Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 27, 2017

Backstrap Weaving – What is a Loom?

I am on the road and have finally had the chance to hold my new dvd, Operating a Backstrap Loom! I filmed this last November and returned to Bolivia before I could see the editing and final product. Once in Bolivia I selected the music, took the cover shot and chapter title pictures and sent it all to Rainer Romatka of Taproot Video for editing and inclusion in the film. However, I wasn’t able to see the finished product. It was released on February 14. Thank you to everyone who has bought a copy so far!

So, here I am with unopened case in hand. That was very exciting! I still haven’t watched it! It is very difficult to watch and listen to yourself, as you can imagine, and I may have to wait until I return to Bolivia to do so. But, I have to say that it was very exciting holding it in my hand and seeing how my design worked on the cover. It was also wonderful to be able to meet many people who had bought it and thank them in person….so much lovely feedback! You can order one here.

It seems to be a common comment among the many people I am seeing on this trip who have woven with me before that even though they can remember how to set up the loom and pick up patterns after not having woven for a while, they often find themselves struggling with the sheds. They have forgotten how to use their bodies to operate the loom. My dvd is the perfect way to refresh those skills.

This picture was taken in Georgia at Ann Lynn’s place. We had been weaving all day with her friends and  decided to relax on her deck in the woods with a nice cold beer. Spring had certainly taken hold in Georgia and we enjoyed some glorious days before bad weather came through. Ann Lynn’s deck is amazing. It winds its way with raised paths and stairways deeper and deeper into the forest until you feel like you are sitting on your own little perch in among the trees. It would have been nice to have our group out there weaving with looms lashed to the rails but there is also something very nice about being seated all together in the one room and being able to chat.

As usual, I have been traveling a lot, meeting lots and people and doing lots of weaving. This was the first time I had spent time in the south eastern states. I found that there is quite a preoccupation with weather events there and particularly with tornadoes…quite rightly so. Some very nasty weather ripped through Georgia shortly after I left. I enjoyed seeing some pre Civil War town houses in a historic district near Ann Lynn’s home through a wall of falling rain…it was too heavy for photos.

I didn’t get to weave with my Florida friends this time but Berna did send me a picture of the almost-finished Andean Pebble Weave backstrap that she had been working on during my last visit.

I met a long-time Facebook acquaintance, Cat, in Alabama. She wove some patterns with me and then showed up the next day with product!

I met, Kathryn, a Ravelry weaving friend in Alabama too and was able to give her some weaving tips…

 I also met Miriam Omura in Alabama. She came to weave on a backstrap loom with me. She creates beautiful ”soft focus” portraits on her loom. She explained that she first weaves white cloth on her floor loom and then paints an image on the cloth while it is still on the loom. She then un-weaves the piece, carefully winding the weft onto bobbins ,and then re-weaves it. The image then takes on the lovely feathered softness that you see here…

You can read more about her and see her work here. It is always thrilling when someone who weaves amazing things like this wants to come and experience the simple backstrap loom. 

I, too, got the chance to experience the other end of the spectrum when in Pennsylvania at Kathy’s place I wove on this…!!

Kathy told me that she had set up her draw loom specially for me with a pattern based on one from my second book. She invited me to weave on the loom and I was very hesitant…what are all those strings and pegs? Will I even be able to throw the shuttle without having it fall out the bottom to floor? Will I mess up the selvedges?

As it turns out, Kathy had already done all the hard work setting this up. All I had to do was pick the pattern following the chart in my own book. I pulled a peg down for a dark square on the chart and raised a peg for light squares. And, I only had to operate pegs for half the pattern. Each peg raised threads on both sides of the center of the pattern to automatically lift threads for the motif’s mirror image. After arranging the pegs for a row of pattern, I worked my way through 6 treadles and  voila! my pattern appeared. Kathy tells me that the ground structure was a 6-shaft satin and that the loom was set up with a 50-shaft point unit draw, if that means anything to any of you!! It certainly sounds impressive. The pattern is based on one that is commonly woven in Tinkipaya, Bolivia. Tjis is what some of their patterns look like in warp-faced structures…

In no time I had woven a full repeat of the pattern and thoroughly enjoyed myself! Kathy even cut the piece of the loom, serged the edges and gave it to me the next day. What fun!

It is a far cry from the simple stick-less looms used in the Bolivian highlands. I felt like I was driving a piece of heavy equipment. These ladies in Bolivia are the equipment. And that’s how I feel when I weave with my backstrap loom…I like being the loom but sitting in front of one and ”driving” it is also a fun experience.

These are some of the ladies with whom I wove when I went up to the highlands in January. Maxima and the ladies in the co-op have been weaving bands that my weaving friends in Florida and Arizona ordered last year. Some of the Arizona weavers ordered some extra wide ones to cut and turn into bags. I expect they will decorate them with tubular bands and some of the decorative stitches that we practiced together.

You might remember from my blog posts about this trip that I had taught young Maribel to weave a certain pattern. She even likes to tie her band to her waist like I do. The traditional way in this community is to tension the warp on the index finger and big toe when weaving narrow bands like these.

Here’s the new pattern appearing…

Later Maribel eagerly copied patterns from my book to take home…

And here’s her first contribution as a new working member of the weaving cooperative! I am so thrilled about this!! She has done a beautiful job in that beautiful handspun and naturally dyed yarn. I wonder if I will see her using some of the other patterns that she copied from my book.

I have been working on this same pattern with weavers here in U.S. Here’s the band that Kyoko made when I wove with her in Pennsylvania…

It’s funny thinking about my weaving friends sitting in Pennsylvania and the Bolivian highlands creating the very same pattern.

Here’s another kind of simple loom that Luise, a weaving friend in rural South Africa with whom I correspond, is using. She is doing Andean Pebble Weave on a bow loom…a simple branch that she has picked up from her property which serves to hold her warp under tension. I guess, after all, that is all a loom is…something that holds warp ends under tension. It could be your very own body. It can be something very complex like Kathy’s draw loom or something as simple as Luise’s bow loom.

I am tickled that she is doing Andean Pebble Weave patterns on her bow loom using my book. My friend Marilyn weaves beautiful beaded weft-faced bands that she makes into bracelets on a bow loom. She has a video class on how to make the loom and the bracelets that you can buy from Taproot Video. It’ s fun to see Luise using the bow loom to make warp-faced bands. She has come up with various ways to attach the warp ends to the bowed stick.

Annie and I tried bow loom weaving using a simple dowel rod as the bow when we visited with Marilyn last year.

Here’s another loom stretched between Carlos’s body and his radiator. He has added complexity to his loom in the form of multiple string heddles so that he does not have to pick up threads by hand to form the pattern sheds. He is also doing Andean Pebble Weave patterns.

I like that a backstrap loom can be rolled up and taken almost anywhere. Sometimes you have to get creative when it comes to anchoring the far end of the warp. Here’s my friend Anne weaving at one of her husband’s classic British car events…

Mary’s cat, Gator, watches over her weaving spot. I wove with Mary and other Big Hill friends again this year and was excited to have Stephenie Gaustad don a backstrap and join us as well.

This Big Hill turkey put on a show for me…

On this US trip I have been weaving with friends in Alabama, Georgia, Pennsylvania and California. In Grass Valley I was thrilled to hear that the Nevada County Fair has agreed to create a category just for backstrap weaving at the annual fair. How cool is that?! I bet this is the first county in the USA to do so. My Grass Valley weaving friends have regular study group get-togethers and are making wonderful things. There are plans to enter several things in this year’s fair. Janet came to weave with us. She is the one who said she feels like a ”shed whisperer” now that she knows how to move her body to operate her backstrap loom smoothly. That has to be one of my favorite dvd compliments.

Here’s the ukulele strap that Wendy wove…

The hardware is from my friend Annie’s etsy store.

Karen is new to the group and is happiest down on the floor doing Andean Pebble Weave. Becky, also a new-comer, is getting on just fine with her Andean Pebble Weave…

Jane refreshed her double weave technique during my visit…

Here’s the hatband that Diane made for her fisherman husband’s hat. These patterns aren’t in my books but will appear in my new Andean Pebble Weave pattern book!

Diane is also decorating some of the handwoven cloth made by my Bolivian weaving friends and turning it into a cute pouch. She has added tubular bands to the sides and coil stitches to the flap.

My friend Collyer in Arizona has been doing the same on a larger piece. Her tubular edging band is also the strap…

Phoenix is another place where my weaving friends gather regularly for backstrap weaving study groups. They often meet in small restaurants where they can clamp to tables while inadvertently entertaining and educating other restaurant patrons. Christine and Louise told me that the little girl in this picture was fascinated by what they all were doing.

Here is a band of happy band weavers in Pennsylvania. We got together for just a few hours one afternoon and got a taste of backstrap weaving and got some pick-up bands underway. I hope they are motivated to continue. Maybe we will be able to spend more time together on another visit.

They can always check out my free warping video here on the blog for further instruction and watch my Operating a Backstrap Loom dvd for a refresher on how to use the loom.

Rose sent me a picture of her band that she continued weaving at home…nice work! She is looking very relaxed!

Online weaving friend, Amy, has been teaching her 11 and 14-year old children to weave on a backstrap loom. Here you can see some young hands skillfully handling the weft to create neat selvedges…

While in Pennsylvania, I got to visit Red Stone Glen Fiber Arts Center in gorgeous spring weather. This is Sara Bixler’s new place where she and Tom Knisely teach.My friend, Norma, came over from the U.K to weave with us there. I had stayed with her on a visit to the U.K back in 2012. Red Stone Glen is simply gorgeous! It is strange sitting on the patio there looking at the river going by…the very same one that flows past the Mannings beside which I had sat and woven. It brings back sweet memories of the Mannings.

Peeking in at Norma weaving in one of the studios at Red Stone Glen.

Then it was over the mountains to California where things were less than spring-like but I have to say that it was glorious flying in and seeing how green everything was after all the rain. Who knew I would be donning my down vest in California after sitting in a t-shirt on the patio in Pennsylvania? We drove from the airport past cow-dotted green fields backed by blue hills… moist and rich…it was heavenly. The Sierras had record snow levels this year. The rain stopped and the sun gave us the most spectacular day to go snow- shoeing! I had never done this before even after all  the years I had spent in the snow living and working in ski resorts. It was amazing being in the snow and in the mountains again and connecting with something that had been such a big part of my life for many years. Many thanks to Peter and Diane who took me there.

I spent some rainy days indoors winding dozens of warps for my next trip to Australia…

Diane gave me this beautiful olive wood sword that she had made. I used one of Diane’s exotic bocote wood swords in my dvd.

