Posted by: lavernewaddington | August 21, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – The Third Drawer

You may recall from my last post that I have been allowing myself the luxury of taking the time to go through the four-drawer chest that holds my backstrap weaving tools and other weaving-related stuff. It’s not about organizing or down-sizing. It’s simply about enjoying touching and looking at the individual pieces and remembering how I had acquired them.

The top drawer with all the rods is the fullest and I had been congratulating myself on my brilliant idea of buying this chest of drawers and how well everything had fit inside when I suddenly remembered that I have at least seventeen more loom rods in the bag that I take traveling with me when I teach. If I have ever crossed paths with you in my travels, you may remember the big green monster of a wheely bag that I drag around with all my weaving stuff inside. Oh well, those rods can just stay where they are in the hope that it won’t be too, too long before that bag and I get to hit the road again. 

The third drawer in the chest ended up being almost as absorbing as the first two. That drawer is where all my samples and many of my finished pieces come to rest. Some of the samples are actually still on their little loom as there is always the vague idea that one day I’ll continue the piece and make it into something.

For example, there’s the sample of the paisley pattern that I designed in warp-faced double weave. I am certainly not going to toss that out! There’s enough unwoven warp to continue this and make some sort of little pouch. It’s woven in 60/2 silk. It is kind of a gift for those times when I am between projects and at the charting and planning stage but still would like to weave something. This warp is all set up and heddled and ready to go! 

I fished out some of my black wrist cuffs from the bags of finished objects. where they sit waiting for me to go out some place and wear them…

My left arm has a warp-faced double-weave piece in size 3 crochet cotton. If you like the look of that and the pattern, it is included in my book Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms. Next to it is an Andean Pebble Weave pattern in 60/2 silk. That pattern appears in my More Andean Pebble Weave Patterns book. The one nearest my wrist on my right arm is a leaf pattern I designed and wove in DMC #12 thread (pattern from my Complementary-warp Pattern Book). It’s edged with an eye-pattern tubular band (from the book of the same name). Last of all is a cuff woven in Mora wool. It’s  20/2 worsted-spun yarn that is fabulous for bands (pattern from Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms). That cuff is also edged with an eye-pattern tubular band.

Sometimes, a piece that was meant purely as a sample will totally take hold of my imagination and be transformed into something truly useful. I remember taking some of my first timid steps in ikat about ten years ago. I had tried ikat some years before this on a larger scale and had not been too happy with the results. On this occasion I was not willing to invest a lot of time and materials in something that most likely wouldn’t work out and so I just tied a very simple ikat motif along the length of two narrow strips of warp to give me white on brick-red motifs. Then I included them in a wider warp.

I figured that the ikat might fail and that, in any case, the piece would be really plain and uninteresting and not worth keeping. For that reason, I planned to include some figures in supplementary weft. That would give me a chance to weave some motifs that I had photographed on a piece that a friend of mine had bought in Bhutan. The piece would have a dual purpose as a sample in that case. If the ikat failed, I would still have the information on the supplementary-weft motifs that I could use in a future project. I used a single-faced supplementary-weft technique as you can see above.

The ikat was just “okay” in my book. There was a bit too much of the “railroad track” shifting that I don’t much like. However, the large supplementary-weft motifs really shifted focus away from that and I was really happy with the silky smoothness of those. I was left wishing that I had woven something larger that could have been made into something. You could tell that I had had very little faith in this being successful as I had only wound a warp that gave me around 16′ of cloth. So, I wove another piece of similar length in all-black, a long narrow strap with more supplementary-weft motifs and yet another short piece that I was able to cut into a curve and edge with a tubular band. Pieced together by hand and with an added zip, all those pieces became a bag. I really don’t know much about sewing and just make it up as I go along. It worked.

So, I guess all the bits and pieces of sample cloth that I have stuffed into that drawer could very well become something if I put my mind to it. The failed samples were tossed out after I took notes on what had gone wrong. It seems to me that when one’s stash is dwindling, one needs to use some imagination in order to continue being creative. No need to worry yet….I do actually still have a lot of yarn to play with. By the time my supplies get really low, I am sure that my local yarn store will be open and operating again. 

Another example was the gorgeous hand-dyed reeled silk warp that Sara Lamb had given me to play with. I enjoyed weaving it. I loved seeing and feeling how it transformed after wet-finishing and I highly valued the fact that it had come to me from Sara……but, then what?

How could this just be left neglected at the bottom of the sample drawer? I cut into it, all the while with my heart in my mouth, and made a quirky yurt-shaped bag. The round base that I cut out is edged with a plain-weave tubular band.

I even wove some accessories using some 60/2 spun silk that I had in similar colors. It’s funny how a sample can just keep growing and growing into a much larger production.

So, let’s see now what that double-weave paisley piece that I showed earlier grows into.

So, if the wheely bag and I can’t leave and go visiting  weaving friends, it is probably time to take some steps to see if we can bring the weaving friends here via Zoom. And, I have been doing a fair bit of that lately. I am very grateful to the guilds that have allowed me to visit as a guest during some of my trips to the USA and who have been just as willing to give me a guest pass via Zoom. I also have a lovely group of volunteers who have been helping me test my efforts to teach via Zoom. Kinks are slowly getting ironed out and it has been a lot of fun. If you would like to know more about my Zoom programs, please leave a comment on this blog or PM me via Facebook or Instagram.

