Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 30, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Meanwhile….

I haven’t been at my loom at my large projects for some time but I have been doing some weaving here and there on narrow bands with friends.

Meanwhile, my online weaving friends around the world have been sending me news of progress on their various projects. Not all of them are woven on backstrap looms but they are warp-faced projects using patterning techniques that they have learned via tutorials on my blog.

Adem in Turkey, for example, has been using a vertical loom to weave a poncho for his 1-year old niece. Can you imagine how adorable this will be when finished? It’s a birthday gift for his niece which needs to be ready by July 1st.

Here is one stage of the warping process. He`has already inserted the pattern sticks that he will use to weave a motif….

adem warpingAnd here is the complete warp with the various motifs underway including a large butterfly in the center…

adem poncho (2) A few weeks ago, I posted a video that Adem made showing how he uses pattern sticks to create motifs comprising warp floats on one face of the fabric. I’ll post it again here for you to see….

Another way to go about this would be to enclose the threads held on the pattern sticks within string heddles and this looks like the method Adem has chosen for this poncho.

Further progress…
adem poncho (3)Now Adem has switched to a pattern that I have seen on Central Asian yurt bands and which I teach in this tutorial.If you are thinking that the pattern looks like multiple columns of the Andean tanka ch’oro pattern, you are not mistaken. It is not exactly the same, as the structure used to weave the tanka ch’oro is double faced., that is, there are warp floats on both faces of the fabric. When it is woven, as Adem has done, using the method practiced in Central Asia, the floats are only created on one face.

Four versions of the yurt band border design

Four versions of the yurt band border design with pattern only on one face.

Tanka ch'oro and Andean hook patterns.

Tanka ch’oro and Andean hook patterns which are double faced.

A lighter fabric is created when the floats sit on only one of the two faces.

Meanwhile… Nigeria, Roli has started piecing together some of the finished panels for the traditional cloak that she has been commissioned to weave…

roli pieced cloak (2)She has been weaving panels to create hats, bags and cloaks which form the traditional clothing of people from her husband’s ethnic group in Nigeria. I showed you pictures of her finished cloaks, hats and bags in a previous post. Roli uses a frame  with adjustable tension as her loom. It sits in her lap and leans against a table. She used the instructions in my lettering tutorial to weave the letter O , which I believe represents the name of the person for whom this textile is being woven.

A weaving friend with whom I am currently staying, has an extensive collection of textile books which includes this one…

book on Nigerian textilesI hope to learn some more about the textiles in Roli’s Nigeria.

Meanwhile… in the Netherlands, Gerbelien Cocx-Wilschut has been doodling in plain weave on her inkle loom and creating beautiful original patterns using my warp-faced double weave tutorial.

gerbelien cocx-wilschut

When she sent me the picture, she wrote…

I read all the stuff you wrote down and learned from it. A week ago this was Chinese for me, but thanks to you I understand how to do it and I wrote my own pattern. this is my second band. I like to let you see the whole pattern. Now I am going to repeat it.

Some weeks ago, I wrote a post on Doodling which included a  small tutorial on creating and charting patterns for the double weave structure. Gerbelien’s website shows more of what she has been doing.

Meanwhile….in Taiwan,

hungyingyu taiwanHungyingyu blew me away with this large piece that she wove on backstrap loom and which she patterned with the simple warp-float structure…beautiful!

And while all this has been going on, I have been poring over textile collections, visiting museums and hiking and weaving with friends. After spending a few days weaving with me and other friends, Mary sent me a picture of her finished Andean Pebble Weave band which cleverly includes her initials.

mary seattle

The conversation bounced from South-east Asia to the Middle East and on to South America when long-time online weaving friend Tracy got together with Marilyn- another textile  kindred spirit- and me. What  lovely evenings we had on the floor examining pieces that Tracy had collected while living in Qatar and India…

tracy hudson textile collectionYou can see a couple of amazing Bedouin pieces with motifs woven in the warp substitution structure. I have written a couple of tutorials on the warp substitution structure and the al’ouerjan pattern in particular. The warp substitution structure creates patterns on one face of the cloth with long warp floats on the back. Some of the floats are amazingly long!…

long floats on back of Bedouin textile

If you read through my tutorial, you will see a way to pin down those floats in a tidier way. We saw that weavers in Syria were using this method to possibly make the textiles more appealing to a non-Bedouin clientele. In order to eliminate the floats all together and create a double faced textile, you can add a couple more steps and make the piece a double weave.

Marilyn pulled out pieces that she had collected in her travels through Laos and, as Tracy had spent time there on an internship, there was much to share and discuss and I learned a lot about the intricately patterned Laotian textiles with their incredible combination of supplementary-warp, supplementary-weft and ikat techniques all in the one piece of cloth.

Tracy brought a backstrap weaving she has been working on that is still on the loom. She is using complementary-warp pick-up to create the motifs and the warp s her own handspun wool. She is using wool from Serbia that has a lighter twist as weft. I had seen this piece in the online forums and it was wonderful to be able to touch it.

tracy and marilyn

tracy handspun backstrap

Marilyn’s birthday was celebrated at the top of this…

seattle space needleand a wave of 80+ degree weather was celebrated with a hike in the woods on a neighboring mountain with Marilyn and her husband, Rainer ….

We rewarded all that exercise with a German dish, Kaiserschmarrn, for dinner, prepared by Rainer. My sweet tooth appreciated this…super light pancakes with rum-soaked raisins and a dusting of icing sugar!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUnfortunately, the wave of heat also brought a definite end to the tulip season. Marilyn’s outdoor meal setting looked pretty surrounded by colorful tulips but they were just a little bit past their prime after the hot days…

 We wove ñawi awapa tubular bands. Here’s Tracy’s first one…

tracy nawi awapa

marilyn weaving nawi awapaThat’s Marilyn with her colorful Turkish socks, pretty huipil and Laotian bangle with a patterned tubular band underway on her simple body-tensioned loom.

tracy nawi awapa sewn to clothThis is Tracy’s ñawi awapa woven and sewn to the edge of a piece of Bolivian handwoven cloth and here she is weaving and sewing it…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Stacy folded her cloth into a pouch and decorated it with the tubular band and some cross knit looped stitching….

stacy pouch with nawi awapa

Marilyn had a meeting the next day. Meanwhile, I squeezed in a visit to the Asian Art Museum with its Mood Indigo exhibit…

 I was treated to rooms full of indigo-dyed kimonos…


I especially liked the pieces with Sashiko stitching as my weaving friend, Julia, has lately been adapting traditional Sashiko patterns to weaving using the Andean Pebble Weave structure….


Other rooms held indigo-dyed textiles from around the world. The following pieces are from New Mexico, USA, Guatemala and Nigeria…

international indigo pieces

I liked this fun quote that was displayed on one of the walls:

indigo indigoing indigone

In another group of weaving friends we wove some complementary-warp pick-up bands using one of the classic Andean hook patterns…

andean hook patterns

Ravelry buddy, Cindy, was there. We last wove together in 2013  and she brought along a project that she started back then and which she has, of course, since finished….

She took a piece if handwoven cloth that I had brought with me from Bolivia and made a small zippered pouch. It’s adorable! She has edged it with a ñawi awapa and added tassels along the bottom. The pouch is lined and beautifully finished. The fabric is made from wool yarn that was handspun and naturally dyed by ladies in the Bolivian co-op that my teacher Maxima runs.

Cindy also brought a large pouch that she had found in the USA in some kind of thrift store. What a great find. It has tiny Andean Pebble Weave motifs, tassels and a ñawi awapa edging.

pebble weave pouchShe also showed us some nice mercerized cotton knitting yarn…Scheepjes Catona  she had found that I think would work well in warp-faced weaving. Websites label it as sportweight. It may have a tendency to fluff in inexperienced hands but I think that the softer twist will make bands that have quite a different look to those made with crochet cotton.. It comes in 69 colors in 125m and 62.5m balls.

scheepjes catona

I may not have time to blog regularly as I visit with my friends here in the USA but I have included lots of links to my tutorials in this post. So, meanwhile, as I make my way here and there… can try some of the woven structures I have posted about here and maybe even send me some pictures of what you have been doing.















Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 15, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Gallery

I have had little loom time this week. But, I did spend some time at the warping board and wound the warp for the second purple wool panel. I finished the first a few weeks ago and took a break from such large projects spending time weaving lanyards. That was a lot of fun.