And now I find myself with Marilyn and Rainer in the home office of Taproot Video. Have a whole five months really gone by since I was here making the video last year?!We got some backstrap weaving friends together and decorated some beautiful handwoven fabric from Bolivia with tubular bands and sewn embellishments…

It has been fun being here with them just as a customer in Germany was clicking on the website and ordering my dvd. It is interesting seeing the whole process in the dvd ”warehouse”…a wee corner in the basement… where Marilyn prepares the dvds to take to the post office. Marilyn tells me that several other instructors are lined up making videos for inclusion on the Taproot Video website.I need to start thinking hard about what I want my next one to be!

So, that is basically what I have been up to this last month. There are so many more details to share but so little time to do so while I hop from place to place visiting my weaving friends. If you buy my dvd while I am here, maybe I can sign it for you 🙂








Posted by: lavernewaddington | March 16, 2017

Backstrap Weaving -Twisting, Coiling and Rolling

There is no single correct way to do things when it comes to backstrap weaving. I love seeing the similarities and differences in the ways weavers wind warps, set up their looms and  operate them as well as the differences in the materials that they use…from pvc pipe to rebar to bone and worn wooden pieces that have been passed down from one generation to the next. Backstraps can be made from braided straw, plastic rice sacks, leather or woven wool and cotton. Warps can be angled upwards ever so slightly or steeply. Heddles can be applied during warping or after. I love the different shapes of tools and materials that I have in my collection. It is not really a ”collection” accumulated simply for the sake of collecting. I have used all these pieces at some time or other and continue to do so. You can see a leather backstrap from Guatemala, a bone sword and pick-up tool from Peru, loom beams from Burma, Guatemala and Peru and a sword from Ecuador…all sitting on a Bolivian weaving.

The thing I want to talk abut in this post is the corrugation or ridging that can occur when weaving a cotton piece in plain weave and the different ways I have found to deal with it. I have covered this in several posts as I struggled to figure out what was causing it and then found out how to prevent it from happening. I now use a coil rod if I am doing plain weave with a material that has little, if any, stretch or ”give”, like cotton or silk, for example. Probably the worst case of corrugation I have ever produced is out there for everyone to see in my tutorial on supplementary weft patterning…

You can see that the surface of the weaving is not flat and smooth . It looks a lot like corrugated cardboard…bump, flat, bump, flat, bump, flat. I finally figured out that when my warp passed around and was suspended by a large dowel at the far end, the entire warp was free to swivel back and forth around the dowel as I made the movements to operate the loom. This is what was causing that bump to form and it was just a matter of somehow stopping that swiveling from happening.

The corrugation only shows up when I do plain weave. Warp-float structures do not suffer from these annoying bumps.

You might be able to make out the difference in these two bands. The one on the left has a nice smooth surface while the one on the right is corrugated.

I had been given the know-how to combat the corrugation by my various indigenous weaving teachers without even being aware of it. One of the few places where I have studied plain weave in cotton with backstrap weavers was in Guatemala. There, my weaving teachers would weave an inch or so at one end of the loom and then turn the loom around and weave from the other end. The weaving at the far end of the loom locked the two layers of warp together so that the threads could not swivel back and forth as the weaver operated the loom…result: nice smooth cotton corrugation.

The picture below of my teacher is too small to show detail but you will notice that the warp layers at the far end of the loom are squeezed together right at the loom bar rather than being open as they pass around the beam. That is because an inch or so has already been woven at that far end.

So, anything that locks the layers of warp threads together rather than allowing them to be open and swiveling freely around the loom bars will work as a way to prevent corrugation.

Lashing the warp to the near and far beams is another way to lock the layers together…

This weaver in Peru is lashing her alpaca warp to the square loom beam. A header weft was placed within the open shed and then lashed to the beam. The primary reason for doing this is to allow her woven piece to have four selvedges. But, this technique would also stop a cotton piece from developing corrugation. You can see a very nice video of the lashing process here.

Here, my weaving teacher in Potosi, Bolivia is lashing one end of the warp we just wound to the beam…

My cotton warp in the following picture is lashed to the beam at both ends by way of a metal rod rather than a header weft. This is the way I choose to do it and it gives me nice smooth plain-weave cloth without ridges…

The red cotton cloth beneath the white sample was also woven on my backstrap loom. It’s plain-weave cotton and is smooth because I used a coil rod.

Some weavers turn their warp ends around a header weft as they wind the warp rather than inserting it later when the warp is off the warping stakes. It is always exciting to see the different ways backstrap weavers do things…

Of the three methods for locking the warp layers together that I have learned so far…1. weaving at both ends of the warp 2. lashing both ends of the warp to the beams and 3. inserting a coil rod…..the coil rod is my favorite. I am not quite sure why I favor this one. I think it might be because I like to take my warp off the warping stakes and then sit, set up and weave. I can sit and make my heddles, insert the coil rod and weave. I don’t need to be turning the loom around to lash both ends or turning the loom around and rearranging the sheds so I can weave at both ends. I want to just sit and stay put! I feel that the less I handle the loom in terms of moving it around and about, the better.

But, as always, it is nice to have a set of options from which to choose.

There’s nothing I like better than being seated in front of my warp with heddles, shed rod and coil rod in place, ready to throw that first weft! This is a warp of fine Guatemalan cotton that I wove in plain weave with supplementary weft patterns.

A coil rod has kept all my silk plain-weave projects just as they should be…”smooth as silk”!

Even though this next project was in wool, I inserted a coil rod. Sometimes, I just like to use one as I like the way it maintains the width of the warp beyond the shed rod.

My Montagnard (Vietnamese hilltribe) backstrap weaving teacher uses circular warps and inserts the coil rod as she winds her warp. This is the colorful fine cotton warp she created with coil rod in place when she was teaching me how to do this…

This next picture is probably one of my all-time favorite backstrap weaving images and I am showing it here courtesy of Jaina Mishra…

Weavers in Arunachal Pradesh use the traditional back strap loom to weave  skirts, shawls and loin cloths.

A backstrap weaver is warping directly onto her loom with the help of a friend. It looks to me like a single-plane rather than circular warp and the fun part is that they are installing the coil rod as they go. This would be ultimate for me who likes to sit at the loom and do everything in one go! They are making heddles installing the shed rod and coil rod all at once! I love the backstrap she is using for those very long beams…see the pockets that slip over the ends of the beams? There is so much to love about this picture! The weaver can start weaving straight away without ever having to move.

What I have finally done, for those of you who think that you might like to try using a coil rod yourselves, is make a couple of videos showing you how I go about inserting one. I am afraid that we are back to the bedroom-floor amateur videos of my past with these ones! but I am sure that you will see all you need to know.

What I usually do is sit in my loom and make my string heddles. Then I decide if I am going to use a loop or shed rod/s for the other shed and get that set up. I leave the cross sticks in place and then insert the coil rod. It’s something I enjoy doing…just like I enjoy making string heddles. I am a little crazy that way!  You can see Sara, above, inserting  the coil rod in her beautiful silk plain-weave warp. She has made her heddles and is using a shed rod with a second cross stick….the so-called ”twisty sticks” that I talk about in my dvd.

So here are the two videos. I had to make two segments for ease of uploading.


Now you will know why the coil rod is often also referred to in publications as the ”rolling stick”. I like the way it can sort of iron out small tension differences as it is being rolled to the back of the warp. I use wood rather than metal as I like the grip of the wood as opposed to smooth metal.

And, if you really would like to set up the coil rod as you wind your warp rather than after, I am sure that you will be able to see how to do that now that you know exactly how the threads turn around the rod. In past posts about the coil rod, I have shown how to install one while winding a circular warp.

I am going to finish by showing you a few projects by online weaving friends….

My new Operating a Backstrap Loom dvd traveled over the ocean to Maja in Germany. She was curious about learning new ways to set up a wide warp and has chosen the ”twisty-stick” method from the options I give in the dvd. She has already put it to use on her latest warp and I am thrilled about that. Look at her beautiful project!….

Collyer had woven tubular bands and learned about sewn embellishments with me. We decorate a piece of woven cloth made by my weaving friends in Bolivia. Collyer has applied the coil stitches to the flap of the pouch she put together with the cloth and has added a flat strap which she turned into a tubular edging along the sides….

Julia in Australia designed and wove a bee in the Andean Pebble Weave structure as the logo for her local beekeepers association…so striking!

Carmen sent this picture of the piece she has been working on using motifs from my second book...

Also from my second book is this pattern that David in France used for his gorgeous Andean Pebble Weave band woven on an inkle loom…

For those of you who have my Andean Pebble Weave book and would like some suggestions for how to set it up on an inkle loom, I will be writing about this in a future post. Many weavers, Like David, have figured out a way to do it. I know of several ways it can be done so I can offer you some options.

I love Terri’s very relaxed and cozy backstrap set-up on her son’s bed…

Kathy showed me what she has been doing with the beautiful two-heddle intermesh technique I teach in my second book

Lieve in Belgium has been weaving pictures and words in warp-faced double weave on her inkle loom. Charts for the figures and letters are in my free tutorial here

Jennifer in the USA took a break from Andean Pebble Weave andhas now returned to wind a narrow warp so she can wisely start again at Lesson 1. She is showing the band that she wove with various figures before she took a break to pursue her other fiber activities…you should see her beautiful embroidery! She later said that she got back into pebble weave in no time.

Speaking of Andean Pebble Weave, I finally got the Spanish translation, Tejido Andino ”Pebble” laid out and up for sale on Many thanks to Isabelle Marmasse for the hard work she put into it.

As for my weaving, I guess I am about three-quarters of the way along my silk wrap piece. It is getting quite exciting. It really feels like a good length of cloth now and I can see it working as the shoulder wrap that I have planned. I really can’t wait to wash and iron it. However, the most intensive apart of the patterning is still to come…where I have to repeat the 3-color pebble pick-up that I wove at the start. So, while I might be three-quarters of the way in terms of length, that is probably not true in terms of time.

My dvd on Operating a Backstrap Loom continues to wing its way across the world!

Marilyn at Taproot Video has been keeping track and tells me that Norway and France have been added to the list of countries.

Many thanks to everyone for your support and I have been very happy to receive feedback from a lot of you about the wonderful ”aha” moments you have experienced.

I like to think that people are putting some of the techniques to immediate use just like Maja in Germany has done.

Here’s a sweet way to end this post…

I have another thank-you card that the young ladies in the highlands sent me after my visit. Maxima and I are winding a very colorful warp and there  I am in the corner weaving at the leaning vertical loom…such a lovely souvenir of my visit.












Posted by: lavernewaddington | March 3, 2017

Backstrap Weaving – Connected

Connected! ”Connected Diamonds” is the pattern theme of my latest backstrap weaving. It’s not a new piece. It is the same very long silk warp that I started some time ago on which I am slowly inching along. A couple of days ago I celebrated having reached half way and stopped to figure out what I would weave in the very center.

