Posted by: lavernewaddington | June 26, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Creative outlets

It’s interesting to see what my online friends and acquaintances are doing with the time they have on their hands during these periods of lock-down and self isolation. I won’t call it “killing time” as who would want to kill a commodity that is so precious? Most are using the time, their hands and yarn from their stashes to weave, crochet, braid and knit. A couple of friends have been drawing. My friend Yonat just finished a spectacular tapestry piece and I have seen some amazing quilts developing.

It’s no secret what I have been doing with my time and it’s not really anything different to what I would be doing in a “normal” world. The only difference is that I am not organizing my time around the fact that I have a trip away coming up. The last few years gave me the opportunity to travel to Australia in the down-under winter months. We are still in strict lock-down here and for me the biggest difference is having to pick through my stash to plan my future projects rather than plan something and only then buy yarn specifically for those projects on a trip away. There’s something rather nice about that. So, it’s all about weaving for me and soon it will be about planning my next book.

Oh, and I have been juggling. That’s a new one. My nephew taught me to juggle many years ago when I was on a visit to Australia. You never forget but you do get rusty….in my case, very rusty. It’s a great way to warm up my arms and shoulders before I do other exercises, not to mention all the other parts of the body that are involved in retrieving dropped balls. Now I am thinking about how to make my own juggling balls. I don’t need another set but some custom-made ones would be fun. I have a “good” set and then a set of crocheted rice-filled ones that I bought from Guatemala. It’s amusing watching the grains of rice escape and fly about the room as I toss the balls in the air. Maybe I’ll learn something other than the basic three-ball toss.

I hand-sewed my face masks. They came out pretty well. I picked apart a disposable pleated surgical mask to use as the model, made it a bit wider to reach to my ears, and added a little tuck under the chin. I had some wire to use for the nose and used the elastic from some eye masks that I had. One mask is only a single layer of fabric and the other is doubled. I wear them both at the same time. They’ve been through the wash several times and survived. I guess my hand-sewing isn’t that bad after all. Wearing a mask is mandatory in all stores and businesses here. I have not heard a single peep of complaint from anyone here about that.

My sister-in-law, Debbie, is one of the people that I mentioned who took up drawing during some of her stay-safe-at-home time. She had never done any drawing at all in her life and she whipped up this sketch of me wearing a mask and surprised me with it. I love it….

I don’t sew and don’t have a stash of fabric. The masks were made from fabric that my friend Claudia had given me so that I could sew an edging on my ikat cowl. I guess I favor these autumn colors. They happen to be the kinds of colors that I have been using in my recent ikat experiments.

After having finished experiment #8, above, I calculated the amount of 60/2 un-dyed silk that I had left to play with and saw that I had enough to make a sash that could hang on the wall with the other two pieces. That would leave me with a tiny bit to make a wrist cuff. I always like to be able to wear cuffs when I teach. They serve as nice portable examples of the various techniques that I use in my work. After all this time spent on ikat, I felt I needed to add an ikat cuff to the collection. However, I wanted it also be an experiment and planned to make it a test of some of the dye colors that I would use in the larger sash project….autumn colors.

Here it is on my arm along with other cuffs and bracelets that I have woven in autumn colors. It is fresh off the loom here and so it looks dull and fluffy and you can still see the charcoal markings where I drew the pattern on the warp before tying the tape. Its look would change after a wash and press.

One of the tape ties came partly undone in the dye bath which spoiled the pattern a little. I guess I got distracted and didn’t complete the knot for that particular tie. This piece went through three dye baths. That’s a lot of fuss for such a small piece but I learn something every time. Figuring out the most efficient way to stage the steps for dyeing the three colors colors is something that I am learning. On this occasion, I dyed with the burnt orange first. Then I unwrapped the parts that would be yellow and dyed those. Then I unwrapped the border threads and covered the entire pattern section with tape and dyed brown. Other possible sequences come to mind and I guess it depends on the ratio of pattern area to negative space, the colors that are being used, and just how much wrapping, unwrapping and re-wrapping you want to do. I had been hoping that the border and the rest of the negative space would be significantly different tones of brown….a solid dark  brown on the borders and a reddish-brown in the other negative spaces. They are different but not so much as to be really noticeable.

I cut and hemmed the ends. The 60/2 silk is fine enough to allow me to hem without creating too much bulk. I’ll add some small snaps, two at each end. I usually add ribbon crimps to cuffs that are too bulky to hem. Jump rings and lobster-claw clasps finish them off nicely. As with any kind of bracelet, attaching the clasp with one hand can be tricky. I have done it often enough now to have a method that works well. That’s something that you might want to consider if you are planning a cuff of your own.