All I need to do is make the string heddles and this project will be ready to go. The patterns are in a supplemental-warp structure which requires two sheds and a lot of pick-up. I feel that the process is easier ”mechanically” than complementary-warp pick-up as there  is greater distance between each pattern warp. Because of this, there is less risk of crossing pattern warps when selecting them and I don’t, therefore, need to set up a picking cross for each row. Not having to open two sheds for every pick to form the picking cross means less abrasion and a much smoother process overall which is particularly helpful when working with wool.

Here’s the first panel in its early days…

start f first purple wool panelThose hook patterns start swimming before your eyes.

I wove until it was as long as the brown panels I recently finished. I want these wool panels to form a set.

And here’s the new warp set up for heddle-making…well, not quite there yet. I realized that the center gold stripe was only half as wide as it should be. You can see it in the picture. I discovered this mistake by looking at this photo rather than at the warp itself. If I hadn’t wanted to take this picture for the blog, I would never had made the comparison. So, back I went to the warping stakes. As far as warping errors go, this was not a bad one.

The rest of my time was spent behind the scenes on my blog, or should I say blogS. Over two years ago, I started another blog which I intended using as a Gallery rather than as a blog to which I would regularly post updates. I haven’t been very good about building it and it has sat unattended for quite some time.

I added a few projects to it this week. They are mostly very recent things, many of which I wove this summer. It has quite a different format to this blog and allows me to post quite large pictures. I hope you will take a moment to go over and look at it. You will find it here.

In the meantime, I have put together a mini gallery of thumbnail images of many of the things I have woven in recent years. I sort of needed to look over my projects and decide what I would like to have on my Gallery page. I am going to try to add things more often.

It is sweet, joyous and sometimes even sad looking back and remembering the people, places and events that influenced and inspired some of the projects and the people I was interacting with online and in person at the times that I wove them.

I look at the black and white guitar strap and think of my ex and and best friend and the music he makes. I see the thistle pattern cell phone pouch and remember my visits with Angela, my Guaraní teacher. The Montagnard patterned pouch makes me think of a special birthday spent many years ago with my friend, Lisa, when we got to weave with Ju Nie. I see the purple double weave pouch that crossed the ocean to live with a fellow weaver in Qatar.  The four-color pebble weave piece is like something from another lifetime when I lived at the southernmost tip of Chile weaving with those Patagonian winds howling outside. And, I remember a dear friend and my old roommate of two years, Teresa, who passed away just last week, when I see the red and white wall hanging that I made for her many years ago..

I will leave you here this week with that collection of thumbnail images….

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Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 8, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Doodling

Doodling….One of the things about the replacement of long lazy phone calls with emails is the loss of doodling time. I could cover pages and pages with doodles while chatting. Maybe I should take up the art of zentangle one of these days.

There are two weaving structures that I use that I like to call ”doodling on plain weave”. Both the warp-faced double weave technique and the supplementary- weft patterning that I know allow a lot of freedom for designing. Both are based on plain weave.

The warp-float structures that I use limit design possibilities to a certain extent because the angle of the diagonal lines that they naturally create are quite often difficult or impossible to smoothly alter. The designer also has to keep an eye on warp-float length. A certain shape might be impossible to reproduce because it would require the inclusion of very long warp-floats. (Having said that, I have seen some nice curvy patterns created by a weaver in Argentina using the Simple Warp Floats Technique with fine thread).

You might call the plain weave curvy wandering lines in my Shipibo-inspired piece ”carefree doodles”…

shipibo inspired wall hanging plain talesThe black-and-white section of this piece is in the warp-faced double weave structure that creates two bonded layers of plain weave.

The supplemental-weft patterning technique that I often use also allows me to create a variety of angles in diagonal lines and produce the impression of fairly smooth curves and meanderings…

supplementary weft pattern on journal coverI have a lot of fun settling down with paper and pencil to chart patterns for these techniques…

charting shipibo patternI use a chart of staggered oval cells…

staggered oval cells

You can find a page of this style of charting paper to download on my FAQ page here.

This is the kind of charting paper that I used to chart figures and letters for the following lanyard project.

This week I have been weaving a lanyard for my nephew who competes in triathlons. I chose the warp-faced double weave structure and 60/2 silk. The silk would give me lots of threads in a small space so that I could create relatively detailed patterns. The double weave structure would give me the freedom to create curve-like shapes for the little athlete figures as well as give me the sturdiness that a lanyard requires. I wanted to weave a favorite inspirational quote of his along with symbols representing a swimmer. cyclist and runner.

double weave warp backstrap weavingAfter weaving a sample last week, I made some changes to the original plans and got down to charting the figures. It was fun. I was relieved, when I finally wove the piece, to find that the althletes’ heads and bicycle wheels actually looked circular rather than egg-shaped.

ryans ltriathlon anyard backstrap weavingI am guessing that some of you have seen my tutorials for these two ”doodling” techniques – warp-faced double weave and supplementary-weft patterning –and are perhaps using them in projects of your own. I figured that even if you haven’t, you may enjoy seeing how the charting process works for me.

I decided to show you how I would go about charting a very simple leaf. While, I can doodle up pages of nonsense, and copy things reasonably well, I am not at all talented at drawing from scratch. So, let’s make this leaf pattern as simple as possible.

leaf outline

There it is…a very basic shape as close to symmetrical as I could manage.

I added some detail in the form of veins but didn’t go overboard!

leaf outline with veins

I then transferred my simple shape to the charting paper…

transferring outline to charting paper

You can probably make out my first erased attempt to transfer the drawing on the left. In the end, I cut out the shape from the drawing paper and traced around it on the chart. Yep, that’s how poor I am at drawing.

Then, it was just a matter of filling in the oval cells that lie closest to my traced outline. You can see my examples on the left of diagonal lines ascending at various angles. These are just a few examples of the way diagonal lines can be depicted on these charts. At this point, it is probably better to put the original drawing out of sight. The charted motif will never look like the original because you simply cannot produce a real curve on this kind of chart. It is best to just work with what you have from here on rather than be continually comparing the charted motif to the original sketch. Once I had one side of the leaf drawn in, I could just fill in the cells to match on the other half.

completed leaf outlineNow to add the details. I sketched in the veins…that was easy. The center vein is a vertical line. I can’t create a true vertical line on this kind of chart. Below, on the left of the leaf, you can see a couple of options for creating what will appear pretty much as vertical lines when woven. I used the thinner one for the vein of my leaf.

vertical linesHere’s the completed leaf…

completed leaf pattern in outlineNow I can dare to bring back the original and see how I like the comparison. I am happy with it. I even managed to squeeze in some extra vein detail.

I decided that I wanted my leaf to be solid rather than simply an outline. If I were to use very fine thread for my weaving, that outline alone would barely show up…

outline transferred to solid shapeSo, I drew it again, filling in the shape and leaving the cells for the veins blank.

Now, this pattern chart is all set to go for warp-faced double weave. I just need to choose my thread and colors and go wind a warp.

However, I realized that I might one day want to use this same charted motif for supplementary-weft patterning. I use the same style of chart for both structures.

possible long floats for supplemental weftThere could be some problems if I decided to use this charted motif for supplementary-weft patterning if I planned to use heavy-ish thread. Horizontal lines on the chart will become weft floats in that technique and those that are indicated by arrows above might be awkwardly long and impractical. It does, of course depend on the weight of yarn you are using for the plain-weave ground. I have had floats that span up to 17 warp threads without any problems when using 60/2 silk, for example, but I have also used heavy cotton on which floats that span more than 6 warp threads are ugly.

So, I decided to alter the chart to eliminate the floats that span more then 6 threads by making the leaf veins a little longer.

adjusted leaf chartNow I have a dual-purpose chart….one that works equally well for both double weave and supplementary-weft patterning. I like two-fers.

Sweet! And, because it is double weave, I can decide if I want to look at the face that has a white leaf on green or the face that has the green leaf on white. I wove the leaf a little to the left so that I could have a staggered line of them veering from left to right and back again. I can even reverse the background and motif color as I go if I want both color options to be seen on one face of the band.

back of leaf design band

backstrap-benefitsOne thing to keep in mind, is that several weavers could work from the same chart yet produce motifs that look quite different. For example, a weaver who has a light beat might produce an oval shape while the weaver with a heavier beat produces a circle working from the same chart. One weaver may tend to have his/her warp threads pushed more closely together than another.

That’s why it is always a good idea to weave a small sample while you are still designing to see if the proportions of the figure you weave match those of the figure on the charting paper. From there you can make adjustments if necessary. That is one of the many great things about backstrap weaving. You can wind the tiniest warp for this kind of sampling, like the one at left, sample quickly and continue charting.