I charted a set of six interlocked diamonds in Andean Pebble Weave. They remind me of little ballerinas with their arms linked dancing their way across the warp. Today is not the best day lighting-wise for photography and so I will wait for another time to show them to you.

Here is one version of connected diamonds in the first band of patterning right at the start of the piece. This was done using a reversible 3-color Andean Pebble Weave structure.

The motifs on the side are woven using silk supplementary weft. I used a supplementary-weft technique which has the colored weft extending far beyond the limits of the motif, hidden between the layers of warp threads while it travels to the edge of the cloth. There it exits the shed and turns to enter the next shed to create the next row of pattern.

Let me show you quickly how it works…

You get started weaving warp-faced plain-weave cloth. Then you open a shed, beat and pass the weft. Leave the shed open and drop threads to create spaces, or gaps. Your colored supplementary weft will be exposed in these spaces.


Pass the colored supplementary weft in the shed with the spaces. Open the next shed, beat and pass the main weft. Leave the shed open and drop threads according to the next row in your pattern to create spaces, or gaps. Then, pass the colored supplementary-weft. There it is in a nutshell. I have a more detailed free tutorial on this technique here.



Now, continuing with my black silk project…I finished off the section of 3-color patterned Andean Pebble Weave with weft twining. The twining nicely marks the transition from the complex 3-color weave, where 3 colors (gold, brown and red) show all at once, to plain pebble weave. In the plain pebble weave part, colors A and B (gold and brown) show on one face while colors B and C (brown and red) show on the other,silk backstrap weavingHere is some progress on the piece with various versions of connected diamond motifs in pebble weave and supplementary weft.

If you look at the smaller gold motifs in supplementary weft on the right hand side of the picture you might notice a difference in their appearance to the one that sits beside the 3-color pebble weave in the first picture of my piece, above. Now they are outlined by what look like little dots. Here I used a different technique where the weft hides under just a few warp ends at the edges of the motif and then turns on the surface of the cloth to return and complete the next row of pattern. The little dots you see are the weft turns and they follow the contour of the motif.

You can see the two techniques together in this next example…

panels with supplementary weft patternsI used white supplementary weft to weave the motifs in the band of pattern across the bottom of the red sashes. You can see where the white weft exits and enters the sheds at the very edge of the cloth. Can you see the little white dots along the edge? The small flower patterns were woven using the other technique I described where the turns of the supplementary weft outline each motif. See how the little flower heads are surrounded by white dots.

For me, each technique has its charm and its place.

close_up_view_motifs_silk_warpYou can barely see the weft turns in this fine silk piece. They outline the star motifs. In this case, I didn’t want to carry the gold supplementary weft all the way to the edges of the cloth within the shed as I felt the silk piece would be too heavy with all that additional weft thread in each shed.

For me, the outlining technique works best around regular shapes with smooth sides, like triangles and diamonds. I like weaving leaves and curling vines with supplementary weft but those kind of very irregular shapes look much nicer if the weft is carried all the way to the edge of the cloth and turned there.

red and brown cotton panels backstrap weaving

That’s what I did on this piece with its leaf motif. You can see the turns of the white weft along the edge of the cloth.

closing gap discontinuous warp four selvedgeThe regular shapes on this piece work well with the turns of the weft outlining the motifs.

journal cover backstrap weavingBecause the motifs in this piece are irregular in shape, the supplementary weft travels from edge to edge where it exits one shed ready to enter the next. You can probably just make out the dots of weft along the edge. On the small sample band on the right, I didn’t take the supplementary weft all the way to the edge. I stopped just before the edge at the beige vertical stripe and turned the weft there to camouflage the turns within the stripe.

calcha flower design key fobAs I said, each technique has its charm and its place. The dots of the weft turns on the edges of the cloth can sometimes look like beads and look very attractive. However, that technique tends to thicken the cloth as the supplementary weft is sandwiched, along with the main weft, within every shed.

But, there are times when that kind of bulk is exactly what I want; for example, when I am making a bookmark or a key fob with very fine cotton. I like the way the fine cotton allows me to create patterns with a lot of detail in a small space and I also like the way the supplementary weft, which is sandwiched between the warp layers, gives the cloth more substance. The band needs a bit of sturdiness to perform well as a key fob.

If I am weaving a plain-weave piece in fine silk, I don’t want to lose the luscious liquid drape of the cloth by having lots of additional weft stuffed in the sheds. I will choose, in that case, to turn my supplementary weft as close to the motif as possible. This means that I have to think carefully about designing the kind of motif that suits this technique…preferably something regular and smooth-sided.

Almost halfway and ready for the dancing diamonds.

Here I am almost halfway through this silk piece and ready for the dancing diamonds in the center.

The folds in the cloth give glimpses of different parts of the patterns.

The folds in the cloth give glimpses of different parts of the patterns. I used red here and there to tie in with the third color in the 3-color pattern at the start.

trv-logoConnected! I am feeling particularly connected to weaving friends around the world this week as my new dvd starts to arrive in various parts of the USA, Canada, Thailand, Australia, England, Germany and South Africa, Thank you all so much for your support! The dvd or streamed option can be found at Taproot Video. Thank you for the encouraging comments on last week’s post.

I didn’t get to see the actual disc in its nice case as I had to return to Bolivia immediately after filming. I was able to participate in as much editing as was possible in the evenings after filming but I have not yet seen the final cut with my chapter title pictures, music and various other details added.

When I returned to Bolivia, I designed the artwork for the disc and case, took the title pictures and chose the opening, closing and transition music. I sent the artwork off for printing and the music for editing. I love the rhythm of that music! Sometimes I feel my warp is jiggling and dancing along to that rhythm as I weave plain weave….strumming, opening a shed, beating, passing weft… sometimes accompanied by the clacking of sticks. And, you will learn when you watch the video that moving your body is a big part of creating a smooth and rhythmical sequence.

Mary was sweet and sent me a picture of the dvd in its case when it arrived in her home…


I hope you will indulge me as I link to some of the comments I have been receiving.  I really appreciate the efforts people have made to give me feedback.

Videographer, Rainer Romatka, had all angles covered so that you often feel like you are seeing things through my eyes…
I sat right under the tripod and was careful not to move my head forwr=ard or bump the tripod as Rainer captured the ''weaver's view''.

For one sequence, I sat right under the tripod and had to be careful not to move my head forward or bump the tripod as Rainer captured the ”weaver’s view”.

A nice close-up showing how I handle the weft for neat edges in warp-faced weaving.

A nice close-up showing how I handle the weft for neat edges in warp-faced weaving.

Connected! I also felt connected once again to the highland weavers I visited last month as I received some sweet snail mail from them. I posted about that visit to the highlands and the time spent with the weavers here and here.

Veronica, Abi, Nelva, Maxima, Dorinda and Justina made Thank-you cards and sent them along. They are really lovely.

Veronica with her hook pattern band almost finished.

Veronica was very pleased with her progress on the hook pattern band on the first day.

Vero and Abi drawing their Thank You cards in Dorinda's lovely garden

Vero and Abi drawing their Thank-you cards in Dorinda’s lovely garden.

Here are two of the cards posed on a couple of the beautiful woven bands made by some of the weavers I met. Maxima and I are winding a warp together in the drawing on the left and then I am shown weaving on the leaning vertical loom in the other (a blob of dark hair! against the yellow wall). Dorinda is shown drinking tea on the stoop and strolling in her garden….sweet!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI LOVE all the tones of cochineal in this band. This card is from Dorinda and Justina.

These are cards from Nelva and Maxima on more of the beautiful woven cloth.

A closer loom at those stunning natural dye colors…cochabamba-colors

Now I just need to repeat everything I have done so far on the other half of my silk piece. I can’t wait to do the wet finishing and feel it relax and ooze into supple silkiness.

I hope you enjoy the tutorial on supplementary-weft patterning. Many of you will already know it but it might be a nice reminder to give that technique a try.

I will leave you with the drawing 12-year old Nelva sent to me. What fun!. She even drew the patterns on my belt. I am holding the sample band that I wove and left for them.





Posted by: lavernewaddington | February 17, 2017

Backstrap Weaving – Making Movies

I have been making movies!

Last fall I was in the USA and filmed one with Taproot Video founders Marilyn and Rainer Romatka. We had done some trial filming earlier in July but I won’t let anyone see that! I think that probably everyone’s first time in front of a camera is bound to be awful. Of course, you can’t be sitting there grinning the whole time but you don’t want to look like you are suffering with nerves either! I learned a lot with that trial experience and got back in front of the camera feeling much more comfortable last fall. In fact, it was a whole lot of fun.

Putting the finishing touches on the set and lighting the night before filming.

Putting the finishing touches on the set and lighting the night before filming.

When I returned to Bolivia, I was feeling so good about filming that I got together and made a short film with a local videographer. I loved being able to use local Guaraní textiles to decorate the room in which we worked. We hung them on the wall and used them on the table. It gives the movie a nice ”lowland Bolivia” flavor. My best friend was there to help out, documenting the takes, handing me props etc. One of his other tasks was being ”chief mosquito-swatter”…yep that’s lowland Bolivia for you. Without professional studio lighting, it wasn’t the slickest set-up, but I feel that natural light has its own beauty. We had a good time and I am really pleased with the result.

Here's a shot captured from the movie to show those lovely Guarani hangings.

Here’s a shot captured from the movie to show those lovely Guarani hangings. They are woven in cotton with the pebble weave structure. The Guarani weavers only weave star and snake patterns when they use this structure as opposed to their weavings in the Moisy, or intermesh, technique in which they depict trees, flowers, birds, insects, people and plants in all shapes and forms.


The title of the movie we made in Bolivia.

The title of the movie we made in Bolivia.

I have made lots of little instructional videos and placed them on this blog but they have often been ridiculously short and shot in my bedroom in less than ideal conditions. Back in the days when I was using Flickr to host my videos, they had to be limited to just 90 seconds which meant really having to work fast! or splitting tutorials into several segments. Later, when I started using WordPress as the host, I still couldn’t enjoy making long videos because my internet connection simply couldn’t handle uploading large files. I would often leave them uploading all night only to be disappointed to find in the morning that everything had crashed at some point. Fortunately, Syne Mitchell uploaded the heavy videos that appear in the WeaveZine article.

So, I am pleased that this video I made in Bolivia is a luxurious 30 minutes long and has allowed to me include a lot of detail. I have a friend who has a slower but more stable internet connection than I do which made uploading much easier.

