Posted by: lavernewaddington | September 5, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – The Anniversary

My birthday fell on lucky Friday the thirteenth this year, Friday August 13.

Birthday 2019. Perth, Australia.

I was also lucky in that I got, as I usually do, a double dose. I am greeted with wishes from friends and family in Australia a good fourteen hours before the calendar flips over in Bolivia.

For several years pre-pandemic I would find myself in Australia in the middle of a teaching tour on my birthday. None of my students would know and it would pass like any other day. It would be too weird to walk into a classroom, greet the students and announce that it was my birthday, right?! However, on my last visit in 2019, after a day of teaching in Perth on the west coast of Australia, my friend Wendy helped me celebrate. We had dinner at the beach overlooking the Indian Ocean and she even brought along a candle so that I could have a birthday gelato. ❤

This year was celebrated with mini cheesecakes some of which I placed in the freezer. I ate the last one today. What a way to stretch out a good thing. It’s something like the way I am stretching out my fairly limited yarn stash. I am choosing very long, slow and involved projects that don’t use much thread so that I can really get some bang for my buck.

I decided to go with the ideas I had received from band-weaving friends who suggested I weave two narrow bands to accompany my silk band of hummingbirds. By the way, today September 4, according to the Audubon Society, is National Day of the Hummingbird in the USA. I wonder how bird enthusiasts mark the occasion?

For my latest project, I had to sort through my stash of silk as I have completely run out of natural white. The closest I could get was a very pale yellow.

The blue that I had used in the hummingbird piece was almost gone and I had to scrape up every bit of it that I could find including bits that remained on shuttles from past weaving projects. I needed to make sure that I would have enough for two projects, one band on each side of the hummingbird piece. It would be the border color.

There was plenty of the pinkish lavender that I had used as the border of the hummingbird band. The problem was that at some point I had wound it off its skein into two balls and then doubled it and wound it into a single ball….possibly to use as supplementary weft? Who knows? I can tell you that it is very tedious separating doubled threads back into two singles.

This new band would only be an inch and a half wide (122 ends in each layer of double weave) and so I didn’t have to struggle with splitting and recovering the doubled thread for too long. I ended up with a warp of blue borders with lavender and pale yellow for the double-weave center.

I wanted this band to show flowers and other bits of garden in keeping with the hummingbird theme. I was pleased to be able to use what I had learned from a previous double-weave experiment in which I wove flowers in a style that I had seen and admired on Japanese braids created on a takadai. The sample was in 20/2 cotton in gold and black.

What I had liked about those Japanese braids was the fact that the images do not sit wholly within the width of the band. The way that they sort of overflowed off the edges seemed to give them a certain amount of movement and playfulness. I also liked the way in which the braider had flipped background color back and forth from light to dark without creating a harsh horizontal division. I am told that in this kind of braiding the color transition can be achieved structurally but is also sometimes created by using space-dyed thread, I will stick with doing it structurally in my double-weave band for now. I quite like the challenge of making that happen… figuring out just where and how to place the figures to make gradual transitions.

People always ask me about how I manage to see the tiny threads as I do the pick-up. The high contrast between the blue and white in the hummingbird piece made this very easy. I was able to read the cloth and not have to count cells on my pattern chart. Once the pick for the first row of pattern is counted out on the chart and in the threads and woven, all subsequent rows can be picked by simply adding threads to the left or right of those picked in the previous row. It’s actually delightfully easy. I use the picked threads from the preceding row to find my position. Having high contrast between the colors makes that possible. I only need to count chart cells and threads again at the start of a new figure.

What I wasn’t prepared for was to find how much harder it was to pick the flower patterns simply because the contrast between the lavender and yellow threads was so much lower. I was really disappointed because it meant I would have to go through the tedious process of counting cells on the chart as well as counting threads almost every row to make sure I was starting each row in the correct place. It was very much harder to find the right position. It started out being very tedious and on the first evening I was almost ready to abandon it. However, it’s amazing how quickly I got used to being able to “count” cells on the chart at a glance. I just started being able to recognize what a group of ten cells looked like without having to actually stop and count them out one by one. Of course, I didn’t get it right every time but this made life easier and I was able to settle and enjoy my weaving. Dividing the chart into ten-cell columns would have made it even easier and I might do that next time.

So, I have another 130″ of chart rolled up in my closet and am about to start planning out the band for the other side.

My initial thought was that there should be a matching band on the other side, a mirror image of what I had already woven. Not surprisingly, I had zero interest in repeating what I had just woven! So, I am planning a new band that will be more about leaves and boughs with a few flowers here and there. My band-weaving friends agreed that the new band should be different (thank goodness!) Of course, it will be in the same colors but I need the challenge of a new pattern.

