Posted by: lavernewaddington | November 13, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – I Made a Thing

First of all, I have to tell you just how wonderful it was to hear from so many people behind the scenes about the bonus video clips I talked about in my last post. Those who had bought my tubular band book on Patternfish needed to contact me to gain access to the video gifts. And contact me you did! I have to apologize for not having sent each and every one of you a personal reply…it got a bit overwhelming! But it served as a reminder that there are many many eyes out there reading my posts….yes, actually reading all my ramblings and not just scrolling down through the pictures (although, there’s nothing wrong with that!). I do try to provide a lot of eye candy for those who stop by and don’t have the time to read everything.. All this is to say, thank you. It made me feel good.

You’ll see that the title of this post is I Made a Thing. I did… but this thing I made is not THE thing that I am planning for my hummingbird motifs. That idea is still developing in my head, But, yes, I made A thing. However, there was still some sampling to do as I had come up with another idea for my little birds.

Two posts ago I showed you a new version woven with supplementary weft rather than in double weave in which I used the idea of embellishing the hummers with curls and swirls. The sample above is in 30/2 silk with silk supplementary weft. I used this idea one more time in some green cotton thread that I had brought back from Guatemala in 2008. I think the cotton might be something like 30/2 in size and I am pretty sure that it isn’t mercerized.

In the example on the left, I created the outline and the swirls within the hummingbird shapes with teal supplementary weft. On the right, I filled in the negative space around the swirls with white supplementary weft. That means that the swirls are revealed in the exposed green ground cloth. It’s a different look. I love both versions! I may have to combine both in that distant “real” project”.

An advantage of the using the supplementary-weft technique is the simplicity of the loom set-up. I like to use four sets of string heddles when I weave with fine warp material in warp-faced double weave. I need only use the most basic set-up of all when I use this supplementary-weft technique.

I am using five strands of very fine silk as the supplementary weft and played around with the idea of using strands of different colors. I abandoned the first attempt at the bottom…too pale…and liked the darker version at the top. Dwindling stash has me using color combinations that I might not have normally considered. I do like the green and orange-y red tones together. A weaver friend told me that green goes with everything because, after all, Nature has combined it with every imaginable color of flower. True!

supplementary-weft colors

I love how my backstrap loom allows me to set-up a short sample warp like the one above. I could probably squeeze a couple more inches out of that warp if I remove the coil rod and replace the pencils with finer sticks. I can even drop back to just one stick or even to no stick at all…using a shed loop instead to contain the threads in that half of the warp.

So, while I ponder that “real” project to which I keep referring, I decided to use all that I had learned so far and weave a cover for a book. This is the Thing that I made. I found a book in a size I like in a local store. It has blank, thick lovely pages that have lots of texture. It was a chance to use the cotton thread from Guatemala that has been sitting here since 2008. I had brought it back with plans to use it as supplementary weft rather than as warp. I didn’t have enough green and so I decided to get even more comfortable with orange and use orange as both warp and weft. What I am calling orange in the warp is more of a coral color really.

I love the look of all those crisp white heddles against the green. I normally weave my book covers with the selvedges running along the horizontal edges of the book. Because I wanted my hummingbirds to be be the right way up rather than sideways, I planned this piece to have the selvedges aligned with the vertical sides of the book. I crossed my fingers in the hope that my one short and narrow sample in this thread would give me reliable information in terms of ends per inch. I wanted the cloth to sit right at the vertical edges. I didn’t want to turn it over all four edges and create all that bulk at the corners.

I also decided that I wouldn’t wet-finish the cloth. I know....Shocking! I figured that it’s a nice tight warp-faced weave that doesn’t require further tightening in the water. I simply was not going to deal with accounting for shrinkage. The cotton has a rough rustic feel that I like. Wet finishing would have softened it I am sure, but I am happy with the rustic feel.

Completely removing the cover from the book was easy and made the process so much simpler. This way, I didn’t have to cut the cloth and tuck a tab into the spine. Contact cement has become my friend since I learned to work with it. This isn’t the first book I have ever completely covered with my woven cloth…number 11, in fact, and I have learned some do’s and don’t’s along the way.

And here it is finished. I managed to get the little flower positioned on the spine right where I had wanted it to be .I apologize that I have been lazy lately just snapping all my photos with my tiny ipod, some of them as you can probably tell, late at night . I still haven’t bought myself a new tripod for the “good” camera.

Naturally, questions arise about technique tutorials when I show these projects on social media. I did write a very basic tutorial on this supplementary-weft technique many years ago which you can find right here on my blog. I admit that the tutorial makes me cringe just a little as the base warp that I used in the blue example all those years ago was so terribly corrugated! Nevertheless, the tutorial will give you a good idea of how this works and I know that many people have successfully used it.