In the movie I show two basic and very useful warping methods, one of which is the one that I use for Andean Pebble Weave and other kinds of complementary-warp pick-up structures. I show this technique in my first book as an optional advanced warping technique in the Appendix because, as you can imagine, it is quite difficult to portray something like this in just images and text.

method 2 warping technique

Here’s the video! I am including it in this blog post but its permanent home on this blog is on a separate page here. May I suggest bookmarking the page so you will always be able to easily find it.:-)

As for the movie we made last fall… it’s is called Operating a Backstrap Loom and is the perfect follow-up to the warping movie. You can stream it or buy the dvd.


I made it to address the questions that I am frequently asked online when people are taking their first steps in backstrap weaving…little doubts about uneven heddle length, fluff and fuzz collecting on heddles, sticky sheds, wonky edges, sheds that won’t open, fixing heddle errors, sticks and techniques for wider warps etc…And, I wanted everyone to have one resource that contained all these answers. I show some things that I have never covered on this blog and, best of all, you get to see it all in action. I am so excited to be able to show you all how to use your bodies to operate the loom so you can all be the loom…much more than someone sitting at a piece of equipment.

One of my students told me that when she learned how to use her body to operate the loom she suddenly felt like she had become the ”shed whisperer”. I love that expression! Let’s all be shed whisperers!

Of course, you are all still welcome to write to me any time you like with questions or just to say hi. You know where to find me! In fact, I insist. Show me what you are weaving and tell me how it is going, please! (For all of you who have ever rolled your eyes and sighed when I have told you to ”just keep practicing” when you have written to me about uneven heddle length, I have a great tip for you in this movie!.. something that needs to be seen in action :-)).

movie-collageI had this really great experience last year. Mary posted online about having some problems getting set-up for backstrap weaving. The heddles just weren’t working for her. She posted pictures but it was still really hard to see what exactly was going on. I did my best to help, sending her messages with explanations, links to tutorials and diagrams. I wanted so badly to be able to jump through the computer screen and sit beside her and help. I knew that I could have her up and happily weaving in moments.

I found out that she lived in San Jose and suggested we get together as I was going to be there in my travels. A little voice inside was saying…San Jose is a big city! What are the chances of being able to get this together in the brief time you are there? You don’t drive, maybe she works, she probably lives a long way from your friend, imagine the traffic etc etc.

It turned out that she lived within four blocks of the friend with whom I was staying. It was meant to be! I spent some time with her and we sorted out the heddle problem…..

mary making string heddles on a stick

…and then she wove! I was able to show her how to use her body movements to operate the loom and give her some tips for creating even selvedges. There’s Mary, the shed whisperer.

mary and lola weaving a narrow project on the balconyYou have no idea how much I would love to be able to do that with everyone who writes to me with questions. Making this movie is my attempt to sit right next to all of you who need a little guidance.  Of course, many people take my written answers, solve their problem and move on to happy weaving while many just slip comfortably into it and have no questions at all. I have been lucky to have been able to meet many of you who have supported me and my blog over these years in my travels. It’s always wonderful to see what you have been quietly creating at home on your backstrap looms.

backstrap weaving friends


The movie is available for streaming or as a dvd from Taproot Video.

You can watch a short preview here.

As for Taproot Video…working with founders Marilyn and Rainer Romatka was a wonderful experience. Rainer, who was behind the camera, has a keen eye for detail and came up with so many interesting ideas and suggestions.


15171207_931325007012493_3493847461194729753_nMarilyn is the most resourceful person I have ever met. I started calling her ”MacGyver Marilyn”. She wore many hats… in charge of audio, clap board, continuity, set re-arrangement etc. She and Rainer are an amazing team. She also managed to take these pictures during the filming and her suggestions during editing were invaluable.

Marilyn has her own set of folkart classes on the site including the extremely popular Bow Loom Weaving class that she taught at BRAIDS last year.Marilyn Romatka bow loom weavingtr_logo152Kris Leet has classes on  tablet weaving techniques and Linda Hendrickson teaches ply-split braiding techniques. Joan Ruane has two movies on cotton spinning. She was my roommate at the Mannings a few years ago and it is nice to be sharing space with her in the new Taproot Video  community.

In the meantime, between some fun writing projects, I have been at my loom very slowly moving along with my silk weaving. It is funny how this slower-than-usual pace with the more complicated three-color pick-up can soon start to feel ”normal”.

I might be  1/6 of the way along now.

backstrap weaving silk wrap

I do hope you enjoy my free warping video and hope that you will consider following it up with Operating a Backstrap Loom.

Thank you so much for all your support. I am really excited about and pleased with these movie projects. It’s been a long time since I released my last book and it feels good to have something new out there I am happy to have jumped over the nervous hump of filming! There will surely be more movies to come (and books).

On the set for Basic Warping for Backstrap Looms

On the set of Basic Warping for Backstrap Looms.











Posted by: lavernewaddington | February 10, 2017

Backstrap Weaving – Highland Fling Part 2

Here’s Part 2 of my post about my recent trip to the Bolivian highlands. Read Part 1 here.

Huancarani! Whenever I have written about Huancarani on this blog and about Dorinda, her PAZA organization and the weavers in central Bolivia I have always had to go to Dorinda’s web page and check how to spell, and therefore pronounce, the name of this tiny highland settlement. It just wouldn’t stick. Quite often I would leave out the first letter ”n”. Now I have actually been there and spent an entire day weaving with all the ladies whose names had become so familiar to me. When I order woven bands from the group, the orders arrive with each piece labeled naming its weaver and Dorinda would send me a document with little stories about each one of them. I have often shared those stories on this blog. It was delightful to be able to meet the weavers and shake their hands at last. I know I will never forget how to spell Huancarani ever again. The community and the day I spent there have now become a very special part of my weaving experience.
group-photo-huancaraniHere’s a mini group photo taken at the end of the day taken in the same beautiful spot that Dorinda has shown on her website and which I had so often admired…so green and with those lovely hills in the background.

Unfortunately, a few of the weavers had gone home at this stage. Narciza, in the center with the blue skirt and spindle,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA had grabbed my attention right at the end of the day to have me help her weave a new pattern. Everyone was waiting to get together for the group photo but Narciza kept pleading ”unita mas!” (one more!)…that is, one more row of pattern, as she was so determined to weave a full repeat so that she could carry on and copy it on her own later. I totally get that kind of focus and obsession and was happy to oblige. Her joy at learning the new pattern was infectious. However, many of the weavers simply had to head home. There were animals to round up and herd, families to attend to and meals to be prepared. Special arrangements had been made by many to have a day off from chores to spend a whole day out on the ”green” outside the church to spin, weave, chat and have lunch together.

After the group photo, we separated and Dorinda, Maxima and I headed back to town an hour away. My hand was firmly shaken, I was given gifts of food and I was even hugged by some of the ladies. Maxima expressed surprise at that as it is not generally their custom to hug. I take orders from my backstrap weaving students for the bands that these ladies weave and they were expressing their appreciation for this much needed source of income. May I pass on their gratitude to all my students who have placed orders. Thank you!

examining a woven sample to copyAfter lunch, Narciza and Felicidad had wound a warp of 56 ends (that’s a whole lot of ends to be holding on just fingers!) determined to copy a pattern on one of the bands that I had brought to show. It just happened to be the pattern I was weaving on the backstrap loom that I had brought to demonstrate to the ladies. Narciza spotted the motif first thing in the morning, asked me for the thread count and set to work after lunch. In the morning she had learned a simpler pattern with me.

narciza and felicidadYou might be able to make out my sample band sitting on the Felicidad’s skirt. Narciza and Felicidad were puzzling it out together with the suggestions of others peering over their shoulders from time to time. However, time was running out and so I was called over to help before I could take back my sample and leave. I talked her through one repeat but I ended up leaving the sample with her in any case after having had my arm very tightly twisted!


narcizas new patternThere’s the pattern taking shape. Some of you might recognize it from my second book. Narciza has enough information now to be able to continue weaving this motif.

It was an action-packed day with lots and lots of weaving going on. There hadn’t been any kind of plan for the visit, as far I had known. I was simply being taken to Huancarani so the weavers could meet me and Dorinda thought that they might like to see my backstrap loom and some of my weaving. The ladies had offered to provide lunch. Apparently I was known as ”La Laverna”…the lady who gave them orders for weavings from time to time.  Maxima had wisely thrown all the cones of cotton that Dorinda had back at the house into her bag and brought them along. She must have known that everyone would want to weave and would most likely not have thought to bring any of their hand spun yarn. They had, of course, all brought their spindles!

They enjoyed looking at my samples.  Maxima, who is currently working on a wide piece on her leaning vertical loom with strips of double weave patterning, enjoyed looking at my double weave sample and picked out bird motifs that she would like to copy.

the small group first thing in the morningThe ladies arrived in a slow trickle, one by one. I set up my backstrap loom while Maxima took out the cotton and started winding a warp. I had taught Maxima one new pattern the day before and Adviana another. Maxima wanted me to teach her the pattern I had taught to Adviana and I was happy to do so. However, once the brightly colored cotton was out, everyone wanted to try some and there was a frenzy of activity as warps were prepared on fingers and toes everywhere I looked!

casimira warpingWho needs warping stakes when an index finer and big toe do nicely?

teaching momentI love this wonderful teaching moment as one of the elders starts a warp for one of the younger ladies. Dorinda told me that she had never seen this young lady before and that she was not part of the weaving co-op. She has high hopes that she may now join. I sat with her and got her started on a pattern and got the impression that she was not an experienced weaver. She was having a difficult time working the sheds and asked for my help. Who knows…this may have been her first time actually weaving although she would have been exposed to it all her life..

weaving generationsI love seeing the various generations represented in this picture. The older lady isn’t wearing a hat as she had insisted on my wearing it. I was out in the sun with the first group of ladies to arrive while she very wisely sat in the shade.

I took my very first selfie so I could see how I looked in that hat. I like it!

selfie with hatEveryone wound a warp with the same number of ends as Maxima had and they all wanted to learn the same pattern! How was I to manage that? There was only one tiny sample in fine 20/2 wool to pass around and one pattern repeat was 25 picks! There wasn’t enough time for me to weave samples right there and then so that small groups could each have one to examine.

eulalia figuring out the patternI asked Dorinda to copy the pattern chart I had made for Maxima. After working with one of the younger ladies, I could see that the youngsters quickly understood the chart and were able to weave on their own after I demonstrated just 4 or 5 rows. They still pleaded with me for ”unita mas!” but I left them to weave on with the chart and they got on just fine. Of course, the more experienced weavers would be able to sit, figure out and copy a woven sample with few, if any, problems but we only had one such sample to pass around. Above, you can see Eulalia. This lady blew my mind. I don’t know how many times she caught a glimpse of the tiny sample as it was being passed around but she sat and started weaving an almost perfect copy of it.