See what I mean about bang for my buck? I will probably end up having worked on this for over three months by the time I am done. Luckily I LOVE designing. It’s giving me something interesting on which to focus…color transitions and use of positive and negative figures…and it uses very little thread. There’s also something quite satisfying about using up every bit of thread rather than having odds and ends of fairly useless tiny balls of random colors rolling around at the bottom of the drawer.

Now I will be obliged to starting using my stash of 30/2 silk again if I want to use natural white in a future project. I have plenty of that. It means that I’ll also be able to play with dyes again. Maybe there will be more ikat happening.

Ikat scarf with supplementary-weft patterns in 30/2 silk.
Ikat cowl in 30/2 silk

As for the anniversary that I mention in the title of this blog, I was able to mark the 25th Anniversary of my very first backstrap loom weaving lesson in Peru in 1996. I know that I traveled onward to Huancayo a week after having spent my birthday in Ayacucho. It was in Huancayo while recovering from illness that I started weaving with two ladies who had moved there from Ayacucho during the activity of the Shining Path movement.

They taught me Andean Pebble Weave as well as how to create patterns using supplementary warp threads. They also gave me my very first sword which I still have and treasure even though it is quite bent out of shape now with use.

My first Andean Pebble Weave and supplementary-warp learning bands

It’s amazing how that encounter would come to change the entre path of my life. So here’s silver-haired-me raising a shuttle and marking my Silver Backstrap Loom Anniversary.

Twenty-five years later, here’s my book on Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms which is available as a PDF or as a spiral-bound book at Taproot Video. The two outer bands in this image were woven by Priscilla Bradburn who took several of the small motifs that are charted in the book and combined them to create her own unique design. It’s very inspiring to see what she has done using these basic shapes.


  1. Happy belated birthday, anniversary and hummingbird day! It’s cool and encouraging to see your first bands, as I struggle with mine. I love seeing where skilled people started.

    I’m so glad you offer so many technique books on the inkle loom, since I find it way more approachable than backstrap weaving, but I do intend to get a backstrap project going someday!

    And that silk scarf, wow. So fine!

    • Thank you, Lisa. Yes, I am so happy that I kept those first bands even though I stupidly cut out all the bad bits! I really appreciate your stopping by to leave your kind comments.

  2. Happy anniversary Laverne!

  3. Late Happy birthday
    What a joy to read your blog and see photos of your work. – I tried to weave om a backstrap loom years ago, and I really enjoyed it. I did not know og anyone Else who did It, so it is a real pleasure to follow you.
    Your designs are so fantastic and lively. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Hi Karis. It’s always so nice to hear from someone who has been reading along. Thank you!

  4. Your work is exquisite!

  5. Such beautiful work! I was born on a lucky Friday the 13th in 1950 and I love your silver hair. One day I am going to learn backstrap weaving and your books will be my teacher. My dream would be to learn one on one from an indigenous person somewhere in Arizona where I live.

    • Thank you so much. I have a few backstrap weaving friends in Arizona but don’t know any indigenous teachers. I hope you get to try using a backstrap loom soon.

  6. Laverne,
    I have moved from Philadelphia to the central coast of California, one mile from the Pacific Ocean in a cohousing community. We have so many hummingbirds, they sometimes fly into the house. You hummingbird double weave project in exquisite and masterful. Congratulations!

    • Hi Graceanne. Thank you so much. Wow, that’s quite a move you made. I like the sound of cohousing and must look into that. One of my students bought me a membership to the central PA guild and I’ve been enjoying their Zoom gatherings. So, I get to see some of the people in our little weaving group. I miss weaving you guys.

  7. Beautiful work. I love the hummingbirds. Have you developed this technique uniquely for the backstrap loom? The design looks so different to the traditional backstrap loom patterns.

    • Thank you, Melanie. The structure is one that I learned in Bolivia but design-wise you can really just do anything you like with it regardless of the loom being used. Using very fine thread allows me to create patterns that may not look as nice in heavier thread. For example, figures that look quiet curve-like in fine thread may look jagged or more step-like in heavier stuff.

  8. Happy anniversary love to read your blog.

  9. Happy Birthday! I have recently purchased your Andean Pebbles Weave book (and a few others) and am very much enjoying the process. There is so much more for me to learn and I like that as well! Your weaving is exquisite and I’m just beginning to be aware of what a wonderful resource this blog is! Thank you very much for sharing so much!

    • Thank you for your support, Kathleen. I hope you enjoy the books.

    I have been following your blog for years. I love it. You are amazing. I have several of your books. My son’s birthday is also August, Friday the 13th. He turned 39 this yr. He is the 13th grandchild in my family. Also was my Grandparents anniversary date.
    Keep Well.

    • Thank you so much, Wendy. So many thirteens. It has always been a lucky number in my family with my brother also born on that date. I love hearing from people who have been reading along especially from someone like you who has been with me for years. Thank you!

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