Posted by: lavernewaddington | October 30, 2020

Picking up Ikat AGAIN

I have come back full circle to my ikat explorations again. I meandered over to Finnweave for a while and then made a quick visit to three-color double-faced pebble weave. Now I am back in ikat territory and making experiments by adding a twist of my own. Meanwhile, I am planning on paper the large projects in Finnweave and three-color pebble which will be next on the to-do list.

I smile when I remember one of my first ever attempts at ikat. I am pretty sure that I did this after my first trip to Ecuador in 2005. There I had seen that ikat weavers were using strips of cabuya fiber (agave) to wrap their warp threads and I brought back some to try for myself. I found it impossible to use! There must have been some tricks to effectively preparing and/or tying the cabuya that I had obviously missed.

For some reason, I decided that it would be a good idea to use my own hand spun llama yarn as the warp for this first attempt. Bad idea. Even worse was my attempt to dye it with cotton dye. I had no idea about such things at the time. For me, dye was dye and should work with any material. I was mad about the fact that what was supposed to be a strong so-called Mexican Red came out Barbie-pink but I started weaving it anyway.

Looking back on it now, I tend to think that it wasn’t a bad first attempt but it hadn’t pleased me at the time and I abandoned and discarded it. I wish I had kept it now. I suppose the Barbie-pink would have faded and washed out eventually anyway. I have learned some stuff since then!

After giving up on the cabuya, I tried using strips cut from plastic bags but I found that the plastic stretched and often broke as I tried to tie knots. Besides that, it was very hard to cut really fine strips. I remember watching a tv show in which someone was destroying some incriminating evidence on tape. They ripped the tape out of the cartridge and broke it apart. I was thinking…yeah, right, tape is not that easy to snap apart in bare hands. And then it dawned on me that cassette tape might make good wrapping material. That Barbie warp is wrapped with cassette tape. (I learned later that it doesn’t stand up too well to very hot water).

The next attempt was with wool singles that was sold as warp for tapestry weaving. I figured it wouldn’t be as stretchy as my hand spun llama. I am pretty sure that I used hair dye on this one! It was also abandoned because the threads shifted more than I was willing to tolerate once I started weaving. In any case there was and always is something to learn in these ikat experiments.

Let’s try again with something even less likely to stretch. This one was in UKI 20/2 cotton and the appropriate dye (I only owned cotton dyes at that point and was still under the impression that the Mexican red dye that had turned out Barbie-pink had just been a bad batch.)

What was supposed to be a deep ocean blue came out like this…what?! Another bad batch?! No. Here’s a new lesson. You need to scour the cotton thread to make it ready to accept dye. Fortunately, I really liked this kind of blue but this experiment also went to the trash despite the fact that the ikat patterns had come out quite nicely.

This next one on un-scoured cotton (the lesson was yet to be learned) came out a wishy-washy grey instead of black and had me contacting the seller of this 20/2 thread for help and it was he who told me about scouring. Who knew?! I was able to rescue the wishy-washy grey piece by running it through a second dyebath. It gave me something very close to the jet-black that I had been looking for…

And so goes the process of learning on your own!

Hooray, this time I got the color I was expecting. This is 8/2 cotton. These experiments were taking place in 2012.

In 2015 I started playing with creating shapes in ikat and filling them with pick-up patterns as I wove. I used both two-color and three-color pebble weave in the bird series at left. While doing those, I learned that if the proportions of the shape were important (for example, if I wanted to weave a circle rather than an oval), I needed to account for take-up when I wrapped the pattern into the warp. The tied figure would need to be slightly elongated.

Those experiments were in 8/2 cotton. At this point I had been given a roll of Japanese ikat tape which held up well in very hot water, I knew about scouring, and I had learned that there were different kinds of dyes made especially for protein fibers and other kinds for plant fibers. Now I could just concentrate on wrapping warp threads and weaving!

Fortunately, my most recent experiments with ikat in silk, which were started in 2019, have made it off the loom complete and have stayed out of the trash.

Recently, I experimented with leaving some spaces in the ikat pattern to add motifs in supplementary weft as I wove. That was fun and I enjoyed figuring out the exact point at which to start adding the supplementary-weft pattern and choosing a motif that would fit nicely in the available space.

