Posted by: lavernewaddington | January 2, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – Within These Walls

2021…..Yes, it’s a new year. No doubt there will be new and better things on the horizon but I don’t expect things to change too much in the life I am living within these walls. I don’t mean that in a gloomy way. My loom and Zoom have chased away the gloom. They have been my best friends during the pandemic along with a little help from my Kindle and camera. I have stayed safe, healthy and well-fed in both mind and body and I guess I can be grateful for being at an age when getting things done just doesn’t seem as urgent as it used to be. I have the time to do some in-depth study of certain weaving techniques and, thankfully, people are still interested in what I do which often leads them to purchasing my books.

One of the 1992 adventures: Starting the first non-snow leg of the Mt Hood climb.

In a Zoom call with my 29-year-old nephew, I was trying to recall what I was doing when I was his age and trying to imagine how I would have reacted to having all my plans suddenly shelved by a pandemic. I was single, I had quit my job, and my plan had been to hike and backpack around the USA for six months starting in the month of April of that year. So, of course, there was a sum of money in the bank that would have allowed me to do that.

I hate to think how I would have reacted to being stopped in my tracks by a pandemic…. jobless and stuck at home spending that travel money just to get by while looking at my four walls. At that time, my life was all about the outdoors. Stay put and weave for a year? Unthinkable!

I can still remember waking up in my bunk bed in the Honolulu Youth Hostel, which was my first stop on that trip, smiling and closing my eyes, smelling the ocean, hearing the waves and thinking about all the possibilities for adventure that lay ahead. There have been a few times over the years when I have actually said to myself…stop, drink this in, remember this scene, the sounds, the smells, and how you are feeling because it will be fun to be able to recall this exact moment some day in the future. That moment in Honolulu was one of them.

I am so impressed by the way the much younger people in my life are handling this situation. These are also times to stop and drink in and imprint in the mind. Some time in the future when things are better I am sure that it will be occasionally useful to be able to recall the sights and sounds of our surroundings and the way we were feeling in this difficult period. 

So, within these walls, I have been busy planning a weaving project that somehow captures the idea of creativity within confined spaces. I like the fact that this idea still allows me to play with ikat. I try to do other things but keep getting drawn back to it.

I am using the ikat to create the confined spaces in the warp within which all the activity is taking place. Once the warp is dyed, all that lies outside those spaces will be dark and will represent the unknown.

This is the ikat warp that I showed you in my last post. Tape is wrapped to form the pattern on the red warp. This goes into a black dye bath. The taped areas (hopefully) resist the dye. I seem to have come to grips with my technique in that part of the process and my plastic wrappings don’t leak. This gives me a nice sharp pattern on my warp which I try to keep as sharp as possible as I weave. 

So, that’s me at my backstrap loom, within my walls, imagining the world outside.

This required some large pattern charts. Juggling balls are there for scale…yes, I’m still juggling.I am still a pencil-and-paper person and drawing charts sprawled on the floor is a big fun part of the process for me. Of course, I could have downsized the blank pattern charts but I wanted everything to be large enough to be able to simply glance down to read the pattern. There were, after all, six hundred threads to be picked in the widest part of the pattern. (The warp has 1200 ends of 60/2 silk.) I didn’t want to have to be squinting at a small chart or moving an image of it around on my laptop screen.

The first half finished….So far, so good, as far as keeping the ikat image sharp. But, you can never tell how things are going to progress. That aspect of working in ikat is still fairly unpredictable for me.

Here’s the finished main section of the Within These Walls piece. The warp threads behaved and gave me nice sharp outlines for my walls. This is the only shot that comes close to showing the richness of the red color in the silk thread I am using.

I would like to make a series of three pieces in this Within These Walls theme. They can be framed and hung on the wall in a future home. Unfortunately, after winding the warp for the second piece, I realized that there wouldn’t be enough red for a third. I do, however, have loads of black 60/2 silk and quite a lot of a similar red in 140/2 silk. The third piece could be a non-ikat one using black warp with red pattern in supplementary weft. I am actually really enthusiastic about planning that one and making it work with this theme. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? I have no choice but to work with what I have on hand.

But that is way down the track. I have only just wound the warp for the second piece and mounted it on the frame so that I can start wrapping it with tape. There’s going to be a whole lot more wrapping on this one and that will keep me occupied for a couple of weeks, I should think. With the summer humidity, that will mean two weeks of walking around with stray hair-like strips of ikat tape clinging to my body, turning up in my food and washing off in the shower! With the ceiling fan going, those stray strips go everywhere.

I sit on my bed and have one edge of the frame leaning against the edge of a table with the other end on my knees. That works quite well. The hard skin that I developed on my finger from the last session of wrapping and which was really annoying while I was weaving (getting itself caught on the fine silk threads), has finally worn itself away back to smooth new skin….just in time for this next wrapping session…ha! I have seen photos of ikat artists in India working with some fingers wrapped and wonder if they are avoiding this same problem.  

