Posted by: lavernewaddington | May 15, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Looking Forward, Looking Back

These days I get a little taken aback when an email arrives asking me if I am able to attend an event in July 2021 or consider contributing a piece of writing with an October 2020 deadline. Who are these people who are able to think so far in the future? I am glad that someone can, because I most certainly can’t. I am sure that it is those who are determined to keep looking forward who will come out of this whole thing hitting the ground running. I need to make that effort. It seems everything I do these days takes my mind back to the past. I am finding it hard to think beyond the next date when the current lock down situation is assessed. That will be May 17. I am sure that many of you feel the same way.

Meanwhile, the days march onward, the seasons change and the glorious toborochi tress here in Santa Cruz break into full bloom.

From Bolivia 360 Facebook page

I have been working on my next ikat experiment. I think this is number eight and might be the last in 60/2 silk as my supply of un-dyed 60/2 is running low. I didn’t want to start a new experiment unless it involved a new challenge and something new to be learned. So, I decided to try a motif with finer lines than I have been using until now and with lines that lie at different angles. I have to say that I have been dithering and dithering over this. First of all because I think I needed a break after having finished my latest book on Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms. I goofed off for about 5 days, I think. But, mixed in with the need for a break was the uneasy feeling that I had bitten off more than I could chew for my next planned ikat project and that disaster was looming. Some of this had to do with the fact that I might be wasting the last of my un-dyed 60/2 silk and couldn’t have a do-over if things didn’t work out. I wasn’t entering into it with a great deal of enthusiasm.

This is the leaf-like motif that I came up with. It was easy enough to sketch on paper but would I be able to tie those lines? I wanted to place two identical motifs side by side with some other kind of motif between them, possibly also in ikat, but maybe in supplementary weft. You can see the sketch for my last ikat project in the background. For that one, all the steps in the diagonal lines were equal in width and length which made them relatively easy to measure and tie onto the warp.

I am so used to winding these silk warps now. That process is hazard-free. I wound 1640 ends in 100-end sections. I never completely trust my warping stakes not to lean and so I wind small sections low on the stakes and then remove them and place them on beams that are waiting on the floor. What I love about warping for backstrap weaving this way is that it feels like a full body work out…..standing, swaying, stretching, bending. I do it in silence and find it very relaxing.

Then came the task of dividing the warp into the sections that would be wrapped in ikat tape. This is the part where I can listen to music and even sing. I chose Even in the Quietest Moments by Supertramp because the most wonderful thing about this lock down has been the absence of sound. That music sent my mind back to 1998, the year I arrived in Bolivia from Chile. Roger Hodgson, the lead singer of Supertramp, had brought a band and played an evening outdoor concert at the football stadium a few weeks after my arrival. The ticket was $9! It was a gorgeous balmy tropical evening. After five years of living in howling winds in Punta Arenas in Chile, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It is a sweet memory.

I divided the warp into 10-end sections and chained a thread around them. In my experience with ikat so far, I have found slim bundles harder to wrap than thick ones. My plan was to fold the warp in half, halving its width, and wrap around two layers at once. That meant that I would be wrapping around bundles of 20-ends which would be much easier to handle.

Once the warp was divided into sections, I was ready to remove it from the frame so that I could fold it in half. It would then be placed back on the frame. The next step was to align the bundles from the top layer with the bottom layer and create new bundles. With that all taken care of, it was time to start wrapping. However, suddenly, there was a multitude of other things that needed doing. Yes, I was dithering again! (procrastinating, is probably the more appropriate word for it.) This was the point of no return. I could modify my motif to something easier or dive in and risk making a mess.

Then came what I am going to call the game-changer.

I usually use plastic zip-ties to hold the warp under tension on my wooden frame. They are okay except that sometimes I would pull one too tightly and it would be a nuisance trying to loosen it off without bending the plastic too much and destroying it. This time, I happened to remember the turn buckles that I had bought last year and decided to try them out as a new way to hold the warp under tension. Oh my gosh, they are awesome! I cranked up the tension and was able to make fine adjustments so easily. In the picture, I have yet to get the set-up squared off. I also added a third turn buckle to the center. I managed to get an amount of tension that I haven’t been able to in the past and suddenly this project seemed all the more doable.

