Posted by: lavernewaddington | March 7, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – That Inevitable Question

If you are a maker, I think that you know the question to which I am referring in the title of this post….”How long did it take?”

I find that I am being asked that a lot when I show people the completed second panel in my Within These Walls series. I actually have to look back through my photos and find dates to be able to at least remember when I started this second one. I was shocked to see that the first picture that I had taken with the warp on what I call the ikat frame was taken on January 2nd. I am not able to process that! I can’t remind myself that…oh yes, I was doing that when a certain event occurred. I can’t tell myself that I was tying the heddles the day after I went to such-‘n’-such a place or that I dyed the warp on the afternoon after I hung out with a certain friend. I am sure that you can all relate. I am not doing anything or going anywhere to set the landmarks through which I can meander and mark the passage of time.

However, it’s strange that I can remember the song I was listening to when I wove the first hummingbird as that marked a change in pace. I recall the episode of the BBC comedy show I was listening to when I was roughly an inch into the chaos section because it had taken an inch of weaving that pattern to convince me that this idea was going to work. I know which re-run episode of The Gilmore Girls I was watching when I reached the main blacked-out section of the design because that blacked-out section reduced the amount of pick-up I had to do in each row….it was an event! 

I just don’t know WHEN those things were happening. Were they two weeks ago, a month ago? Not that it matters. I really have settled into this sort of timeless existence and I am sort of okay with that. I had wasted a lot of head space getting anxious about Carnival and its associated disruption. It didn’t happen. It was DEAD QUIET…seriously, not a peep! So, I can’t even associate part of the weaving process with Carnival craziness. Not that I am complaining! 

I have to say that I enjoyed every step of the process….the drawing and charting, the warping, bundling, wrapping, soaking, dyeing, drying, unwrapping, heddling and weaving! Even a broken thread didn’t phase me. However, there was a jolt when I realized, at some distance into the  weaving, that I had neglected to wrap one part of one bundle of twenty threads. How to quickly become an expert in replacing broken threads…replace twenty of them in a row! I had to tie and dye a bundle of twenty ends so that they would match the color changes in the warp and then cut out the offending threads and replace them, carefully matching the black and red sections along their lengths.


A big part of the enjoyment in every step came from the fact that there had not been anything nagging and telling me that I need to hurry up because I’ll be traveling soon and will need to stop weaving to spend weeks winding literally hundreds of warps for up-coming workshops. But, having said that, gosh, I miss the traveling and weaving with friends! Thank goodness for Zoom.

A weaving party at Janie’s!

Anyway, here’s the finished second panel (which is actually Part 1 of the story told by this series)…

If you know the Bob Marley song Three Little Birds, you might know the message of hope that the little hummers in this piece are bringing me along with yarn and sticks for my loom.

Here are two of the three panels….

The third panel will soon be underway. I’ll be using doubled 140/2 silk for it in a different tone of red. It will be the center panel and for that reason I think that I can get away with it looking a little different color-wise. You might ask what in the world am I doing with 140/2 silk. Allow me to drop some names! These cones were given to me by Betty Davenport and Sara Lamb who had decided that they certainly were not going to put them to any use. They have sat in my drawers for quite a few years and now out they come to rescue my project. It’s a different kind of silk and I hope that it takes the black dye as well as my 60/2s does.

And now I have realized that I really need to weave a fourth panel.

The third one in the series, which is the one on the left in the photo above, shows me in my present timeless state…happily weaving away within my walls in my own little world with everything outside the walls being a big black unknown. I think I need to finish the story with a panel that shows that I am actually able to imagine myself in a future post-pandemic world. I had a dream recently in which I could hear magpies singing outside my window which is a very Australian sound to me. It was so real. Birds seem to be carrying messages to me lately.

If you are unfamiliar with the sound of magpies, here is a little clip that I made the last time I was in Australia in 2019.

In this break between working on the panels, I decided to try out an idea for the fourth panel using some 20/2 cotton and warp-faced double weave.

I was inspired by Japanese braids that had been created on a takadai braiding stand that I had photographed at the Braids 2012 conference in Manchester, England. Yes, it has taken me this long to get around to taking a closer look at them.

What attracts to me them is the way the motifs are not contained within the width of braid. Sometimes you only see half the motif or even less lying along the edge. The motifs roll off the edge and then reappear later. If you understand that I want this fourth panel to represent the opposite to being confined within walls, you might see where I am hoping to go with this. 

My double weave sample is in black and gold 20/2 cotton with flowers that I saw on the Japanese braids just to see if I could create the same kind of effect using a totally different structure. The real project will naturally be in red and black 60/2 (or, more likely, doubled 140/2) silk and the motif will be humming birds. I am in the very early stages of getting this idea sorted.

So, that’s what I have been up to. Now I can show you what some of my weaving friends and online acquaintances have been doing…

Jessica used a band lock and rigid heddle in a backstrap set-up to weave this beautiful band in which the pattern is created by supplementary warp threads. You can see the brown belt that she uses to secure the warp to her body.

Susan Bratt is keeping all her friends supplied with her beautiful guitar straps. She uses a backstrap loom with dowel rods like I do and the patterning structure is Andean Pebble Weave. 

