Posted by: lavernewaddington | May 21, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – Unraveling

No, I am not the one who is unraveling. I am still riding the pandemic roller coaster with all of you and my grip is still good and firm. In the title of this post I am referring to the unraveling of parts of the chaos and uncertainty that these last eighteen months have brought to our lives. This is something that I wanted to represent in the second of my four-part series of panels called Within These Walls in which the hummingbirds are busy unraveling the chaos lines that I had woven into Panel 1.

This Unraveling image showed up in my Facebook feed recently. It had been shared and shared again and although I followed it back for some way, I was unable to find the original source of the image, a title or even the slightest hint as to what its creator might have been trying to convey. (Edit: Pamela in New Zealand wrote tell me that she has tracked down the image to Rebecka Carléns. She has a Pinterest board that she has named Surreal Photography and an Instagram account. Thanks, Pamela!)

It shows lines being unraveled and wound into a ball of yarn carried by birds…the similarities to some of the activity in my second panel made me smile. I guess we can interpret it any way we please. Which reminds me of the little hummingbird motif that I included in one of my posts a while back. I posted a picture of it on Facebook recently without revealing what my teachers called it and asked people to comment on what they saw. Here are some of the answers…..

a devil with horns, a dog, a fox, a bat, an alien being, a folding chair, a butterfly, a spider, a mouse, an angel, a bird (only one person said it!), a bear, a jedi master with a double light saber, Princess Leia with puffy sleeves, a six-legged insect, a person in ceremonial dress, pizza, a hyena, a chalice on a stand.

I mentioned in my last post that I had decided to add a fourth panel to the series. Panel 3 shows me settled within my walls and making what I can of this new normal. All the while I am able to think about how we are all in this together and imagine other weavers seated at their looms in the very same way within their own walls in other parts of the world.

But I didn’t want to leave things there. I wanted to show that I believed that there will be a way out eventually.

I got my first dose of vaccine yesterday. It’s the Chinese Sinopharm one. It’s not the most effective one but it is the one that Bolivia has been able to acquire and that’s the end of that. It helps me feel that a few more strands of suffocating uncertainty have been unraveled. I have not experienced any side effects. The jab site is not even sore. Members of an ex-pat group that I am in will tell me, in their typical cynical and joking style, that this means that what I got was probably a fake! The markets here are full of cheap big-brand rip-offs of all kinds of products. I remember getting someone to try and fix my Toshiba air conditioner. He looked at it and said “Wow, it’s an original. Okay, this is worth trying to fix”.

So, I added the layout of Panel 4 to the drawing that I had initially put together to roughly plan out the Within These Walls series….

In Panel 4 the pieces of the main shape are no longer disconnected. Disconnection is certainly something that we have all felt during the pandemic. The shape is now connected and extended. The central bar is the trunk of a tree. The lower shape will contain the root system of the tree and the upper one the crown. And there will be three backstrap weavers sitting around the tree at their looms.

I went one step further in designing one of the three backstrap weaving figures. In my last post I showed you version 4. I decided to beef up her arms a little. I have been working out during the pandemic and am up to forty-five full body pushups now. I think I deserve those sturdier arms! Version 5 is the one on the right. It requires a tiny bit of tweaking.

Here’s the root system taking shape….

I am actually beyond this point and have added the backstrap weavers. They look very sweet sitting around the tree. The one on the left has a baby on her back. I’ll show them to you next time when I have finished the tree. In the meantime, here’s a picture to celebrate backstrap weavers gathering to weave together on the island of Flores in Indonesia…

This was another picture that was shared on Facebook with absolutely no information to give it context. Fortunately, Sue Richardson, who is an expert in Indonesian textiles, was able to help out. Sue knew that this picture had been taken at a special event in 2015 when over 1000 backstrap weavers gathered to celebrate the textile traditions of the Sikka Regency and attempt to create a record. This is the translated information from an article that Sue found:

“Due to its high historical and selling value, the Sikka Regency Government is very supportive of all its development and preservation efforts. One proof of this government’s support is by holding a national event of the 2015 Ikat Weaving Muri Arts Record and winning because it can be represented by a thousand Sikka district female weavers. This victory was announced and the certificate was handed over by Mrs. Mufidah Yusuf Kalla on November 11, 2015 in Sikka Regency.” Although, according to another source that Sue also provided there were 1057 weavers.

