Posted by: lavernewaddington | September 13, 2019

Backstrap Weaving – In the Pursuit of Curls

I am once again in the pursuit of curls, curves, circles and spirals as I attempt to draw a chart for a figure inspired by Maori Koru. The Koru is a spiral shape that represents the unfurling of a frond of New Zealand’s silver fern.

Image from the website of

The challenge is to figure out how to make the lines that I can naturally create in my weaving somehow all work together to give the impression of a curve. In my tool box of natural lines are wavy verticals, smooth horizontals, smooth diagonals and stepped diagonals at various angles. In my experience, the more ends I have to work with, the easier it is to create something curve-like. However, it’s amazing how when weaving a band with only nine ends per shed, a figure can appear to be curved. Below you can see an Andean figure that so many people have told me reminds them of Maori Koru, including my weaving friends in New Zealand itself.

I have read a few different descriptions of what the Koru means in Maori culture. One description names it as a symbol of creation. Another says that it represents new life, growth and peace. The spiral shapes are the kinds of things I had in mind when I first started studying how to create curves in ikat and I collected images of Maori kowhaiwhai scroll patterns so that I could attempt to create something similar in ikat. That was all very well until I sat in front of a fresh white warp with ikat tape in hand and realized how difficult it was going to be! I first needed to see if I could create just one simple curve before I could even think about creating something as complex as a kowhaiwhai pattern.

Image from the website of

I decided that I needed to step back a bit and start out slowly with large simple curves and then perhaps think about trying a more intricate kowhaiwhai pattern after I had had several years of experience with much simpler shapes! So, I just went with circles and I was pretty pleased with those….

…except that I forgot to consider take-up and my nice circles ended up flattened once they were woven into cloth. Another part of this particular experiment was to create pick-up patterns within my ikat circles. It is a quirky piece of work which has made a nice slip cover for my laptop.

I remember when I was living in Chile and just starting out experimenting with weaving on a trial-and-error basis somewhere around 1994. I had knocked together a simple wooden frame with nails at two ends to hold warp threads. I had no idea how the warp threads should be spaced.  All I knew is that the weft yarn had to go over one and under one. Because of the way I had spaced the warp threads, I was ending up with weft-faced cloth and that was fine. Of course at that time, I didn’t even know that there was a choice.

After weaving a couple of small pieces that had the shape of hour glasses, (I finally figured out how to lay in the weft correctly to stop that kind of draw-in) I found that by adding and changing colors I could create little patterns on one face of the cloth with a whole mess of ends hanging out on the back.

From there, what I really wanted to do was to create images. However, I had little at my disposal for ideas in terms of books or magazines. This CD cover by the band Split Enz provided inspiration instead and I remember weaving a very simple version of one of these patterns into a piece using acrylic yarn that became a cover for a very small pillow. Sadly the piece never got photographed and is one of many things that had to be left behind when I moved to Bolivia. 

It’s funny that after all these years I have come around full circle to once again have a strong desire to weave these kinds of patterns.

So, which structure should I use to try to create my Koru-like pattern? I quite like using warp-faced double weave for this kind of thing. I can create shapes that are very angular, as in the pattern below left, as well as ones that appear quite curvy, below right. The finished piece, if successful, will be called a book mark but it really will be just a sample for perhaps something bigger later. Double weave in fine silk will give me a piece that is not too thick for a book mark. 

Double weave is also the structure I used for my Shipibo-inspired piece in which I wove fine curvy lines within a frame of bold angular lines…

Using supplementary weft for patterns on a base of warp-faced plain weave has also enabled me to create the impression of curves. I designed some paisley figures for both warp-faced double weave and plain weave with supplementary weft. The process started with a paper paisley cut-out which I traced onto my charting paper….

It was very sweet in warp-faced double weave but, as I was wanting weave the patterns into a scarf, I decided that double weave would be too heavy. I went with using supplementary-weft to make the patterns on a warp-faced plain-weave base….

When I look back at these patterns, I start to think that maybe a Koru-like pattern won’t be so hard to design after all. I have actually already made a preliminary sketch on my charting paper and now just need to iron out all the kinks. The double weave warp with the paisley pattern I showed above still exists. I can use that same warp to test my first attempt at charting the Koru. I use four sets of heddles when I do warp-faced double weave with fine thread like 60/2 silk and it will be nice to be able to weave this sample with a warp that has been already set up. Now I just have to dig around and find it!

I had a de-clutter frenzy when I got back from my latest trip away and I am hoping that I didn’t toss it out. I came home feeling stifled by stuff. Once I get into one of my de-cluttering moods, I can get pretty carried away!

If the book mark pattern works, I’ll make a silk ribbon with curvy design on which to hang my Koru pendant. I also have a lovely seahorse pendant that was made by a talented macrame artisan that I met when in Australia which needs a patterned silk ribbon…something wave-like to represent the ocean…more curves! Hopefully, I’ll have some progress to show you soon.

In the meantime, I am putting the finishing touches on a book of one hundred and twenty-seven Andean Pebble Weave patterns.

Another one??

Well, I have to admit that this is not exactly a new book. Back in 2012 I published More Adventures with warp-faced Pick-up Patterns, a book of patterns inspired by ethnic textiles from around the world. In that book I introduce weavers to the “spotted chart” for all the patterns in the first half of the book. In all my other books, my patterns are charted on the more conventional style of chart which is made up of stacked rectangular blocks.

My idea for using the spotted charts in 2012 was based on opening up and promoting the possibility of readers designing their own motifs. The spotted charts make designing so easy. And, many of the readers did just that! I was happy to then be able to make roughly 25% of the Complementary-warp Pattern Book that I published in early 2018 about original patterns contributed by devoted fans of the spotted chart.

Above: Original patterns contributed by Maja Bürger (spindle), Laura McCarty (dog chasing squirrel) and Carlos Vargas (bee) to the Complementary-warp Pattern Book published in 2018.

However, I know that many weavers have not had the time to study that spotted charting system and have by-passed all the awesome Andean Pebble Weave patterns (Celtic knot-work patterns, Guaraní stars, motifs inspired by Central Asian textiles, to name just a few!) in the front half of my More Adventures book in favor of the other kinds of patterns charted on block-style charts in the second half of the book. 

So, I have now had all those spotted charts transformed into block-style charts. There are 127 of them and that is what I am about to publish.

Having said all that, my ”new” book will be aimed at two audiences. It can act as a supplement for those who own my previously published More Adventures book and who have not had the time or inclination to get into the spotted charts, or it can be a completely new book of patterns for those of you who have woven using my Complementary-warp Pick-up or  my Andean Pebble Weave or Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms books.

See you with more news about the ”new” book soon!













  1. Wonderful designs. Over the years your work has become even more beautiful and unique.

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