Posted by: lavernewaddington | December 4, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Limbo Land

I don’t like being in weaving Limbo Land. Usually, while I am sitting weaving one project, I have the next one already developing in my head or on paper. I’ll be gathering yarn and charting patterns when not at the loom so that I can launch myself straight into warping once the current project is off and washed and sewn. 

While I had the general idea for the next project sorted out, I hadn’t quite pinned down the finer details and so I found myself in Limbo Land once my current project was off the loom.

Urgh…I dislike Limbo Land. Limbo Land is the place where I do crazy things like suddenly decide to cut my own hair. Fortunately, I decided to spend this little jaunt in Limbo Land in a much better way….starting my next book! And then I suddenly got the little spark of idea I needed to pull together all my thoughts for the next project. I really need to write these things down because I have already forgotten the source of the spark.

The ikat piece that I just finished was about weaving shapes that would allow me to calculate take-up for future projects. I was interested to see how much length was lost in the original ikat shapes once they were woven using warp-float patterning rather than the plain weave that I usually do.

I think I mentioned in my last post that I was getting bored with the pick-up pattern that I had chosen to weave within the ikat shape. Well, I came up with a way to amuse myself for the second half of the pattern. I decided that the bottom half looked like foliage and that I could slip a little hummingbird in among the plants in the upper half. Planning that out was fun and I realized that this was really what I originally had in mind  when I saw the drawing of a hand in that magazine ad that I have mentioned in past posts….weaving pictures within pictures.

So I have decided to weave a series of small silk pieces based on this basic shape filled with pictures. I have just finished tying off a larger and simpler version of this shape in red 60/2 silk again which is now soaking in preparation for dyeing tomorrow. I have a pretty good idea of how I want to fill it. Let’s see where all this takes me.

I suspect there will be some moments of “What was I thinking?” when it comes time to weave and I have to come to grips with all the detail that I have put into the pictures! I can guarantee it won’t be boring to weave!

Another source of inspiration for this idea of pictures within shapes arrived in my inbox just this morning. The Textile Museum in DC announced the arrival of The Textile Museum Journal, Volume 47 and the cover picture fits very well with my latest weaving projects.

This volume is devoted to “color in textiles across time and space” and includes an article by Elena Phipps on “Woven Brilliance: Approaching Color in Andean Textile Traditions.” You can take a look here for more information about subscribing to the journal, this issue, and back issues.

The cover of latest volume of The Textile Museum Journal…what I see are pictures within pictures!

I have actually had a pretty colorful morning all told as I got to attend a Zoom presentation by dye master Dagmar Klos on the basics of dyeing which was simply marvelous. There was plenty of information for me to apply to even the occasional dyeing that I I do for my ikat projects.

This picture of a weaver taking a break from her backstrap loom from the Threads of Life Facebook page really speaks to me. Maybe she is turning over ideas for her next piece.

And, sticking with the subject of color, I wanted to tell you about collections of beautiful backstrap-woven fabric squares that Threads of Life in Ubud, Bali is selling via their online store. I have been signed up for the Threads of Life newsletter ever since my failed attempt to attend their weft ikat workshop back in 2017. They were incredibly understanding about the misfortune that prevented my being there and I have always been very grateful to them for that. Of course they are just one of the many organizations that are being sorely affected by the pandemic and the resulting absence of tourism. They rely heavily on the purchase of textiles from visitors to their gallery in order to be able to continue supporting the various backstrap-weaving communities with whom they work.

From their website:  By aligning with indigenous culture in its fieldwork and marketing, Threads of Life alleviates rural poverty, helps weavers to form independent producer groups, and facilitates their sustainable management of their natural dye resources.

I was very impressed by how quickly the Threads of Life staff sprang into action once the full extent of the pandemic had been realized and came up with new and truly unique ideas for their online store. Apparently, they have been holding onto an assortment of textiles that have been purchased from the weaving communities over the years that, due to having some small flaws, have not been sold in the Gallery. These pieces have been cut into squares and are being sold in beautifully coordinated color sets that can be used in patchwork and quilting projects. They make my mouth water!

The sets include squares of solid-color naturally-dyed cloth in stunning indigo blues and in rust and terracotta tones woven from handspun cotton as well as ikat and batik pieces. The cloth originates from various Indonesian islands and have been placed in these sets accordingly.

Here are some pictures of some of the sets: those blues!!

This is just a small sampling of all the products that they have to offer. There is also a range of large naturally-dyed lengths of fabric in the collection that they call Farmer to Fabric, tablet-woven trim in naturally dyed cotton and heirloom quality textiles and baskets representing various islands and communities.

This link to Threads of Life won’t just take you to their store. I hope that you can take some time to explore the site. There is a nice slide show at the bottom of the page illustrating the steps and time involved in the creation of an ikat textile. There are also tabs that take you to pages with information on the organization’s field work, natural dyes, the artisans with whom they work and the organization’s classes and workshops. 

And, finally, I would like to tell you about the inclusion of an article I wrote in the latest issue of tinyStudio Creative Life magazine….”The Inspirational Publication for Mindful Crafters”.

(I would like point out that I would never have dared to wear shorts if my weaving teacher, Trini, was not also wearing them! This picture was taken by anthropologist Kathleen Klumpp when I accompanied her to stay with Trini and her family of cotton spinners and weavers in coastal Ecuador.)

I met the magazine’s editor, Suzy Brown, when I was in New Zealand last year. We wove together over a couple of days and she later invited me to write about my experience learning to weave in South America. The magazine comes out quarterly and this issue has 126 pages of luscious fibery inspiration and yes, there is quite a lot about color in there too with extensive articles on dyeing with woad and cochineal. It covers topics ranging from sheep breeds to fiber preparation, spinning, dyeing and felting, spinning tools and equipment and includes focus articles on various fiber artists (this issue includes an artist who creates amazingly innovative art work using machine-knit fabric as a base), visits to artists’ studios, as well as instructions for craft projects.

Suzy puts together a fun flip-through video for each issue on Youtube….

With a new ikat project about to hit the dye bath and a new book in the works, I don’t see any more wallowing in Limbo Land in my near future!

Take care and stay safe, please.







  1. I’ve been exploring your website – so much to learn and enjoy. In appreciation, I wanted to order a book, but it was too hard to choose so I ordered two: Andean Pebble Weave and More Adventures with Warp-Faced Pick-Up Patterns. I’m working my way through Cahlander/Cason and really enjoying it. And now with your website and these two books from you, there’s plenty to explore with my trusty backstrap loom.

    Thank you. Keep safe and keep weaving and writing.

    • Thank you so much for your purchase, Jill, but more than that, I would lie to thank you for taking the time to stop by and leave a comment. Hearing from my readers always means a lot to me. I am glad that you have been enjoying my blog.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing and detailing all that you have learned over the years. We have lived in Santa Cruz, Bolivia for over 15 years and over that time have collected some woven mantas from Sucre that I use as beautiful area rugs. My children play on them everyday and they have started to come apart in the middle where there is decorative stitching holding the two parts together. Having read through your gallery and enjoyed it very much I discovered what this is called and they are held together by the siray stitch. I have tried some basic stitches but they keep coming apart. Would you be willing to help me learn this stitch so I can fix them?

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