

I found these plastic containers at my local supermarket. I am such a sucker for containers with small compartments into which I can put all my bits and pieces all neat and tidy! Unfortunately the tools that I use to open the jump rings don’t fit. I love poking around in the one that holds all the buttons and pendants.

As for my large silk project….that one has spilled over into the new year and hasn’t moved very far since. I did wind most of the silk from the skeins into balls. I love that I am still using some of the silk I bought in London back in 2012 along with the silk I bought this year from Redfish.  Ball-winding was a nice mindless activity to do while enjoying my faster internet and listening to podcasts. Getting this faster and more stable internet has been kind of life-changing!

The original plan was to weave a longer and wider 60/2 silk version of this piece….

This short piece became one of the journal covers. I wanted to weave a scarf using this same idea but with the main color theme being blue rather than purple. I had the leaf chart already drawn up and was good to go. I had a double weave sample in 60/2 silk from which to take my measurements. It was just a matter of figuring out how to arrange the colors and then going ahead and winding the warp.

However, a new year rolled over and I suddenly felt the need to create something new.

I do consider my leaf motif to be one of my ”signature” patterns but I have woven it a good number of times already. There’s no real challenge there. Putting together a nice combination of colors would have been the real challenge but I wanted something more.

So, I won’t be winding this warp until I have come up with the new motif.

I love the haphazardly floating leaves and wanted to weave something that had that same sort of feel.

Feathers? No…too much like leaves.  Sea shells? Pretty shapes but not at all ”floaty”.

And then I remembered a brief discussion in one of the online groups recently about weaving paisley motifs.

Paisley motifs have always seemed to me to have lots of movement…twisting and turning their way across the cloth. I had played around with that idea some years ago. I had wanted to weave paisley shapes using supplementary weft but had found it quite difficult to come up with a pattern in which the weft-floats weren’t too long.

You can see one of my solutions  in the red band above… to break up the long weft-floats into smaller ones in some sort of consistent manner.  I didn’t make a paisley shape but I did weave something approaching that. I wasn’t one hundred per cent happy with the result. I then apparently got distracted and moved on to something else!

The good news is that I plan to weave the motifs in this latest silk project in double weave, not with supplementary weft, and so I do not need to consider either warp or weft-float length. Ah, the freedom! So, I imagine I will be armed with pencil and eraser for some time figuring out how to chart a paisley motif. And it seems that just one paisley motif is not enough! I’ll need various sizes and alignments. My goodness, some of the examples that I have seen online are busy! Not that I am contemplating anything like this for this current project, but the next picture will show you what I mean by ”busy”.

And now for the charting….

Step One: Figure out how large I want my motif to be and then, using my silk width sample, figure out how many warp ends I will need for the motif.

My notes on this double weave 60/2 silk lanyard helped me plan the number of warp ends I would need for my paisley motif.

Step Two: Create a chart with the right number of cells.

Step Three: Draw the outline of the shape, cut it out and transfer the shape to the chart .

That is where I am at so far. You can see my cut-out shape below. The large chart I made is not in the picture but you can see the chart of staggered oval cells that I use for these kinds of motifs. You can download this kind of charting paper from my blog on this page.

I think it will be fun figuring out how I want to fill the shape. There are so many options that I have seen in the paisley images online. And then I will need to decide just how open or busy I want to overall pattern to be. Then, of course, I will need to weave a sample to check proportions. So, it might be some time before all that lovely silk makes it onto my backstrap loom bars. That will give me more time to think about the color arrangement, my ideas for which change from day to day!

By the way, I go through all the steps I typically follow to create a double weave motif in a tutorial I wrote some time ago.

Between all that action, I shall continue to put together my new complementary-warp pattern book. The charts are nicely taking shape and I am slowly photographing the samples. There’ll be some filming going on too plus I’ll be weaving bands for the Cuffs and Bracelets Weave-Along and soaking up all the inspiration there. I hope you will join us!







  1. Hello Laverne,

    I love reading your ‘blog’, your weaving is so beautiful and your photos are fantastic!

    Wishing you a great 2018,

    Jenny Jackett

  2. Ahhhh…….. Paisley. One of my most favorite shapes. I feel all warm and comfy when I see paisley, for some reason. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with, Laverne! Happy New Year! oxox ginny

    • Happy New Year to you too, Ginny. I hope cn make a good job of your favorite shape.

  3. Your photos are always so lovely, Laverne. I especially like the one showing your finished “little books”! I can think of a lot of ways that putting together a photo like that could have resulted in a boring photo, but not yours! You put so much thought into every thing you do, and it shows! The inclusion of the little pots to hold the books open was pure genius! Your photos inspire me to jump into new projects.

    • Thank you, Mary! Every now and then the light is just right and I can manage a better-than-average photo!

  4. I learned back strap weaving in my early 20’s in Guatemala and don’t know much about weaving other than that. I would like to start weaving again but in my 60’s I don’t want to sit on the floor anymore and know that every time I put the loom down I am in danger of dropping the sticks even if they are tided in. I would like to know if you have any suggestions for a rigid loom of some type that you could do back strap weaving techniques on. Thank you

    • Hi Beth. It must have been amazing learning backstrap weaving in Guatemala 40 or so years ago. I have been in contact with another lady in California who did the same and she shared her diary with me where she writes about her experience….so interesting!

      The cloth produced on backstrap looms in Guatemala is largely warp-faced and so you could use any loom that allows you to produce warp-faced cloth. Your choice will depend a lot on the width of cloth that you want to produce. Don’t underestimate how helpful it is to be able to adjust tension at will when you use a backstrap. You will only really become aware of all the tiny adjustments you unconsciously make when you are locked into a fixed tension on some other kind of loom. Weavers I know from my various online groups use inkle looms for narrow pieces, Gilmore Wave looms for sash-like widths and even floor looms to weave warp-faced cloth using patterning techniques that backstrap weavers use.

      If you are weaving basic plain weave cloth using a backstrap loom and have your warp threads lashed to the end beams rather than just turning around them and a secure way of making heddles, then the only stick that can possibly fall out when you set the loom down, is the shed rod. Having a large safety string sitting under the threads that the shed rod raises, will help you recover the shed should the stick fall out. I would rather have the stick fall out completely than have it dangling from a string. If you make your heddles in the same way I do, they will grip the heddle stick and the stick will not be able to fall out. I learned to weave and make heddles in Guatemala according to their tradition and so I understand that the heddle stick in their looms can fall out. I showed my way of making heddles to two weavers in Nebaj who threw up their hands with big smiles on their faces telling me how this would make their lives so much easier.

      If, however, you are going to use additional sticks, for example, pattern sticks, then yes, there will be more sticks that could possible fall out. I sit on the floor on a cushion to weave but I teach sitting in a chair. I don’t like weaving sitting in a chair but, when I find myself using one and need to set the weaving down, I first grip the near beam in the center with my right hand and take up the tension. Then I slip the backstrap off the beam on both sides. I might have to swap my grip on the beam from one hand to other in order to do so. I stand up while maintaining my grip on the near beam, keeping it horizontal and maintaining the tension. Then I slide my chair all the way forward so that I can place the front beam and section of warp that holds all the sticks on the seat of the chair. You just want to make sure that you are not jumping up from your chair for some kind of emergency. In that case, yes, you will probably drop everything!

      I hope this helps. Let me know what you do and how you go with your weaving.

  5. Thank you for your warm and informative response! I will see what I can work out.

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