She soon gathered a fan club and I was the biggest admirer of all!

copying the patternYou can see Maxima in the center starting a warp for the lady seated next to her with pattern chart in hand. Narciza in the foreground has her own chart and is on her way. Narciza is a real ”go-getter”. I enjoyed meeting her a lot. And, that’s Eulalia in the background with her fan club. People learn in so many different ways. Of course, pattern charts are completely unknown and foreign to these weavers and it was interesting to see how eagerly the younger women took to them. If I had known that the ladies were going to be so keen and determined to use our time together to learn new motifs, I would have brought a dozen samples in heavy yarn for them to copy. I really hadn’t had any idea of what to expect.

copying the fish motifMy hat companion took my band of fish motifs and set about copying one of them on a band that she had brought with her. My fish are woven in heavy cotton and she could easily see the pattern to copy.

colorful woven bandsSome of the weavers had brought bands on which to work and the widest band had just enough ends to accommodate the fish motif.

maribel and daniel with dorindaIt’s not fair to have favorites but I had mine. ..19-year old Maribel and her toddler, Daniel. Maribel was the first one to arrive and should have had top priority to learn the new pattern. However, she sat by patiently while some of the older ladies got started and then sweetly asked me to teach her. She then took herself off to a quiet spot away from everyone else so she could concentrate and happily wove her band. Dorinda is seated next to her making more pattern charts.

maribels patternAfter lunch, she was happy to sit near one of the older ladies and talk her through the pattern in Quechua. She had me won over!

And, she was excited to be able to copy some of the patterns in my book that require the same number of ends. I think she went home one very happy weaver.

maribel-collecting-patternsMaxima and I were kept really busy helping everyone who wanted to learn. If only we could have taught everyone but there simply wasn’t time. I’ll be better prepared next time. I can’t wait for next time!

max-starting-another-weaver-offMaxima is starting the weaving for one of the ladies while she looks at the chart.

max-helping-another-weaverAnd then the student took over and you can see her pattern emerging. Once she has a full repeat woven, I know that she will be able to continue on her own simply copying what she has already woven.

Lunch was a”pot luck” of rice with chili sauce, potatoes, corn and sheep and goat cheese. Some ladies just kept weaving as everyone wanted their chance to learn.

pot luck highland lunch

lunch breakAfter lunch it was even more fun as it started raining and we had to cram onto the church porch.

church huancarani

weaving on the porch after lunchThere’s Maribel weaving with Daniel between her legs. Dorinda is making yet more charts. Maribel is calling out the pick-up to the lady seated on the other side of Dorinda. There was lots of talk and laughter in Quechua. I loved listening to Maribel call out the moves in Quechua to other weavers. Every now and then I would hear a word in Spanish. As I had suspected, there is no word in Quechua for ”blue”. They use the Spanish ”azul” or ”celeste” for light blue.

weaving-on-the-porchI learned that if you leave the circle someone will quickly wriggle in to take your place!

There were many ladies who simply didn’t manage to spend enough time examining the sample or get one-on-one instruction. They sat and wove anyway, chatted and laughed with their friends. Dorinda said that these ladies never have time to do this kind of thing. Maxima says that in their youth they would go out herding their animals and look for their little friends and neighbors so that they could sit and weave together.

I had to stop every now and then and look around and take it all in. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was be able to spend this day with the weavers doing what we all love. Even just looking at all the different hats in this one tiny settlement was interesting. The one with the woven hatband is especially cool…


admiring-patternsOne lady wove a pretty hook pattern and was happy to show it off to me.

comparing-patternsHer neighbor also admired it and I wonder if it was a new pattern for her. Perhaps she then tried to copy it.

ccopying a neighbors patternThis lady liked the pattern her neighbor said she had just invented and now she is setting out to copy it.

In the late afternoon weavings got put away and spindles came out as everyone prepared to stroll across the ”green” to the fabulous photo spot for the group photo.  Narciza, reluctant to stop weaving, looked at me and said ”unita mas?!” How could I resist?

I told you in my last post that Narciza hitchhiked into town two days later on market day hoping I was still around so that she could learn more. She and her sister Maxima wove together at Dorinda’s place. I had left two woven sample bands with Maxima plus my book and I think they had fun with that. Maxima is showing off her new patterns in this photo that Dorinda sent me but I can’t quite make them out.

narciza-and-max-learning-new-figuresWhen I got back to Santa Cruz, I wrote emails to some my backstrap weaving friends and was able to deliver a new order of bands to Dorinda for the ladies.

bands paza

Here they are warping for the very first one.The weavers from Huancarani come into town on Sundays to bring their produce to market. They often go to Dorinda’s place for tea and cake (Dorinda loves to bake!) before returning to Huancarani. They ask if there are any orders. She had good news for them last Sunday.


The area is so green and pretty now that the rains have come. Every night during my stay there was a downpour at around 4am. We would wake up to clean sparkling freshness and the delicious aromas of Dorinda’s lovely garden.


And, finally, a picture of dear Dorinda walking me to the bus stop on the day I left. I did try to take a selfie of the two of us in Huancarani but I apparently need more practice with selfies. Dorinda has worked so hard with the weavers over the years and has lots of stories to tell of the ups and downs during the establishment and development of the weaving co-op, the handcraft club, the girls club and her relationship with the weavers. There is plenty to read on her PAZA Bolivia website and an opportunity to donate if you would like to help.

















Posted by: lavernewaddington | January 27, 2017

Backstrap Weaving – Highland Fling Part 1

I am back from the highlands. I know I have told you in past posts about how wonderful it is when I receive my box of woven bands from the co-operative of weavers high in the mountains of Cochabamba. Each year they supply me with beautiful bands woven with their hand spun wool which is dyed with local plants and cochineal.

cochabamba bandsThe box would arrive filled with the colors and aromas of the highlands which would then fill me with a longing to return to the places where my various highland weaving teachers live. This year, I managed to find time to give in to that yearning. I went up to the highlands, at Dorinda’s kind invitation, to collect my order in person and meet the weavers whose names have become so familiar to me over these years. Each band in the boxes I received would be labeled with the weaver’s name and I soon started to be able to recognize the characteristic style of certain weavers in the way they arranged their colors.



It was easy to see when a new weaver had joined the co-operative and was weaving bands for my orders. Her style would be just that little bit different to what I had become used to seeing.

Here is the latest order laid out in Dorinda’s yard in the highlands. Dorinda has been working for many years with the weavers helping them to recover lost natural dyeing techniques, encouraging youngsters to learn, helping them to design products that are attractive to foreign markets and to manage orders and accounting. I use these bands in my workshops when I teach tubular bands and finishing techniques and these workshops often generate more sales for the weavers. My students are always more than happy to buy more cloth for making pouches and practicing the finishing techniques they have learned. The fact that their purchases help support the weavers is an added bonus.

latest order of bands

max-and-me-with-bandsThere I am with my teacher and friend Maxima who is the head of the association of weavers. Maxima and I first met at the first Tinkuy in Peru. She, Dorinda and I were roommates. I got together  with her another time when she came into the city of Cochabamba and gave me some weaving lessons.

On this trip, Maxima and I spent three amazing days together hanging out and weaving. She normally teaches me but, on this trip I got to watch her teach three teenagers from the town and I also got take on the role of teacher and show her some new patterns. It was a blast. Dorinda and I spent 4 days together as we had met and traveled up from Cochabamba together on the bus. We left at 5am  for the 7-hour trip and wound our way up from the valley floor to skirt the mountain tops on dirt roads up and over 14,000-foot passes to then descended to the lovely town of Independencia at 8,000 feet. It was a wet and muddy trip and we were delayed 2 1/2 hours when a truck that had gone off the road had to be winched out.wet trip to IndependenciaClouds spilled over the mountain tops and mist crept upwards from the valleys. There was not much that could be seen through all that on the way there but I was blessed with beautiful weather and gorgeous views on the way back. On the return journey, we stopped for llama crossings rather than fallen trucks.

llama crossing

road to independencia
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe passed by tiny settlements and people flagged us down and joined us along the way…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIndependencia is a lovely little town…one of those places with an altitude that allows it to enjoy eternal spring-like temperatures. Rainy season downpours in the very early morning hours left everything clean and fresh by sunrise. The hillsides were green and lush.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere, it’s Sunday morning, 6:30am and the market is in full swing with ladies already making their slow way home up the steep cobbled street with their purchases.

Dorinda and I plodded up the hill to her home from the bus stop. I had my luggage and the altitude to deal with while Dorinda had all her purchases from her monthly visit to the city of Cochabamba. We stopped a few times along the way!  That was some hill. I spent the first afternoon exploring her extensive garden, getting acquainted with the 11 cats that reside there (they belong to her landlady) and  investigating her workshop areas and store rooms of yarn, sewing machines, looms and art supplies.

The workshop room had this wonderful poster that Dorinda had created which records the natural dye plants the co-op has been using and the various tones that have resulted from the use of different mordants…

natural dye colors of Cochabamba highlands

These lovely hand woven pillow covers were on my bed, a woven rug was on the floor and large hangings adorned the walls.
woven pillows with handsun wool and natural dyes colorsOutside my bedroom window, pieces of the leaning vertical looms that are typically used in this area were standing against the wall. I got such a rush seeing those… I was going to be with weavers soon…I couldn’t wait!

leaning vertical loom pieces Bolivia

The first day was ”Club Day” and three of Maxima’s teen-aged students who are members of the ”Club de Chicas”came to learn to weave patterns on bands. Of course, the tendency these days is for youngsters not to learn to weave at all as all eyes look to the large towns and cities for higher education and work. Many men in the community associate weaving with poverty and do not want their wives and daughters involved with that. It is wonderful that Nelva, Abigail and Veronica had decided that weaving was precisely what they wanted to do during their summer school holidays.

first weaving lessonFirst, the youngest, Nelva, was set-up to learn the ”linquito” pattern. Maxima would call out the color sequence to her as she picked up the threads to form the pattern. Then Maxima wove a new pattern and called out the color sequence to Veronica and Abigail row by row. They wrote it all down in their notebooks….two black, four white etc. This was Veronica and Abigail’s second band and they already know very well how to create sheds, form the picking crosses and select the threads. Weavers in this area use a technique where they form a cross, called the picking cross, using two fingers of one hand. They then select threads from this cross with their other hand to form their motifs. There are no sticks or swords or beaters involved.

learning to weave BoliviaThe girls helped me write the words for numbers and colors in Quechua in my notebook even though they preferred to note everything down in Spanish. I remembered the words from the time I had spent in Potosí with my weaving teachers. Remembering those Quechua words came in very handy the next day when I went out to one of the outlying communities to weave with the ladies there.

With notebooks on knees and heads down, Veronica and Abigail settled down to weave and the race was on. I sensed a healthy competitiveness between them. They were very methodical and never lost their way in the instructions. We hardly heard a peep from them for the rest of the day!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANelva’s ”linquito” pattern was coming along but her younger age and, perhaps the lack of a competitor, showed when she got easily distracted and often lost her way. Maxima was there to set her back on the right path.


