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…











Posted by: lavernewaddington | February 5, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Making Do

madejandolaI just love this picture and this weaver’s work space. Place all you tools on the warp, roll everything up and leave it hanging from the post to which it is anchored…the simplicity! Gone are the days when I used to have to roll up everything and put it in the closet every night. A folding bed had to take the place of my work space at night. Apart from that, my cat would have gotten into everything if it had been left out.. The bed is no longer needed and the cat has moved away so, now I have a permanent piece of floor as my work space. Things tend to get out of control when you don’t need to put things away anymore, especially when I have several projects going at once. The photo of the neatly stowed backstrap loom is being offered as a screen saver calendar by this Mexican site. 

Here’s another pleasant work space. This one is more cat-friendly…

candelaria weaver's roomThis is the work space of one of my Bolivian teachers. She has one room dedicated to her weaving which holds three of her enormously long leaning vertical frames. Look at that lovely clear floor all around. She is weaving a long piece from which she will cut and sew three bags for a museum store. She has all the tools she needs on hand….a nice piece of sheep skin on which to sit, a sword which is leaning against the loom, a metal pick which is within the weaving, a piece of plastic coated wire which holds one half of her picking cross, her beater (the llama bone wichuña) and a tape measure. Cat and hat are optional.

candelaria weaving The problem with my work space is that I have so many options…so many books from which to gather inspiration, so many sticks and needles and bits and pieces which somehow seem so essential. And then I need to chart patterns and make notes about things that my weaving teachers carry in their heads and hands. I have an ”out of sight, out of mind” mentality and need to to have every idea on which I am currently working under my nose. I am sure that with fewer things I would just make do with what I have.

Here’s the view from my bed when I wake up in the morning. I need to walk on top of all of that to get out the door.

my work spaceYou can see the two projects on which I am currently working. I have been fiddling about sewing the two wool panels together. First, I tried the triangle joining stitch, the arku siray, but found it too large and bulky and now I am working with the k’iska join which is much more discreet and one which I think better suits the busy pick-up patterns.

arku siray triangle join

kiski vertical joinI have been taking my time over this. Sitting for long periods sewing with wool cloth on your lap in the summer heat is not comfortable. I think this weight will be really nice for a light poncho.

Maxima in Cochabamba adds extra twist to her handspun yarn before winding a warp for a pebble weave band.

Maxima in Cochabamba adds extra twist to her handspun yarn before winding a warp for a pebble weave band.

Working on this  wool piece has been really interesting. I used wool straight off the skein . I didn’t re-spin it to increase the amount of twist.

My weaving teachers here use tight over-twisted yarn that they spin themselves. They always re-spin the acrylic thread that they buy in the market. This makes the yarn stronger so that it can withstand the abrasion that comes from warp faced weaving. It also helps to smooth the yarn and sort of lock away a lot of the hairs, the things that make neighboring warp threads want to grab and stick to each other.

What I have realized from working on my wool project is that the over-twist also takes out pretty much all the spring and stretch from the yarn. The yarn I used was stretchy and that makes it really difficult to get a nice firm beat. My weaving teachers greatly admire cloth that is firm. With the hard beat and the tightly twisted thread, the resulting cloth is virtually waterproof and incredibly durable. I could beat away forever on my piece with its stretchy yarn and never get the firmness that my weaving teachers desire. And that’s okay because I really wanted something light and soft and flowing. The fabric softened up beautifully after I washed it. But, I know that if I ever took this piece to the highlands to show my teachers, they would either shake their heads sadly at it or tease me for being too weak to beat hard. It just wouldn’t be good cloth in their world of weaving.

yellow silk warp backstrap weavingYou may remember that one of my weaving goals these days is to go wider, finer and longer. I only got a two-out-of-three with the wool project. It wasn’t longer than my usual projects. I haven’t managed yet to get all three going in one project.

The yellow warp you see in my work space gives me another two-out-of-three. It’s 86” long, which is much longer than my typical pieces and, being made of 60/2 silk,  sits in the ”fine” category. It’s only wide enough to make a scarf.

Winding the warp was a challenge. I didn’t like my set-up…too many twists and turns for my liking…you know how fussy I am about the whole warping process. The way I chose to warp had my cross sticks placed at the far end of the warp. Just the action of dragging the cross sticks down to the front of the loom (and I did it as gently as I could) fluffed up my nice silk warp…darn. I picked off all the fluff. Next time I wind a long warp, I will definitely figure out a better way to do it.

I could have wound a circular warp, but I chose not to. It’s a single-plane warp and I have rolled up a lot of it around the far loom bar using sheets of paper to keep everything spread and even. That way it can fit into my small weaving space.


rolling u excess warp backstrap weavingA circular warp would allow me to weave the 86” warp without having to roll it up. You can see the difference between a circular warp and a single plane warp in this next picture of two bands. Single plane warps have two ends…you start weaving at one end and finish at the other. On a circular warp you weave around a full circle until you return to the start point and then cut the warp apart.

circular-and-single-plane-warpsI am starting a floral pattern on my yellow scarf warp using silk supplementary weft. The motifs are in cream colored silk. I like to think of this as ”mangoes and cream”. After this band of pattern I will weave 6”-8”” of supplementary-weft pattern where the cream weft fills the background revealing the motif in the yellow ground cloth. That’s what I will do at each end of the warp and everything in between will be basically plain with perhaps a few flowers scattered here and there.

supplementary-weft pattern on silk sacrfmiguel-andrango-loomIt is so interesting seeing the different ways that weavers set up their looms and wind their warps. I have had a chance to look at new set-ups on backstrap and other simple looms this week by making contact with some weaving friends around the world. It has given me a chance to revisit the topic of the Shed Rod that I wrote about in a previous post.

