Posted by: lavernewaddington | March 25, 2022

Backstrap Weaving – Bubble, Bubble

Why “Bubble, Bubble”? Because I seem to have spent more time at the pot dyeing yarn and boiling my hand spun cotton than anything else these last days. And that’s okay. I can stand there stirring and thinking about what I am going to weave, or continue with the Bananagrams game that is always in progress nearby. I kept a careful watch over the cotton because I am notorious for letting things boil dry. I don’t know how many times I have stepped away from rice, beans or quinoa on the stove to weave “just a few rows” only to be alerted to a dry pot by the smell of something burning. The pencil cups that I showed in my last post have been working out well for holding these samples of my newbie hand-spun cotton singles under tension. I got a few suggestions from Facebook friends for alternatives when I start producing larger quantities….mostly involving pvc pipe.

I put my juggling balls into the cups to weigh them down and then set them on the window sill to dry. The wind was so strong yesterday that I had to go down the three flights of stairs twice to retrieve everything from the garden below. Versions 2 and 3 seem to to be similar enough to use in a piece of sample weaving. I am not ready to go with the sheer-cloth-and-sizing idea yet. I am thinking of using these samples in my finest reed to weave some balanced plain-weave, something along the lines of this silk sample that I wove some time ago….

I’d like to weave in some tufts of very lightly twisted colored cotton into the cloth now and then. I have a few shades of natural brown and a bit of green. I saw a lovely scarf on Instagram that had been created like that with tufts of wool.

That’s taking second place on the to-do list because I am first weaving fabric for the bag to accompany the three-color pebble strap that I recently finished. It’s funny that this whole project has sprung out of the desire to weave something in the reversible three-color pebble structure and use it in something that would allow both faces to be seen. A bag strap is what I came up with. And so, here comes the bag fabric.

I over-dyed some pale green yarn to this dark blue, hadn’t thought through the project properly at all, and ran out while creating the warp. So then I had to over-dye some pale yellow to finish the warp and have enough for the sides and separate flap. Of course, I can’t expect for a minute to be able to create the same shade of blue when over-dyeing yellow instead of green but this is what happens when you are working with diminishing stash. You either have to plan more carefully around the quantities that you have or just go making it up as you go along! I am usually much more in tune (to the extreme!) with the former of the two strategies and it is interesting finding myself being fairly content with this more carefree approach this time.

I found out when I dyed cotton black for the scarf project above, when it was already too late, that not all blacks are alike. You can probably make out the two strips of darker black in the cloth. They could have been placed at the two selvedges if only I had noticed earlier. What chance do I have, then, of perfectly replicating blue on two different base colors? At least this time I was aware that there was going to be a difference and I placed strips of the “new” blue on the left and right edges of the warp to balance things out. I am weaving in warp-faced plain weave and will add a hummingbird and a flower motif in supplementary weft to one lower corner of the front of the bag and perhaps another pairing in the center of the back. The cloth needs to be fairly “quiet” because the strap is so lively.

I christened the Weaver’s Journal that I had covered with my woven cloth. I haven’t even tried to make my notes neat and pretty because I knew that the effort would not last long at all. Besides, I kind of like my scribblings. 🙂

I haven’t made notes in the Dyer’s Notebook yet because my latest dyeing has been of the more desperate never-to-be-repeated variety.

My Weaver’s Journal covered with cloth in 30/2 silk and patterned with supplementary weft.

This kind of stash scrounging reminds me of when I weaving Navajo-style tapestry pieces in southern Chile in the mid 1990s. I had brought back some Wilde and Woolly wool from the States and topped up my stash some months later via mail order. The rich “Ganado Red” color that I had ordered didn’t arrive. Instead, I got this kind of dusty pink. It worked out okay. I gave this piece to my brother when he visited here and he keeps it under glass on his dining table.

The way the diamond pattern was meant to be aligned.