Once the girls were up and running, I showed my backstrap loom and some woven samples I had brought to Maxima, Antonia (who also weaves bands for my orders) and Adviana. Adviana, now 21, had learned to weave at age 16 in the Club de Chicas. I think they all politely watched my backstrap loom demonstration but what really got them excited was not the loom, but, rather, the pattern I was weaving along with those on the samples I had brought.demonstrating-my-backstrap-loom They liked the softness and smoothness of the cotton I use and the fineness of the wool samples I had. Adviana immediately wanted to learn a new pattern for a wrist cuff after seeing mine. Maxima chose a wider and more complicated pattern.We stopped and went our ways for lunch and Maxima returned with spindle in hand adding twist to some of her hand spun wool so that she could learn the new patterns.

max adding twist to her yarnWhen it was clear that adding twist to the three colors she needed was going to take too long, she went into the store room and brought out a bag of cones of perle cotton. I was surprised to see that. These had been donated by Cotton Clouds one time when Dorinda was in the USA at a WARP conference. No one had put them to use until now. There was a certain sense of urgency. Maxima knew that I had only a few days there and she wanted to learn everything she could in that time.

Adviana wound a warp for the wrist cuff and the new pattern she wanted to learn.adviana winding a warpNo need for warping stakes. You just throw off a shoe and wind around your index finger and big toe. I love it!

I explained to Maxima that her pattern was much wider and that it would be very difficult for her to hold all those threads on two fingers.She would need to set this up on her leaning loom. I figured she would relent and decide to learn a narrower pattern instead. But, no, before I knew it, out came the leaning loom pieces and Antonia and Maxima were seated rolling the cones of cotton back and forth to each other creating the warp. Then it was my turn to get excited. I hadn’t expected to get to watch them warping.

Normally, they roll balls of yarn back and forth to each other and years of practice have them smoothly and efficiently launching the balls with just the right amount of force. Rolling the cones was a different story. They simply would not cooperate but things had certainly improved by the time they got almost to the end of rolling and winding.

warping-the-leaning-vertical-loomAdviana finished first and made her heddles and I set about teaching her the new pattern that she liked. Her patience was put to the test when her youngest little boy wanted attention, swinging off her braids and throwing himself on her back at regular intervals.

aadviana weaving her patternI had spent the lunch break drawing out a pattern chart for her. That way I could demonstrate the first few rows, teach her to read and mark the chart and then move on to teach Maxima. There just wasn’t time to weave the full 24-row repeat of the pattern for her to copy and my wool sample was too fine to easily read. She really took to the charts and came two days later and happily sat and copied several pattern charts from my book. You can see her band taking shape above.

I had a hard time convincing Maxima, that, although I set up my backstrap loom very differently to the way she sets up her warps, (I use two sets of string heddles and one permanent picking cross while she uses one set of heddles and two temporary picking crosses), she could still weave the new pattern using her methods. We both weave the same structure but just use different ways to create it.

Because she lost confidence after her first attempts to copy the pattern from my cotton sample, she asked me to set her loom up the way I do and to weave one complete repeat so that she could watch me.

with-max-at-leaning-loomSo, I did. After I had woven one half of the pattern, Maxima took over and finished it off, feeling more confident as she started to recognize familiar shapes.


She then wove another motif almost completely on her own and had just started a third when it was time to stop for the day. She is really motivated to weave a new aguayo, or carrying cloth, with this new motif. I left her my cotton sample which has three other new patterns. You can see Adviana in the background of the above picture, copying pattern charts into her notebook.

max learning a new pattern

max at her loom

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI could just stroll about at this stage with everyone happily engaged at their looms. Abigail and Nelva had gone home but Veronica was determined to finish her band that very day…

Veronica finishing her bandShe was not able to weave with her leg extended any more. She could have just added some string to end of her band to extend it so she could continue weaving with a straight leg. Well, she’s 13 and supple and I don’t think she was experiencing any discomfort sitting like that. She was far too absorbed in finishing the band. My knee and hip ache just looking at her! She didn’t finish that day but showed up two days later to show it off with its ends nicely braided. She said that her grandmother was very proud of her and had shown her how to do the braiding.

Where will this young lady be headed next with her weaving?

vero-with-finished-bandMaxima and Adviana also came over on this day to learn even more patterns. These particular motifs are not unknown in this area and have, in fact, been used by some of the weavers on the bands that I ordered. But, not all the weavers know all the patterns and it seems to be that they are not in the habit of getting together to teach each other motifs once they are adults.

This is the band that Maxima wove with two new patterns that she wanted to learn from me. We continued using cotton as time was short and no one wanted to wait until yarn could spun. Plus, I think they really enjoyed trying out cotton for the first time.

maximas new patterns

That morning I had risen early to wind a warp and weave a narrow band with more tawa chinito, or 4-pair,  samples that I could leave behind for Maxima. I pounded some stakes into the ground for that. You can just see the tip of it next to Maxima’s band above. I can’t wait to see if some of these motifs show up in my next order of bands.

If I wind using four stakes rather than just two, I can eliminate one of the steps in the setting-up process as I can separate my two colors into two sides of the cross as I wind. When you use a finger and toe as your warping stakes you don’t have the opportunity to add two extra ”stakes” in the middle. I don’t live in a place where pounding stakes into the ground is possible and I welcomed this chance to get down and grass-rootsy at ground level.warping

I scouted about the garden and found a stick to break into pieces. Of course one of the resident cats had to come over to inspect the intrusion, approve it, and then claim it as its own.


At lunch time, I went up to Maxima’s place to see the latest piece she has on her leaning loom. It is one of the two panels that she will weave to make the new aguayo that she wants to use at the Tinkuy in Cusco, Peru this November. It has two strips of warp-faced double weave patterning along with two strips of pebble weave. That’s a lot of pick-up! I love feeling the firmness of the cloth which is the mark of a good weaver in these parts. She is using the brightly colored fine synthetic thread that is sold in the market and I was surprised to see the Cotton Clouds cotton being used for the heddles. She likes the way it behaves.

maxima's doubke weave and pebble weave aguayo

That evening, I discovered a supply of dyed hand spun wool in the store room that belongs to the co-op. This is sold to the weavers who have run out of certain colors and who would like to weave for one of the orders.  Generally, each weaver has a stash of yarn that they take away from the communal dyeing days. Maxima allowed me to buy some and I am keen to weave something. I have woven with this tightly twisted yarn before but, this time, I would like to experiment with it by taking out some of the twist.

natural dye hand spun wool Cochabamba

I have described our activities over two of the three days that I spent up in the mountains….the first and the third days. The second day was something else again when Dorinda, Maxima and I traveled about an hour away to the settlement of Huancarani and met with the weavers there for a ”weave-in”. That event will have to wait for my next post. There is so much to tell! Many thanks to Dorinda who supplied some of these pictures.

When not weaving,  I had lovely peaceful times chatting with Dorinda sitting out on her ”stoop”, swapping travel tales, enjoying her garden and her fabulous home cooking. She makes do with so little…no fridge…everything is fresh, and she loves to bake! Morning break on Club Days is spent eating her freshly baked muffins and cookies. She always has something tasty ready for visitors from Huancarani  who come into town on Sundays to sell their produce at the market. We took walks around the town in the evenings, greeting her neighbors and local shopkeepers. Everyone seems to know her by name and they show their warmth in their kind greetings.

I am already making plans for my return. I’ll continue the stories in the next post. Now, to get back to my silk weaving!













Posted by: lavernewaddington | January 10, 2017

Backstrap Weaving – A Highland Holiday

I am heading up to the highlands for a quick visit with Dorinda, my weaving teacher Maxima and other weavers in the co-op. It will be nice to escape the lowland heat and humidity and breathe some mountain air although the mountains are in their rainy season and so there won’t be any lack of moisture. I just hope the bus doesn’t get stuck anywhere along the way.

Dorinda with the weaving group at Huancarani - what a gorgeous area she is working in!

Dorinda with the weaving group at Huacarani – what a gorgeous area she is working in!

So I won’t be around for my Thursday night post. I thought I would give you a quick update today on the long long silk warp that I recently set up.

Here it is off the warping stakes and with coil rod installed….

long silk warp in living room backstrap weaving

Starting to make the continuous string heddles…

making heddles long silk warp backstrap weaving

And now, I have the first bit of heavy-duty pick-up patterning finished. I did a reversible 3-color pebble weave pattern with motifs in supplementary weft on the side. The three colors are brown, gold and red. On this face, the gold separates the brown and red. On the other face, the brown and red end up being adjacent. This gives a much bolder look. I prefer this face which is much more delicate.

silk 3 coloe pebble weave backstrap weavingI am going to simplify the pattern for the body of this piece so I can move along much faster and then I will duplicate this 3-color pebble pattern at the other end. The 3-color pick-up is quite slow but it’s amazing how quickly I got into this new rhythm and pace. It soon started to feel quite ”normal”.

After winding the warp and then sitting at my loom to look all the way down its length, I had experienced quite a few ”What was I thinking?” moments as I contemplated the amount of time it was going to take to weave this project. But now that it is underway and I am pleased with the way it looks, I am calm and content and looking forward to planning each new section. I did some backing up when my color arrangement wasn’t coming out well and un-wove a 1/2” before getting back on track.

I’ll finish this section with some gold weft-twining before moving on.

I took a break from this to weave some small pieces in 3/2 cotton for a project which must remain under wraps for now. After having worked with the 60/2 silk thread, the 3/2 felt like thick sausages in my hands! It was lovely to be able to zoom along on those for a couple of evenings.

So, I’ll have some time away and lots of bus hours to think about what comes next. There certainly won’t be any lack of color inspiration when I get to meet up with Maxima and the other weavers and see what they have been creating lately with all their gorgeous naturally-dyed hand spun wool.

cochabamba bandsI’ll tell you all about it when I get back.




Posted by: lavernewaddington | December 30, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – A Long Time Coming

Some projects take a long time to finish simply because I run out yarn and can’t add the finishing touches. Then I forget to buy the yarn and the piece gets stashed…out of sight, out of mind. This piece which I had on the loom almost 2 years ago has finally been finished. It was just a matter of buying the purple wool that I needed to weave the edging.wool warp backstrap weavingThis was an experiment to see if I could use up some Knit Picks Palette wool that I had in my stash. I wasn’t sure if it would work for warp-faced weaving with its fairly loose twist and I didn’t want to add more twist myself. I found it wove up well with some extra care and precautions and I decided to use it to weave a piece with 4 selvedges. Below, you can see the final stages where the two woven ends are meeting in the middle . Eventually I had to remove the shed rod and needle weave one of the two sheds. Then, the heddles had to go and I needle wove all the remaining sheds. I split the 2-ply yarn by mistake a few times with the needle and the back of the cloth shows evidence of that.

four selvedge wool warp backstrap weaving

A wool plain-weave runner with four selvedges that I decorated with supplemental-weft patterns.

