Posted by: lavernewaddington | September 4, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – The Seed of an Idea

I would say that many of my ideas for my weaving projects are born from having found something of interest in woven cloth that I have seen in books or online or in-person in my travels. It may be a particular pattern, a certain color combination or a technique. An example would be my wanting to experiment with the ikat technique again after having seen how it is used in many of the beautiful textiles of Indonesia.

Other times the idea for a project might be based on wanting to use a structure that I have learned with my indigenous weaving teachers to produce motifs and patterns that are not at all like the ones that my teachers use.

Or, they could be about practicing a method of construction, like cloth that has four selvedges or cloth that has a built-in pocket. (at left)

Some projects are just about challenging myself to weave on my backstrap loom using the finest threads that are available to me and/or to weave something wider or longer than I have managed before.

I rarely weave anything simply because I have a real need for the finished product. I have something on the loom now that I am enjoying weaving but I have no idea what it will be when it is finished.

There have been times when ideas have come out of the blue from the strangest of places. One such time was when I was traveling on an American Airlines flight and spotted this in the in-flight magazine…

This gave me the idea of creating shapes on a warp using the ikat technique and then filling in the shapes with pick-up patterns. I started with a small circle to test the idea….

…but didn’t have the confidence at that point to go from there directly to large curved shapes. What if successfully creating this first circle was just a fluke? I played it safe and continued with something very angular….

The horizontal lines are outlined with  cross-knit loop stitch.

And then came the bigger circles….

An attempt to create a circle in ikat and fill it with a pick-up pattern. Due to take-up, my circle got flattened as I wove it.

It’s funny that these projects grew from that chance encounter with an ad as I flicked through the in-flight magazine. I still have that ripped-out page pinned to my notice board in the kitchen. It reminds me that one day I will return to this particular challenge.

Another unusual thing that pushed me towards returning to ikat on a different occasion was the appearance of these ikat-like patterns in the way the layers of dark and light threads were interacting in a fresh warp on my loom…

And I remember another time when light was having an effect on the shapes that appeared on my fresh warp. That time I was seeing fine swirling lines that reminded me of the lines on Shipibo textiles and pottery. I didn’t manage to photograph that.

That led to this big double-weave project in which I enclosed fine curve-like lines within heavier angular shapes….

I haven’t had any visions on my fresh warp threads lately! And so, I draw inspiration from more conventional sources. My latest project involves using a balanced double-weave pick-up structure.

I have chosen to use the Finnweave structure because this particular balanced double-weave pick-up structure was used in fabric in old Peru. I was fortunate to find a couple of fragments of pre-columbian cloth that were woven using this structure. They were stitched to dolls that are sometimes sold in the various tourist markets in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. These dolls are modeled on cloth figures that were buried with members of the Chancay culture in the arid coastal regions of Peru about six hundred years ago. Some of them have even made their way all the way over to Santa Cruz Bolivia where I live. I found these in one of the typical kitschy souvenir stores in the center of the city.

The large doll in the center has a fragment of this balanced double-weave cloth. The easiest way for me to distinguish finnweave from other kinds of balanced double-weave pick-up structures is by looking at the back of the fabric. Finnweave does not produce two identical faces. Some shapes on the back resemble the corresponding shape on the front more closely than others. The back always looks a little strange.

I tried to chart a replica of the pattern of the cloth that was sewn to the largest doll. I think I got a lot of it right. Some bits need adjustment. Then I was able to weave it and compare the back of the two pieces of fabric. I made it a bit confusing for myself by arranging the dark and light colors in my piece opposite to the way they are arranged on the fragment.

Now, I would like to leave replicas aside and just play with the structure. The motifs that can be created with it are based on vertical and horizontal lines and so it is quite different to some of the other patterning structures that I use, like Andean Pebble Weave, in which pattern shapes are very much based on diagonals. Finnweave allows me to create true vertical lines of any length, rather than the slightly wavy ones that other structures I use produce.

So, I showed you in my last blog post the sampler that I have been weaving. My piece is not truly balanced. It is definitely warp dominant and I don’t like the fact that I am not getting some of the square shapes that I have created on my pattern charts. My charted square shapes come out as oblongs on the cloth. I will figure out how to use one of my bamboo reeds for the next attempt and hopefully get everything squared off. I had managed quite well without a reed when my projects had been in 8/2 cotton (the replica piece above is in 8/2 cotton). The 20/2 cotton that I am now using is proving to be more challenging in that regard.

I think I mentioned in my last post that thoughts of the wrought-iron work that I saw on Victorian-era terraced houses in the inner city suburbs of Melbourne keep coming to mind as I weave this piece. The problem is that those patterns are for the most part curved! Why would I be thinking of those when I am limited to verticals and horizontals when using this structure?

And then came some inspiration in the form of ….crochet! I honestly can’t remember when I first saw the work of crochet and knit designer and artist Svetlana Rogatykh on Instagram. I don’t even know why I would have been looking at pages associated with these two crafts.  Is it just a coincidence that she is using black and gold in some of her work and that I am too, or did I see her work a long time ago and have it somehow sew the seed of an idea without my even realizing? The only colors I have in this 20/2 cotton are black, gold and bleached white so it’s not like I have much choice.