I am currently back to paper and pencil, charting the crown of the tree. I charted but didn’t sample the tree roots and so there was a certain amount of unweaving that had to be done while I adjusted the chart. I always unweave and then walk away from the loom to engage in a completely different activity. That way, I can return and pretend that the unweaving never happened! It somehow helps. Hopefully the crown of the tree won’t involve that many adjustments.

I am happy that weaving friends and guilds, while getting more confident and occasionally meeting face-to-face, are continuing to offer opportunities to meet via Zoom. Zoom time has become my time for spinning and plying while watching and/or listening to programs on topics such as the ikat textiles of Borneo, textile travels through Indonesia, mathematics and sacred geometry in weaving, and warp-faced bands of Iran.

While enjoying these programs I have a produced a nice bowl of singles which will be plied. I still have a lot more spinning to do. The wrist cuff on the right was a sample I wove with this plied yarn to see how well it stands up to warp-faced weaving on my backstrap loom. Even though this was just a short sample, I could tell that the yarn would do well in larger projects. The annual Tour de Fleece spinning event has been creating chatter on Ravelry. I might have a project that will allow me to participate this year although I usually get tired of it after a week.

And so, with the topic of trees on my mind as I once again get down to the enormous sheet of charting paper, I will leave you with some tree-related images.

It’s fall here in Bolivia but in the tropical lowland part of Bolivia in which I live, the change of season is barely noticeable. Today’s temperature is 29 degrees Celsius/ 84 degrees F and the Toborochi trees are in full bloom across the city….not the kind of thing that immediately springs to mind when one thinks about fall or autumn. Last weekend I took a picture of this gorgeous Toborochi which is just a half block from my home…

One thing that happens in the fall that distinguishes this season from summer is that every now and then we get a wave of cooler dry air that comes up from the south. With that, the normally humidity-hazed sky turns a deeper blue. This shot comes from my rooftop on one such day. I love the sharpness of the lines of the buildings against the sky. On this day I was in the sun getting some Ds because the cooler temperatures made that possible. This rooftop is my nightly star-gazing spot (cue The Drifters and James Taylor). There’s a ladder that allows me to sit up even higher on top of a water tank.

And finally, I’d like to share with you another fabulous bag project by Allyne Holz. This one is tree-themed. She creates her bags using a tapestry crochet technique and has used leaf patterns to decorate it. She then weaves a strap on an inkle loom with a similarly-themed pattern for the strap. This time she has used one of the patterns that is charted in my Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms book and it makes me so happy to see the book being enjoyed and used this way. I also love Allyne’s use of a Dorset button on the end of the drawstring.

Here’s hoping that some of the uncertainty is also unraveling in your world. I am resolved not to get carried away by over-confidence. Santa Cruz is actually in a third wave right now. I guess that means that the Chinese vaccine will be put to the test.

Take care and continue to stay safe, please.


  1. Hallo Laverne,
    That’s an amazing picture of all those obviously expert weavers together. Wonderful that there are so many.
    I found that zebra photo here:

    It seems to be the product of Rebecka Carlens, and her name brings up all sorts of other intriguing images that she has created.

    • Pamela! Thank you so much. Awesome detective work.

      • I am new to weaving but I’ve really become obsessed with it. I’m currently learning Andean pebble weave from your wonderful book, and now I’m all excited about double weave. Thank you for making all this knowledge available to us!

      • Hi Lisa! Thank you so much for writing and letting me know. It makes me very happy to know that the kind of things that I do have introduced you to the world of weaving. Thank you for your support in buying my books and I hope you enjoy creating in double weave too.

  2. Another great blog. As usual I am in awe of your weaving skills.

  3. I love your figurative work, especially the backstrap weavers. So interesting to hear about the weaving world and Bolivia (I spent a week there when travelling South America and would love to return one day). What a beautiful rooftop you have. I too love that song and often listen to it from my little hill cottage in the Dandenongs overlooking Melbourne and with wonderful sky and sunset views.
    I hope Bolivia gets through the third wave okay. I still haven’t had my vaccine. Australia’s vaccine rollout has been painfully slow.

    • Thank you, Melanie. Your little hill cottage sounds heavenly. I like thinking about all of us gazing at the same sky and moon from our various rooftops and verandas around the world.

  4. As always your work is an inspiration. If you don’t mind sharing what is the zoom presentation for “mathematics and sacred Geometry in Weaving”? Enjoy Laverne, Kelli

    • Hi Kelli. Thank you. Jennifer Moore gave the talk on Sacred Geometry. She has been presenting at lots of guilds and I have actually seen it twice.

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