Posted by: lavernewaddington | August 26, 2019

Backstrap Weaving – Flying Visits

Flying visits…I’ve been zipping here and there in the southern hemisphere starting with a three-stop visit in Aotearoa, land of the long white cloud, followed by stops on both the east and west coasts of that other great southern land, Australia.

It all started with a flying visit to Santiago, Chile where I was happy to run into Mapuche textiles in a store in the airport during my three-hour wait for the flight to New Zealand. Being in the airport and hearing the Chilean accents was enough to have me feeling a tug on the old heart strings. I had lived in the far south of Chile in the Chilean Patagonia for five years before I moved to Bolivia in 1998.

I loved seeing this heavy wool Mapuche poncho in one of the stores with its very precise ikat pattern. It is these incredibly precise patterns that are created by the Mapuche weavers with little or no shift in the warp threads that inspired my own recent ikat experiments in silk.


The pieces on display in the store included pillow covers with patterning in complementary-warp pick-up as well as belts in double weave. The balls of hand-spun wool were tempting but the yarn was far too heavy for the kind of work that I like to do and the climate in which I live.

I met lots of backstrap weavers in New Zealand. This is a group of friends in Auckland forming a huddle.

The weavers settled very quickly into the rhythm and there were even occasions when they could pause for a smile between sessions of silent concentration.

A little to the south, in beautiful Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty I wove with even more budding backstrap weavers and was taken by Colleen and Lynne to visit the famous Mount and other picturesque places along the shore.

On a drive out to visit the folk at Majacraft, one of New Zealand’s makers of spinning wheels and fibre tools, I was taken with the sight of a Maori pouwhenua – a carved land post that marks Maori territorial boundaries or places of significance. Between the fields of kiwifruit surrounded by thick high hedges protecting them from the wind, an open untouched green field suddenly appeared. It seemed strangely out of place, open to the elements and vulnerable next to all the other fields with their thick protective walls of hedges. This field was, however, guarded in one corner by a stately but raw and rather weather-beaten wooden pouwhenua. I was told that this one most likely stands to watch over the site of a battle.

A series of seven beautiful pouwhenua stand on the shore near the Mount. They represent Te Kahui Matariki (the Pleiades cluster of stars, or the Seven Sisters) and are much photographed and visited. But I have to say that I much preferred the weather-beaten but powerful single powhenua standing alone in the corner of that wind-swept field in the country.

I got a scarf with Koru motif in the super-soft possum-merino blend for which New Zealand has become known as well as a Maori Koru pendant which will soon swing from a silk neck ribbon that I plan to weave. The Koru is a Maori spiral-shaped motif that is based on the appearance of an unfurling frond of the silver fern.

Air New Zealand aircraft sport an image of the silver fern and  Koru motif…

I flew over snowy peaks (it’s winter at this end of the world) on the way down from Tauranga to Wellington, the last stop on this visit to New Zealand…

Wellington is a gorgeous city. I have been to New Zealand three times before, the last time being thirty years ago. On all three visits we simply drove through Wellington to take the ferry over to the south island. I was so happy to be able to stop and stay this time and enjoy, thanks to my friends Fiona and Sandra, the views across the Cook Strait (see below) and from the top of Mount Victoria, a stay in one of the many homes that cling to the steep Wellington hill sides and a visit to the Te Papa museum with objects from not only Maori but many other Pacific island cultures.

Onward to Australia and the far south coast of NSW where my old backstrap weaving friends gathered once again for a few days of weaving fun. Driving down the final descent to the fishing club where we always gather to weave, a kangaroo nonchalantly hopped across the road. Yes, I am Australian, but I can still get excited about kangaroos.

Once again we enjoyed the pretty view of the ocean with its changing moods right from the door of our weaving venue. We usually step outside in the winter sun to wind warps on the table outside. This time I found it occupied by a group of kookaburras all fluffed up with the cold. Yes, I get excited by kookaburras too! The mural of Spirit Dancers painted on the side of a local water tank is one of several in the area.

At home with my friend, Mog, I found her weaving these beautiful golf towels with lettering and golf ball motif that she designed herself. I don’t think I have heard of anyone weaving golf towels before. It might become a ”thing”.

Then it was off to Western Australia where I met with weavers in Perth city, the Perth hills, and then later up north in Geraldton. I got to spend an evening with weaver Wendy Garrity. If you have been a long-time follower of my blog you will know that Wendy and I first met online via her blog on Bhutanese weaving techniques. We then met up in our travels in Bolivia and Santa Fe in the USA and have maintained a correspondence over the years since then. It was nice to see her this time in her home city. That day just happened to be my birthday and Wendy made sure it was celebrated with dinner at a Perth beach with its beautiful fine white sands to watch an Indian Ocean sunset, a tour around the city and gelato complete with birthday candle. Thank you, Wendy!

Brenda, provided me with crumpets for breakfast and other Australian treats that I often miss when in Bolivia. This picture is for all the Americans to whom I have ever tried in vain to describe a crumpet!

Brenda’s husband, Geoff, made me a bunch of beautiful swords in Western Australian jarrah, also known as, Swan River mahogany. The card that accompanied the gift shows the numbat, a termite-eating marsupial that is native to Western Australia.

In the Perth hills I stayed with Maggie and husband Peter. It was lovely  to get outside and stretch with a stroll around in the bush in the low evening sun spotting tiny native orchids. Peter just happens to be an expert in them.

In Geraldton, I visited Lynne and Max who offered me a bedroom right on the Indian Ocean. I was treated to a glorious sunset almost every evening. That was the view from my bedroom.

And weren’t we spoiled for lunch?! Geraldton, apart from lying in the wheat belt of Western Australia, is also the center of the rock lobster industry. Lynne’s husband Max provided a lunch of luscious lobster from his own catch.

Now I have time to spend with my brother and sister-in-law in their new home on the mid north coast of NSW. They have been taking me around the local beaches and lookouts…

…and into the bush.

Protests in the main square of Santa Cruz city. (Picture from The Bohemian Diaries).

See you next time back at home in Bolivia. My home province of Santa Cruz has been in the news lately in connection with the fires in the Brazilian and eastern Bolivian jungles. September is typically the month when farmers burn-off in preparation for the new planting season. It’s usually a smoky and unpleasant time of year. Smoke descends in the cooler evening temperatures and still air and is thick and fog-like in the streets at night. Apparently, this year, many of the fires are burning out of control and destroying vast areas of jungle. I’ll reserve further comment until I get home and see for myself what is happening.







  1. What a lovely trip, thanks for sharing and safe travels on your way home to Bolivia!

  2. Loved your blog. Also got nostalgic when I saw the crumpet with Marmite in the background.

    • I went with the honey on the crumpet… and it’s not Marmite…it’s Vegemite! You might not know how sensitive Australians are to the whole Marmite Vs Vegemite issue!! 🙂

  3. You give us a wonderful world tour whenever you travel! Thanks for your pictures of these beautiful places.

  4. So cool to see all the hooks! I love it that you’re getting people comfortable with that pattern (and a little jealous). For the single hook, are you using 9 pattern warps? (I still can’t tell by looking at it – that one baffles me…)

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