I hemmed and used snaps for these bands in 60/2 silk. There are some very low profile plastic snaps out there but I actually find them quite hard to do up and am sticking with metal ones for the time being.

I also like using a button along with a braided loop. The metal ribbon crimp has a built-in loop through which the braided cord can be passed and knotted to make a loop. The crimp covers and protects the cut raw edge of the band. The other ends of my bands are usually selvedges. Weaving bands like these on my backstrap loom allows me to start with a selvedge and so I can sew a button directly to that end. I don’t have to worry about a raw edge unraveling.

If a band has two raw edges and you want to use a button and loop, I think that adding a ribbon crimp to protect both ends would work well. The button could still be sewn to the band to overlap the crimp (and therefore hide the loop in the crimp.). I have since found out via a Facebook friend that you can buy ribbon crimps that don’t have the loop. One of these days, I’ll get some of those via an Etsy store called TwilightsFancy.

One of my favorite ways to finish a cuff is with a woven tubular band that is woven and sewn to the fabric at the same time. The weft becomes the sewing thread. The tube encloses and protects the edge of the band and really becomes part of the piece rather than just perching as an addition along the very edge. These kinds of tubular bands need to be used on fabric that is quite sturdy. In these two examples I used an eye-pattern tubular band.

I used the tubular band to cover and protect the raw edge of these wool bands. The band on the left is 20/2 worsted spun Mora yarn and the one on the right is my hand spun yarn made from from some particularly nasty llama fiber that I bought in the highlands way back in 2002 when I didn’t know any better. The center color comes from cochineal. The button is made from tagua nut from Ecuador. 

The use of magnets as closures for these kinds of cuffs has been discussed but I can’t say that I trust them unless they are lockable. I would hate to lose my hand spun cuff and the tagua nut button which is a souvenir of my travels in 2005. One Facebook friend laughed about the fact that she has walked away and left bracelets with magnet closures attached dangling to metal cabinets.. Maybe a magnet closure with a safety chain would work although I do remember one weaver whose safety chain was attracted to the magnet and was therefore always stuck to it in a crumpled mess!

I have set up what could be the last 60/2 ikat experiment for a while (I say “could be” because I do have colored 60/2 silk a-plenty and as long as I have dark colored dye, I can continue to create ikat patterns. In fact, I already have some ideas!). This latest project is for the sash wall hanging…a long-ish narrow warp which I am doubling so that I can wrap two layers at once and create a pattern repeat.

First some scratchings on paper….

That’s the basic pattern that will be repeated as a mirror reflection of itself length-wise. Other bits of pattern will be added later if all goes well. And here’s the warp extended on its frame and the start of the wrappings….so far, so good.

My plan to use autumn colors has changed. I would like to try two tones of blue. I love some of the Indonesian textiles I have seen where the ikat artisans tie a pattern and then dip the warp in indigo to create a pale shade of blue. Then they tie more patterns into the pale blue and dye the warp a much darker blue. The challenge is to see if I can adjust the blue dye I have with maybe some bits of black or grey to get the kind of blue I have in mind and then create a light and dark shade. Considering the fact that none of the colors I have used so far have turned out as I had envisioned, I am thinking that this plan is quite unlikely to succeed. I will have black dye on standby to cover up any mess! I haven’t had to resort to this Plan B yet. Fingers crossed.

And now I get to show you what my online weaving friends have been doing…

You may remember that last year I spent a weekend with some of my backstrap-loom-enthusiast friends during which we focused on preparing wide projects. Here is Ann last year making heddles after a day of planning and warping….

Aunt Lydia’s size 10 has some bold and beautiful colors and Ann combined them so nicely.

Ann has had time to finish this project during time spent at home. She noted that it took a year to get through the first half and only a week to finish the rest! She’ll be sewing the fabric into a bag.  I know that Ann is really skilled at the sewing machine and that this will be something awesome.

Sally Backes has more than one band project on the go. This one is on her Windhaven Fiddle loom and she is creating a pattern from my More Andean Pebble Weave Patterns book. If you have studied either the Andean Pebble Weave method or the complementary-warp pick-up methods that I teach in my books, you will be able to weave the patterns in this pattern book. I love the red and white border arrangement that Sally has chosen.

