Posted by: lavernewaddington | March 17, 2023

Backstrap Weaving – One Step at a Time

Stage One of the eventual move back to Australia is complete. I got back last week and have been struggling with the usual jet lag ever since. There are so many time zones to cross between Australia and Bolivia. Going forward in time on the way over there is really not that bad. It’s the return journey when you gain back the time you lost that really knocks me about.

I took a whole bunch of my weaving books over to Australia as this first part of my move. I can’t sell them here and don’t know anyone who would be interested in them. I know that once I am resettled in Australia I will be so grateful for the effort I made to carry them all that way. I also did some business and laid the ground work for the eventual move but I still don’t see it happening until well into 2024.

I spent most of the time with my brother and sister-in-law on the mid north coast of NSW. It was novel being there in the summer, something that I hadn’t done since 2014. There was a lot of pool and beach time, barbecues and picnics. I brought back a tan and a stronger Australian accent according to an English-speaking friend of mine here.

While breakfasting by the pool, I did a repair job on this bag that I wove for my sister-in-law back in 2006. It’s been around the world with her and is still in pretty good shape.

While I was over there, the latest issue of Tiny Studio Creative Life digital magazine was published with my article on ikat. The theme of the issue is Timey Wimey (it sounded odd to me at first but then I discovered that this is a quote from Doctor Who). The invitation was to consider topics on how tools and techniques have evolved over time, or perhaps something about putting a new spin on ancient practices. I described my various experiments with the ancient technique of ikat on my backstrap loom and the way I have given it my own unique twist in some of my more recent projects. Suzy always does such a nice job of laying out the text and images. I give her a lot of images to work with which I am sure makes it very challenging.

I took my new cotton spinning tool bag and enjoyed a lot of laid back family time spinning my stash of upland cotton and catching up.We hadn’t seen each other since September 2019.

Spinning kept me sane while on the road…I had a 22-hour layover in Los Angeles on the way home and was grateful for something to do while sitting in the airport. The ball of thread grew and grew!

My brother’s cars were in the workshop and so we had outings on the motorcycle and sidecar. That’s a unique way to see the countryside…watch out for crossing koalas.

I got to see at last some things that I’d had sent to my brother’s place in Australia for safe-keeping until I could come and claim them.

A book sent to me by Yingyu Hung in Taiwan on the style of backstrap loom used by one of the ethnic groups in her country. On the left is material used by some groups in Indonesia to wrap their ikat warps. I was curious about it and Sue Richardson kindly organized to have that sent to me so that I could try it.

My spinning tool bag doubled as a handbag when I was out and about. It went exploring with me when I was with my weaving friend Emerald in Sydney at the tail end of the visit.

Weaving with Emerald in Sydney many years ago. We met via his blog and have woven together on almost every one of my visits to Australia since then.

She lives just a stone’s throw away from the harbor and we walked our legs off one day touring the harbor and surrounds. It’s weird feeling like a tourist in the city in which you grew up. So much has changed!

Some things never change, though….the Sydney Opera House and the majestic Moreton Bay Figs atop Observatory Hill.

Airport-sitting time also leads to lots of screen scrolling. I watched a video of weavers from the Apurimac region of Peru and was astonished to see sash weavers using reeds on backstrap looms. I have never seen reeds in use like this here before and I hope that I can track down more information about that…..why have they chosen to use them, who makes them and what are they made from? Does their use pre-date the Conquest? Here is a screen shot that I took from the video which was posted to the Cconchaccota Progreso Grau Apurimac Facebook page.

I spent a week doing goodness-knows-what when I returned between bouts of nodding off due to the jet lag. Finally I was able to get my head together and plan a new project for Stage Two of the repatriation which is happening, believe it or not, next Monday. Aargh, I think I may be getting too old for this kind of thing. I’ll be back on flights to Sydney…on standby this time…trying to squeeze in just one more trip before high season prices kick in.

I decided to make a case for my passport…actually passports, in plural, because my residency sticker is in an old one and has to be carried on every trip…alongside vaccine and yellow fever certificates and ESTA document. I wanted a decent pouch to put all those bits and pieces in and hey, I am always happy for an excuse to weave.