A wonderful resource for supplementary-weft techniques that I have come across in the last few months is the website of Guatemalan-based Mari Gray’s Kakaw Designs. Mari writes on her site that Kakaw means cacao and goes on to explain that Kakaw Designs supports “traditions as deep as the root of the cacao tree”. Apart from selling clothing, accessories and even footwear made from Guatemalan textiles that she and her partners have specially designed, she runs tours, offers courses and sells kits for weavers who would like to try their hand at operating a backstrap loom.

One of several pre-warped and pre-heddled loom styles offered by Kakaw Designs.

You can order fully warped and set-up backstrap looms, like the one above, with everything you need to weave brocade (supplementary-weft) patterns using the techniques employed by weavers in San Antonio Aguas Calientes. The kit can be supplemented by classes via Zoom given by Guatemalan weaver Doña Lidia in English. There are classes on basic backstrap loom operation and plain warp-faced weaving as well beginner and intermediate-level brocading classes. For more advanced weavers, they even offer a class in the double-faced supplementary-weft technique. Other offerings include tamale and tortilla-making classes.

A piece that I photographed of a Quetzal bird woven in the double-faced technique while in San Antonio Aguas Calientes, Guatemala in 2008.
This simple bee motif is the first I learned to weave in the double-faced structure with my teacher in Guatemala.
Single and double-faced styles that I studied and wove in the same area in which instructor Doña Lidia is located in Guatemala.
This piece shows the nature of single-faced supplementary-weft patterning.

Instructions are also available via PDF with accompanying video clips for those in time zones that don’t fit well with the scheduled Zoom classes or for those who are not able to attend the live classes for any other reason. Take a look at the Experiences page on the Kakaw Designs website for more details. If any of you have taken any of these classes with Kakaw Designs, please do let me know. Perhaps you would be willing to share pictures.

Doña Lidia being filmed for one of her weaving classes.

From the archives….here’s me practicing all I learned in Guatemala back in 2008. I learned so much that expanded my knowledge of supplementary-weft techniques far beyond what I had learned here in South America. Guatemala is so much about weaving with supplementary weft. and there are so many different styles. Once you learn more about it, you will understand how Guatemalan textiles can be so wonderfully colorful.

In this picture I was weaving the cloth that would become the front and back covers of the journal in which I recorded all the instructions. Even back then I was enjoying creating woven covers for my books. I finished the piece that I had started with my teacher in Guatemala (inset) and used that on the lid of a backstrap loom tool box.

Ah…my weaving space looks so neat and tidy in that picture! I wasn’t living alone back then. Here’s what it looks like now. You can see my book cover cloth on the loom and the rest is all the accompanying creative chaos.

I’ll finish by showing you a picture that Kathy sent me of her warp-faced double weave project. She used some rather soft cotton that she happened to have in her stash and was surprised that it behaved so well. Warp-faced double weave is a dense structure and can be hard on softer yarn so that’s something about which you should be careful when choosing thread for this technique. Crochet cotton with its high twist works very well when you are learning. With experience you could ty branching out to using less hardy materials. Kathy has used motifs from my Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms book but she is a backstrap-loom gal at heart and prefers to weave double weave that way. She is using just two basic sheds as I teach in my inkle loom book.

Warp-faced Double Weave is wonderfully versatile in the range of images that it allows you create…from whimsical birds, butterflies and bunnies to delicate leaf and floral patterns, to the bold angular shapes of Mapuche-style motifs or the more intricate Al Sadu-style patterns of the Bedouin. It’s one of my favorite structures for creating images and lettering.

See you next time!


  1. Delightful and informative, always look forward to seeing your creativity.

  2. Your work is absolutely beautiful. Do you have a studio? I wonder if it’s in Arizona.

    • Thank you. I live in Bolivia and my studio is my bedroom floor. You can see it in this post.

  3. Your birds are absolutely lovely, and look so delicate! I like the color combinations. Limitations often reveal things we’d never have contemplated otherwise.

    As always your emails are so interesting and I love the photographs! 🌷

    • Hi Eliza. Thank you so much for your kind comments and for your continued support over the years.

  4. I have taken some of the Zoom classes offered by Kakaw Designs and they are delightful. Am currently in Guatemala with a Kakaw textile tour which included a half day with Dona Lidia in her family’s home (weaving lessons, tortilla making and a lunch of traditional Guatemalan pepian stew). Another weaving lesson tomorrow morning!

    • Sounds like a great tour itinerary! Stay safe and happy travels.

  5. Thank you for thinking of us in Guatemala and including our online class offerings, Laverne! I’ve personally enjoyed getting into these details of weaving so much, what started as a pandemic activity keeps going to connect weavers from around the world. And how wonderful to see your pictures from your visit years ago!!

    • Thanks for dropping by, Mari. It’s always exciting to see what you are up to, constantly coming up with new ideas. I love that you are now offering looms with starched hand-spun cotton. Take care and I wish you and Lidia all the very best.

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