Posted by: lavernewaddington | May 29, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Stash-busting

I have never been one for building a stash of yarn and thread for weaving. I can completely understand weavers who buy up a whole lot of yarn, simply because it is just so irresistibly gorgeous, without having a project in mind. However, I can only think of a few occasions when I have done that. Thank goodness for those few occasions because now I have yarn from which to choose for my future projects during the current lock-down.

One of the occasions when I just picked up thread without any plan in mind was when I was shown yarn and supplies that were being given away to people in a weavers guild after the death of one of their members. Many things had been sold and everything had been well picked over when I was shown what was available and it seemed that no one wanted the tiny skeins of naturally dyed silk experiments that were lying in a basket to one side. This was understandable as they were too small for floor loom projects. I felt that they needed to be rescued from eventually being thrown away or left sitting at the bottom of someone’s closet. I thought that I could possibly weave some bands with these small amounts of thread.

Oh, what fun things I have been able to do with that thread! A big part of the fun was being obliged to plan something around what I had available rather than planning first and then buying accordingly. I used that silk to weave several pieces of fabric which I used as book covers.

More recently, I have used that silk in my ikat experiments.

I still have some of it left and it will become part of the stash with which I will be making do for my weaving projects in the foreseeable future. Of course, stores here will eventually open and I will once again have access to cotton from Brazil. That is, after all, the material with which I had been happily weaving all those years before I started traveling and, as a result, got thoroughly spoiled by having access to all kinds of lovely yarn in the USA….not to mention all the materials that friends in the USA kindly gave me. 

Way back in 2012, I made a purchase of several little spools of 60/2 silk when I was taken to visit the Handweavers Studio and Gallery in London. I must have picked up at least 25 of those little spools. I had no idea what I would do with them but saw it as an opportunity to have lots of colors in silk without having to buy massive cones of the stuff. I was not sure at the time if I would even be able to handle such fine material on my backstrap loom.

I still have lots of it left. I started out rather timidly using it as supplementary weft. That was successful but hardly made a dent in the supply.

It will be fun to see if I can somehow combine the colors to put together interesting projects now that I am no longer timid about using silk in this weight as warp.

I can think of another time when I excitedly gathered up yarn with no plan at all in mind. That was when I was at Vavstuga something like five years ago. There I found a 20/2 worsted-spun wool that seemed like it would be perfect for the kind of warp-faced weaving that I do. I placed an armful of skeins on the counter not having any idea at all about whether it would work in my backstrap weaving or not. However, I was determined to make it work after having spent all that money!

I still have a tub of this wool which is giving me something with which to plan my next project. 

Temperatures are slowly dropping here in Bolivia and it might be quite nice to work with wool for a while. We had a whole two days of low temperatures earlier this week which gave me a chance to get out the two wool lap blankets that I had woven some years ago using this very same wool. I also got to enjoy the lovely hand-knit socks that a student in Australia had given me.

This was the first of the lap blankets that I wove with patterns in the Andean Pebble Weave structure. It is made up of two panels joined together. A second one with patterns in supplementary warp followed shortly after…

Back in 2013, Cindy and I split and shared two bags of Mayan Hands cotton that was being sold at the ANWG Conference. It is too easy to get swept up in all the excitement of shopping at those events.

That cotton sat around for quite some time before I came up with a plan for its use. I used it to weave journal covers and still have quite a lot of it left.

So, I have to be thankful that there were a few times when I lost my head and brought a bunch of yarn and thread back with me to Bolivia with no plan at all in mind. These materials will be part of my projects until I can buy cotton here once again or until I get to travel. There’s plenty to keep me busy and it will be a different kind of challenge trying to see what I can plan based purely on what I have available. I feel good about this. 

The same goes for stashing food! I have never ever had a pantry. I would be quite proud every week on shopping day to find my fridge and shelves completely empty (except for a half bottle of maple syrup and a bag of sugar, which was hidden in the fridge away from the ants, and just enough milk for one morning’s breakfast). I didn’t want to clutter up my limited storage spaces with food. I knew how to shop perfectly for a week. However, in the current situation I can see the importance of building up a stash of food. I learned my lesson last November when we were locked down in a 21-day strike. One needs to have an emergency supply.  I am slowly building up my “pantry” so that I can avoid having to go out at all for at least two months, if necessary, as this current situation develops.