I’d like to finish by thanking all of you who have been buying my books. I hope this new year gives you time to explore them and hope that the free time that you have available to devote to it is on your own terms rather than being forced upon you due to yet another lockdown.

Here’s something that Mary Spanos has been doing within her walls….a beautiful Andean Pebble Weave pattern in 20/2 cotton using one of the patterns from my More Andean Pebble Weave Patterns book. This particular pattern has the over-under look of weaving leading someone to point out that it’s like “weaving within weaving”.

Outside my walls, our entire city has been shut down this weekend…no vehicles or pedestrians are allowed to circulate, no shops or businesses allowed to open, no alcohol can be consumed…everyone has to stay home while a brigade of seven thousand covers as many neighborhoods as possible in two days to assess the extent of the current second Covid surge. Very few people get tested here…they can’t afford to…and so this is the government’s way of trying to reach and assess the needs of those who remain in darkness about their condition and have no choice but to ride out the disease at home. 

So, we are all staying within our walls this weekend.

Take care and stay safe, please.

 

 


Responses

  1. Your new ikat weaving is awesome, Laverne. and so is the theme.
    I wish you all the best for 2021.Here in Belgium we have semi-lockdown. Social contacts are very limited but shops are open under restriction of shopping alone and only 30 minutes. I see we are previleged in comparison to other parts of the world. Please take care and stay safe.
    With kind regards, Jeannine

    • Happy New Year to you Jeannine. We are only locked down tight for this weekend. On Monday things will mostly be back to normal. Locked down or not, I have just decided to stay in and am quite used to it now. I hope things improve in Belgium soon. Xxxxx

  2. your work is just as beautiful as ever!
    as terrible as the pandemic is and has been, it’s uplifting to see that something beautiful can still happen…

  3. Laverne, your work is absolutely stunning as usual. I have my backstrap loom ready to do initial experiments with weaving, but I have delayed starting a project because my current inkle project is going poorly. It is a krokbragd band on an inkle loom. It has three sheds and is my first project with multiple sheds. I have one thread hanging loose and I don’t know why. I guess I just need to finish this “dog” on my loom and start something else. I will probably cut out the best pieces and make wrist bands or bookmarks from it. I don’t think all of it will be wasted after all.

    • Thank you. Yes, there are some useful things that you can make with your small salvaged pieces of band. Time to move on…I hope you enjoy the backstrap loom.

  4. such beautiful detail and the charts are a really good idea. most everywhere is shutdown to one degree or another, being in winter helps stay inside . weaving still in planning stage.
    thank you for keeping us posted.

    • Thank you. We are in summer but that also helps me stay inside…too hot and muggy…which is why I ‘m awake in the middle of the night writing this!

  5. Oh my God! I can’t imagine such a detailed ikat design, with you even showing yourself weaving on a loom. This work is absolutely amazing, amazing Verny. Congratulations. The pandemic, I believe, has brought out the best in you!

  6. Wow!

  7. Sending cariño Laverne. Your resilience is as inspiring as your ikat. Be well.

  8. Just purchased your warp faced book for inkle looms. Cant wait to get started!

    • Thank you. I’m guessing you mean the double weave one. I hope you enjoy it.

  9. what a beautiful, inspirational post!! Thank you!!

    • Happy to know you enjoyed it. Thank you for the comment!

  10. Your weaving is beautiful. Hopefully this pandemic will end soon and we can return to socializing with everyone. I especially liked how you put yourself in the ikat “Within These Walls” weaving. Stay well.

    • Thank you. Yes, that’s me there weaving within the walls…keeping busy and staying well.

  11. Greetings from Massachusetts, Laverne. I enjoyed reading your most recent post, “Within These Walls.” I am still working during the pandemic, but it is very quiet, leaving me with more energy to engage in my weaving. I read your book on double weave on the inkle loom, and I found your explanations and photos extremely helpful and clear. I took your class on double weave on a backstrap loom at Sheep to Shawl about four years ago, and that experience enabled me to adapt to the inkle loom technique more easily. Thank you for your truly amazing publications. I look forward to the future when people can gather in person for workshops, and to the possibility of taking another workshop with you.

    • Hi Chris. I have really enjoyed all the times that we have woven together and I was so happy to include one of your daughter’s patterns in my double weave book. I am sure that you were as sad as I was to hear that Liz is selling Sheep and Shawl. I do hope someone buys it and keeps it as a yarn store. Maybe you, Liz and I would still be able to weave together there some day.

  12. Hi Laverne,
    As always, every piece you share on your blog is breathtakingly beautiful. My question is regarding the technique used in the band made by Mary Spanos. Is this over and under technique also a form of Andean Pebble weave? How many such techniques do they have within Andean Pebble weave? TIA.

    • Hi Shilpa. Mary’s piece is in standard Andean Pebble Weave using patterns from my books.


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