Perhaps you will be encouraged to do some doodling of your own. I look forward to seeing what you create.








Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 1, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Multiple String Heddles in Action

The lanyards are done and packed away ready to be sent off. I made six in the end and really enjoyed the task.

6 lanyards backstrap weaving

With so many structures and techniques at my disposal, it was hard to decide which to use for the sixth. I made another Andean Pebble Weave one. I would have liked to have made one in double weave and another with supplementary weft patterns but the idea was to weave them quickly and Andean Pebble weave was better suited to the use of multiple string heddles. I could still make a fairly complex pattern without having to go overboard with the number of heddles. One day, when I am in less of a hurry, I would like to make a set of lanyards representing each of the structures that I have learned in my twenty years of backstrap weaving.


multiple heddles Andean Pebble weaveThe lanyard on the right is the last I made using a 2-ply crochet cotton that is similar in size to #10. In addition to the two Pebble heddles, this one only needed four sets of string heddles. One shed was repeated within the pattern which made things even more efficient.

I made a short video of myself weaving this last band. The two light green heddles nearest to me hold the threads in the Pebble Sheds. They are alternated with the other four sets of Pattern heddles. I use a Pebble heddle and then a Pattern heddle, a Pebble heddle and a Pattern heddle and so on.

I work one Pebble heddle against the other as an aid to opening a clean shed. The idea of the video is just to show you the use of multiple heddles and what that involves. There is a constant process of straightening and moving the heddles so that the sheds furthest from me can be cleared to the front of the loom. After a few pattern repeats, the sequence becomes second nature. I was surprised, when viewing the video later, how gentle my little tappity-tap beat looks. There is actually quite a bit of firmness in that beat.

On a visit to Peru, I was able to watch a weaver from Chahuaytire using multiple string heddles to weave the tubular band that is used in her community to edge textiles.

chahuaytire weaver with tubular band

Picture by Virginia Glenn

Picture by Virginia Glenn

You can see the pattern on the band emerging along with the weaver’s hands hard at work. This pattern requires four sets of heddles. I used it myself to edge a tool pouch that I wove using my own handspun llama fiber….

pouch edged with chahuaytire tubular bandIt is certainly a faster band to weave than the ñawi awapa of Chinchero, the pattern for which requires some fairly radical moves and, therefore, all manual pick-up.

In this next video you can enjoy watching a weaver from Chahuaytire using her various sets of string heddles while she weaves and sews the tubular band to the edge of the cloth.

And, finally, I would like to show you a weaver from San Ignacio de Loyola in Peru who uses many sets of string heddles to make her complex band pattern entirely loom-controlled. I think there is a definite limit to the number of heddles that I would want to use while remaining comfortably positioned at the loom. This weaver spends a lot of time with arms extended and leaning forward to reach the far heddles. I imagine she has a strong back and firm abs.

weaver san ignacio de loyolaShe is using a similar method to that which I showed in my video in that she alternates the Pattern sheds at the back of the loom with the two heddles nearest her. She also works one of the two front heddles against the other in order to easily open a clean shed. This is the two-heddle intermesh technique that I teach in my second book. This is the structure that I used for the blue and white silk lanyard. I only needed six sets of heddles for the simple pattern…four pattern heddles and two intermesh heddles.

Here is a video of the weaver from San Ignacio de Loyola showing how she works her multiple heddles….

silk bookmark backstrap weavingI’ve decided that I am not entirely finished with lanyards. I  want to make one for my nephew who is a triathlete. Some time ago, I attempted to weave a silk bookmark for him with the words of one of his favorite inspirational quotes for training… ‘’The pain of discipline is nothing like the pain of failure.’’ My letters are adapted from fonts provided in Linda Hendrickson’s tablet-weaving book ‘’Please Weave a Message’’.

I felt that the bookmark looked too cluttered with its three lines of text and so I am now weaving it as one long line of text on a lanyard. I would like to flank the text with triathlon symbols…a swimmer, a cyclist and a runner. This is one of the many nice things about warp-faced double weave….it gives a lot of designing freedom. However, I only have 35 pattern threads with which to work. Let’s see what I can squeeze in there. The bookmark has been washed and pressed to show off the glorious sheen of the silk.

I wove a width sample for the lanyard in 60/2 silk. It looks quite dull in its unfinished state. It was quite some time ago that I wove the bookmark and I didn’t trust it to give me a reliable width reading. Years go by, your weaving changes, and old pieces can’t be relied upon to give accurate information.

double weave warp backstrap weavingAnd it’s a good thing I sampled as my width estimation was off and the band widened. Now it has settled into a consistent inch and I can start over with a fresh warp and get the pencils and eraser out for some charting.

The heddles you see there are not pattern heddles. They simply hold threads in the two sheds for the two layers of the double weave. I was initially taught this structure using only two heddles but I find four heddles handy when using many warp ends or very fine thread. With few threads or heavier yarn, I find it easier to use just two heddles and use my fingers to select the threads. The pattern sheds in both methods are all picked up manually.

Narrow warps like this one have also been on some of my weaving friends’ looms. Janet made a hatband in cotton using the Andean Pebble Weave structure. It’s gorgeous….

janets hatbandAnd, Anne decorated her hat with an intermesh band in cotton…

annes hatbandThere are so many cool things for which narrow bands can be used but, even if you don’t have a particular use in mind, they are simply fun to weave. They can be displayed on a wall with no other purpose  than to delight the eye. They can be kept rolled up in a trinket or treasure box and taken out now and then simply for the fun of running them through your fingers and enjoying the different textures.

I hope that whoever gets my lanyards will enjoy them.

6 lanyards front and back



Posted by: lavernewaddington | March 25, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – A Little Online Globetrotting

I’ve been playing with lanyards this week. These are nice tiny projects which have kept me entertained at the loom during breaks from other things not related to weaving that I have had my head in this week. I have been adding more and more string heddles to my bands to make them more and more loom-controlled and it has been a fun exercise.

Here are the first three finished bands which I will send away, as promised, for lanyards…

three lanyards backstrap weavingThe one on the left has the heaviest yarn, the center one I will call ’medium and the one on the right has the finest –  the 60/2 silk. I set up the center black and white band with 11 sets of string heddles. I could have made the eleventh heddle a simple loop but I got carried away with the fun of making heddles…

11 heddles on band backstrap weavingUsing a system of colors certainly helped. Every second heddle is white. I knew that when my weft was on the left, I needed to use a white heddle. Then it was just a matter of remembering the color of last heddle I had used when the weft was on the right to know which heddle was next in the sequence. I worked my way up through the heddles and then back down again. The thread I used has a lot of twist and is super smooth. That helps a lot when using multiple heddles.

I had to advance the warp as often as possible so that I didn’t have to lean far forward to reach the last heddles. This black and white band is the one with the most heddles and the one I enjoyed weaving the most….so far.

bands for lanyardsNow I have four made. The last blue and white one is in the 60/2 silk using the intermesh structure that I teach in my second book. However, I am going to re-do that one. I didn’t start it at its ideal width and the width changed a bit before settling. Now that I have a sample from which to work, I can make a better one. I am finding the the silk is the hardest to work with when using multiple heddles as it has more of a tendency to fluff with the extra abrasion.

Before getting into the second version of the intermesh lanyard, I warped another band in a different weight of mercerized cotton…

lanyards with multiple string heddlesAgain, the colored heddles help a lot with keeping track of the pattern. I am using the Andean Pebble Weave structure for this one with its two Pebble Sheds. I know that after every black heddle I need to use Pebble Shed 1, and then, Pebble Shed 2 after every orange one. These little tricks help keep the process fun rather than frustrating.

Last week, I posted a video that was shared with me by Adem in Turkey. It showed backstrap weaver Kay Seng demonstrating the use of multiple pattern sticks rather than multiple heddles on a piece that she was patterning with simple warp floats. The floats were formed from threads that were in one of the two sheds.

12895472_10154144034673629_611384756_nAdem has been weaving a band using this technique. He found a picture of a band online with this sweet butterfly pattern and tells me that it is from a book published in Japan. The image at left is the best I can do to show you the name of the book. Here is Adem’s band….


adem pattern sticksYou can see that he has half of the pattern stored on his pattern sticks beyond the shed rod. Many thanks to Adem for sharing a video he made of himself weaving the pattern and showing how to operate the loom with those sticks.