I decided to use the mill-spun wool singles that I had bought a few years ago on a farm in California. The farmer had allowed my weaving friends and me to gather in his barn for a weekend of backstrap weaving and I was grateful.

Fond memories of gathering with my Petaluma friends in the farm co-op barn.

I really had no idea of what I would do with wool singles but it was nice to know that the wool had come from this farmer’s very own sheep. It’s a pretty blend of black and white.

I had taken the plunge and woven with it as singles some time ago when I created a slip case for my phone and was surprised at how well it performed in warp-faced weaving which can be quite hard on yarn.

I had used my handspun plied wool as the supplementary weft to create the pattern.

I was able to take the measurements from this project and use them to plan and create a wider and shorter piece of fabric for my passport pouch.

The warp for the passport pouch ready to receive its heddles. I fell asleep several times while making the heddles…jet lag is terrible! On the left is the felt airline freebie that I had been using which really isn’t big enough to hold everything I need any more.

I liked the pattern on the phone case so much that I re-designed it sideways to span the width of the warp. I again used my own handspun plied wool as the supplementary weft. So, that part of the Stage Two journey is done. Now I need to decide which treasured possessions will get taken over this time, the ones that I can live without here for the next year or so. There are actually still a lot more books but I just don’t feel like dealing with those right now.

While out and about wearing jeans in Australia, I suddenly became aware of just how worn and tired-looking my handwoven belt had become. I have been using this one belt exclusively since I wove it back in 2010. I wove a bunch of other belts at that time but this particular black-and-white became a favorite. I am actually pretty amazed at how well the rather soft cotton from which it is made has stood up all these years.

Belts that I wove years ago. The upper rolled up one became the favorite. The double weave one in the center will now take its place.

It has only taken me twelve years or so, but I finally walked the three blocks down to the sewing and fabric section of the market and got the holes punched in the double weave belt that I had woven but never completed all those years ago. The fact that I can walk a handful of blocks in either direction and find pretty much everything I need is something that I will certainly miss when I move back to Australia.

There you can see the double weave belt with its freshly punched holes, ready to use. The motifs were taken from Bedouin textiles that I had come across in my studies. I would check my understanding of the structures by weaving replicas of the motifs.. Even though the belt is in sturdy double weave, I still prefer to mount it on webbing for extra strength. I used a finer and “harder” thread for this belt than the thread I used for the old worn out one. I guess it will be with me for at least the next ten years or so. Somehow, I can’t see myself still wearing jeans ten years down the track, though!

The collection of metal “corners” in the photo are used I guess to protect the bottoms of handbags or perhaps the corners of leather wallets? I had seen them being used by a weaver who had covered books with hand woven cloth. The corners on the books that I’ve covered with cloth don’t need that kind of protection but I think that these metal corners nevertheless make a really interesting decorative finish on certain kinds of book covers. I spotted them in the stall while I was having the holes punched in the belt. Now that I have them, I have the urge to make more book covers. As if I need more books to lug to the other side of the world! Maybe that will be my first project when I get settled over there in Australia.

Oh my gosh, my head spins with all that needs doing before I can declare myself truly re-settled! High anxiety. One step at a time….


  1. Beautiful work and lots of exciting news. Hope you sleep a lot and stay healthy.

    • Thank you. I consider myself lucky to have made it there and back Covid free.

  2. Hi Laverne, nice to hear you were in Ozzie and that you are planning to move back next year. I’d love to catch you one day again.
    We had 6 months in the Netherlands. I had an amazing time. The weaving got hijacked by all the heddles coming out and me getting too overwhelmed by the project and then stone sculpting instead with my mum which was fun. Now back in Tassie, back at work and that is also good.

    • Wow, the six months in the Netherlands went by so fast. What an amazing experience for your kids. I’m sure we’ll be seeing each other when I eventually get back. You’ll be able to tell me more about the stone sculpting…..very curious!

      Hugs xx

  3. Oh the joy of moving around the world. I’ve done it three times myself. It’ll be so great to have you back in Australia. I’ve been following you for a little while and didn’t know you are an Aussie until I read your latest posts. Do you plan teaching backstrap weaving when you are settled back here? I’d be every interested 🙏

    • Hi Mon. Yes, I’ll definitely be teaching backstrap loom weaving when I am back. You can be my first student 🙂 Where in Oz are you?