After finally bringing the purple wool home, I could think about the edging. I decided on the kind of tubular edging pattern that I have seen used by weavers in Chahuaytire, Peru.


tubular band of ChahuaytireI was lucky to have been able to watch a weaver at work on one of these bands and bring home an unwoven warp set up for weaving. Talk about long warps!…this one was created to edge one of the large 2-panel carrying cloths.

My wool cloth was not firm enough to support the spiraling tubular band and so I applied it as a flat edging instead. chahuaytire style edgingThere is always the challenge of figuring how to best disguising the start and finish of the edging band and I all I could come up with was to hem a bit of left-over band and sew it over the spot where both ends meet.

tab to disguise start and finishAnd so, this 2-year old project finally sees it completion.

Other projects sit by while I wait for ideas on how best to finish them…sunlight on red panels backstrap weaving

wall ahnging panels connected by weft twining in progress

ikatThese 3 wall hangings in a series I call Plain Tales are off the loom but remain unfinished as I can’t decide how to finish their fringes.

long silk warp at full stretchAnd now, I have just put together a new warp that will take a long long time to finish not only because it is so long, but also because I have planned a heck of a lot of pick-up for it….3-color reversible pebble weave in 60/2 silk.

On top of that, after finishing about a 1/2” of pick-up, I decided that I prefer the reverse. That would not normally matter. Both faces of a double-faced weaving can be enjoyed. The problem is that I also plan some single-face supplementary-weft patterning and so I need to decide now which side will be the ”good” side. I could flip it over and re-position the heddles. There are lots of heddles. It’s a good thing I like making them. Or, I could simply un-weave the 1/2”.

I got rid of a table in my living room which allowed me to stretch out the warp while I got things settled. Something always gets given away when I arrive home from a trip. This time it was the dining table. More room for weaving…you can see where my priorities lie! I installed a coil rod to help keep things organized on the far side of the cross as well as help settle the plain -weave sections.long silk warp backstrap weavingWhile I was there, I thought I may as well install some heddles…making heddles long silk warp backstrap weaving
Then, I rolled up the far end of the warp so I could fit everything into my usual weaving spot in the bedroom. I am still not a big enough fan of circular warps to have taken that route.

At this time two years ago, I was weaving on another black fine warp. This one was in Guatemalan cotton and I used supplementary weft for the patterns. It was a project that experienced its own share of hiccups with multiple more green motif bhutan scarf I put a lot of strain on that poor cotton warp with all the un-weaving and weaving but it forgave me.

bhutan scarf with borderI am just glad that I decided to stop after only 1/2” on this current project. I hope the silk will be as forgiving if I decide to un-weave.

I’ll take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy new year. Thank you for all your support! See you in 2017.









Posted by: lavernewaddington | December 16, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – A long band in a short post

Longer, finer, wider….the challenge continues. This time I certainly went longer. In fact, I think this might be the longest thing I have woven so far on my backstrap loom. It is reasonably fine but it is certainly not wide….. a decorative band to edge my wool lap blanket.

I wanted to finish the lap blanket that I had woven some time ago. I thought that I had been weaving the two wool panels this time last year. I can remember feeling really uncomfortable in the summer heat having the panels on my lap as I sewed them together but, when I took a look back at my blog posts from December last year, it seems that I was actually on a silk binge at that time. That is certainly a much more pleasant material to use in the humid Bolivian summer. The fabric for this little yurt-shaped silk pouch was one of several silk projects I had on the loom last December.

yurt pouch with cuff and necklaceIt is fun to look back at this time of year and remember what  I was weaving… and then be horrified at how fast the year has slipped by. I am sure that I am not alone in that. It certainly was an active one for me travel-wise. There was a little less time spent at the loom and lots of time spent on the road gathering inspiration.

Anyway….back to the long, long band. My edging band needed to be 112”. I wound a warp of 150” length just to make sure that I would be comfortable weaving right to the end of my 112”. I could weave a few inches to spare, just in case, and I would not be rammed up against the far loom bar trying to squeeze those last inches in. I also needed a fairly large working space as I used 7 sets of heddles so that I wouldn’t need to do pick-up.

As much as I love having my hands in among the threads picking patterns, this band was too long and the motif too small and repetitive to make the weaving interesting in my usual slow thread-by-thread style.

edging band backstrap weaving with band lockI rolled up most of the unwoven warp around paper and a couple of beams so that I could fit this long warp in my weaving space. That also meant that I could stay more or less the same distance away from the far beam which I think helps me maintain a consistent tension. I could roll up the woven length of band and, as I did so, unroll a bit more unwoven warp. You can see that I changed to a band lock after a while rather than continue using my long backstrap beam. There was just too much band piling up on the beam and it was getting uncomfortable having that wad of cloth at my belly.

I got that nice long and heavy band lock from the Santa Cruz guild. It had belonged to the late Nora Rogers and it was given to me with one of her many fiber experiments in progress…a sprang Hopi-style sash. I still have the sash and can pop it back into the band lock at any time should I wish to continue with Nora’s sample. I have to admit that I prefer the length of my backstrap beams. I find having the backstrap around my hips sitting on those wide beams very comfortable. It felt a little strange having the ends of my backstrap pulled inward to sit on the ends of the short band lock.

An advantage of the band lock is being able to slide the woven cloth out of the way between the two wooden bars very frequently. I didn’t have to wait until I had woven enough to roll all the way around two beams as I usually do. I could adjust length every inch or so if I wanted to. It makes it seem like you are progressing faster!

big and small band locksIn the picture above, you can see that I have cut off the finished length of the woven band and just left the unwoven warp clamped in the band lock. I figured that I could make a couple of wrist cuffs with the warp that remains. Let’s see if the band lock grips that unwoven warp well enough to enable me to do so.

I am grateful for having this large heavy band lock. I am wondering if Nora Rogers had made this herself. Most of the band locks I have seen for sale are much smaller and lighter. You can see a small one sitting alongside my larger one in the picture above. That one was given to me by Becky and the staff at Vavstuga when I visited.

The last time I was in Cusco, Peru, it was interesting to see a weaver from Chahuaytire using a similar set-up…

chahuaytire backstrap weavingThe woven cloth was clamped and hung free rather than being rolled up around two beams.

My weaving friend Marie showed me how she uses her small band lock with a backstrap…

maries-stuffAnd, you can see in Marianne Planting’s Andean Pebble Weave project below, how the band passes around and between the wooden pieces to be locked off. The pattern she is weaving is in my second book.

marianne planting 1I haven’t become a band lock convert! I will, however, use it for long, long bands. I have another blanket waiting for its edging band and the band for that will need 136” or so of warp….

purple blanket waiting for edging backstrap weavingAs for the long band that I just wove, you probably recognize the colors and remember the blanket for which it was intended…

two wool panels sewn together backstrap weavingAfter washing and ironing the finished edging band, I folded it in half and stuffed the very center part that has the pick-up pattern with wool and sewed that into place so that it looked like a tubular band. Then, I sewed the band to the edge of the blanket by hand. I don’t have a machine and really enjoy hand sewing. What I didn’t enjoy was having the wool against by bare legs in the heat. The corners were tricky.

blanket with edging backstarp weavingHere you can see some details of the finished item.

Before taking on the 136” for the purple blanket, I think I will tackle something a little shorter…

This 4-selvedge wool piece has been sitting around for quite a long time. I finally bought the purple wool that I needed to weave its edging. The edging will be a tubular band that I will weave and sew directly to the edge using the weft as the sewing thread. I think I will use the Chahuaytire-style tubular band. While doing that, I can think about the pattern and structure I want to use for the edging of the larger purple blanket.

I need 82” of woven band for the 4-selvedge piece. I am using the small band lock to lock off the far end of the warp with all the excess warp pooled on the floor. This way I can extend the warp and fit in my weaving space and don’t have to roll up the unwoven warp around paper and dowels. I am finding some cool uses for these band locks!
band lock at far end of warpI have a couple of large and complex projects planned for this summer. They involve wool and silk and dyes and ikat tape and 3-color pebble weave and lots of risks as I venture into some unknown territory!

I guess I am just getting warmed up for them after having been away from the loom for a while. It is nice to be able to finally finish some of these pieces that have been sitting around for some time. I have lots of ideas for more jewelry too…little things that I can weave when I need a break from the big stuff.

I have also been busy at the computer planning the dvd cover and disc design for my backstrap weaving class. Yes, that was what the in-front-of-the camera activity that I mentioned in my last blog post was about. There will be a dvd as well as the ability to stream the class. Until I have a release date for you, I will keep you in suspense! I am in suspense too!

Here is a shot of filming in November that Marilyn Romatka took with videographer Rainer Romatka capturing some nice detail,…


Posted by: lavernewaddington | November 30, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Big Hands, Little Hands

I am back home after two months on the road. Back at my loom…yay. It’s always nice to come home to projects that are set up and ready to go. That’s always a nice way to ease back into things. I had taken two projects with me to weave in free time. I didn’t get a lot done! I think I showed this one with the word ”backstrap” completed before I left and all I got to add while away was the word ”weaving” and a little flower….
backstrap weaving lettering projecttwined words for weaveIt is a band in 60/2 silk that I am weaving to sample letters. I want to weave a strap for a pouch showing the word for ”weave” in different languages.

The last time I attempted such a project, I created the letters in weft twining and I was only able to fit six words onto the strap for my loom bag (at left). I hope I will do better this time.

If you look at the black background in my picture you will see the texture that Bolivian weavers created by using both s and z-twist warp yarn.

Yes, 60/2 silk is some crazy stuff to be handling no matter what size your hands and fingers are. When I am using fine thread like this. I change the way I do my pick-up and set up the warp so that I can use a pick-up stick rather than having to hold threads in my hands. That is the beauty of having worked with backstrap weavers from so many different places. I have a variety of techniques from which to choose according to the kind of yarn I am using or the kind of structure I want to create. I just love getting my fingers in among the threads, but sometimes a smooth pick-up stick works better for me. It is not only about the size of the thread. You might know how silk thread wants to catch on every little imperfection in the skin of your hands and fingers!

silk cuff on loom backstrap weaving

The other project I took on the road was a three-color reversible pebble weave. I am using tapestry wool for that which I bought at the Australian Tapestry Workshop. I had bought the wool for practicing the braid that had I learned with Rodrick Owen at the BRAIDS 2016 conference last July and I thought this wool would be a nice souvenir of my visit to Melbourne. Then I thought….what the heck, let’s try it for band weaving. It doesn’t stand up to warp-faced weaving too well and I am afraid that the off-white thread won’t be lasting  much longer. The green, on the other hand,  has a totally different character and is performing beautifully.