With this amount of tension, I can actually draw very fine and precise lines onto the warp with my charcoal pencil. I have been using charcoal all along to mark my patterns, but every time I would touch the tip of the pencil to the warp, the threads would fan out and slightly sag and the best I could achieve was a smudge. That worked well enough as a guide because I could also rely on a ruler to show me where the next step in the stepped diagonal needed to be.  I can’t trust my eyes to judge the spacing accurately. That’s never been a talent of mine.

I can look at dozens of photos online of ikat warps stretched on their frames but until I actually get to touch one, I can never know just how tightly the have been stretched. I had always marveled at videos showing ikat artisans drawing entire fine and detailed patterns onto warps using pencils of different colors. There was a limit to the amount I could tighten the plastic zip-ties when I used them on their own. I can go beyond that limit now with the turn buckles.

The artisans that I have seen working with ikat don’t use turn buckles. Sometimes the warp is secured to a frame with nothing more than torn strips of cloth. I don’t have their skill or expertise! The first time I saw turn buckles in use in weaving was on the Navajo reservation back in 1995. The weavers were using them on their metal looms to tension the warp instead of using rope.

I once read about a gentleman who was studying knotted pile weaving with a Master from Afghanistan. He said that he knew that his warp had enough tension on it, when he was at home weaving and away from his teacher, by the sound the threads would make when he plucked them. Imagine trying to gain that kind of knowledge from an image on the computer screen!

And what about the actual wrapping? Well, I just wrap. If there  is some special way of doing it, I haven’t yet found it. I did see a video where the bundles were somehow twirled very quickly with the aid of what I am guessing was a kind of electric drill. The artisan simply stood there holding a piece of black rubber wrapping material and the spinning warp wrapped itself! These were very long warps that were destined for floor looms. Even if I had a way of doing that, I wouldn’t. I’ll go as far as turn buckles, but not electric drills!

This is all I do…

I start at the center and wrap to one end, turn back, go past the center to the other end, return to the center and tie. I like tying off in the center rather than at the end. I find that I am less likely to accidentally snip the warp threads when I later come to cut off the ties if I am cutting at the center of the wrap.

This is where I am at…The warp looks narrower here because it is folded in half. But it also looks narrower because there was an unfortunate incident in which I accidentally cut about 50 ends at one edge! That’s all I want to say about that! It could have been worse. I hadn’t started wrapping the pattern yet and it hasn’t meant having to modify the motif. Once I am done getting this sort of leaf motif done, I’ll decided on the motif I want to use between the two.

So….I have to tell you how grateful and excited I am about the response that I have had to my latest book Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms. This is the first time I have released a book on a new technique where both PDF and spiral-bound book have been available at the same time. Being part of Taproot Video allows this to be so. Patternfish only dealt with digital products. It was exciting and just a touch stressful to find that the books sold out very quickly. I think they were only out-of-stock for 24 hours, though. The printing service was again very quick to get production underway and we were back in business quickly.

I have had a lot of really nice feedback. People are very sweet to write and tell me that they bought the PDF or have received the book and are pleased with what they see.

Of course, the most exciting feedback of all comes in the form of woven work. And that has started to trickle in…

 

This is Joan Near’s learning band. I have provided several patterns in the book that fit on the 11/12-thread learning band. Joan has taken the little alpaca figure and used it to practice color changes.

Barbara Hoffman’s learning band shows examples of both angular and curve-like patterns. The interlocking diamonds were contributed by an Australian student of mine, Patrick Castle. The leaf is a smaller version of the “signature” leaf pattern that I like to use. The large version is also charted in the book. You can see it on the left of the cover image above.

I have also seen some first attempts at designing…a little animal figure has been woven by one lady and I’ll show you that in my next post. A nice way to ease yourself into designing is to take one of the charted patterns in the book and perhaps tweak it a little to give it your own personal touch. As I say in the book, I find this structure one of the easiest ones for designing and I hope that the shapes and figures that I have provided in the book can be used as stepping stones to the creation of your own unique patterns.

And while there has been a lot of focus on my latest book, those who bought some of my other publications some time ago have been fishing them out to use while following advice to stay at home.

