Posted by: lavernewaddington | September 3, 2018

Backstrap Weaving – Snippets and Snaps

Well, I was hoping to make some ”postcard” mini-posts while on the road but I have been so busy moving from place to place….long flights back and forth across oceans with the dreaded jet-laggy recoveries. But, here I am now happily settled on the pretty seashore of Maine, with my dear friend Astrig, for the next part of my journey. The only thing missing from making this next picture perfect is a warp hooked to my big toe, but there will be plenty of time for weaving soon…

I went to the local Farmers’ Market yesterday and met, quite by chance, weaver Susan Barrett Merrill, the creator of the small lap loom called the Journey Loom. I have several weaving friends who have created fabulous woven masks using Susan’s book “The Art of Weaving a Life”and I have seen her and her fans in various online groups over these last years.

As I strolled through the market, I was attracted to the sign on a booth that read ”Handwoven Earrings”. I really am not one for jewelry. I have worn the same two pairs of tiny gold hoop earrings for at least the last 12 years but I am currently making the tough transition to my natural hair color, that is, grey (actually, more like white!), and I am rewarding myself for every inch or so of new grey growth with a new pair of earrings. I’ll wear them when all my dark brown color has been cut out. That will take some time!

So, there I was admiring the idea of handwoven earrings and there was Susan! Susan uses silk, cotton, bamboo and metallic threads for her earrings and it was quite difficult to pick a single pair as my favorite from her display. I looked through a catalog of her amazing masks and noticed that she had incorporated ”Bolivian-style finger weaving” (crossed warp technique) in one particular mask that she calls Epona, She of the Wild Horses. This mask is made from Maine handspun island wool and linen. The face is woven and the headdress and horse figures are felted with merino and ram’s wool. The corona has Shyrdak designs of Central Asia. You can take a look at a gallery of her masks here.

My time in Australia was fast-paced but awesome. It was fun meeting weavers for the first time in Adelaide, wonderful catching up with old weaving friends once again and meeting new ones in northern Tasmania, Melbourne, Maitland and south coast NSW.

Weavers in Adelaide pause to chart some patterns from woven bands.

Patrick in Melbourne is a new addition to our backstrap weaving fold. He sits beside Ruth who was weaving with me for the third time in Melbourne.

Patrick was a natural and immediately started creating his own patterns in warp-faced double weave…

Ruth also created her own pattern using only twelve threads…a sweet flamingo…which she was happy to share with other students. In another class, Mog saw the pattern, loved it, and wove it as paired flamingos on her twenty-thread warp.

The endless days of glorious sunshine in NSW were marred by the fact that the state is once again in the grip of drought. Wildlife is attracted to the thin line of green grass that borders the country roads that wind through fields of dusty dry yellow. As a result, we hit a kangaroo on the way home from weaving one evening…so very sad.

Ten happy backstrap weavers enjoy warping outside in the winter sunshine on the south coast of NSW.

Cornelia, who wove with me last year, returned and I got to see the interesting things she has been weaving on her backstrap loom in the meantime. Pick-up patterning is not really her thing but she is always interested in learning. As you can see from the picture, she is very much into texture.

Here you can see Maeve’s clever hands creating a goat pattern of her own design in warp-faced double weave…

I saw the work of Tasmanian weaver Michael Kay in an exhibit called Towards an Origin in Launceston. He happened to be there when I visited and we got a personal tour. Among the various pieces displayed were Michael’s unique images that he creates using a rep weave technique and hand painted warp. The two layers of warp are painted different colors and he uses the thick and thin weft that is traditionally used in rep weave to allow one of the two colors to dominate at will to form images.

I was lucky enough to be in Melbourne during the Viking exhibit and Ruth was kind enough to take me along. It is amazing to think of the thread being spun and the cloth being woven piece by piece and interlaced to form the sails of the traditional boats. ”Krampmacken” has been reconstructed from an archaeological boat discovery from the end of the Viking Age.

I particularly loved seeing the sewing tools, the needles and their decorated cases among the hundreds of pieces on display.

Thanks to my weaving friend, Glenys, I got to spend the last days at south coast beaches which were largely deserted in the off-season. Only a few hardy surfers could be seen bobbing among the waves. I love wild wintry beaches.

There I said goodbye to Australia for 2018 and attempted a selfie for what might be the last picture of myself with dark hair. I am hoping I don’t chicken out on this transition to my natural color. The contrast in the newly emerging natural color is startling to say the least!

Beautiful early morning strolls along the boardwalk were a perfect peaceful way to end my Australian visit and contemplate the road ahead.

The immediate road ahead involved a trip across the ocean and multiple time zones to L.A where I wove once again with my friend Kathleen, experienced an earthquake which toppled some small objects and wobbled pictures on north-south walls off center, stayed in a town where wild peacock roam the suburban streets, and found a small city that bears my name!

This is one of the few places where I don’t need to lie to the Starbucks guy and tell him to write ”Mary” on my cup.

Kathleen took me along to visit the Charter Oak Weaving and Spinning Center which has over 100 looms distributed between two rooms and at least 80 students. It must be the biggest school of its kind in the USA. We visited at the start of one of the evening classes and there was quite a buzz of excitement at the start of the new term. It was nice to meet people there with whom I have corresponded as well as a weaving friend I had made on my visit to Palm Springs earlier this year.

I had stayed with Kathleen on my way through to Australia and she was kind enough to host me again on my return trip. The first time I came through, she had been fresh back from Convergence where she had taken a velvet weaving class with Barbara Setsu Pickett. Kathy’s piece was still on the loom and she showed me what she had created from Barbara’s instructions as well as some innovations of her own. She created various combinations of flat weaving, cut and uncut pile. The piece was gorgeous and particularly so because of Kathleen’s color choices and combinations. Kathleen, who is a professional costumer, plans to incorporate velvet in an opera cape that she will sew. It is bound to be stunning.

And now to enjoy beautiful Maine and the company of my friend Astrig, seen here spinning in the late evening sunlight, and other weaving friends. Let’s see if I can squeeze in another post of snippets and snaps before I head back to Bolivia.





  1. I love following your adventures!!!

  2. L, back in the USA! Dang, you do a lot of traveling. Barely get the seat warm before heading out again. I love following you around, you have wonderful adventures. I want you to know I have received my grade on the research paper you help me with. 32 points out of 35. Not bad. And I owe it all to you. Couldn’t have done it without you. The backstrap project was a success as well. I added the hakimas as an added bonus. Thanks again, I wish you all the best. Hugs, Denise

    • That’s awesome, Denise. Thanks for letting me know I hope we can weave together again some time.

  3. I think I might like to try this someday.

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