Posted by: lavernewaddington | June 27, 2019

Backstrap Weaving – Something from Scraps

I was motivated by the announcement that the summer 2019 weave-along (WAL) in one of the weaving groups on Ravelry would be “Weaving with Hand-dyed or Painted Yarns”. The WAL for the last couple of summers has been about band weaving and although I happily participated in those, this newest topic is much more interesting and challenging for me.

I decided that it was a good time to try ikat using silk for warp and started scratching around in my silk stash which includes cones and skeins of 30/2, 60/2 and 140/2 thread. I figured I would be wise to start with the heaviest 30/2 thread even though that still seemed very intimidating. I have mostly used cotton for my ikat experiments in the past, the finest being this one with 20/2s.

I was able to turn this experiment into something useful…a nice draw-string bag for my Kindle…

I had been using cold water dyes for these cotton experiments. Now was the time to take out the lovely Landscape and Jacquard brand dyes that I had bought a few years ago in the hope of dyeing wool and silk for some of my projects. I had all I needed: the ikat tape, the right dyes and a selection of silk from which to choose, but I still hesitated.

Ikat projects are such a big undertaking. There’s all the time spent designing and then tying a pattern, not to mention all the measuring and care to make sure that the pattern gets tied on straight. My eyes always seem to to tell me something completely different to what the ruler is indicating. Then you can never really be sure if you have wrapped the yarn well or tightly enough. There’s always a chance the dye will seep into the wrapped yarn and spoil the motif. And, finally, even if the initial tying and dyeing stages have been successful, you can never know just how much the threads will shift on the loom to possibly blur the pattern out of recognition.

The fineness of my silk in my stash was intimidating. So, I was quite relieved to discover in my scratching around that I still had scraps of naturally dyed silk left over from other projects. This silk is much heavier and seemed like it would be much more manageable for my very first ikat experiments with silk. I had been offered all these tiny dyed skeins of silk by a guild when the guild member who had created them had passed away. No one else had seen a use for them, but I knew that I could use them for small projects on my backstrap loom. This was what I was able to bring back home with me to Bolivia….

You may remember that some time ago I used them to weave four pieces which became covers for journals…

These are the remaining scraps I found in my closet…

Ikat Cat by Budi Satria Kwan

There are two quite different kinds of silk rolled up in these tiny balls. I opted for the heavier of the two for my ikat project and decided to wind a crazy multi-colored warp. I wanted to weave a piece that would cover a journal that I had left over from the other project. The warp only needed to be nineteen inches long to give me enough fabric for the cover as well as a comfortable amount of working space on my backstrap loom.

I was inspired by a picture of some fabric I had seen on the internet many years ago of the silhouette of a multi-color cat sitting on a dark background. I had saved it and kept it in the back of my mind. I wasn’t feeling brave enough to go for such an ambitious shape right now and decided to stick with some basic straight lines for this experiment. I had done some experiments with creating curved shapes in ikat some years ago too. They were quite successful but would have been even better if I had remembered to account for take-up when I tied the shapes. My circles had come out a little flattened!

I really liked the simple idea of having the multi-colored shape appearing on the black background.

Here’s the warp I created.

Next, I extended the warp on a frame so that I could start tying in the design. A friend lent me a small table that made a perfect frame for this.

Those light pieces of thread you can see in the picture are enclosing the sections of threads that will be tied. Most bundles were made up of twelve ends with a few evenly distributed ones that held fourteen ends so that I could cover the total of 270 ends across the width of the warp.

I wrapped the thread in ikat tape in several short sessions over three days. The frequent breaks are necessary as I tend to get sloppy with my measurements when I get tired.

Here you can see the warp off the frame and ready to be soaked before going into the dye pot.

Here it is after being rinsed and left to dry overnight…

And now on the backstrap loom, heddles in place, first section unwrapped and with weaving underway…

Rather than remove all the ikat wraps at once, I like to slowly unwrap as the weaving progresses.  I feel that leaving some of the wraps in place helps reduce the amount of shift in the threads which gives a crisper design. I know that the shifting and blurring can be attractive but I have found that it is less so when the motifs have blunt horizontal edges as mine do. Shifting in motifs like these can sometimes create spots and/or lines of color that are totally disconnected from the main motif. The practice of not removing all the ties at once gives me a relatively small space in which to weave and operate the loom. I use fine swords and wrap my weft around a stick rather than the regular shaped shuttle that I prefer. I can slide the stick with the weft into a very small shed. I keep weaving until I absolutely can’t continue due to the lack of space and then I remove the next ikat ties to free up some space to continue.

Almost there…

I am hoping that I have planned this well enough so that the black squares in the middle of the center row of three motifs sit right in the middle of the spine of the journal.


I am very pleased (and relieved!).

Ikat projects are always a big unknown for me. They can end up being a mess or a success. I’ll call this one a success.

It does seems a bit weird over-dyeing naturally dyed silk with chemical dye, but there really wasn’t a whole lot more I could do with the scraps of silk that were left in my closet except perhaps make some wrist cuffs.  I already made the cuff you can see at left when I was sampling for the first set of book covers.

I am glad that this project still shows off the beauty of the natural dye colors.

There is probably enough of the other kind of silk that I was given to do some further ikat experiments. It is finer and slicker. Maybe I will make an ikat cuff or two. The more experience the better if I am ever to move on to my finer 30/2s and 60/2s silk thread!

I could have produced a very similar effect in warp-faced double weave without all the mess and risk. I was thinking about that. Double weave would have given me a thicker fabric for a start, which I didn’t want. Plus the two layers of cloth would not have connected in the areas of solid black. That can sometimes create a sort of ballooning effect between the areas where the layers are in fact connected. In any case, the more ikat I do the more confident I will feel about eventually reaching my goal of creating complex curved shapes…the kinds I wouldn’t be able to achieve in double weave or the other patterning structures that I use.

Now all that remains to be done is to look for some pretty paper to use on the inside of the front and back covers of the journal.

Between bouts of ikat wrapping, I started sewing together strips of the green cloth from my Karen backstrap loom project to make a table square that will be approximately twenty-five inches square. It will be another piece on which I can display my samples at my workshops. I’ll show you my progress on that in the next post.

And, this will be my last chance to remind you to make sure you have downloaded all your purchases from Patternfish. You have until the end of the month to do so.








  1. Definitely a success, I’d say. Well done.

  2. Such pretty colours!!

  3. many years ago, I took a class in ikat from a Japanese lady. Thanks for showing the multicolored warp. What a great way to use small pieces of yarn.

  4. Beautiful work, Laverne.

  5. Wonderful and inspirational. Thanks for the post.

  6. Your craft is truly impressive!

  7. Although I have seen finished projects and the tying process of ikat, the entire designing aspect is a total mystery to me! Your journal cover is a fabulous! One more reason to always have a stash!

  8. Wow! Laverne, the entire post is really impressive! I love all the colors, and your Ikat is gorgeous. Beautiful, beautiful work.

  9. Amazing work and great explanations. Glad you are taking breaks frequently because that’s important not only to avoid “sloppiness” but also to be kind to your body so you can continue to weave into a very old age! Be well.

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