I added just a small motif using supplementary weft to the center of this one…

These latest projects have been about learning to fold the warp in half either horizontally or vertically in order to wrap two layers of threads at once and create instant repeats of the pattern.

It has also been fun seeing the effect of using a multi-colored base warp and making some useful things in the process like this silk cowl.

And now I am back to the experiments in combined ikat and pick-up. I am starting out with a sensibly small project in 60/2 silk. No one wants their silk to end up in the trash!

I am going to revive a picture that I posted back in 2015 when I was first combining ikat with pick-up. This is what you get when you do a Google search for those two terms…

Michelle Nussbaumer’s ikat pickup truck from the Dallas Morning News

In my last post, I showed my latest attempt at this combination on the loom…

Here it is off the loom waiting to be something. Of course, it could just spend its life being a sample but I decided that, although there are some kinks to be ironed out in the process, the finished piece would make a nice second pouch for my iPod.

I added eye-patterned tubular bands to the sides  and made a simple four-strand braid for the neck strap. I didn’t like the blank space at the top of the warp and added a piece of a pair of earrings that one of my students had made. I remember telling her when I bought the earrings that I wanted to dismantle them and use the pieces as pendants.  I had planned on weaving or braiding the necklaces for the pendants. Of the four pieces, I still have three to use as pendants and one which now nicely fills the space on my pouch.

A second experiment with this technique is underway. I am adding a little something more this time. We’ll see how that goes. I am still at the wrapping stage.

So, that’s what I have been up to at my loom. I have also been doing a lot of Zooming with weavers. I feel that we can quite nicely re-create the feeling of a weaving circle via Zoom….not quite like these intimate circles of which I have been a part in the past but I feel that Zoom meetings have been working remarkably well and are doing a wonderful job of creating a sense of together-ness. My Zoom workshops on Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms have been going really well, I feel.

Here we have a group from New Zealand and a group from the USA from back in the good ol’ days. Now we can have individuals gathering via Zoom from all over the world!

In one of our get-togethers, Mary showed me the backstrap that she had just woven. I was so happy to see that the instructions from my tutorial are still being used. I wrote that one way back in 2009. I particularly like this way of making a backstrap because you use the entire warp. The unwoven parts at the start and end are braided and become part of the backstrap. Mary did a beautiful job with her braids.

You can find the tutorial for this backstrap here. It tells you how to weave it on a backstrap loom and what to use as an improvised backstrap as you do so. The article includes instructional video clips.

Todos Santos is approaching when here in Bolivia it is customary for all the family to visit and spend time with one’s departed relatives at the cemetery. Part of the act of remembrance is baking what are known here as tantawawas (bread babies). This picture from the website of Bolivia Bella shows one of the many forms these bread babies can take…

Small ceramic faces can also be bought in the street markets. They are pressed into the dough and then removed before baking. Once out of the oven the faces are fixed to the bread ( in some manner unknown to me). This image is from the bolivianita website….

This year some enterprising folk are selling some special 2020 faces that ae wearing Covid-protecting face masks. I would like to think that they are locally made and not brought in from China.

I am wondering in what creative ways Halloween will be celebrated in this extraordinary year. I’ve seen pictures on Facebook of people creating special shoots via which candy can be delivered while keeping a safe distance way from the kids. 

Until next time, stay safe, please!



  1. Lovely to see your green/gold/copper ikat pickup piece again Laverne – it is stunning! (And I love that ikat pickup truck too ;-))

    • Thanks, Wendy. I hope that I get to use that green piece as some sort of neck covering when I can travel again some day. I hope that you are doing well along with all the new weaving friends I was able to make on my visit to Western Australia last year. I wonder where in the world you and I will meet up next time!

  2. Laverne, I’m glad to hear that your digital workshops on Andean pebble weave are going well, and happy that we Banditos at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota were able to help with your preparation. Members of your first “trial” class are still raving about the experience.

    • The Banditos were so helpful, Keith and I am very grateful. I am so glad that I can continue to enjoy the company of all of you every month.

  3. Laverne, How do I change my email address to get your blog at my new email address?


    • I don’t know if there is a way to change the address. I suggest subscribing again using your new address.

  4. Thank you Laverne for making ikat clear to me. I love how you combine it with pickup. So clever. Stay well!

    • Thank you! I hope to go further with the ikat and pick-up experiments this time ‘round. There’s so much I want to do!

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