And now for some more globetrotting…from Turkey and Japan, let’s now travel to Nigeria where I have a new online weaving friend, Roli.

Roli and I had similar experiences when we were first introduced to the wonderful String Heddle. The Question of the Week in one of the online weaving groups was about an epiphany that we had experienced in the course of our learning to weave. I don’t know if mine was exactly an epiphany, but it certainly felt like the light shone down and the choir sang, the moment I was shown these things called String Heddles. I was with the teacher who taught me Navajo-style weaving. How I love them!

Until that moment, I had been using a plastic ruler to go over and under warp ends to create sheds on a very crude wooden frame I had knocked together. The cardboard rigid heddle I later constructed kept breaking and I was becoming frustrated with the whole business of trying to create fabric. This was back in 1994 and 1995.

Roli told me of a similar experience. In 2006, she was trying to revive the traditional ancient costume of the particular group of people to which her husband belongs in the Niger Delta. She tells me that the royal cast who were priests and kings wore the cloaks you see below and still do. She wanted to construct caps and bags and cloaks using strips of cloth that she had woven on a frame loom she designed and made from pieces of the raffia palm tree. It is a very lightweight material.

niger deltaShe, too, was using a stick to pick up every other shed and found it so tedious she almost lost interest. Then, one day, she came across my blog where she learned to make string heddles and she tells me that she has now resumed in earnest.

Not only does she use the raffia palm tree to provide pieces for her loom and tools, she also uses the fiber from the leaves as warp and weft. Often she combines it with colored acrylic yarn.

loom and tools


textile and hatShe produces fabric decorated with pick-up patterns. Bands are sewn into caps and several bands can be sewn together to make the cloaks and bags you see below.

cloaks hats and bagsI had never seen a raffia palm tree before. Here is a picture of one from the Wikipedia page. Hopefully, I am showing the same species that Roli knows in Nigeria.

Raphia_australisUsing wood from the raffia palm, she has created four looms of different sizes to accommodate the different widths of cloth that she needs for her projects. Right now she is working on a custom order for a white cloak and has used a lettering and patterning technique from this tutorial on my blog to create a band for the center of the cloak. She will weave six white panels of 6” each for the cloak and then make a matching bag and cap. Beautiful work!

Roli at her loom

pieces for cloakRoli’s loom is of her own design. She sits it with one end in her lap with the other end on the back of a chair. It can be adjusted to compensate for take-up (unlike the frame loom I built for myself all those years ago. I had no idea about such things as take-up!) She tells me that the traditional loom for these garments is a vertical frame. However, the clothing, the weaving and the stripping of raffia leaves for fiber are all shunned practices now as they are considered ‘’fetish’’. She explained ‘’fetish’’ as meaning that these items of clothing were associated with traditional worshipers.

I hope to see more from Roli. I would love to know more about how she strips the raffia leaves and processes the fiber and I can’t wait to see the finished white cloak. I am hoping its new owner will allow himself to be photographed with it. Many thanks to Roli for sharing this with us.

From Africa let’s move over to North America…..Amanda showed us the backstrap she wove for herself using Plymouth Yarn Fantasy Naturale yarn. That’s my favorite yarn for backstraps. She chose of the variegated options and did a beautiful job.

amanda set up

amandaAnd, Janet has been using her gorgeous handspun once again to weave beautiful things using the Andean Pebble Weave structure. The pattern is her own design and she says she might use this as a guitar strap.

janet handspunIt’s nice seeing these large projects as I head back to my tiny lanyards. I am having fun. I have always loved things in miniature.

My purple panel sits by waiting for me to produce its twin. I have decided to call it the ‘’lady bug’’ project after seeing the colors in this beautiful picture online

finished purple panel on loom


Posted by: lavernewaddington | March 18, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – All Warps Great and Small

A couple of months ago, I created a project that had outgrown my regular loom bars and I had to buy brooms and cut them down for my beams. That project was a plain-weave piece of 2000 ends of 60/2 silk and supplemental weft for patterning. This week I find myself weaving with the same silk and my regular loom bars but, this time, my project is a mere half-inch wide.

silk on silk supplementary weft motifsIt may seem like overkill using those big sticks for such a tiny project. Many a time I have abandoned the sticks to pass cord through the end loops of the warp and tie that to my waist with the other end of the warp hooked to my big toe. No backstrap, no sticks…just fingers, a toe and string.

However, I do prefer the stability of the sticks and I feel perfectly balanced and at home with what may look to others as a very cumbersome, clumsy and perhaps unnecessarily complex set-up. I think this backstrap weaver in Mexico feels the same way I do.

picture by Karen Elwell

Picture by Karen Elwell

I think her band may be even narrower than mine. The narrow band project is happening because I promised some lanyards for name tags for a friend. They need to be roughly 1/2 ” wide and 34” long. I have to admit that it is a nice change and break to be weaving these after having had so many large projects on my loom lately.

I wanted to fit a lot of pattern into that mere half-inch space and so I used 60/2 silk. I wove an Andean Pebble Weave pattern. Because it is a complementary-warp structure with warp-floats on both faces, the band is dense enough to make a good lanyard. I chose a pattern that I have woven so so many times before, I can just about do it with my eyes shut. I was a bit put off by the impending boredom…34″ of a pattern that I already know so well and have woven in many color combinations. I wouldn’t experience the delight of seeing new shapes and forms appear or new color combinations. It was just going to be very, very slow going with the fine silk.

So, I decided to set it up for loom-controlled patterning so I wouldn’t have to have my fingers in among the size 60/2 threads. Having it set up with a series of heddles to control all the pattern sheds would make this novel and interesting, not to mention fast!

pebble weave guitar strapA few years ago, I wove this guitar strap for a friend. She was giving it as a birthday present and it had to mailed to the USA from Bolivia. I was on a deadline and had to move fast. I set up only two  heddles in addition to the two pebble heddles to speed things up a bit. Part of the process was still weaver-controlled in that I was picking up some of the sheds by hand.

For the new silk lanyard project I went with almost 100% loom control…

silk lanyard with multiple heddlesI have five sets of heddles and a shed loop. This particular pattern has a couple of horizontal bars. I picked up the first horizontal bar by hand, stored it on a saver cord and used that cord to weave the second horizontal bar. Then I had to remove the cord. That is the only time I picked up by hand. I could have installed another set of heddles for that pick but didn’t want to clutter things up too much. This silk does tend to fluff and there is a lot of extra abrasion with sheds being cleared through all those heddles.  The weaving went really fast and what I thought might be tedious was, in fact, a lot of fun.

silk lanyardBand weavers in Peru sometimes use multiple string heddles on their simple body-tensioned warps to quickly weave small repeating patterns…

Picture by Virginia Glenn

Picture by Virginia Glenn

Now I am weaving a second lanyard with #10 crochet cotton. As the thread is heavier, there is less detail in the pattern…only 16 ends of pattern threads this time compared to 64 in the silk lanyard. I have installed more heddles for this one as this mercerized thread can take the abrasion better than the silk.

second lanyard with 7 heddles and a loopThis project has 7 sets of heddles with one pattern shed held in a loop. The colors of the heddles help me find my way in the sequence. It’s another pattern that I have woven many times and that I did not wish to pick up for 34”. I used it quite recently on my silk yurt-shaped pouch and accessories.

yurt pouch with cuff and necklaceIt has gotten to the stage where I am not interested in weaving something unless there is some major learning to be had. This project will show me how well I can manage 7 sets of heddles and if the work of clearing sheds through multiple heddles makes this method worthwhile. It is not something that I am planning on adopting for my own weavings. I really do prefer getting my hands in there and doing the pick-up!

weaver san ignacio de loyolaI doubt you will be seeing me doing this any time soon! I will weave a couple more lanyards and see just how many sets of heddles I am willing to manage for other patterns.

I have seen other pattern shed storage systems used by backstrap weaver in various places…sheds stored in multiple heddles and on sticks. Deb McClintock showed me how Laos weavers use a vertical shed storage system on their floor looms. She adapted the system to one of her own floor looms.

deb-mcclintock-adapted-pattern-storage-systemInspired by that, I have sometimes placed colored strings on my string heddles to help me lift threads for small repeating supplementary-weft patterns. The colored guide threads help me locate the spot where the pattern needs to be placed and gives me the first pick rather than having to count lots of fine warp ends.

pattern warp storage systemHere is a video that I took of Deb McClintock  demonstrating the Laos pattern storage system.

