Posted by: lavernewaddington | February 3, 2023

Backstrap Weaving – The Odd-shaped Bag

I once created what I called the “yurt-shaped” bag from woven cloth. The hand-dyed and painted reeled silk warp had been given to me by Sara whose weaving and dyeing studio is a yurt. It seemed appropriate to weave cloth from her warp and shape into a yurt!

Sara’s yurt-shaped studio in the woods.
Sara gave me the warp ready to go and I adorned it with a pattern in the structure that I call Andean Pebble Weave. I am sure that many of you will recognize Sara Lamb’s color palette.

It wasn’t a terribly long piece of fabric but it turned out to be just long enough to form the walls of a cylinder with circular base. Adding a drawstring at the top completed the yurt-ish look.

The circular base with tubular edging challenged my limited sewing skills. Cutting into the fabric was stressful!
I added tassels and a braided strap. I’ve never been happy with that strap and one of these days I’ll weave another.

The reason I am looking back at this old project is that my current project….a bag for my cotton-spinning tools was meant to be the same shape. I chose that shape because the mortar that I use to support my takli spindle is round-based and so a round-bottom bag seemed like a good idea.

However, once the fabric was off the loom with circular base sewn in place, I decided that I would lose too much height with a draw-string top. I added a band of fine cotton to the mouth of the bag. I figured I could sew a channel along its center to hold the drawstring but even so, I felt that I was sacrificing too much height. I wanted to be able to fit a good amount of cotton sliver in the bag along with my tall mortar and spindle. And so, the “odd-shaped” bag was born! I have been trying to find something to which I can liken this shape so that the bag can have a better name. I haven’t come up with anything. If you do, let me know, please. I am thinking that once it has its strap and is being carried cross-body wise, it may look less odd.

My bag for cotton spinning tools awaits its strap.

You’ll see that I went with a zipper in the end. The cotton band that I added at the top is woven from 30/2 indigo-dyed Guatemalan cotton that I got from Mayan Hands at a conference many years ago. It’s lovely stuff and I have used it in the past to weave covers for books. It was the perfect color for this project.

Weaving cloth from Guatemalan cotton to cover a small journal. My friend Claudia’s initials, CS, were placed to sit on the spine of the book.

That indigo-dyed cake of thread has sat on a shelf far away from windows for years. It’s amazing how much the color has faded. I had to pull thread from the center to find the original rich blue. However, I do love the unevenly faded stuff too and will definitely use it in a project one day.

In my last blog post, I showed you my progress with the spinning-bag cloth on the loom. Here’s a slightly different view of it resting on the floor.

This was just before I added the final band of patterning which would be made up of woven words. The darkest blue sections that you see in this piece are warp-faced….a complementary-warp structure that I call Andean Pebble Weave. The other horizontal bands in various shades of blue are weft-faced. I have basically turned the Andean Pebble Weave structure on its side and woven it as complementary-weft instead. This means that I can weave it in any color I like. I chose to use various shades of blue and teal in this piece.

The woven words that I chose to use are “Spinning Cotton” and ” Hilando Algodon”. This is the first time that I have woven letters using the structure that I call Andean Pebble Weave. I showed you many others structures that I have used for lettering in my last post and I wonder if any of you were inspired to try them. I used the letters that Alison Irwin designed and published in the latest issue of Little Looms magazine. Letters in Andean Pebble Weave are naturally quirky. The nature of the structure doesn’t allow them all to sit along the one line. That makes them seem to dance jauntily along the warp. Because I wove them as complementary-weft rather than as complementary-warp, the words I wove run width-wise across the warp rather than along the length as Alison has woven them in her article. I think they perfectly suited my jaunty little bag. Okay….I’m liking that…The item formerly known as The Odd-shaped Bag will now be called The Jaunty Bag.

I altered a couple of Alison’s letters to better suit my layout.

I always love the moment when the cloth is off the loom and I get to see the detail on the other face. In this case I don’t have to try to decide which of the two faces I prefer because of course the words are backwards on the reverse. Still it’s nice to enjoy looking at it before I sew and it gets hidden forever inside the bag.

I was able to continue weaving once the lettering was done and the bag cloth finished because I had enough warp left to enable me to weave a piece that could be cut into the circular base of the bag. I stabilized it with heavy interfacing before cutting and that gave me a nice sturdy base for the bag.

I hadn’t planned on adding a strap to the original draw-string bag idea. It was just going to be a storage bag for my spinning tools that would go into another bag when I was out and about. However, I felt that the jaunty bag was asking for a strap. No problem. I was happy to have a reason to continue practicing combining warp and weft-faced structures in the one piece.