You may remember that in that post I had noted that of the two basics sheds on backstrap looms- the back shed and the heddle shed- the back shed is often the one that is more difficult one to open. This, of course, depends a lot on the kind of yarn being used. Weavers come up with different ways to deal with that. They can use a shed rod of very large girth, they can strum the warp threads with their hands or with a tool or, as backstrap weavers in Ecuador do, they can distribute the threads over two shed rods and raise only half of them at a time. You can see the two shed rods in place at left. The weavers I saw doing this were using quite heavy wool warp.

Just after I published my post on the technique employed by backstrap weavers in some parts of Ecuador, my friend Kathleen Klumpp posted a video to Youtube that she took last year in Miguel Andrango’s workshop in Ecuador in which you can see the weaver using the two shed rods. I have been waiting for the right opportunity to show it here. Thank you. Kathie.


The weaver has quite an unusual way of doing the pick-up. It is not a method that I have seen used elsewhere and I am wondering if Mr Andrango was taught this way when he visited Cusco or if this is something of his own that he has passed on to the weavers who work with him in his workshop.

He first picks out all the light threads from the light colored shed and saves them. Then he picks the dark ones from the dark shed and combines both the light and dark threads into one shed.

On the other hand, the weavers in Peru with whom I have worked form a picking cross of all the dark and light threads and then select the colors, both light and dark, all at once.

Above, you can see the classic loraypu pattern, which is woven in Chinchero, Peru, on Miguel Andrango’s loom.

Adem, in Turkey has taken up backstrap weaving and has been sending me links to wonderful pictures and videos on Turkish textiles. He learned kilim weaving techniques from his grandmother when he was school aged and, while researching weaving online, came across my blog. Now, he and his wife are both happily backstrap weaving at home. I love how he has made do with all kinds of things that he has at home to set up to warp and weave….

Starting simply…


And then, adding some more tools, like a cardboard roll, that works brilliantly as a shed rod….


Finding more stability in his set-up…


Length is obviously not a problem…

12648037_10154006216483629_1633919773_n (1)Now Adem and his wife have my book and I am looking forward to seeing what they create with Andean Pebble Weave.

Weaving tools around the world, all serving the same basic purposes, can be so very different in shape and size. Not everyone can wander down to the Sunday market stall, like this one that I visited in Guatemala, and pick up just the right kind of stick or sword.

backstrap loom stall chichicastenango guatemalaI love seeing how people make do with what they have.

As for the video links that Adem sent me, I have embedded one below which shows a wonderfully simple loom being used by a 75-year old woman in Turkey. Some of the pieces of equipment are not like anything you would find in a Guatemalan market. A simple stick tripod permanently raises the heddle shed. Her shed rod is a sword-like stick rather than a cylinder which she tips on its side to raise the back shed.

I love the sounds of the weaving in this film as much as I like the visuals. After the first minute, much of the video is devoted to interviewing the weaver. Adem tells me that she is talking about how she prefers living in her village rather than in the cities where her children have gone to live. She and other weavers used to create wide pieces but that is not done anymore.

The band she is weaving in the video is used as the strap for baskets like those in the picture below found here


(Oops, well it looks like that video has been removed from Youtube. Here’s another one instead which also shows the warping. One lady winds the warps while another sits by and makes the heddles. You can see how the tripod is set up and there is great footage of the the weaver operating the loom as well as braiding the ends.

A flat shed rod just on its own, in my experience, makes raising the heddles difficult on a backstrap loom. However, this is not a problem in this loom as the heddled threads are already raised. The heddle stick is being held up by the tripod.

Another interesting shed rod can be seen in this next video from the Ukraine. The warp threads are coiled around the shed rod. This is a screen shot from the video which is embedded below…

shed rod ukraineThe weaver shows how it is placed in the video. I think I learned the Ukranian words for ”over” and ”under” from watching this process as she coils one thread over the shed rod and then the next one under, again and again. This makes the shed rod very stable. Despite being much longer than the width of the band, the shed rods sits nicely in place and does not flop or roll around. She shows very nicely how she uses her sword behind the heddles to open the heddle shed. With a flat shed rod, that method simply wouldn’t work.

All the videos I have posted here are very light and I had no problem watching them with my erratic internet connection here in Bolivia. I hope you can watch and enjoy them too.