Karen Rein chose flower and leaf motifs to decorate her first warp-faced double weave band. These motifs form part of the 11/12-thread set which are designed to fit on the first learning band. There are also sets with 15/16 threads and 19/20 threads. This was woven on an inkle loom using the instructions from my Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms book.

In the double weave book I recommend using a loom that gives you, as an absolute minimum, five inches of working space. That is the distance from the weaving line to the heddles. However, where there is a will there’s a way. My weaving friend, Kate, had to run some errands which involved some sitting about and waiting. She took this tiny loom along with her as it is the most portable one she has. Another online weaving friend of mine owns one of these and says it fits in her purse! There isn’t what I would call a comfortable amount of working room for doing pick-up on this loom, particularly not for double weave, but Kate made it work and wove the little llama figure from my book while she was out. This wasn’t Kate’s first double weave band. She wove the first one on a much larger inkle loom that gave her a much more comfortable amount of space in which to work. The little loom is adorable!

I am so pleased to see that Susi Saparautzki has got to the stage where she is comfortable weaving warp-faced double weave and has moved on to designing her own patterns. One of the things I have emphasized in the book is just how easy it is to do this. Susi created a motif with dolphins and I love the splash of background on which she has placed them.

Stacy Holder’s Andean Pebble Weave band is stunning. I often forget when I am planning my projects that one can use something other than white as the lighter of the two pattern colors. I love this combination. This pattern along with several other knot-work motifs is charted in the More Andean Pebble Weave Patterns book.

Wendy has been out backstrap weaving again with her clever self-contained set-up. For this band she has been using beautiful reeled silk from Bhutan as warp and supplementary weft in jewel colors and plans to make a wrist cuff…..

Vonnie Galusha’s first Andean Pebble Weave band was used as inspiration for members of the Sacramento Weavers and Spinners Guild in their recent news letter. Vonnie worked with my Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms book.

And, finally, back to the backstrap loom. Here’s Jennifer Kwong’s set-up and first ever band in complementary-warp pick-up. It’s a beauty. We love her clever use of a crepe spatula as a sword. (Complementary-warp Pick-up book…also available in German).

That’s all for now. Mask up, if you can, and stay safe, please.















  1. Greetings from Vermont in the heat of mid-summer! As ever, I enjoy the careful planning that goes into all you do Laverne. I particularly appreciate seeing this photographic retrospective of your lovely wrist cuffs, and they give rise to a question. I am planning a hat band for one of Brian’s favorite hats and he’s pretty specific, he wants it to be an inch and a quarter wide and using a complementary pick up pattern that he likes. Since I’ll be using the same Mora 20/2 wool that you did in the wrist cuff with the tubular finish, can you give me an idea how wide the dark pattern area of your band is? Or an idea of roughly how many ends of Mora would yield a band 1 and 1/4 inches wide? That will help me to plan my borders while getting that width just right. Trial and error works too but I thought I would ask.
    I can’t wait to see your current ikat experiment when it is finished!
    Stay safe, my friend.

    • Hi Lausanne. So nice to hear from and know a little about what you are up to. In the post that precedes this one (Title:How warp-faced are you?)I wrote about how difficult it is for one weaver to give these kinds of measurements to another as we all handle the threads and the weaving process a little differently . So, I know that you will understand that what I tell you is just to give you an idea. If that perfect width is really important, I can only advise using my measurement as a guide for your first sample which you can then adjust if necessary.

      The pattern part of the cuff is 19 revs(which gives 38 ends) in complementary-warp pick-up and measures just slightly under 1/2″. Of course, the same number of ends in plain weave will give you more width. I am not really able to give you an accurate measurement of the whole plain weave part because part of it sits inside the tubular edging.I measured from the black that borders the pattern out to the next black stripe…that’s 16 ends of plain weave. That measures slightly more than 1/4″.
      I hope that helps give you a starting point for sampling.

      • Thank you for getting back to me Laverne. That gives me a useful starting point. I totally understand how much the width can vary, depending even on my mood at the moment sometimes! This gives me a good starting point to plan the borders. I’ll show you how it is coming along when this project gets beyond the planning phase.

  2. Oh my Gosh!!! I’m on a BLOG!!! Thanks, Laverne for including my Pebble Weave band in your blog:) It’s a great compliment. I also want to shout out that you were VERY helpful in my first attempt at this kind of weaving. Your book “Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms” is fantastic! Thank you!

    • Thank you, Vonnie. I am happy that the folks at your guild got to see your work and liked it so much. Thanks for taking part in our little weave-along.

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