I have not had the chance to see how other backstrap weavers in Asia set up pattern storage systems. I have seen lots of sticks piled up on backstrap warps but have never seen them in use. An online weaving friend in Turkey, Adem, sent me a link to a very interesting video showing how a backstrap weaver uses those sticks. The video does not give information about the weaver but I believe, from having looked around online, that she may be a Karen weaver of Thailand or Myanmar. She mentions having brought thread with her from Thailand. There seem to be a few groups of Burmese weavers being formed in the USA where the ladies can come together, teach and support each other, practice their art and eventually sell their cloth.

These are a couple of shots from a video made about a group of such weavers in Vermont at the Vermont Folklife Center. They show the pattern sticks in the warp between the shed rod and coil rod.

pattern sticks backstrap warp Burma

pattern sticks Here is the video that Adem sent me. The weaver is using a simple warp-float technique with floats formed from the threads in one of the two basic sheds on only one face of the fabric. It is a very cool set-up!

And so, I will be be playing with multiple heddles on my teeny tiny warps for a few days. If it is fun, I will make even more lanyards than I originally promised.

two wool panels with aligned motifsIn the meantime, the brown wool on which I had been waiting arrived and now I can plan and weave the edging for the brown wool panels that I recently finished.

I finished the purple wool panel and have put that aside. It was tougher weaving the pattern on the purple piece than the ones I chose for the brown panel.

A few factors made weaving the brown panel more enjoyable. Firstly, I used the Andean Pebble Weave structure on the brown panels which means that every second weft shot was through a loom-controlled shed. That speeds things up. Plus, I just love working those two sets of heddles. The fact that there are six different motifs made it a lot more interesting too. I was also weaving the narrow continuous pattern alongside the larger motifs for the first time. It was my own design which added extra interest.

I used a supplementary-warp structure for the purple panel. I have never been a huge fan of this structure and, unfortunately, weaving this piece did not change the way I feel about it. I am not sure what it is…I just don’t like the way it feels.

The motif was continuous and rather confusing with those hooks going this way and that but I like those kinds of pick-up challenges! I really want to wash this piece and see how things come together after the wet finishing. However, I dare not do that until I have the second matching panel completed. In any case, I am really pleased with the way it came out. It will be nice to have these two large wool pieces showing two different structures. I will weave more in this wool set representing other structures.

finished purple panel on loom I have quite a few lovely things to show from my online weaving friends but will leave them for next week.

Instead, let me leave you with this gorgeous video of a song by Mapuche singer Anahi Mariluan sung in a mix of Spanish and the language of her people of southern Chile and Argentina. I am very grateful to my many Chilean and Argentinean online weaving friends who send me links to these beautiful things. The scenery of the south in this video is stunning and the song is so peaceful and delicate yet powerful. On the Youtube page for this video you can see the lyrics…. ” No Estamos Solas” –  ”We are not Alone”. You can listen to more here.

Posted by: lavernewaddington | March 4, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Colors

band from PAZA BoliviaGorgeous colors! Just what I need to lighten a dreary drizzly day in the tropics….warm colors of the highland countryside. This is one of the bands that I received recently from PAZA Bolivia. My weaving teacher, Maxima, heads the cooperative that weaves these bands on the traditional leaning vertical loom in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The weavers use their own handspun wool which has been colored with natural dyes.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will be used to seeing this annual event – the arrival of the Cochabamba fajas. You will have heard many times about my excitement at opening the box with its outpouring of colors and aromas of the Bolivian countryside.

PAZA BoliviaI mentioned to my friend Dorinda, who works with the weavers and helps to manage their sales, that this latest batch of bands was lacking the rich chocolate browns of previous collections I had received. I was surprised when she told me that those darker colors were obtained from khesi misa, or soot. 

What I wasn’t surprised to hear was that the ladies do not enjoy scraping off the build-up of soot on their kitchen walls to use in the dye pot. As you can imagine, it is mixed with grease from the hundreds of cooked meals and must be truly awful to work with. I don’t know what the cooking spaces look like in the communities where these weavers live but I can show you the kitchen of one of my teachers in another part of Bolivia to give you an idea. This is an old print from 1998.

kitchen candelariaOf course, it is so much nicer to be dyeing with leaves and flowers and cochineal bugs. Natural black can always provide the dark contrast and some of the greens that are obtained are quite dark too.

I have showed you pictures of Independencia and Huancarani where Maxima lives in other blog posts. At around 2600 meters above sea level (approx 8600 ft), it is very green and hilly. Pictures that Dorinda sends me or posts show the ladies working in pretty gardens amongst an abundance of plants and flowers.


1 (1)The city of El Alto in La Paz, on the other hand, sits above 4000 meters (approx 13000 ft). It’s a different story up there on the Bolivian high plains – dry, flat and largely colorless. That’s why a recently finished project of several high apartment blocks in El Alto has attracted widespread attention. Bolivian artist Mamani Mamani, known for his use of color, (see an example of his work at left)was commissioned to design enormous  murals for the walls of the buildings.  I am hoping that the next time I fly to El Alto airport in La Paz, I will see these colorful images standing out against the dry and dusty plains. The following pictures of the project are from the webpage of Mistura Urbana



More of Mamani Mamani’s work can be seen here.

In this next picture, you can really appreciate the bleak surroundings…


mamani-mamani-el-alto-la-paz-whipala-bolivia6I became a little obsessed with the red, purple and gold that you can see in this last picture. Actually, the red-purple-gold ”thing” really started when I watched the movie The Grand Budapest Hotel for the second time last week. As it was a second viewing, my mind was freer to wander and take in more of the scenery and sets and the purple, red and gold kept calling to me…

This image released by Fox Searchlight shows Tom Wilkinson, Tony Revolori, center, and Owen Wilson, right, in "The Grand Budapest Hotel ." (AP Photo/Fox Searchlight)

This image released by Fox Searchlight shows Tom Wilkinson, Tony Revolori, center, and Owen Wilson, right, in “The Grand Budapest Hotel .” (AP Photo/Fox Searchlight)

It’s not like I haven’t used this combination before…

amulet bag backstrap weavingWhat looks rather blue in this picture is actually a dark purple. This is an amulet bag that I made many years ago when I was first practicing sewing and weaving tubular edgings. It was a cute little pouch with its cross-warp strap and pom poms. My friend DY has it hanging from the rear view mirror in her car.

Last week, I was about to start my next wool project and I had purple, gold and red wool…perfect. Well, not so much. The purple wasn’t deep enough, the gold was greenish and the red just wasn’t lipstick-y enough. I spent several days winding warp with these colors, adding and subtracting ends, re arranging ends, pulling things out and starting again before I gave up on trying to make the particular tones of red, purple and gold work. It was so hard for me to wipe that color combination from my mind and start anew.

So, this is what I have come up with. You can see that I really wanted to use the purple! It is one of two panels that will be connected with decorative stitching. I am creating the patterns with supplemental warp threads. There was one more thing that I wanted to change but I got to the point where I realized that this could go on forever! and so I just decided to get on with it and weave. The center stitching, which will run along the right hand edge, will be in the greenish gold and the edging around the two joined panels will be in purple. I hope that will balance it all out. And, I am very pleased that I remembered, despite all the warping chaos, to add a stripe at the inner edge to make placing the stitches easier.

wool panel with supplementary warp patterns backstrap weavingIn the meantime, my brown wool is on its way in the post so that I can create the outer edging for my first wool panel piece…

decortaive joining stitch on wool panels Something is going on with me and I am noticing color more. I am currently watching the series Parenthood for the first time on dvd. I see scenes with characters dressed in black seated on a butter-yellow couch in front of a dark green wall and all I can think of are the colors. Will we ever see a red-white-black piece from me again? Undoubtedly! I still have more hangings in that series that I want to create.

Now, it’s back to the loom for me and I will leave you with some final splashes of color…

cochabamba bands






Posted by: lavernewaddington | February 26, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Golden Dreams

My friend Dorinda in Cochabamba wrote to tell me that my annual order of woven bands from the weaving co-op has been mailed to me….exciting! I only just managed to get myself a new P.O Box in time for this delivery. The timing is nice for the weavers as well, as money from this order will help mothers with the purchase of items on that long list of school supplies for the new school year that recently started.

Here are some of the colorful bands I have bought from the weavers via Dorinda in past years…

natural dye colors independencia BoliviaI had asked the weavers to include cochineal red in many of the bands and Dorinda posted pictures in one of her latest reports on her PAZA Bolivia website of the most recent dye day. I see lots of cochineal dyed yarn, some lovely greens and yellow….(oops, someone got caught with his pants down!)