Susan, who has woven with me before on my visits to the States, shared her hatband project with me with a picture that was taken  on a gorgeous Californian spring day. She uses a backstrap loom to weave her Andean Pebble Weave bands.

Carlos Vargas in France had been away from the loom for a while and is also taking advantage of time at home to get back into it. He uses a backstrap loom. If you own my Complementary-warp Pattern Book you will know that Carlos contributed a beautiful bee pattern of his own design to that book. In this piece he is weaving a bee pattern that was contributed by Julia Toft in the same book.

Stacy Holder is using her inkle loom and working with some of my original books on Andean Pebble Weave from 8-10 years ago. Those first books did not include specific instructions for setting up on an inkle loom but Stacy has been able to adapt my instructions and get to work on the several models of inkle loom that she likes to use. I love her band with its S-hook pattern in which she has used variegated thread as the background color. The other face is just as stunning with a colorful S-hook shape on a black background. My 2019 publication Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms is aimed at the standard inkle loom and includes video clips.

Wendy Garrity lives in Western Australia where movement away from one’s home is not as restricted as in many other places. She has come up with a clever way to be able to use a backstrap loom anywhere. She is working on a Andean Pebble Weave pattern while on a camping trip.

Erika in Michigan isn’t enjoying that much freedom of movement yet, but is still able to enjoy the outdoors with a view of her garden while she sets up her backstrap loom for a new project.

I have become fully absorbed in my ikat now that I feel more confident about my ability to tie my latest pattern. However, I do have a couple of unfinished projects lying about. The flower band below needs finishing. This pattern was designed and contributed to the double weave book by Gerbelien Cocx-Wilschut.

I have also been planning a new double-wave strap for my camera bag for the next time I go traveling…There! I have caught myself thinking about the future!

Another little experiment that is awaiting completion is my dabble in double width. It seemed to be a natural thing to do after having worked so long on double weave on my little Inklette. I was curious to see how much width I could crank out this small loom. I have started with only a very narrow warp just to get the moves down and to see if it really is something worth bothering with. It was fun. Now I would like to try for maximum width. I don’t believe I can get double the loom’s capacity…perhaps one-and-a-half times that or a little bit more.

In the pictures below, you can see the warp on the loom. Then I have taken the band off the loom and am unfolding it. Finally, you see it opened to its full width and lying flat. Of course, I can always go to my backstrap loom for wider bands but I thought that this would be a interesting experiment while I was still in “double” mode.

And, finally, a grey-hair update…THE LAST! I said farewell to my Grey Hair group on Facebook with this collage (yes, grey-hair groups are a thing and the one I joined was fun and helpful):

Some group members asked me to stay and give advice to others but, to be honest, the only advice I have is to be be patient and put on your thick skin! I would like to acknowledge those who truly went grey gracefully by never dyeing their hair in the first place. They have no need to make all this fuss about it!

I think I only have one more cut to be rid of the last of the dark tips. I figured that would take place this month….ain’t gonna happen, but that’s fine. I quite like those dark tips!

Here’s a throwback to 2009 during the time of the N1H1 virus.

I was teaching English at that time at the Centro Boliviano Americano and teachers had to wear masks at all times while in the classroom. Every twenty minutes or so we had to squirt disinfectant gel onto all the students’ hands. The gels were colored and our hands would be stained either bright orange or blue by the end of the day! We got shut down three times because teachers were caught not wearing masks. No one objected to my home-made one.

When the first case of corona virus was confirmed here in Bolivia on March 10, I posted this photo on Facebook as a memory. I removed it a couple of hours later as I thought that it might be irresponsible to show people that wearing inferior home-made cloth masks was acceptable. Well, as we all know now, it turns out that it is in fact acceptable to wear one. I’ll be downloading a pattern so that I can hand-sew a couple for myself this weekend. It had better be an easy pattern!

Stay safe all of you, please.

 

 


Responses

  1. Oh Laverne. What a hard time this is. If thinking into the future helps people, great. If staying with the present and accepting uncertainty is your route, you are probably more centered. Take good, good care of yourself. -Kate
    PS- LOVE Wendy Garrity’s solution!