I wound a warp for the warp-faced strap using only one color instead of the two that I would normally use for Andean Pebble Weave projects. The warp-faced sections would be one solid color and I could play with weft colors for the small weft-faced sections. That way, the strap would not be too loud next to the rather busy bag.

I’ve been conservative in my color choices in this project. Perhaps in the next I’ll weave a solid black band with a variety of lively weft colors for the weft-faced patterns.

Take a look at this colorful warp-faced hair sash below from Jacaltenango in Guatemala. The weaver has made good use of the fact that she is free to change the color of her supplementary weft at will. Complementary-weft doesn’t allow that much freedom but I could still create some quite lively spots of weft-faced color along the length of a warp-faced band in which the weft is normally completed hidden.

Speaking of hair sashes of Jacaltenango, Carol Ventura will be giving a free Zoom lecture on them on Friday the 11th. Follow this link to register.

And now the thought has crossed my mind that perhaps I can line the Jaunty Bag…but not with my handwoven cloth. I’ve been thinking that I would like to try stitched shibori. For those who don’t know what that is, it is a resist dye technique for patterning cloth in which stitches are used to pull and shape cloth before it is dyed. The stitching creates areas that resist the dye and remain the original color. I’ve never done it before but was lucky enough some years ago to be in the area when Kris Nardello (and another dear lady whose name, forgive me, I have forgotten) were giving a workshop on it at the Textile and Fiber Arts Guild of Santa Cruz in California.. I wasn’t able to attend the whole thing but did bring home the kit which was made up of three sheets of scoured cotton cloth, needles, beads, thread and other bits thinking that one day I will take it up. The day has arrived.

The only things I have found from the kit so far are the sheets of cloth. I can decorate and line my bag with them and try something new…and if I make a mess of it, well, it will be hidden inside the bag, or I can just over-dye the whole thing. By the way, Kris kindly left a very helpful comment on my blog for me when I puzzling over my cochineal dyeing experiments a while ago. She is an expert in natural dyeing techniques.

This book cover will give you an idea of what stitched shibori can look like in expert hands….don’t expect to see anything like this in my next post!

The initial knee-jerk plan of action was to go looking on Youtube for instruction. But then it occurred to me that there will be highly experienced people who have devoted time and effort to writing books on the subject and that it would be nice to support them. As I have written a number of how-to books myself I know what it’s like to be in their shoes. Trust me…no one is getting rich from writing these kinds of books. The Kindle version of the one I have looked at is $35 and so I will need to give that some thought. If you own a book on the topic and can recommend one, please let me know. I have only just started to look. It will have to be a Kindle edition, though.

I hope in my next post to show you the finished jaunty bag with its accompanying sedate strap…and maybe my beginner attempts at stitched shibori. It will be one of those “mess or success” projects and no doubt, much will have been learned.


  1. To me, the bag is elegantly vase-shaped.

    • Thank you, Kate! The strap is on it now and once slung across my body the bag looks less odd and more elegantly vase-shaped as you say.

  2. I love your Jaunty bag, it is just perfect for your needs. I think it is such a great thing to be able to weave and make something like such a useful bag and at the same time make it gorgeous.
    I have been weaving going on 20 years now and I still get the jitters cutting into my handwoven cloth! I have finally decided that is part of journey and the fun:-)

    • Yes, bags are nice small projects that allow me to practice and learn new techniques. There’s always something that needs to go into a bag! Adhesive interfacing has been a big help to me when it comes to cutting fabric for bags. To think that it has been all this time and I only just discovered it!

  3. Hello Laverne, thank you for your post! It’s very interesting again, especially the reference to Carol Ventura’s zoom lecture! Since I won’t have time to join and love books, I immediately ordered her book! Best regards from Germany Skadi

    • Hi Skadi. I am so glad to hear from you as it has reminded me that I have some beautiful photos of your woven work that I must share in a post soon. Carol’s book is very nice. I’m glad that you are able to own it.

  4. I bought “Stitched Shibori” and find it was money well spent. Clear instructions. Beautiful photos. Best shibori book I’ve looked at. I’d buy it again if my copy was lost. Go for it. I think you will be very happy with it.

    • Thank you so much. I really appreciate your taking the time to leave me your review of the book. I will most likely get it.

  5. Hi Laverne, I’m so glad you mentioned making shibori fabric as lining for your Jaunt Bag (BTW, a great name for it!) That lighter weight fabric would be a good lining as well as a delight peeking out of the top opening. How nice to be mentioned in your blog, as well. Natural dyes and cochineal, in particular, continue to enchant. ❤️

    • I was so lucky to have been able to attend just a small part of your workshop. It’s amazing how these things can sit in the mind for so many years and then suddenly pop up to the surface. Having the already-scoured cotton cloth will make the process just that little bit easier. Thank you!

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