      • Oooo giddy with excitement to be the first 🤣 I’m in Geelong VIC. Where will you be settling?

      • I’ll be in Katoomba NSW. A but far! But I’ve traveled to Melbourne twice to teach over the years.

  4. Going to LA from Tokyo you arrive before you even leave and find out you lost a day coming back. I can’t imagine a 22 hr. layover in LA. Why go through LA at all? How long did the trip take one way? Hope you don’t have to make the trip too many times to get moved. Stay safe and well.

    • Yes, it’s brutal isn’t it? LA is one option. Dallas is another which I’ll be using on the next trip. Via Chile is yet another which I have used in the past. It’s the fastest but flights are not daily (which is bad news for standby) and it has become eye-wateringly expensive due to lack of competition on the route. On top of that, there are and ridiculous baggage restrictions.

  5. Laverne Thank you for taking time to share your first journey over to Australia. Travel safely, keeping you in my prayers, Kelli

  6. Enjoy your life with family and friends.
    Continue this ancient craft that you enjoy and are sharing with the world and younger
    Thank You!!

    • Thank you. It breaks my heart to leave South America but there are also so many backstrap weavers to meet on the other side of the globe throughout SE Asia. I won’t be leaving that behind and yes, it will be lovely to be closer to family and friends.

  7. Good luck with the culture shock…took me ten years after only two years

    • Oh yes, I’m sure this will be a thing. Where did you spend your two years and where do you live now? I’m in an Aussie ex-pats group on Facebook where people share their stories. It’s very helpful.

      • I was in Medellin for two years, 1998-2000 and am in Ottawa, Canada now….the shock as not so much about weather but about lack of appreciation for all we have here in the privileged North…a lack of joie de vivre…

  8. Funny thing…perhaps. For such a long time, I have had you on my heart…move back home to Australia. Why? I cannot answer that. Nonetheless…I am so blessed…knowing you’ll soon go home. Though I wove with you but once in Austin, I so wish I could be by your side and learn more. Alas!

    • Oh, Charlotte, no matter where I am I’ll still be wanting to travel to the States and weave with all the friends I made there. It will just be a slightly longer trip.

  9. It sounds like a wonderful trip and I am glad that you were able to bring a load of your books over. I really like the grommets that are on your belt. When I read “holes punched” I did not imagine them finished like that. You will miss having those types of services available:-)

  10. Hi Laverne – The use of a reed in Apurimac intrigues me as well. I followed your bread crumbs and found the video. (
    I note that the tejedora is weaving a band much narrower than the reed, has many heddles, and the weaving is probably weft-faced — the warp is white. So the reed is not being used to regulate the finished warp width but apparently to facilitate the operation of the heddles. All her companions appear to be using conventional setups. So many questions!!

    • Yes! Possibly weft faced but perhaps also supplementary weft on a warp-faced ground? A Google search for Apurímac textiles doesn’t turn up anything worthwhile. The only textiles I know of from that region are the broad sashes that combine strips of supplementary-warp with reversible three-color pebble weave. They are sold in the markets in Cusco and are therefore often wrongly attributed to that region. It would be great to find someone who has dedicated themselves to studying the textile traditions of the Apurímac region. I found another photo … possibly on that same page….with a woman using what appears to be a rigid heddle. There are no other heddles present and she is holding the heddle as if she is pulling it down to create a shed. I traveled by bus from Cusco to Ayacucho in the 90s and would have passed right through it Little did I know!

  11. My guess is that you will still be wearing jeans in 10 years time. I am certainly still wearing them at 75 in the UK and see many people older than me doing so also.

  12. Dear Laverne
    I have been reading several of your posts over the pasts years and I truly admire your skills and enjoy the inspiration you give. – I have been weaving on a backstrap loom many years ago, and the loom with the warp and motif has been hanging in my studio ever since. Now I do much more shaft weaving, but I am still intrigued at how versatile the backstrap loom is.
    I wish you good luck on moving back to Australia.


    • Hi Karis. Thank so much for taking the time to leave me a note and I appreciate your wishes for my move back to Australia. I’m really pleased that even though you have devoted more of your time to shaft loom weaving, you are still interested in the backstrap loom and enjoy following my blog. It’s so nice to hear from my readers. Thank you!

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