Picture courtesy of Dorinda Dutcher PAZA Bolivia

Pictures courtesy of Dorinda Dutcher PAZA Bolivia.

Here are Maxima and other weavers in the cooperative thinking about color order and preparing to wind a warp for one of the bands.  Maxima’s warping partner sits at the opposite end of the frame. The balls of yarn will be rolled back and forth between these two ladies. After installing the shed rod and heddles, the warp will be transferred to the traditional leaning vertical loom.

warpfajaSome of the teenagers, under Maxima’s guidance, are weaving narrow bands which are sewn into yoga mat straps. Here is a basket of straps with their lovely pebble weave patterns which was ordered by a visitor to be taken to the USA…

susansyogaorderDorinda’s posts are always fascinating. Please, head to her site for more stories about her weaver friends and the work they do.

I took the opportunity when I caught Dorinda online to ask her about the decorative sewing that Maxima uses to join the panels for her carrying cloths, or awayos.

I was wondering if weavers in Cochabamba use the same name for the joins as that used in northern Potosi…siray. Maxima gave Dorinda the Spanish word costura which simply means seam. After I expressed my surprise at the fact that Maxima wasn’t using a word in her mother tongue of Quechua, Dorinda asked again and was told siray. Maxima had simply translated it to Spanish knowing that Dorinda wouldn’t understand the Quechua word. However, Maxima doesn’t have different names for the different kinds of stitches, unlike the weavers in northern Potosi.

Here are a couple of decorative siray  on two new awayos that Maxima wove. This first piece shows patterning in warp-faced double weave.

maxima awayo double weave siray

The patterning in this next piece is in the pebble weave structure…

maxima awayo pebble weave sirayHaving warp stripes at the edge of the cloth is a wonderful way to help guide the placement of the stitches and I plan to include stripes like this in my next wool piece. Just eye-balling the spacing is really hard! However, it doesn’t seem like Maxima places that much importance on having all the shapes in alignment. I like the sort of free spirit the work shows. She changes thread color when she runs out and is not concerned about only doing so at the start of a new shape or about having an equal number of triangles in each color. I am sure that there is little or no embroidery thread wasted that way.

I am about to wind the warp for my next set of wool panels and must remember to include those stripes. I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I was planning on winding that warp very soon. I had mapped out the colors and chosen my patterns. Luckily I didn’t go ahead with it as that was Version 1. I have since moved on to Version 4 and am still not quite sure that I have it right.

I have all the time in the world to ponder that as my yellow scarf is now off the loom and I am not weaving. However, my sticks are calling out for a new project.

finished yellow scarf on loom with toolsHere’s the scarf still on the loom with various tools that I used to create it….two shuttles: one for the main yellow weft and one for the cream supplemental weft, one of the two long swords that I used, a pick-up stick for the flower patterns and a small sword for extra beating in certain spots. Because I wove this in plain weave, I also used a coil rod.

It was an 86” warp but I stopped at 65” of fabric. Rather than squeezing in some additional inches I decided to stop. I did not want to be trying to create those final bands of supplementary-weft patterning while being very close to the end of the warp. There is a tendency to apply too much tension when there is little space left in which to work. That can cause elongated motifs and I really wanted the motifs at both ends to have the same proportions. That was a little hard to monitor with the other end of the fabric being rolled up and out of view.

yellow scarf on loom starting endIn recent posts I mentioned that this scarf fabric was a bit on the stiff side on the loom. I was really looking forward to washing and pressing it and watching and feeling the silk transform. Here is a bit of the fabric before washing…

close up silk fabric pre washI love how, after washing and pressing, the supplementary-weft motifs sort of melt into the cloth. They lose the appearance of having been created with individual strands of silk and look more like they have been painted on the fabric.

yellow silk sacrf after washing and pressing

I pressed it while damp and, as the moisture slowly lifted from the cloth, I could feel the fabric softening, relaxing and loosening up…magic! I am really pleased with this project. The scarf feels wonderful.

It’s funny thinking back to the start of this project. I kept trying to come up with ways to hide the yellow because I felt the color was too strong. I wanted to cover the scarf with cream supplementary weft and just let the yellow peak through in places. I am glad I didn’t go ahead with that plan.

When I finished winding the warp, I was close to abandoning this project. I had come up with a weird improvised windy warping path so that I could get the 86” of length. It was not a path to which I was accustomed and I wandered off it at various times. So, there were lots of things to be fixed and adjusted once I had taken the warp off the stakes and that always spells trouble for me. I rolled the warp in paper and left it over night. I didn’t want to look at it anymore. I even considered undoing the whole thing…all 860 ends… and starting again but knew it would end up a mess. Somehow, things looked different in the morning. I made the adjustments, set up the warp and just started weaving.

yellow silk scarf after wet finishAn online weaving friend commented that it is surely not cold enough in Santa Cruz Bolivia for me to need such a scarf and that I should send it to her in Canada. Well, she is right about that. It very rarely gets cold enough for scarves here. However, I have a dream of ending up back in Australia one of these years and living in a place called the Blue Mountains where I used to hike and climb a lot in my younger days. It is certainly cold enough there. I like to think of these things I am creating as items for a ”hope chest” for that dream to come true. Maybe I should start knitting socks too. I have always been envious of those.

In the meantime, I travel a lot and this scarf will certainly be worn even if it is just draped over my shoulders for decoration.

silk scarf backstrap loom

Now I can give my full attention to the wool warp. Let’s see how many more versions occur to me before I actually start warping and if I can have it set up and underway before the next blog post. Until then…..



Posted by: lavernewaddington | February 19, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Length!


Finally, I am doing something with the third of my three current weaving goals: 1. go wider, 2. use finer materials and 3. go longer. I have been working this week on the long warp… the yellow 60/2 silk scarf.

yellow silk warp backstrap weavingAfter finishing the bands of supplementary-weft patterns at the start which had me sitting in the same spot for days, I am now on to the faster mostly plain-weave part. I slow down every now and then to add a little flower motif with silk supplemental weft.

first scattered flower motifSometimes, it is a solid flower, like the single flower you can see above, and sometimes an outlined one. This does not have me sitting still for long. There is a regular need to sometimes move forward as I roll up the woven cloth and then move back as I unroll the unwoven warp from the far end. The cushion on which I sit is glued to a polished piece of wood which allows me to dig my heels into the floor and slide myself forward and back as needed. It’s a lot easier than having to get up and push that cushion across the rug or wiggle it forward or back. It also allows me to make finer adjustments while seated.

rolling u excess warp backstrap weavingI used sheets of paper to roll the unwoven warp to keep everything neat and even. It’s a lot of fun unrolling the warp from the far end and having one of the sheets of paper drop out…progress! I then use that same sheet of paper between the layers of rolled woven cloth. I don’t know if you ever played ”pass the parcel” as a kid at birthday parties. It reminds me of that. Each time I unroll, it’s like removing one layer of the wrapping on the parcel only to find that there are still more layers underneath.

If I had a nice grassy backyard in which a sturdy stake could be implanted, I would enjoy sitting outside in some shade and having my warp stretched out to its full length…

single plane backstrap warps PeruHowever, I do find there are certain advantages to having the unwoven warp rolled up. I think that it is easier for me to maintain a consistent tension on the warp if I am always seated at more or less the same distance from the end of the loom.

Backstrap weavers who use circular warps are able to do that. They weave around the circle of warp without having to change in any major way their seated position. My teacher, below, can always be seated the same distance from the wall and brace her feet against a wooden block. You can see how her finished woven piece is circular.

fluffing the woven fabric with thistles EcuadorI can’t resist unrolling my work all the way every now and then to see how it is going and to make sure that the scattered effect of the flower motifs is working.

silk scarf on loom There will be a small celebration when the final piece of paper drops off the end beam and I can see the end of the warp. But, I know that event will mean that soon I will be slowing down to a crawl to duplicate the bands of patterning that I wove at the beginning of the piece. I have managed to be disciplined, not measure, and keep the motifs truly scattered.

scattered flower motifs on silk scarf

silk bandanna backstrap weavingThe cloth is a little on the stiff side now but I know, having worked with this 60/2 silk before in the teal bandana at left, that it will soften beautifully after wet-finishing and pressing. The sheen of the silk will be more obvious then too.

The patterns I chose for the bands are loosely based on those I saw on a Mexican rebozo, or shawl. I made quite a few changes to the original to include my own flower motif. My weaving friend, Franco, shared a lovely video of a parade of Mexican rebozos…the variety is astounding and I love the ways the models wear them. There is a white one and a black one there that I am totally in love with!