After that, I decided that I wouldn’t order more yarn by post and that I would only buy in person. I wove several pieces and eventually the bottom of the yarn barrel was in sight with no plans to travel to the States. I had to get into “make-do” mode with whatever I could scrape together. I didn’t want to stop weaving.

Joanne Hall had written a book on tapestry weaving. I had a used copy and I loved some of the Mexican patterns that she had included. The main motif of intertwined black and white lines was meant to be woven as a diamond shape sitting within a square. The square was supposed to be positioned with horizontal top and bottom and vertical sides surrounding the diamond motif….that is, not like I had woven it on the loom.

Because I didn’t have enough of any one color to weave the whole surrounding square, I had to swivel the pattern 45 degrees. And I didn’t have enough yarn to be able to weave the two inner motifs in the same colors. It didn’t look like the picture in the book and I just wasn’t crazy about it when it was done. When I moved to Bolivia, it got left behind in Chile hanging on the wall of the little cottage in which I had lived. I wonder where it is now. Of course, I wish I had it now. What you see here are photos of the only photo I have of it.

The way I had to align it on the loom.

I remember tapping away at a calculator to plan out this piece so that the pattern would fit into the four-selvedged limits and use just the right amount of yarn. My boyfriend at the time asked me if that was how the Navajo weavers plan their pieces….with a calculator…lol. I had obviously put more thought into planning this around my available yarn quantities than my current bag project!

And then I threw almost all the left- over bits and pieces into a pot, dyed them red and wove one last piece….another odd piece with, naturally, multiple shades of red. I got to use the Navajo saddle-blanket structure at the top and bottom of this four-selvedged piece before running out of the tan color and then filled the center with plain weft-faced pattern. Sound familiar? Here I am in 2022 doing the same thing with dye to make the most of my supplies. I like the challenge. I like just making do with what I have on hand.

The twined edging tassels in the corners were sewn down to make the piece less interesting to my cat (who had chewed off the tassels on one of my other pieces as well as a chunk of corner!)
From the archives! 1996 and weaving with my backstrap warp attached to the bottom of the Navajo-style vertical frame.

Of course, it didn’t matter in the end that I had run out of tapestry wool yarn for weft because shortly after all this I went to Peru for the first time and it all became about warp-faced weaving on backstrap looms when I returned, using locally available cotton and the high-twist wool singles that I had been using for warp for my Navajo-style pieces. It all got used! My Navajo-style loom was only used as the anchor point for the end of my backstrap-loom warps after that, except for a couple of quite wide warp-faced pieces which I wasn’t yet ready to handle on a backstrap loom.

Now I am looking at a tiny amount of powder at the bottom of my pot of red-blue dye. My friend Mog had given me some of her supply the last time I was in Australia and it’s almost all gone now. That’s okay. I had a good run with it in some fun projects mixing it to get a variety of blues….

I enjoyed creating different intensities of blue on 30/2 silk for this book cover project.
More fun with dyeing blue on this 60/2 silk ikat warp.

I still have a good amount of a green-blue (again, thank you, Mog) as well as a teal, so who knows what might come of that.

I am reminded that I have credit with Southwest Airlines that expires in September and an empty Traveler’s Diary. But everything is still so unclear and confusing, isn’t it? In the meantime, I am trying to coax my book-writing mojo back into existence. I made a good start but a tripod-fail let me down. I finally got a new one…no excuses now! Please check out the eight books I have published so far at Taproot Video. They’re available as PDFs to download as well as in the form of spiral-bound books. Here are a few…

Until next time.


  1. I love all your books, Laverne. I have learned so much! Every one is a gem, as are you. Thank you!

  2. Hi Laverne. Love the dyeing you’re doing. Are you putting out a book on three-color pebble weave?

    • Hi Julie. Thanks. That’s not the next topic that I have in mind but it will come along eventually ☺️

  3. Feel free to come visit San Diego if you want to use your miles!
    Love love love your journals, and your authentic handwriting in them!

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