Posted by: lavernewaddington | November 30, 2018

Backstrap Weaving – Taking My Own Advice

This will be a very sparse blog post, I am afraid. But, the exciting thing is that I have been spending almost all my time working on my next book. I am on a roll! I am weaving samples, washing and pressing them, taking photos, wishing for clear days with good natural light to re-take photos, and writing, writing writing. There have been some very exciting and surprising discoveries along the way. There’s always something new to learn.

October was supposed to be what I considered to be a well-earned ”play” month after two-and-a-half months away from home on the road. Writing was to begin promptly in November.

Well, that didn’t happen. I was having way too much fun weaving, spinning and even knitting. But, by mid-November the books I had started writing earlier this year were calling for attention. I do, after all need to earn a living! Getting everything set up to start is the hardest part. I tell myself to just get over that hump and everything will start to flow. Well-taken advice. I cleaned up my chaotic creative space and set up for writing and photographing just before I went to bed one evening. It turned out that the ”hump” had been the cleaning. I woke up to a clean, organized space and happily jumped into the writing the next morning.

As for my play-time weaving experiments, I took my own advice again and stopped spinning cotton to weave a sample. It would be no use continuing to spin if the thread I was producing was not suitable for the kinds of cloth I want to weave. I am, after all, very new at spinning cotton. What I am producing now is clearly beginner stuff and I don’t expect to be able to produce anything consistent until I spin my way out of this beginner phase and improve my skills. That just takes mileage….lots of it…..and, hopefully, some advice and tips from experts.

I was curious about how my beginner efforts in spinning singles for weaving would hold up. I created a warp for the kind of sheer cloth that I recently wove using the hand spun Guatemalan cotton I had bought. I wanted to spin thread that was finer than that.

Well, my hand spun cotton is finer in most parts, less fine in other parts and shockingly thicker in others…you know, typical beginner stuff! But, I was determined to weave with it anyway. I didn’t use a reed, as if one challenge would not be enough!

There was a fair bit of un-weaving and re-weaving in the beginning as I messed around trying to get the sett right. I didn’t have a sample from which to take measurements. This was the sample. My hand spun didn’t really care for all that fiddling about and a couple of threads broke.

And then I ran out of weft and that is where it stands. Is it worth spinning more thread for weft to finish this or has the sample already told me what I needed to know? You might know by now that I like to make things from my samples if that is at all possible. I’ll let it sit there while I think about it. What I do know is that I have much to learn about spinning cotton.

The other thing I wove, before I got my nose buried in my writing, photo-taking and sample-weaving, was the strap for my little pocket bag. When I use the ñawi awapa tubular band as the edging for a piece, I like to weave a strap with a design that resembles the ‘eye’, or diamond shapes on the edging. A simple pattern like that is easy to set up with four sets of string heddles.

Here’s the finished bag with its strap…

Weaving can zoom along when I use those extra heddles. I have used up to eleven of them when I have needed to quickly knock out a strap or lanyard.

It’s fast and could almost be boring if I didn’t have to busy my mind with remembering which heddle came next in the sequence. I found color coding useful.

And then there’s this…! Those are all heddle rods. This lady certainly knows how to weave a complex pattern without having to do pick-up.

I spent a lot of time watching this lady weave and realized that figuring out the next heddle in the sequence was not a visual thing for her but rather a matter of ”feel”. She could tell by the way the sets of heddles moved along the warp which one was next. The  heddle sets she had already used would slide freely. The next one in the sequence would resist.

Now I am going to take my own advice again and set up a couple of small weaving projects that I can play with as ”rewards” for time spent at the keyboard working on the book. I have been advising a friend who is moving house to take time out and reward herself during the tedious packing-up process. When you live alone, like I do, and don’t have encouragement and support immediately around you, the rewards system seems to work well. I might weave the fabric for some hair barrettes (yes, the going-grey plan is still in action) and add some new pieces to my woven jewelry collection.

Until next time….






  1. You are amazing. So much energy.

  2. As always, Laverne, I love your work. The hand spun cotton sample looks amazing. I really like the the idea of color coded heddles, I’ll need to get some different colored nylon now. I am looking forward to the new book. Can’t wait to add it’s techniques, patterns and tips to the rest of them I’ve learned from you. Take and happy weaving.

  3. Your cotton is looking very good! It’s not easy to spin singles for weaving, so you’re right to give yourself more time. Kristin is the master, if you ever have a chance to sit at her knee.

    And the heddles – I just finished a small sample using saver sticks and heddled pebble sheds for an all-over ñawi-ñawi, highlighted in an Ed Franquemont article. It was fun to pick up only once for every 8 rows.

    I wish I could document and share all my experiments as thoroughly as you do…. I’m very reluctant to sit around typing it all up.
    But it’s happening, all the same.

  4. Beautiful work as always. Thanks. Can’t wait to learn some of these Hi.

  5. I look forward to your blog posts. I understand how you are having trouble with spinning cotton too. It is very different from spinning wool!

    Have you done anything with spinning and weaving linen? I am researching how to weave it and the reasons for wet weaving. I have all sorts of weaving ideas percolating in my head. I see that you do too! Great minds, right?! 😊

    I am happy to see how full and active your life is, so there is never a dull moment!

  6. The use of those multiple heddles is quite intriguing! I love your little bag and the matching strap you made. This is funny…I was just sorting through a bag of buttons and beads to find something to use in a mask workshop that I am attending, and I have a button that is exactly the same as the one on your bag!
    Sounds like you are making good progress on your book – along with many other people I am looking forward to it!
    Thanks for another interesting and inspiring post!

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