    • Thank you so much, Kate. Yes, I think I need to allow myself, without concern, to just stay in the present for now and enjoy little trips to the past and back. Sending you big hugs.

  2. Thank you for the update with all the lovely and inspirational photos. I’ve just started a narrow band using wool for the first time!

    • It’s always so lovely experiencing wool for the first time if you only ever been using cotton. I hope you are pleased with it.

  3. Love the tree! Love the mask. We wore them earlier than required here in Texas. My family will keep wearing for quite a bit longer too. Personal choice.
    On hand sewing masks there are two I watched on YouTube that looked a good fit to the face and simple. On YouTube search Rin DIY and Handymum Lin TV.

    • Thank you so much for those links, Kathy. I have been wearing surgical masks until now. I only had two and only needed them once a week on the one day I am allowed out. I would leave one in the sun every day for two weeks before using it again and use the other next time I went out. Now I think it’s time to make some cloth ones.

  4. Thanks for keeping on keeping on with your posting and weaving Laverne! You are gorgeous in gray, btw!

  5. I love your double-width on an inkle! OXO

    • Thank, Wendy. I had tried it on my backstrap loom before where I had to weave three samples before I got the sett right at the fold. That was with 60/2 silk.The heavier crochet thread on the inkle loom was a lot less fussy and the fold came out perfectly.

  6. Once the white was down to your ears, the dark at the bottom looked like an extremely expensive elegant design decision. I can see why you might be sad to see the last of it when you have your next cut.

    • Hi Jacquie. I only realized that on my last trip to the USA when I had ladies in their 20s telling me how cool my hair was! Yes, I’ll be sorry to see the dark tips go but I won’t be putting any more dye chemicals in my hair.

  7. Your grey hair is beautiful Enjoy your natural look with pride.

    • Thank you! Time has gone by so quickly since I started the transition and I am relieved that I like the color or have, at least, become used to it and can turn my mind to more important things!

  8. Love your grey hair, very pretty on you. Enjoy your blog very much, very inspiring. Here is an easy face mask for you to hand sew if you have not already found one on line. Be safe, take care.

    • Thank you so much, Lynne. I ended up picking apart the disposable surgical mask I have and opening it out so that I could use as a template for the pleats. I was able to take the wire nose piece out of the surgical mask and use it in my cloth mask. I want to make the cloth mask wider than the surgical one but apart from that, it has been a good model to follow.

  9. I LOVE your grey hair montage. Except for the initial skunk stripe, which is always a bit of a shock, I think the dark tips growing out looked very cool. I’ve really liked the ombre’ effect.

    I love the toe bar for the back strap. Instead of standing up, you can just flex your toes to release the tension. I’ll definitely have to try that.

    The ikat looks gorgeous.

    Berna

    • Thanks, Berna. At least I am getting to enjoy the dark hair tips for a little while longer.

      I have my fingers tightly crossed that these fine lines that I am wrapping for ikat will work out. When I have done larger more solid shapes in the past, a little blurring on the edges really didn’t make any difference to anything. However, blurring on all the edges of a tiny line might be enough to turn the line into nothing more than a smudge. We will see….!
      As for the toe bar, I am not sure what you mean when you say “instead of standing up”. Normally it’s just a matter of leaning slightly forward in your sitting position to relax tension on the warp. I wove using a wide warp using a backstrap loom with a foot beam when I was with Yan as that is the traditional way the Li looms are managed. It was a matter of moving the feet just enough to relax tension without having the beam slide down from its position. That took some practice. Of course, the wider the warp, the greater the amount of movement the weaver needs to make. I like weaving with a narrow warp hooked over a toe if I am and about or doing a demo at a guild meeting. Then I just wiggle my big toe back and forth!

  10. By standing up, I mean that I often have the backstrap around my butt, instead of my back. It moves the weaving down into my lap instead of around my waist. To relieve the tension to change the shed, I have to stand up slightly, instead of leaning forward.

    It’s been awhile since I wove. I have a project warped by not heddles. I need to get back to it and try out some different methods of tensioning.

    Beran

    • Oh, I see. I have mine between my waist and my butt, on my hips.


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