Posted by: lavernewaddington | September 18, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Round and Round it Goes

‘Round and ’round it goes…..I seem to work in these sort of cycles. For example, every four years or so there’s an ikat phase. And now the Finnweave phase has come around again. I won’t be waiting four more years to get back to my ikat, though. I am just having a short Finnweave interlude while I analyze my stash. The dwindling stash situation is obliging me to think very carefully about the next Finnweave project as I only have enough of the black 20/2 thread for one more. I have tons of the gold!

So, I am thinking of having a brief three-color-reversible-Andean Pebble Weave interlude while I ponder and draw charts for my next Finnweave and ikat projects. Andean Pebble Weave is more commonly found in two colors. Having three colors appear at the same time on both faces of the cloth is a bit more challenging. This is another technique that seems to come upon me in cycles. Some years ago I wove a few trial pieces in this reversible three-color structure in 8/2 tencel. Here’s a very subtle one with yellow and light-blue figures on a blueberry background. The back has blueberry and light-blue figures on a yellow background.

And then I went to finer thread and used it in 60/2 silk in my Big Silk Wrap project combining red, brown and gold in a Celtic-knot pattern.

I even used it in an ikat project. I created these bird shapes, that I had seen in a pre-columbian textile, in ikat and then filled them in with the three-color pebble weave structure. This is 8/2 cotton.

Now I would like to weave something using my hand spun wool. I finally finished spinning the yarn that was supposed to be my Tour de Fleece challenge and I would like to use that in a three-color pebble weave project having never used my own hand spun for that structure before. It will be just something small. I am thinking about another pouch for my IPod…one I can use when the one I have now is being washed. That pouch gets SO much use!

Don’t ask me what kind of wool it is! I got some variety packs that had been put together for felters when I was visiting the guild in Melbourne. The large balls are the result of spinning the fiber from three of those packs. I guess there’s enough there for a few small projects.

But first, I will weave the structure using some commercial wool or maybe tencel so that I can get my head and hands back into this technique.

It was the same story with the Finnweave. After not having woven it for so long, it was like starting from scratch. I was just going along mechanically following the instructions I had carefully written down until a friend asked me to explain it to him. I am so glad he did because now I am able to make sense of it and understand many of the whys and wherefores. I am sure that having this will help me retain it better so that next time I won’t I have to fish out and study the written instructions to get started again.

In my last post I told you about the double filet crochet patterns that I was using for ideas in this sampler. I was disappointed that I hadn’t been able to get the lovely round shapes that the designer of those patterns was able to achieve in her work in double filet crochet.

Well, I finally managed to get that sorted out. That involved doing some serious sampling rather than just fooling around with trial and error. I was running out of warp! So I wove a pattern that would give me the opportunity to test some square shapes which then enabled me to adjust the proportions of the squares on my pattern chart. In doing so, I came up with what, to me at least, is an easier way to record and read the patterns on paper…..and….I got to weave the circle at last. I just managed to squeeze it in at the end.

What this also confirmed (and I knew this from previous pieces I had woven) is that it is not a good idea to weave large areas of solid color as the layers do not connect in those parts. It makes the finished fabric feel unstable and, as I was not using a reed to maintain sett, I found that I lost a little control of the sett in the vast area of solid black. Some warp threads started to wander out of position and way too close to their neighbors. It all seems to hold together very well as long as I am weaving pick-up patterns. 

So, it is off the loom and wet-finished now. I just did some weft-twining at the ends because it is after all just a sampler and I’ll leave the fringe in its wild state. I call it a successful experiment!

Just before the circle motif you can see the pattern I wove as a study of squares and thick and thin vertical lines. I found this pattern as I was looking around online. First it showed up as a filet crochet pattern and then I found it as a cross stitch pattern. The addresses of the websites are on the photos…..

‘Round and ’round it goes….this pattern gets to live a new life as a Finnweave pattern! I made some small changes to it for the purpose of my study.

While on the topic of circles….this time along the lines of the “circle of life”, I have some news to share via my friend Dorinda on little Zuni and young Veronica up in the highlands of Cochabamba. Back in 2011 when I visited and wove with Maxima, her little granddaughter Zuni kept us company. Her voice is a part of almost all the videos I shot on that visit!

In this photo from that 2011 visit, I am watching Maxima weave a on a warp she has suspended on her toe while, Zuni plays at spinning, imitating the motions that she has seen played out around her during her entire young life.

Dorinda tells me that Zuni is now learning to weave…

As for Veronica…. you may remember her from my last visit when she completed her second band on the finger-and-toe warp…

She is now learning to weave on the leaning frame loom on which the weavers in this area of Bolivia weave their wide pieces. Maybe she will be able to join the co-op producing yoga-mat straps and earn a little money along the way.

Both Dorinda and I wonder when we will be able to safely travel to visit these ladies again. Apart from the obvious problem with Covid, we have national elections here next month. You may remember that the attempt to hold them in October 2019 was a disaster which resulted in Evo Morales fleeing into exile. With the pandemic happening in the middle of all that political turmoil, the new election date has been postponed twice. Another postponement won’t be tolerated and so we will see how it goes in a country where voting is mandatory and there is no such thing as a mail-in ballot.

And here’s a reminder to take a look at the blog that Dorinda writes on all that is happening in weaving, spinning and dyeing in the lives of these ladies up the Cochabamba highlands. The first week of October is Spinning Week and Dorinda has written about their preparations.

I’d like to show you some projects from my inbox to finish this post…

KathyO is weaving the viscacha pattern  that is in my Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms book. This book teaches the technique via step-by-step pictures, detailed explanations and video clips and includes a collection of pattern charts. The viscacha is a chinchilla-like animal that is found in the Andes and it shows up in various forms on the textiles that are woven here. I just found an image of a pre-columbian textile that has a viscacha figure in the Finnweave structure that I am currently studying.

One of the things I emphasize in my Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms book is how easy it is to design your own patterns in this structure. Terry Martin’s 9-year old granddaughter sat by her side as she wove and created these butterfly patterns. Then she sat by and called out the pick-up numbers as Terry wove!

Nancy Ayton has also been designing and has moved on to wider warps to weave her original pattern of diamonds in warp-faced double weave. This is another book that comes accompanied by instructional video clips.

Here’s another Andean Pebble Weave band by KathyO using 12-thread patterns from the Inkle Loom book as well as a few from some of my other pattern books. I like her use of black weft which places decorative black dots along the red edges of her band.

Lori Gayle is weaving from the double weave book and is making a nice sampler of the 12-thread patterns.

As for backstrap-loom weavers, Kristen showed us the kaku obi that she wove using her own handspun linen and hemp. Too beautiful for words! She is wearing it around a vintage kimono.

I’ll leave you with a close-up of this beautiful cloth and the feeling of space and calm that it brings. Please stay safe and well.



  1. Laverne, your Finnweave sample in black and gold is really beautiful. The designs are lovely on the black background. Weave on, lady.

  2. Hello LaVerne! This post is packed with brilliant ideas, thank you!! weaving a test sample before using your handspun? So smart! Weaving a square motif from a chart to check the outcome, and adjusting the proportions, applying that knowledge to creating a perfect round motif? Genius!

    • Thank you so much, Gail! Thanks for dropping by. I hope that there are some ideas that you find useful.

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