3 color pebble weave backstrap weavingThree-color pebble weave isn’t something I do all that often and so I am weaving this piece to remind myself of the steps as I plan to make something much larger in silk. Of course, a silk sample will have to follow. I can’t wait! I can easily handle these threads with my fingers and I love feeling the wool in my hands. When I make my silk sample, I will come up with another way to handle the threads.

My goal of weaving wider, longer and finer continues…

Talking about hands and fingers and size…

san diego zooMy weaving friends Deanna and Margaret took me to the San Diego Zoo. Yes, you can get this close to the gorillas! It so happens that one of the gorillas’ favorite places to hang out is right up against the public viewing window. I am sure that the window must block sound as the gorillas would otherwise be driven crazy with the constant outpouring of ”ooh and ahs”, and laughter and squeals from the public. There the gorillas were reclining and napping. The bored baby gorilla pounded mom’s belly like a drum as she tried to sleep. I found this gorilla’s hand fascinating.

lily-7-years-old-andean-pebble-weaveFrom there, let’s look at some little hands in among the warp threads.

I got to visit with my weaving friend Lori and her family again on this trip.

Lily, now seven years old, is doing Andean Pebble Weave in the way I was taught by my teachers in Ayacucho, Peru, that is, with two sets of string heddles. She picks up her pattern threads at the cross sticks and knows just how to operate those two sets of string heddles.

It has been fantastic watching her progress over the years. I now have video clips of her weaving at 5, 6 and 7 years old. Such fun!


Take a look at her doing some pick-up and working those heddles!

This is the pattern that she is weaving…

lililys warp backstrap weavingLily is left-handed and was taught by her left-handed mom. Of course, she doesn’t stay put at the loom for too long. A group of us were weaving in a barn on a farm and there was a whole field of beautiful wild flowers outside just asking to be picked. After a few weft picks Lily was skipping off to pick some flowers.

That was such a great weekend out there on the farm! Lori got a group of friends together and we wove. Most people wanted to try their hands at creating wider warps that could be used to weave cloth for a small pouch. They all chose to use the Andean Pebble Weave structure for the patterns.

asymmetric warpI loved the asymmetric warp that Jennifer created. I am such a slave to symmetry so it’s always nice when someone shows me how naturally asymmetry comes to them.

open-field-farmThese beautiful fields in their misty valley greeted us each morning. We had the whole barn that the farm’s co-op uses for selling its produce to ourselves.

barn for backstrap weavingThere were so many interesting possibilities for attaching warps.

barn backstrap weavingweavingOnce the fog lifted, it was glorious outside. Kate brought a warp she had obtained in Guatemala with leno in progress. She wanted to get the hang of  opening the sheds on such a wide piece and was comfortable outdoors enjoying the sunshine and mild temperatures..

Kate with Guatemalan warpHere’s one of those busy tables that I so love. Much of the first morning was spent with rulers and calculators measuring samples, planning colors, picking patterns and figuring the number of warp ends as well as practicing warping…yes, practicing warping…I insisted. And, I think everyone agreed that it was a worthwhile exercise.

busy table for backstrap weaving

lori's backstrap warpLori’s beautiful purple and gold warp just happened to match the dried flower arrangements that were scattered throughout the barn. This piece will become a small pouch.

Making string heddles…

Lori making string heddlesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s her warp set up and ready for weaving. She is setting the width. We calculated how many warp ends were needed using samples and got to within 2/16” of the planned width on all the projects. I was really pleased with that.



karen making backstrap loom sticksKaren had brought sticks from her garden and would just pick one up and cut it to size when she needed a heddle rod or cross stick….love that!

angela weaving backstrapThat’s Angela at work on her pouch fabric….hands in warp threads…love it!

weaving in the barnRose, Cynthia and Sharon are hard at work weaving. The warps were wider than any they had ever made before but not terribly long. They had small pouches in mind and they had enough length of warp to allow them to weave the planned length of fabric without being crammed right up at the end beam trying to weave the last inch or so. I can’t wait to see how these projects turn out. Lori organizes regular gatherings with these ladies so that they can work through problems together or simply enjoy weaving side by side.

Here’s Cynthia’s beautiful warp…

Cynthia's backstrap weaving warp

Back at Lori’s home, we played with ñawi awapa tubular bands…

lori weaving nawi awapaOnward to another group of weaving friends and  another delightfully chaotic table! This is another group that organizes regular backstrap weaving gatherings… this time in Phoenix.

This was a sewing day as we practiced sewn tubular edging bands and other embellishments for finished cloth….

Caroline is weaving and sewing a plain-weave tubular band to the edge of some gorgeous handwoven cloth made by my weaving teacher and friends in Bolivia.

collyer-tubular-bandCollyer decorated one edge of her cloth with coil stitches and also wants to add a ñawi awapa tubular edging to a felted purse that she recently made. You can see the wool warp that she prepared. It matches the felt so well.

I created some excitement when I brought out my double weave samples. I think we will get together and play with double weave next year!

az-and-san-diego-6My friends in San Diego wanted to do just that this year….double weave. Rocio was so pleased when the steps started making sense and her first patterns emerged….

rocio double weaveLook at the nice cushy armchairs some of the group got to sit in and weave! We just about filled Deanna’s living room and sometimes I have no choice but to crawl under the warps to get from one person to the next!

az-and-san-diego-1The weather was gorgeous and we got to chill in Deanna’s gazebo at lunch time…


Deanna double weave backstrap loomDeanna quickly slipped into the rhythm of warp-faced double weave. There are some unusual moves to be made but, once you start understanding the ”why” of it all, the steps become easy to remember.

Meg charting double weaveMeg discovered how easy it is to chart patterns from cloth and took advantage of my sample selection to add to her collection of charted motifs.

Deanna later sent me a picture of her progress. She added an I Ching hexagram to her band…

deanna-with-heartAs always, it was a fun spending time with Deanna. This time we had a little extra time up our sleeves and we went to the Zoo and also to the Mingei Museum in Balboa Park. Balboa Park is an amazing place! The historical buildings from a couple of world expositions in the early 1900s are spectacular. The park is packed with museums, theaters and gardens.

The Botanical Building Balboa Park San Diego

The Botanical Building Balboa Park San Diego

balboa park

spreckels organ pavilionThis building is the Speckels Organ Pavilion. The organ, one of the world’s largest in an outdoor setting, was donated in 1914 and has 5000 pipes ranging in length from a pencil to thirty-two feet! On Sundays, the door rolls up for free concerts. We were lucky in that it seemed that an audition was being conducted and we could enjoy hearing (and feeling!) some moments of music.

At the Mingei I was quite taken with this quirky collection of Japanese dolls made with eggs. This one is clutching a copy of Time magazine. Others held burgers and even a surfboard!…traditional clothes meet modern times, I suppose.

mingeiA visit to my friend Diane in Grass Valley was possible on this visit too. Of course, we wove. Diane invited others and six of us sat together and worked on all kinds of things. That is when I got to weave a bit of my lettering band.

Diane wound a warp for a backstrap with an Andean Pebble Weave pattern from my second book...I hear it has been progressing well since I left. By the way, a new Andean Pebble Weave pattern book is underway!

Diane's backstrap projectShan, Jane, Stephanie and Janet brought pebble weave and double weave bands to work on. That’s Shan’s on the left and Jane’s on the right…fingers and hands in threads and sheds…


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI got to go to the guild meeting where the Jane above, Jane Milner, presented a program on her years studying basket weaving. She placed an extraordinary number of baskets on the display tables…all so different…in shape, material and technique. She included special pieces that she has collected over the years. Each basket had its story. It was a fascinating presentation…

One of the baskets that Jane recently made.

One of the baskets that Jane recently made.

One thing that Jane mentioned during her program which,while being onvious is not something I had previously contemplated....every basket you ever seee was made by hand. No machine has yet been created that can replicate these woven structures. I like thinking about the hands, small and large around the world and throughout history working all kinds of natural materials into these magnificent containers.

One thing that Jane mentioned during her program which, while being obvious, is not something I had previously contemplated….every basket you ever see was made by hand. No machine has yet been created that can replicate these woven structures. I like thinking about the hands, big and little, around the world today and throughout history working all kinds of natural materials into these magnificent and useful pieces of art.

And, guild member Bhakti, whom I had met way back in 2010 at Convergence in New Mexico, turned up with a fabulous Karen backstrap loom to give me! It has a circular warp on it that the Karen weavers had created to teach her how to use a backstrap loom. It uses hefty split beams to sandwich and anchor the cloth. I always end up with terrible problems trying to get everything back to Bolivia in my luggage. But, I didn’t care if I went home without clothes….this loom was going home with me! It had a large piece of pvc pipe as the shed rod. I left that behind and I will replace it with something of my own here at home. I can’t wait to sit down and study the patterning and heddle set up. I love the rice sack backstrap! The warp is extremely long.

Bhakti shared with me a picture of two of the Karen ladies at their looms. It is interesting to see how high up on their bodies they place their backstraps.

bhakti-photo-karen-weaversSo, the loom got packed into one of my bags in among the skeins of 60/2 and 120/2 silk that I got from Red Fish Dyeworks.  The ladies at Red Fish did an amazing job filling an order over which I had been dithering for weeks. Ginny and Mary helped a lot by letting me examine their samples. They even gave me some of their silk. It is so hard to order colors from those you see on a computer screen. I am really excited about the luscious colors. This will be used for one of my big Bolivian summer projects.

I finished my visit in the northwest. I visited friends Elinor and Einar in Skagit Valley. Elinor helped me with some sewing and I helped her with some weaving. A good deal! She is making this striking Andean Pebble Weave belt for her husband for Christmas. This is one of the patterns I adapted from komi knitting for my second book. Oh, did I happen to mention that I am working on a new Andean Pebble Weave pattern book?


But I spent most of the time in Seattle with Marilyn. There’s a lot to tell about that and that will come in another post soon!

It was a very special visit. I will give you a hint… I spent a lot of time in front of a camera while there rather than behind one.

During the visit, Marilyn also took me to a gathering of her tablet weaving group in Seattle. It was nice to see many familiar faces…people with whom I have woven while visiting the area in the past and people I met at the recent BRAIDS 2016 conference.

There was Show and Tell of beautiful tablet-woven bands and discussion of future themes for study. It was an impressive study group that got down to business and achieved a lot in their time together.

By the way, expert tablet-weaver, Kris Leet, wearing the dark top, has been spending some time in front of a camera too…

I’ll tell you all about these ”in-front-of the-camera” happenings in my next post!…It’s pretty exciting stuff 🙂















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