This beauty is by Rosita Scheidt using a pebble structure that doesn’t have regularly repeating pebble sheds. This is one of the classic Andean hook patterns which is charted in my More Adventures with warp-faced Pick-up Patterns book.

Here’s another classic Andean hook pattern that Joanne Teague wove on her inkle loom. This one appears in Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms as well as in Complementary-warp Pick-up. That hook shape is the base of so many larger and more intricate Andean patterns.

This one was woven by Sally Backes. I love her beautiful dense twisted fringe. these kinds of knotwork patters work really well in Andean Pebble Weave. This is one that was designed by Louise Ström for tablets. She allowed me to adapt it to Andean Pebble Weave for my books. It’s in the More Andean Pebble Weave Patterns book.

I have shown Shilpa Nagarkar’s work here before. She combines bands and constructs the most amazing bags. There’s that classic Andean hook again in black and white. These patterns are in the pebble weave structure. She also weaves and includes bands that use supplementary-warp techniques and plain weave. Her piece is on one of the Windhaven double-sided band looms. You can see more of her work on Instagram.

Anyone for more hooks? The options seem endless and this is one of my favorites of the Andean hook patterns in the Complementary-warp Pick-up book. This was woven by Jennifer E Kwong.

To finish I want to show these five little dragon patterns in Andean Pebble Weave that I don’t believe I have shown before. Several years ago, I was asked to translate a popular historic double dragon figure that is traditionally woven using tablets to the Andean Pebble Weave structure. An online friend wanted to weave it on an inkle loom without using tablets. It’s the second one from the left. Of course, the chart I created is for a simplified version of the original and the structure is totally different. I liked the little dragons and looked for more tablet-woven bands that included the dragon heads. So, here are five of them.

The charts for these are included in my More Andean Pebble Weave Patterns book.

I am really excited about the fact that I have been invited to attend a presentation next Saturday by a lady who traveled to Costa Rica to learn about the preparation of cotton for weaving and the creation of cloth on a backstrap loom. I had no idea that the backstrap loom was still being used in Costa Rica by the Boruca people. I hope to have something to share with you about that next time.


  1. Greetings from AHMEDABAD / Gujarat /india.
    Erroll here : the ply-split braider . We met at the 2nd international braiding conference at Manchester in 2012.
    Since then, there has been a long time . I was at the 4th edition at Iga city . Oct 2019 in Japan and currently preparing for braids 5 scheduled for august 2022. Am being super optimistic that the whole world would HEAL by then . Hope to meet Up with You in Denmark : august 2022.

    Meanwhile stay safe
    Stay well,
    I enjoy reading Your posts regularly .

    Best Ahead

    • Hi Erroll. Of course I remember meeting you at Braids 2012 and seeing your beautiful work. I also remember having a conversation with you about this inevitable question and I loved what you shared with us about your reply. I am afraid that I am not yet quite as optimistic as you are about the world in 2022, but I will try harder to be so!

  2. Laverne: Your experience is so universal I think. At least for any of us who used to live by calendars. I wake up each morning with good intentions and by the next day I have no idea what I actually did. You are producing beautiful art and we all await the day you can return to teaching and traveling. Hugs, kate

    • Thanks, Kate. I loved hearing about your own personal experience with this calendar-less existence. I am sure that everyone has their own story. Thanks for telling me a little of yours. xxxxx

  3. Thank you for another lovely post – they always feel like gifts! Bravo for creating such amazing beauty during this fallow time.

    Mind boggled by the thought of doing pickup with doubled 120/2 silk!


    • Thank you, Deanna. Yes, I am a bit freaked out by that fine silk too!

  4. Beautiful work. I would love to learn how to weave, but then I would have to neglect one or two of my other passions. I completely understand the lack of markers for the passage of time. We live in strange times. Stay creative, my friend. 💕

    • Thank you. I know what you mean. These passions of ours require focus and dedication. Every time I have been tempted to try something else, I remind myself about how long it has taken me to get where I am with weaving on a backstrap loom and tell myself that I really do need another lifetime for other pursuits. I hope that you have been able to continue with the passions you mention in these weird times.

      • You are so right, I need another lifetime to attempt my want-to-do list. Right now I have books to write, paintings to paint, a house remodel to finish – the list is long. Last year, knocked the wind from my sails, but as Winston Churchill said, “When you are going through hell – keep going.”

        I’m so happy to connect with another like-minded creative. 👍💕

  5. Hello Laverne,

    I woven a poncho. It took me four months to do this. I used two of your samples and I would like to show you. Unfortunately I am not on facebook or twitter. How can I send a picture?
    Many greetings
    Skadi from Germany

    • Hi Skadi. I would love to see it! I’ll send you an email and you can reply to it with your picture.

  6. Your panels are stunning. So subtle, created during our own time warp.

  7. Hello from Western Australia. I recently moved into a unit in Perth and I had to leave my floor loom behind.
    So I am delighted to find your website to learn about blackstrap weaving. I’m also a member of the blackstrap weaving Facebook group.

    Thanks for all your blog articles. I can’t wait to get started

    • Hi Kay. I was in Perth in 2019 meeting weavers and teaching. It’s too bad we didn’t get to meet. I am glad that you found my site and will be able to weave in your flat.

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