Posted by: lavernewaddington | July 10, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Chasing Away the Blues

I have been working with blues (and once or twice with the blues) these last two weeks as my latest ikat experiment develops. I still call these “experiments” as I aim to iron out kinks, try new things and learn something new from each attempt. I suppose the main focus of this one was to create the colors that I had in mind at the start of the project. If you have been reading along over this last year and following the progress of my ikat experiments, you will be used to my saying…”the color didn’t turn out at all as I had expected, but it grew on me.” This time, I decided that I would mix the dye powders I have and try to create certain tones of blue and have them match as closely as possible the colors that I have in mind, rather than just making do with what I get. Yes, Facebook reminded me that it’s has been a whole year since I started working on this latest round of ikat experiments. They began with my using short multi-colored base warps and black dye.

I showed you the start of my latest experiment in my last post where I had just begun applying the ikat tape. It’s a long narrow piece using what remains of my supply of 60/2 silk…a sash that will hang on the wall alongside other ikat pieces that I have created in this 60/2 silk. On the warping frame, it is folded to halve its length so that I can wrap the tape around two layers of threads at once.

Maybe a Christmas tree or a pine tree springs to mind…but, in my mind, these lines represent veins on a leaf.

I was able to mix three colors from my selection of dyes and get this faded-jeans blue as the first color layer. I was pleased with that. I wanted to get something that perhaps resembles the first dip in a vat of indigo.

The warp then went back onto the frame so that I could tie more patterns. That would allow me to reserve some of this color and then dye a second color over the top. Basically, all I wanted was a darker blue as the second color, preferably something that would look like multiple dips in an indigo vat. That took two attempts. On the first attempt, the color looked good and dark in the pot. I know to expect the color to lighten a lot as the thread dries, but it lightened way more than expected and I knew that there would not be enough contrast between the two shades of blue. 

On the second attempt, I got smarter and threw in some loose strands of silk that I had used as a test for the first faded-jeans color. I was able to remove them when I thought that the color was just about right and then rinse and quickly iron them dry to see the true color.

The warp then went back on the frame so that I could cut off the plastic wrappings. This time I didn’t leave any wrappings on. In my other experiments I left a row of wraps on the warp at the far end of the loom believing that they would help reduce the amount that the threads shifted as I wove. Time will tell if removing all the wrappings this time has been a mistake!

With all the wrappings removed, it was time for the grand opening. The warp could then go on my backstrap loom and be extended to its full length. I locate the pieces of thread that hold the cross and install the string heddles so that I can weave.

There are two kinds of shift that I have noticed from having done these ikat experiments as well as from having examined ikat work online, in exhibits and in my friends’ collections. When individual threads shift in varying degrees, you get that pleasant blurred effect that we all love. However, there’s another kind of shift that seems to be caused by the two layers of threads being misaligned. The result of that is an effect that I call “railroad tracks”. I am not fond of those railroad tracks!

In the picture below of an example of ikat work from Uzbekistan that my weaving friend Ute brought to show me , you can see the horizontal bars that I am calling railroad tracks. It’s something I would like to avoid. At the time of writing, I can tell you that the very first piece of pattern that I have reached in my current experiment, now that I have started weaving, is displaying railroad tracks….darn. I will be un-weaving and assessing and seeing what can be done about that. It may be the price for having removed all the wraps! If that is the case, I can say that this experiment truly had a purpose in showing me what not to do!

I am pleased with the tones of blue that I created. From now on, I will always toss a tiny bunch of loose silk into the dye bath with the ikat warp so that I can iron it dry, see the true color, and then adjust the dye mix accordingly. One other thing I did, which was maybe not a good idea, was leave the metal rod in place in the warp in the dye bath. I fold the warp around a metal rod when it is extended on the ikat frame. I removed it and replaced it with string in the first dye bath. As a result, all the threads at that end of the warp finished in a tangled mess. I left the rod in place in the second dye bath which kept everything in good order. However, either the metal stained the warp, or it reacted with the dye as there is a bit of a line across the center of the warp which may or may not come out in the wet-finish. More lessons learned!

At left, you can see a rough drawing I made of what I expect the finished piece to look like, complete with the line across the center. That line may refuse to budge in the wash and I so I may as well get used to it being there!

You may have noticed that the title of this post is “Chasing Away the Blues”. I have actually been actively welcoming blues in my latest project rather than chasing them away. What I am referring to in the title is the fact that I was involved in a very nice blues-chasing activity this morning. I received a very warm invitation to attend the Zoom meeting of a group of band weavers who call themselves the Banditos. What a way to lift my spirits! I am so grateful to Keith and the other Banditos for thinking of inviting me. This group is part of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota. Being able to join in gave me a chance to experience just a little piece what I have been missing from not being able to travel to meet and weave with weaving friends while chatting about all things weaverly. I have traveled to Australia in July and August every year for the last four years to do that. Last year I even got to go to New Zealand and spend time with weaving friends. These Zoom gatherings certainly help to chase away the blues that I sometimes feel as we all face such uncertain futures. 

Now it’s time for Show-and-Tell….(another thing that chases away the blues for me is seeing what online weaving friends are creating using my publications)…..

The idea in this photo is to show you the band that Allyne Holz wove to go with the bag that she crocheted. The pattern that she chose for her Andean Pebble Weave band is from my Complementary-warp Pattern Book. However, I know that you won’t be able to take your eyes off the bag! Leaf-lover, that I am, I have barely been able to get past the bag and its awesome draw-string closure either!

Diane Wardlow has chosen to weave a double weave band to add to the upper edge of her bag to cleverly increase its depth. She wove the  fabric for the bag using a really interesting sakiori/rag weaving technique.

Meg Kourmadas is also working her way through double weave using my book and has used the alpaca figure as part of her very first learning band.

Monique de Viscos is using a pretty variegated thread to weave patterns from my More Andean Pebble Weave Patterns book. It is interesting to see the effect of not using a third border color. I really need to include variegated thread in my bands from time to time. Monique’s band is very inspiring.

Orangie wove a striking sampler of eight-thread patterns from my Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms book. 

I love the colors that Judy Andersen has combined for one of the 8-thread Andean Pebble Weave patterns in which S hooks are joined to form a sort of ram’s head motif.

And here’s Terry Martin’s first double weave learning band. I think she may have squeezed every one of the 11/12 learning patterns onto her band. I love the boldness and simplicity of lettering in this structure and how effective the very simplest stick letters can be.. There are also examples of more sophisticated alphabets in the book to inspire you.

Unfortunately, I was too late in asking permission from my online weaving friend, Josefin, to show her beautiful backstrap loom warps that she sets up attached to a tree in her garden in Sweden. She spins her own yarn and hand dyes it in lovely soft colors that look so natural. Hopefully I can include those very inspiring pictures next week.

I wonder if any of you are taking part in Ravelry’s annual Tour de Fleece event. I joined a team and have been spinning while waiting for my ikat warp to dry. I bought what were called Felters’ Packs when I was at the guild in Melbourne on one of my trips to Australia a few years ago. Here are the contents of one pack. I loved the colors and bought three packs. I think the quantity of yarn I get from this will be enough to weave a nice band perhaps in three-color pebble weave…something I haven’t done for a long time.

I hope you are all finding ways to stay positive and chase away the blues. Please stay safe and keep well.








  1. Thank you for helping your readers chase away the blues!

  2. We Banditos enjoyed your visit immensely, Laverne! I believe that you got a couple of our members hooked on learning double weave.

    • Oh, that’s wonderful, Keith. I’m looking forward to the next gathering.

  3. Thank you for sharing all you have learned from your experiments with ikat. Enjoy!

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