My erratic internet can handle this video and so I am sure that you will all be able to enjoy it….Thanks, Franco!

One day I will have a warp for a rebozo on my backstrap loom.

While on the topic of length, I guess the longest pieces of warp-faced weaving I have seen are the Central Asian yurt bands. My friend Lisa owns one and hers is 48 feet long….makes my scarf length seem ridiculous!

lisas-band-rolledHere it is wrapped around her yurt…how gorgeous!

lisas-yurtThey are not woven on backstrap looms. This is the loom set-up in Kyrgyzstan posted on the site of Little Foot Yurts

kyrgyzstan-208The heddle stick is attached to the tripod which keeps it permanently raised. We saw a similar system being used by a Turkish weaver in a video I shared here recently.  The shed rod is a flat piece of wood which is most likely turned on its side when needed. At the weaving line you can also see a small stick holding the warp threads that will float to make the pattern.

Here’s another beauty that my friend Yonat and I found in a store in California when we were out and about. We can only imagine how long it is.

I got pretty excited the first time I encountered these pieces via my friend Lisa online. I thought…Wow, the Andean Pebble Weave structure in Central Asia! But, on closer inspection, I could see that it wasn’t the same structure. It is not a complementary-warp structure at all. Complementary-warp weaves have two structurally identical faces. The colors are reversed on the two sides of the cloth as you can see in my piece below.

Chinchero both facesI call the structure that is used to create the yurt bands, Simple Warp Floats…this my dull structural name for it. ”Simple” because the floats appear on only one face. In Kyrgyzstan it is known as terme.

You can see how different the two faces look in this picture of a piece I wove replicating some yurt band motifs. The face on the left is the ‘good” face. The face on the right has spaces where the black weft is exposed. You can also see this difference in the first picture of Lisa’s rolled up band above.The same motifs can be easily woven as double-faced ones but they are not woven that way traditionally.

terme simple warp float structure

I made this piece into a case for my small laptop…

notebook coverThis became a favorite structure of mine for a while. Yurt band motifs adorn my favorite belt…

I went a bit wider too and made a zippered pouch…

yurt band design…but I’ll never go as long as those yurt bands!

It was even more exciting to find that the structure is used here in South America, in the tropical lowlands of Peru, for example. I have seen it on pieces from Iran and Mexico as well. These were inspiration for a set of place mats I wove using this Simple Warp Float structure.backstrap weaving placemats simple warp floatsIt’s all based on a basic warp of two colors. One shed holds all the light threads and one shed all the dark. If woven as plain weave, you would produce a band of dark and light horizontal bars. You could then choose to create three-span floats with certain light threads in order to make a pattern. Or, you could do the same with just the dark threads. Or, you can alternate as seen at right….one motif with dark floats followed by another with light floats The horizontal bars act as a sort of background.

simple warp floatsBelow, you can see a variety of patterns on a belt from Aguacatan, Guatemala. This is a very long piece for a belt…ten feet. The dark and light floats are sometimes used together within one motif. The horizontal bars, again, act as a sort of background to the motifs. The bars really dominate in this belt.
aguacatan beltIn this next band that I wove a long time ago, dark and light warp-floats working together form the motif on a base of horizontal bars…

simple warp floats light and dark floatsYou can also choose to float  threads in a way that has the horizontal bars appearing to be part of the design itself rather than just being a ”background”. This is a piece I wove after returning from Ecuador where I had stayed with cotton weavers who use this structure in their work.  Only the dark threads are forming floats in this piece and, to me, it feels like the horizontal bars are forming their own pattern of large ‘X’s.

And then, you can go all the way and create so many floats with both colors that you completely cover the horizontal bars as in my next example….

shipibo pattern in simple warp floatsThis is the terme structure that is used to create the yurt bands I showed. I used it to weave this place mat with a motif from the Peruvian tropical lowlands.

You can see a picture of a weaver in Kyrgyzstan (from the Little Foot Yurts site) saving the dark warp threads on a small sword. These are the threads that will float to form the pattern.

kyrgyzstan-211More information on these structures can be found in my tutorials here, here and here. I will be transferring this information to my Structures and Terminology page soon.

I think I was wise to choose a project that included lots of plain weave for my first venture into this kind of length in backstrap weaving. There are times when I am happily zooming along….opening a shed, beating, passing the weft and so on….and only slowing down to weave a little flower, the pattern for which I have by now memorized. I can imagine the time and concentration required to weave those 48-foot long yurt bands with all that pick-up every single step of the way! I wonder how many such bands a weaver in Kyrgyzstan makes in lifetime.

Here are some projects from weaving friends…

two pebble weave wall hangings julia t julia wTwo Andean Pebble Weave projects from two very talented Julias…

Julia T wove the wall hanging at left. It has a mixture of motifs from my books and those of her own. The maze pattern is her own and she has cleverly combined a traditional Andean pattern with her own ideas. The piece recalls time she spent with a team of friends creating a labyrinth in a park surrounded by beautiful bird-laden Australian bush. Julia W’s piece is her adaptation of a Japanese sashiko embroidery sayagata motif to the Andean Pebble Weave structure. The gold twining, hanger and stripes are such lovely touches. She has done several beautiful pieces inspired by Japanese embroidery patterns which she cleverly adapts to Andean Pebble Weave.

Both Julias came up with clever ways to hang their pieces.

Julia W’s wrapped ring and bamboo stick are beautiful in their simplicity. She has created two very different faces by having not only the pebble weave but also the intermesh borders in reversed colors. This way, the piece can be hung on either a dark or light-colored wall. Julia T wove a stick into the last few inches of her weaving so that she can change the face that is being displayed simply by flipping the end and fringe. That’s the thing with these double-faced structures. You want to be able to enjoy both beautiful faces.

kathy and mariekeAnd then, there are some bands. Marieke has been working with the double weave technique from this tutorial. I learned it as a two-shed technique which means that it can be easily adapted to the inkle loom on which Marieke prefers to work. Kathy and I got to weave together a couple of years ago and she continues to enjoy Andean Pebble Weave on a backstrap loom using patterns from my books. I love her jolly ”saver cord” but mostly, I love the fact that she is using one. Not everyone falls in love with it as I have.

I could see from my stats that there were an enormous amount of hits on my link to the site with the triangle purse tutorial last week. I hope that many of you go ahead and make one and show me the results. The link to the tutorial along with other goodies can be found on my RESOURCES page.

So, it’s back to my long project. I think there are only two more pieces of paper left on my rolled-up warp. I can’t wait to wash and press the piece and feel its liquid slinkiness slide through my hands. yellow silk scarf on backstrap loom







Posted by: lavernewaddington | February 12, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – A Potpourri of Structures

Phew! I didn’t think I would get this post out today. The internet was out for most of the day… on again but really painfully slow, then off again. I have started lifting weights while I wait for pages to load. How many bicep curls can I do while waiting? I finally gave up and wove.

It has come back to life again this evening but I have my heart in my mouth as I type. Last weekend, along with Monday and Tuesday, were Carnival days and I believe a good many people packed up and left town. That left me with high-speed internet for those four glorious days. Perhaps there is something good to be said about Carnival after all. You may have guessed that I am not a fan of this celebration. Anyway, I knew there would be a price to pay for enjoying all that high speed! Everyone came back and the system collapsed

I had a few things going on this week. I simply cannot weave on my yellow scarf project at night. I can even manage black thread at night with the aid of a head lamp…but not this yellow. Light from a head lamp makes things even worse. It’s like looking into the sun. So, it was good to have a couple of other things to play with in what happens to be my favorite time for weaving. I turn on the air conditioner and enjoy an evening of fresh coolness at my loom.

two wool panels joined backstrap weavingThere was the sewing on my brown wool panels to complete. This was not an easy job even though I had chosen the simplest of the decorative stitches to use. All the things that I had envisioned going wrong when I joined my two cotton panels last month, and which never actually happened, went wrong on this wool piece. The softer, slinkier wool fabric moved around and the edges got misaligned. I can’t tell you how many times I had to pull out the stitches.

decortaive joining stitch on wool panelsI finally got it under control. This was definitely something I wanted to do at night in the cooled air. Having that wool thing on my lap while I sewed during the heat of the summer day was horribly uncomfortable. Now, I would love to weave an edging but this project used up all my brown wool. I simply can’t see it done in any other color and so I will just have to wait.

supplementary warp width sampleIn the meantime, I have been planning the next wool project. I am going to use more jewel-like colors on the next one and weave patterns using the supplementary-warp structure. This, along with Andean Pebble Weave, were the first structures I learned in Peru back in 1996.