I am now working my way through my supply of un-dyed 60/2 silk in my latest ikat experiment. I’ll show you some of the steps that I have been through since I last posted. In my last post I showed you the partly tied pattern. There are some charcoal scratchings on the warp for some extra parts of pattern that I thought I might add but then decided against. I used my photo editor to place the two halves of the pattern side by side so that I could see how the warp would look once opened out to its full width…

I used a dye color called Chestnut. It is a slightly reddish-brown. Neither of the following two pictures show the true color but the one on the left is closest.

Here it is opened out and on my backstrap loom…

I plan to weave some figures using supplementary weft on the broad white horizontal bar.

You can see that I left a bar of the pink ikat tape in place and will leave it there for as long a possible as I weave. I feel more secure leaving the tape there to help hold the threads in position. Eventually, I will need to cut the tape and remove it so that I can continue weaving. An online friend, Lynelle Barrett, who lives in Singapore and who has studied the ikat practices of Iban weavers, told me about a stick that the weavers lash to the threads to serve this same purpose. I was almost going to install one on this warp but decided that I would leave that for my next ikat experiment when I can use it on its own without any wrappings in place. That way I can judge which of the two systems works better for me.

Corresponding about this with Lynelle reminded me of a post I made many years ago when a friend in the USA showed me the textiles that she has purchased on a trip to Indonesia. Among Judith’s purchases was a sweet miniature loom with a tiny ikat textile in progress. On that tiny loom there was a stick lashed to the bundles that had been separated and wrapped with tape. Now, thanks to Lynelle, I understand more of what that is all about. On my next ikat project, when I actually (hopefully successfully) use one of these sticks, I will tell you more about what Lynelle shared with me.

Lynelle also showed me what she has been weaving on her inkle loom. She has been using my Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms book and a pattern that is included as one of two bonus patterns at the end of the book. It is one of my favorites. I just love how the two pelicans, joined at their beaks, effortlessly meander from dark to light along the length of the warp. On a visit to the Mannings many years ago, Tom Knisely showed me a pre-columbian textile fragment that he had been given with this pattern. I have never seen it on another textile since and was so happy for this opportunity to study and chart the pattern and weave it.

I also received some woven feedback from Susi Saparautzki in Germany who has been using my Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms book to practice some of the 11/12-thread patterns on her learner band. Using a small mirror can help to catch errors on the lower layer of the double-weave band that is out of view. 

I think we can all agree that 2020 is marking a turning point in all our lives. As a distraction,  I am going to use this year as a celebration of the ten years that I have been connecting with weavers around the world via my books and blog. My first publication came out in April 2010 and I started writing this blog at the very end of 2009. So much has happened since then. There’s been so much travel during which I got to meet and weave with hundreds of people. This can be a year to sit back and reflect and appreciate all that they and these years have brought to my life.

Here’s a picture from way back in 2010 on my very first trip to see some of the weavers I had been meeting online. This is at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival (which, sadly, is among so many fiber events that have had to be canceled this year) at a Weavolution meet-up. 

I will leave you with an opportunity to buy some of the beautiful lengths of handwoven cloth and purses made by my teacher Maxima and the other weavers in her co-operative here in Bolivia. Dorinda Dutcher, who spent years living and working with theses ladies, now lives in the USA where she has a supply of these pieces which can be sold to continue supporting them in these difficult times. Please visit the blog that Dorinda writes, PAZA Bolivia, to read her latest post about the kinds of rustic leaning vertical looms that the weavers use to create these pieces. Via the blog, you can contact Dorinda to ask about purchasing the lengths of cloth or purses. Or, if you prefer, you can leave a comment here and I will put you in touch with her.

Please stay safe and healthy, everyone.


Responses

  1. So nice to see my socks warming your “toe-toes”…….been busy teaching and knitting socks during the lock down. Hope you’re well, Di Scott
    Cheers from Australia.

    • Thanks, Dianne! We are back into almost-summery temps now and so the socks are washed and awaiting the next cold spell. At lest this way, I wll be able to enjoy them for years to come! Thank you so much for the kind gift.

  2. I enjoyed viewing your weaving, observing your choice of colors, so beautiful, I think the little silk skeins would have found their way into to your bag some how some way!

    Enjoy, stay healthy Laverne, Kelli

    • Thanks, Kelli! Yes, I think they found the right home!

  3. Beautiful weaving! I admire your skill and creativity…thank you for sharing it with the world!

    • You’re very welcome. Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

  4. These are gorgeous Laverne! I’m so glad that you hZve had stash to work with during these unprecedented days.

    • Thank you, Mardi. The more I look, the more I find. I have been given a lot of yarn as gifts too and now everything will get used!


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