Here is one of Svetlana’s pieces….

When I first saw this image on the tiny screen of my iPod, I thought…oh, cool…finnweave! I was struck by the way she had used vertical and horizontal lines to create the impression of curves in one of these motifs. The accompanying description was in Russian and it was only when I started looking at Svetlana’s other photos and video clips that I realized that this was in fact crochet. Maybe this technique is well known in the crochet world but I had never seen it before. Apparently, it goes by several names, a couple of which are Interlocking Crochet and Double Filet Crochet. From what I can tell, it is two independent layers of filet crochet, one in black and one in gold, that connect when there is an exchange of colors between the two layers…just like the double weave I am doing.

Here’s another image of Svetlana’s project. Look at those circles!

I think that Svetlana’s designs are amazing. These patterns can be translated directly to the finnweave charting paper that I am using. However, on my cloth they would come out very elongated because my work is warp-dominant. You will be able to see my attempt at Svetlana’s round motif in the photo I posted earlier. I had to alter it to make it shorter but even so, I ended up with an oval shape. This is very good incentive for me to get out my reeds and aim for a better balance in my epi and ppi. I think that I might still have to adapt just a little depending on how my cloth changes after wet-finishing.

You can find Svetlana on Ravelry as SvetaRo and see more of her work in crochet and machine-knitting. As mentioned, she is also on Instagram as svetalna_svero. Many thanks to Kate Dudman who introduced us on Ravelry.

So, maybe I can apply some of Svetlana’s tricks for creating an illusion of curves to the wrought-iron patterns I hope to represent. If not, oh well…there are always lots of leaf patterns  to design!

I have only woven one more motif on the finnweave piece in the two weeks since I last posted. Where did the time go? Well, I was working for the most part on my Zoom presentations and workshops as well as combing through years of old photos to choose the best ones to accompany an article that I was asked to write. That sort of thing always tends to lead one down memory lane. Just like I got lost in my tool drawers recently, I got lost in pictures on discs and thumb drives.

And then I went back further in time to my pre-digital days when my weaving pictures would get printed and then pasted into my hand-made books. I originally pulled out the books because I had wanted to photograph some of  my bone and wooden weaving tools and I thought that covers of the books would make a good backdrop. But then I went and opened one of the books and that was the end of that…the rest of the day was devoted to reading and remembering!

I would make a book every time I learned something new with my indigenous teachers here in South America and Guatemala and would wait excitedly for the rolls of film to be processed so that I could document everything I had learned. These books are full of my little woven samples, drawings, diagrams, photos and yarn and fiber samples….lots of textures…dating back to the mid 1990’s.

Getting a digital camera that allowed me to record video kind of put an end to all that. I did weave what was to be the cover of the book (see below) on the techniques I had learned with my teachers from the Vietnamese hill tribes in 2010  but that was as far as I got with that. By that time I was already writing about my travels on this blog and putting together instructions in pdfs to teach others.

I still have some Zoom presentation work to do but I hope to spend more time at the loom in these next weeks. I am keeping busy and staying home despite the fact that restrictions here are gradually being eased.

Take care and stay safe, please.






  1. Your Finn weave piece is absolutely gorgeous
    Thanks for sharing your thinking and inspirations. Happy weaving.

    • Thank you, Judy. I plan to write down from now on every time I see something that gives me an idea for weaving. It’s always interesting to trace back to the original seed but sometimes I simply can’t remember. It’s also entertaining to see how little the final project resembles the initial seed as ideas take all kinds of twists and turns along the way.

  2. Coming out of lurkdom because… Your handmade books look amazing and full of wonders! I would be sooooo excited to be able to look at them in real life. Keep up the great work and thank you so much for sharing. 🙂

    • Thank you! It’s always lovely to hear from someone who has perhaps been following along for years. Thank you for your comment on my books.

  3. Did I ever show you my Peruvian burial dolls? i got them on my first trip to Peru in 1980. They’re still in a box somewhere but when they surface I’ll send you some photos. This move is crazy making. I don’t know where anything is. When I show them to my classes I always say that I choose to believe that they were made from old pieces of textiles to look like really old burial dolls and that they were not dug out of tombs. Who knows. And I also have a very interesting book on Peruvian burial dolls that I bought in a used book store in Lisbon, Portugal – that’s written in what I think is Korean! Some interests are universal. I love reading how you analyze your work. Thanks for sharing.

    • I am pretty sure you did show them to me Virginia and I am sure that they will show up if I go back and look at my photos from that visit. The book you mention certainly sounds familiar too. Thank you.

  4. Love you Finnweaving! Always admire your weaving😍

    • Thank you so much. I finally wove the circle I have been trying to create and will show it in my next post. I am really enjoying Finnweave!

  5. It’s so inspiring to see how you envision creative possibilities in unexpected places everywhere! And I enjoyed getting a glimpse into how your art has progressed through the years (and continues to)! Thanks.

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