Posted by: lavernewaddington | February 14, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – Mayhem

I am kind of holding my breath here on this Carnival weekend to see what shape the Santa Cruz Carnival 2021 celebrations take in this time of corona virus mayhem.

Carnival is a big deal here…not as big a deal as the one in Rio de Janeiro, of course, but big all the same… with three-and-a half days of non-stop drinking, dancing, very loud music, and the throwing of water balloons and paint, all of which kicks off on the Saturday night.

The city has been placed into full quarantine lock down for the next four days so that people won’t gather in the center and cause a possible super-spreader event. I’m sure that all the downtown businesses have been pleased not to have to go through the usual task of boarding up their shop fronts and protecting their walls with plastic. Residents who park their cars downtown haven’t had to cover them in mud as a way of protecting them from the paint and junk that gets thrown around. The clean-up crews won’t have the task of hosing down streets (imagine all those partying people in streets with no public toilets!) and scrubbing paint off buildings.

  I have always passed a fairly peaceful time at home as all the mayhem generally happens several blocks away. This time, however, might be different and I am bracing myself for three days trapped inside with my idea of hell right outside my door.

Carnival Santa Cruz style. Photo by Steven Sheehy

The problem is that the full lock down was only called a couple of days ago. I am guessing that leaves lots of people with ruined party plans…alcohol will already have been purchased along with meat for the barbecue. Yesterday, I was nervously watching a couple of men who live in my condo unloading a vehicle with boxes and boxes of stuff in preparation for their celebrations right here in my Fortress of Solitude. When the truck shows up with the music system and gigantic speakers, I’ll know that I am in real trouble! Normally they would be having these parties at their Fraternity headquarters which is usually a property in a semi-rural area far, far away from me!

I guess, I’ll just shut all the windows, turn on the fan and continue weaving my own version of mayhem at my backstrap loom. If you have read my last couple of blog posts, you will know what I mean by that. I am still working on my three-part wall hanging series. The second panel has a design that is meant to represent the feeling of mayhem and chaos that I experienced at the very start of the pandemic.

I created a drawing that shows more or less what I am aiming for, at least color-wise, in this three part series…

Each piece is only about 7″ wide and 15″ long. I have finished Number Three. Number One, which is the one on which I am currently working, is the exact opposite of Number Three color-wise. The center one shows a transition from the first to the third. I have been creating the shapes in ikat by wrapping bundles of red warp threads in plastic tape before dyeing the warp black. The wrapped sections resist the dye and remain red. That’s basically the way ikat works. I am, however, putting a slightly different spin on it which I believe to be my very own.

Here’s the completed central pattern of Number Three in the series…

Here I am working my way through the chaos section in Number One in the series…

It’s still on the loom. There’s a lot more chaos to go!  I can at least show you what the two pieces look like side by side at the moment. My attempts to photograph these have been very frustrating!

And yes, I will make an attempt to explain what this all means, if anyone is interested, when I have finished all three panels. The series is called Within These Walls. I am using 60/2 silk and each piece has 1200 ends. I mentioned in my last post that I had run out of the amount of red 60/2 silk that I would need for the final piece, Number Two. I am now thinking that I will try to substitute two strands of 140/2 silk, in a similar red, and see how that goes as warp. Wish me luck!

I might take a small break from this when I finish this piece because there’s a small double weave project that has been tempting me all the while. Well…maybe  not a complete break…I don’t want to lose momentum! I might just throw a short narrow warp onto a backstrap loom and try a sample of the double weave pattern that has been teasing me to give me a break when I am wrapping Number Two with ikat tape. 

So, that’s what has been keeping me grounded…that and all the wonderful folk with whom I get to hang out in Zoom gatherings. And, of course, there’s interaction in the various online weaving groups in which I get to meet band weavers and backstrap weavers from around the world.

Roland Polk sent me these images of his latest project on his backstrap loom…

This is a silk warp with his own handspun merino (20 wpi) weft…imagine! He was able to get hold of a bamboo reed to help him produce this beautiful balanced cloth.

I love this picture of his warping set-up on a door! Resourceful!

Emilie Landré wove a length of band which she was able to sew into a neck tie. I love how the motif that she chose so perfectly fits the shape of the point of the tie.

She has also been dabbling in Andean Pebble Weave and wove this lovely tape using a chart from my very first book. I am so grateful that Sandrine translated that first book to French for me.

Mary Spanos wove a strap for her watch on her backstrap loom using an Andean Pebble Weave pattern… elegant!

And, this is Lizzie Ruffell’s guitar strap on which she used patterns which are charted in one of my pattern books….Carol Berry wove this beautiful band using patterns that are charted in my Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms book….

Kathy Olsen is weaving a pretty band of fish motifs in the Andean Pebble Weave structure that are charted in my Complementary-warp Pattern Book. I love those four fish patterns and think that they are fun to weave along with the other River and Ocean-themed motifs in that set. It’s always interesting to see borders that are not solid-color plain weave.

All my books, as well as my video class, can be found at Taproot Video. There are detailed descriptions of each item at Taproot Video with an opportunity to “look inside” at a few pages of each but, if you ever have any doubts about where to start or which book to buy next, please feel free to ask me via a comment on this blog…or find me under my full name, Laverne Waddington, on Facebook or Instagram. I welcome the opportunity to correspond with you. There’s also a short Preview Video at Taproot Video for my backstrap loom class Operating a Backstrap Loom.

And finally, I would like to tell you about the series of awesome instructional videos that my friend Wendy Garrity has made and is generously offering for free on Youtube. Wendy studied the traditional kushutara technique of Bhutan while living there. In this technique, patterns are created on warp-faced cloth via the use of supplemental weft threads. Wendy has created and shared a series of videos called Kushutara Basics. 

I know that many of my backstrap weaving friends are taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity to learn this beautiful and versatile technique.

The last time I saw Wendy was in August 2019 when we enjoyed a beachside dinner while watching the sun set over the Indian ocean in her hometown of Perth, Western Australia. She was helping me celebrate my birthday that evening in the middle of one of my Australian teaching tours.

So, for now, I will leave you hoping that my Carnival 2021 experience will be an unmemorable one! 

Happy weaving and stay safe.



  1. All I can say about the mayhem is…buena suerte a tí!

  2. Well I am certainly interested to hear about the symbolism in your panels! Looking forward to hearing about it when they’re complete.

  3. I need to finish the warp those fish are swimming on and start another!
    I think the galloping horses are next for me. 🥰
    Good luck this weekend….

  4. Your description of Carnival in Santa Cruz reminds me of New Year’s Eve in Tahoe. They close off the casino corridor and the police from the CA side and the NV side gather around. We went down ONCE when we first moved there in the early 80’s and when we saw how many people were throwing full bottles of beer AT each other (some had climbed up the street light and telephone poles to do this) we decided we should party at home. We did break that rule for the new millennium – 1999-2000. We had gotten comped rooms and a special dinner at Harvey’s so we were down there – right in the middle – I went outside – took a quick look and went right back inside. I hate crowds to begin with – drunk, celebratory crowds are definitely outside my comfort zone. Stay safe and productive.

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