Here I am at my “Zoom station” using a tapestry that I wove way back in 1995 as my back-drop. Speaking of cutting into things with one’s heart in one’s mouth….after this Zoom meeting, I finally got out the scissors and chopped back my hair. The very last of the dyed dark brown is gone!

It is weird that I can Zoom with folks in the States and enjoy beautiful clear images of all them, while Zooming with my best friend who lives a mere fifteen blocks away from me here in Santa Cruz is a blurry, fuzzy experience. It is also interesting to note that my internet service here in Bolivia may actually be better than some of the services to which my friends in the States in more rural areas subscribe. I count my lucky stars.

Here’s some progress on my Finnweave piece. Finnweave is one kind of balanced double-weave pick-up technique. If I weave it without creating pick-up patterns, I would get a black upper layer of balanced plain-weave and a gold lower layer of balanced plain-weave (or vice versa). The two layers will not connect at all unless I intertwine the two colors of weft as they pass each other at the edges. I am in fact intertwining them so that the edges are not open. I can exchange colors between the two layers to create these patterns. When doing so, the layers connect at those points of exchange. I created a pattern of leaves (of course!)

Here’s a picture of the warp with its four sets of string heddles. Two heddles hold the two sets of black threads that form the upper layer and the other two hold the two sets of gold threads.

Something about the lines in these patterns kept taking my mind back to the beautiful wrought-iron work on the Victorian-era terraced houses that I saw when I was on teaching trips in Melbourne, Australia. I stayed with Ruth in North Carlton where these houses seem to be particularly numerous and well-preserved. There’s an example pictured below. It is odd because the wrought-iron patterns are mostly made up of curves whereas the Finnweave patterns are very angular so I am not sure why my mind keeps taking me there. I would still like to try to represent them in some way in Finnweave. When I have finished this piece, I’ll get out the charting paper and work on that. Right now I feel like I am still sampling and testing to see how my charted figures appear on the cloth.

I followed the motif of leaves that I created with some “flowers”….

I got the idea for this flower motif from a piece of crochet that I saw on Instagram that had been created by a lady in Russia. I can only do the most elementary kind of crochet. I saw images of work that seemed to be done in a double crochet in that there were two layers which, in the same way as I described for the double-weave structure that I am using, only connect when colors are exchanged between the layers. The motifs in this particular crochet technique have the same kinds of lines that I create in Finnweave. The fact that the crochet piece had been done in black and gold was what had first attracted my attention. I adapted one of the motifs to Finnweave. The motif had to be changed quite a lot because an exact copy would result in a figure that was way too elongated and, I suspect, and not flower-like at all. 

The next motif is my invention of leaves lying on their sides and I am now in the midst of a flower-like motif of my own design. You know, pretty much everything you weave in this structure ends up looking quite good even if it doesn’t really look like what you originally intended. The so-called flower motif that I am currently weaving will most likely not look like a flower at all to anyone else but I think that it will still look nice. I am having fun with this. The patterns are very easy to read and producing them requires less counting and concentration than weaving pick-up patterns in other structures that I use. The fiddly part is managing the four sets of heddles and maintaining the sett.

I’ll finish here with a couple of blasts from the past. When the future is so uncertain and it is almost impossible to make plans, I guess we tend to spend more and more time thinking back and enjoying memories. Facebook took me back recently to 2009 which was the last of the eleven years that I had spent teaching English at the Centro Boliviano Americano here in Santa Cruz. The picture below shows one of the many groups that I worked with in that last year.

In this same week of August in 2009, I took a chance and handed in my resignation so that I could see what I could do with my passion….weaving on a backstrap loom…. However, it didn’t take me long to realize that teaching was actually another passion from which I couldn’t walk away. I found a way to combine the two through tutorials on this blog, through my books, through my participation in online forums such as Ravelry and by connecting in my travels with weavers around the world. I hope that Zoom will be able to add yet another possibility to my ability to combine these two passions.

Stay safe, please and see you next time…..













  1. You stay safe too, Laverne. I can’t help wishing you could zoom yourself bodily to Australia for the rest of this pandemic. Your work is gorgeous as always! I envy you your drawers of orderliness, I could never fit all my braiding stuff into four drawers, yet all I make are tiny little samples with no loom or sticks at all!

    • Thank you so much, Ingrid and it’s lovely to hear from you. All of my northern Cal friends and especially those I associate with the happy times spent with the Santa Cruz group have been on my mind due to the awful fires. I hope that the smoke isn’t affecting you too badly.

      I can just imagine you surrounded by dozens and dozens of your beautiful braids. I remember your displays at the conferences.

      The drawers of the chest might sound organized but you should see what doesn’t fit and overflows into the closet!

      Take care and thank you for leaving a comment.

  2. your third drawer is such a treasure trove! Is that paisley pattern in warp-faced double weave available anywhere?

    • Thank you! No, I haven’t published the paisley pattern. My book on that structure is for the Inkle loom and that pattern is very big.

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