I was not a big fan of the supplementary-weft structure at that time. My teachers in 1996, and another with whom I had studied in 1997, had taught me to weave tiny animal motifs and some of them were a little awkward and had really long warp floats. That had put me off.

It wasn’t until I saw the more geometric Mapuche motifs woven in this structure when I visited a sheep estancia in southern Argentina, that I started appreciating the structure and all its possibilities. Nevertheless, I haven’t used it very much. While weaving with my teacher Maxima in Cochabamaba, I saw some of the supplementary-warp figures woven by ladies in her co-operative and those have given me ideas for this next project. First, I needed to weave a sample in the wool that I plan to use so that I could figure width. That kept me busy in the evening when the yellow warp had to be put aside.

There it is above. Weaving this gave me the chance to see that there was a glitch in my pattern chart. I had woven four repeats before I even realized. I am glad I caught it now and not in the middle of the larger project.

When I got back to Chile after my first weaving classes in Peru in 1996, I was very excited and wanted to weave everything I had learned at once. I wove a narrow band with some of the pebble weave figures I had been taught and then I got very brave and wove a wider piece using both the supplementary-warp and Andean Pebble Weave structures together. Back then, I didn’t for a moment question whether it would possible to successfully combine a complementary-warp and supplementary-warp structure. I didn’t know any better. I had no idea about such things as ”take-up” and there was no one to tell me that I shouldn’t do it or that there might be problems. I just did it. And, I guess I was just lucky that it worked out fine. I am thinking I will do the same on my next wool piece…combine the two structures. This is not uncommon in the highlands.

second pebble weave warpYou can see the green and white supplementary-warp figures on the edges of the piece I wove in Chile back in 1996. I had figured out a way to chart those little figures but I hadn’t come up with anything for the pebble weave. I just followed my scribbled notes with all their references to numbers and color.

one of the first weavingsEverything was upside down and back-to-front on this warp! The warp was very crooked as my stakes had leaned. I ended up with my warp upside down. The supplementary-warp figures show their ”right” side. I consider the right side the one where the supplementary-warp threads (in this case the white ones), are forming the figures. However, the pebble weave figures are showing their ”wrong” side in the picture above.

Complementary-warp structures do not have a structurally right or wrong side but I had wanted my cloth to have white figures on a red and green background and didn’t have the experience at that time to know how to adjust the way I was doing the pick-up to fix that. I had come back from Peru not having a deep understanding of what this was all about. I was just blindly following my scribbled notes. Having a thorough understanding came much later after lots and lots of weaving and more trips to Peru and Bolivia.

You can see the finished cloth above adorning the cover of one of my photo albums….now showing the ”right” side of the pebble weave but the wrong side of the supplementary-warp sections.  Even the narrow strips of pebble weave came out wrong. That is not the pattern I had intended at all! My pebble sheds were out of order and I ended up creating an entirely new motif….a happy mishap. I am so happy that I still have this piece of weaving. It holds a lot of stories.

While digging around for that old photo album, I unearthed the only picture I have of myself weaving in my home in southern Chile. It is totally out of focus, but what a happy memory from 20 years ago! I am working on the piece I just described.

weaving in Punta ArenasYou can see the very large pattern charts I had created for the supplementary-warp figures. My backstrap loom is attached to the bottom beam of my Navajo-style loom. I am sitting on my legs…can’t do that anymore! You can see a pile of Peruvian hats that I had brought back on the chair at left. What really makes me smile is the small pillow on the sofa. It is covered in one of my very first weavings… a tapestry piece in acrylic that I made on a frame I had knocked together a couple of years earlier into which I had hammered nails. I knew nothing about winding a warping and had simply tied a piece of sewing thread to a nail at the top of the loom, cut it and then tied it to a nail at the bottom of the loom. And so on… I so wish I had kept those little things I had woven.

As for the yellow scarf, I have just finished the intensive supplementary-weft patterning at the beginning and am moving on to a nice relatively free run of plain weave. I will repeat the bands of supplementary-weft patterning at the other end. I had started with the idea of covering the piece with cream-colored silk supplementary weft so that only small bits of yellow would be revealed but I found that the supplementary weft thickened the cloth too much for my liking. I didn’t want to lose all the light liquid flow of the silk.

first supplementary weft figures finished yellow silk scarfHere is the first band of figures. I adapted the pattern from a cotton rebozo of Mexico.

flower figures in negativeI changed the pattern for the second band so that the flower motifs show in the yellow negative space.

And then, the plain weave starts. It will be decorated with scattered flowers. And, this time, when I say ”scattered”, I really mean it! I have planned pieces with so-called scattered motifs before only to find myself measuring and looking for symmetry. I can’t seem to help myself! No. This time they really will be scattered. I have woven more since I took this picture and added a couple more flowers. I am enjoying this whole ”scattered” business now. I don’t have to count any of the 700 ends to see how to place the motif and create balance and symmetry. I just pick a thread, any thread, and start weaving the motif…love it!

Hopefully, I will get the wool warp wound this weekend. That will give me something to work on in the evenings next to the 86 inches of yellow scarf warp.I need a longer bed to which I can lash these various projects side by side!

A friend in Chile sent me a link to a free e-booklet on natural dyes in southern Patagonia. It’s in Spanish but still lovely to look at even if you don’t understand the text.

natural dyes patagoniaThis would have been so nice to have when I was living down there. There was a time when I played around with dyeing during my 5 years there. I used anything I could find in the back yard and dyed some small samples of wool. I kept notes but never dyed enough yarn to make anything. When I came to Bolivia I wrapped the dyed samples around tubes of newspaper and made a lid for one of my tall storage baskets ( which I had also made of tubes of newspaper.) It’s still in pretty good shape despite having had cat claws in it multiple times. The very dark brown, by the way, is just plain old loose-leaf black tea. I needed a dark color to contrast with the others.

natural dyes southern chile

You may remember I posted this next picture a couple of weeks ago. These are the sweet coin purses made with fabric created by the Hmong people of Thailand. I noticed that there were a lot of hits on the link to the Fair Trade store that sells these. My friend, Susan, in Australia, sent me a link to a tutorial on how to make them which solves the mystery of how much fabric they require… not all that much after all. The site provides a pattern template. Beware, you may fall down the rabbit hole of Renaissance Ribbons when you visit the site…I did!

hmong triangle coin purses little mango imports

There has been some double weaving going on among online friends. Moniek Deroo in Belgium wove red poppies on a band dedicated to the fields of Flanders where she lives…red poppies on the blackness of war, bordered by the green grass of the battle fields…

moniek deroo in flanders field poppiesMoniek is using her inkle loom for this and has added extra string heddles to speed up the pick-up. It can be woven as a simple two-shaft structure and that is actually how I was taught to do it when I learned it in Potosí, Bolivia.That’s also the way I teach it in my tutorial. Moniek is weaving the embedded version of the double weave structure which I teach in this tutorial.

I add extra heddles when I work with particularly fine or numerous threads like on the 60/2 silk piece below…silk bookmark backstrap weavingOn narrower pieces, or those with heavier thread, I enjoy not having to deal with the clutter of all those extra heddles and am pretty fast doing the pick-up without them.

Betsy has just started following my online tutorial and is working her way through the exercises. Betsy has woven Andean Pebble Weave with me and says she finds double weave easier. I find patterns easier to read on double weave pieces as there are no warp floats and it is quite easy to read the pattern repeats on the cloth just by looking at the motifs you have already woven rather than at a chart. I find it faster to reach that ability when doing double weave than when weaving structures that involve warp floats.


I have a few more things to show you from my talented online weaving friends but I will end on this last one as my internet is showing signs of giving up again.

Liza has also been dabbling in double weave and is already designing her own patterns. I love this leaf pattern of hers…

liza d bl weaveAnd, she made this wonderful rug using a backstrap loom and old jeans…how cool is that…

liza jeans rugI asked her for a shot of her work in progress because I wanted to see her loom set up. She sent me a beauty…

liza backstrap rugI’ll quickly publish this before my internet breaks down to a crawl or to zero again.

If you are a bit bamboozled by the potpourri of structures I have presented in this week’s post… supplementary this and that, double weave, complementary-warp, warp floats, blah blah, I do hope to update the Structures and Terminology page on this blog soon to explain them in a bit more detail for you.

Until next week…











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