Posted by: lavernewaddington | July 12, 2019

Backstrap Weaving – Tying and Stitching

I have been enjoying some stretches of quiet time in which I have been sewing and tying tape onto a new ikat warp.

The sewing part of my reward time was about converting the long strip of cloth that I recently wove on the Karen backstrap loom into a table square. I cut the strip into five pieces so that they could be joined side-by-side into an almost-square piece of cloth, roughly 24″ x 24″. I think that it is something I can use on tables to display my workshop samples.

I wanted to lay the strips side by side and join them edge to edge using one of the decorative stitches that Bolivian weavers use when they join their woven panels. There are many varieties of these joining stitches and I chose one of the simplest one. The needle and thread follow a basic figure-eight path. The needle emerges from bottom to top a certain distance away from the edge of panel A. Then it dives down in the gap between the two edges of the panels and emerges from bottom to top the same distance away from the edge of panel B. Then it once again dives down in the gap between the edges of the two panels and starts again from the beginning.

I used this joining stitch a couple of times before when I connected wool panels to make lap blankets. Here’s one of the two panels of the purple blanket on the loom…

And, here it is connected to its partner with the decorative stitching…

I took care of raw edges by eventually covering the perimeter of the blanket with the woven band you can see below…

The red and brown blanket got the same treatment. Above you can see the two panels sitting side by side before I sewed them together.I used a contrast color for the join which made the stitching practical as well as decorative. This blanket also had its perimeter covered and raw edges protected with a woven band.

I guess the hardest part is making sure that the needle always pierces the cloth the same distance away from the edge. Cotton seems to demand a higher level of accuracy and I wasn’t confident enough to go with a contrast color for the stitching.  I matched the color of the sewing thread to the cloth and the little inaccuracies give my stitching a fairly ”rustic” look.

Stitching in progress. There were four joins to cover.

A close-up of the joins.

I covered the two raw edges with cross-knit-loop stitches and left the two selvedges uncovered….

I kept the cross-knit-loop stitches as close together as possible. This gave good coverage and meant that I could just turn the raw edge over once and feel confident that the stitching would cover and protect it.

My other non-weaving activity was time  spent tying a new pattern into my next ikat project. It’s another short warp as I am still at the stage where all I am hoping to do is learn and improve my skills before I launch into a ”real” project.

The base colors show against black in the last silk ikat project.

I again used the naturally dyed silk sample skeins that I had been given.

This warp is made of a different kind of silk to that which I used in my last ikat project. It is different in that it is finer, more slick and has a higher twist. I guess it more closely resembles the silk that I eventually hope to use in the real project, whatever that might be.

A major difference is that this kind of silk absorbed the natural dyes in a very different way too. The colors in my last warp were more muted and “sad” I suppose you could say. These colors are brighter and clearer….almost too bright for my liking and I might over dye the project later to sadden the colors if the contrast against the black dye is too high.

It’s the differences in this thread that are of interest to me. Will the fact that it is finer and slicker make it more difficult for me to achieve good firm ties when I apply the ikat tape? Will the black dye bleed under the ikat ties? Will the threads shift more freely out of alignment when I weave because they are more slick than those I have tried in other experiments?


To make it all a bit different to the last ikat experiment, I plan to add two panels to either side of this piece when the time comes to weave it. I hope to be able to weave motifs with supplementary weft in those two panels that resemble the ones I have created with the ikat tape.

When I posted pictures of my last experiment in online forums, questions arose about the tape I am using. It was given to me years ago by my weaving friend Betty. You can see a roll of it at left.

I don’t know where she got it from but the only place that I have seen selling anything that seems to be specifically designed for ikat is Maiwa in Canada.

I used cassette tape with some success before I was given the ikat tape. It worked very well when I was using cold water dyes on cotton. It failed in hot water, though. It held knots well but you had to be careful when pulling knots tight as it could snap. The ikat tape has never snapped.

Others in the forums have mentioned using flagging tape and cut strips of plastic grocery store bags when they have taken ikat workshops. One of the features I like a lot about the ikat tape is that it can be split and torn vertically into strips as fine as you like. I am not sure if that is a good thing if you are trying to use the entire width of the tape to wrap a very large area. I think it in that case that it may have a tendency to split when you don’t want it to.

This is probably one of the last ikat experiments that I did using cassette tape….

I know that you probably can’t make out anything here but this is the pattern that I am currently tying. I  mark the pattern with a charcoal pencil and I use a paint brush with stiff bristles to “erase” mistakes in my marking.

I am finding straight horizontal lines the hardest thing. I tie each bundle separately and just hope that the plastic wraps line up well enough to give a smooth horizontal. I have been tempted to put several bundles together and bind them all at once but I know that if I were to grab my bangs in a bunch and cut straight across, I wouldn’t end up with a straight line.

The other thing I did in my reward time was to cover the journal with the last ikat piece and add it to the collection of little books with hand woven covers.

I was pleased that the three motifs in the middle ended up nicely seated on the spine of the book.

I have actually finished all the tying part of the latest ikat project. Now I just need to carefully inspect it and make sure that I didn’t forget any parts. You can see in an old experiment in the picture below that the top left motif is missing one wrap on its extreme left. It went into the dye bath like that. So, I will be looking very closely over my current pattern to make sure it is complete!

It will go into the dye bath tomorrow. Fingers crossed that all goes well!








  1. Hi Laverne. Perhaps you don’t remember me but I have taken a couple workshops with you, the last with Tracy in Pt. Townsend. I just wanted you to know that I do embroidery and the joining stitch that you have used is one of my favorites! I call it the Antique stitch or the Ball stitch (because they use it to sew baseballs together). it is very strong and durable. I am also wondering if the edging stitch you call “cross-knit-loop” is what I call the “blanket stitch”? You do such creative, beautiful work….love the blog! hope to see you again soon! Susan Kroll

    • Hi Susan. It’s lovely to hear from you. Thank you for giving that stitch a name and it’s nice to know about its use in such a thing as a baseball! I don’t think the cross-knit-loop stitch is quite the same as the blanket stitch. The cross-knit-loop stitch has its little legs that extend away from the edge like blanket stitch does but it also has a little chevron shape that forms along the very edge of the cloth. I have seen it in embroidery books where it is called Van Dyke stitch and sewn flat rather than over an edge.

  2. Clear description of nice design and weaving. In the piece top dyed with black, I like the brilliance of the space dyed figures.

    • Thank you! The base warp was solid colors rather than space dyed…just lots of solid colors with a maximum of 10 ends in any one color before changing to another.

  3. Hi Laverne.
    When I was in India watching silk weavers tie ikat patterns, they were using the inner tubes of bicycle tyres to tie the patterns.

    • I watched a video from India where it looked like they were using strips of rubber. I guess it must have been from the inner tubes, as you say. Thanks for telling me that.

  4. Hi Laverne,
    Every time I see your work I’m inspired to try something new! Also, this last week I was about to share your techniques with new people, what a wonderful gift. Thanks again. Tracy Shapiro

  5. I’ve tried long skinny balloons for ikat. Not too successfully. Then I asked for my roll of tape back that I had loaned to a friend. Much better! A roll will last a lifetime, IMO. The shipping from Maiwa to Texas is more than the cost of a roll, sadly. So I was glad my friend finally found my roll in her stash of unused supplies!

    • It’s nice to have the real deal. I have tried improvising too and it is disappointing when the project fails when it hits the dye bath after all that time wrapping with what turned out to be inappropriate material.

  6. In Indonesia where ikat is done to produce intricate design (like yours in the picture) is produced in small studios, I’ve seen thin, but strong, plastic tape on rolls for sale in street markets.

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