Posted by: lavernewaddington | January 29, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Rhythm


second motif finished backstrap weaving This week has been about rhythmic weaving , weaving, weaving. I have never really set myself a schedule for a weaving project before. I just weave as much as I feel inclined to do each day. I’m in no hurry. But, I found myself falling into a one-motif-per-day challenge with my latest wool piece. Maybe it was because I was so concerned and nervous about not being able to get the motifs to line up on the two panels. Even when I had the first one aligned, I was not convinced that I would be able to do the same with the next…as I always say…a different day, a different rhythm. And even if the first half of a motif was behaving well, I couldn’t trust that the second half would play along.

As it turns out, it seems that my rhythm wasn’t that different from day to day. All six motifs fell beautifully into alignment and, although I constantly paused to relax tension on the warp and compare my progress with the first panel, I only had to back up once for a re-do in the very first motif. I sighed and figured that would be the rhythm for this project…weave,  back-up, re-do…but it wasn’t.

I was really pleased about that as I have found maintaining consistent proportions in motifs rather challenging in the past. Maybe I have developed a good rhythm from the large amounts of plain weave that I have been doing lately. I have to admit that it is really fun to just open a shed, beat and pass the weft again and again without having to stop and hand-pick a shed. It is nice to take a break from all the pick-up work and do that from time to time. The silk piece I recently wove gave me that opportunity. There was lots of plain weave to enjoy between each of those star motifs…perfect for developing a regular rhythm and beat.

silk bandanna backstrap weavingOnline weaving friend, Paula, was taking her first steps in the Andean Pebble Weave structure using my book and was having some concerns. It was all about her beat. It is difficult to convey to someone how hard they should beat. Luckily she showed a picture and I could read her concerns which enabled me to help her by suggesting adjustments.

paula beat comparisonThere are different weavers with different beats who will produce bands that look different and who is to say which one is better or ”correct”? But, there can be problems when beating too hard. Paula is used to weft-faced weaving and giving her work a good thumping beat. I can remember pounding away with a fork on my tapestry pieces. I loved that. Paula’s motifs, on the right, are of consistent size and shape and look really sweet. The problem with that kind of heavy beat when using cotton, is that the warp threads get forced apart and reveal the weft, which is something you may not want. The blue weft is exposed outlining the diagonals. A lighter beat produced the band on the left. I did have a student once who threw up her hands and gave me a ”look”. I had suggested lightening her beat and then had to tell her an hour or so later that she probably wasn’t beating hard enough. That’s the way it goes. It takes time to find that beat and rhythm.

Here are the two panels in my latest wool project off the loom. I folded the edges and placed them together so that I could enjoy the fact that everything lined up…phew!

two wool panels with aligned motifs

ticlla or discontinuous warp Now I need to wet finish it which, quite frankly, freaks me out!

I once had a bad experience with some handspun wool from Peru.

I wove a discontinuous-warp, or ticlla, piece with it. It had four squares of four natural alpaca colors..two in each panel… and I had needle-woven to finish each of the two panels to create the selvedges. It was a small piece but it had been a lot of work!

I washed it (apart from the finishing, it really needed a wash as the wool was pretty dusty and dirty) and each color shrank in an entirely different way. The piece was badly deformed.

I did manage to sort of work it back into shape but it never looked as nice as it had before the wash. I am hoping that I don’t have any such problem with this industrially-spun wool.

2 panels of wool project backstrap weaving

full view wool panels backstrap weavingThis is how the two panels will sit together when I connect them with the joining stitch.

All kinds of tools took part…a Guatemalan shed rod used as the front beam, a Bolivian broom stick for the back beam, two long Guatemalan swords, a Guaraní sword (which I had to put aside as, although it is fine for cotton, it really needs some sanding to work with wool), a pick/beater from Ecuador, a polished sword from Maryland Sheep and Wool and a good ol’ Ashford shuttle.

various tools backstrap weaving wool project

60 2 silk tubesNow to think about the next project. I have two in mind that are competing. I am thinking about making this latest wool piece the first in a series and so I would love to get into my wool stash and make another of the same size with the purple and other jewel colors that I have. I’ll use a different pick-up structure…maybe intermesh or perhaps supplementary-warp.

The other project that has been turning in my mind is another in 60/2 silk. Deanna gave me the tubes of teal that I used in my bandanna project as well as some bright yellow.

While I am not crazy about the bright yellow, I have an idea of how to tone it down if I use it in a scarf project. I can cover it with continuous supplementary-weft patterning using the supplementary weft to fill the negative space and reveal little motifs in the underlying yellow silk. That is what I did in the first and third rows of patterning below. There will be splashes of yellow here and there rather than having it be the dominant color. I found a pattern on a Mexican rebozo that has given me ideas. I am glad I took the picture of the tubes of silk as it reminds that there is less of the yellow silk than the teal so I won’t plan too big a project and run out of thread while warping.

Calcha flower motif in supplementary weft inlayAnother online weaving friend, Hilary, sent me a picture from her recent trip to Cusco.

Cusco….of course you expect to see LOTS of weavers and textiles and backstrap looms. I wasn’t expecting this….

Picture by Hilary Hopkins Criollo.

Picture by Hilary Hopkins Criollo.

How cool is that? I wish I could see more of what was going on. I wonder what kind of rhythm the weaver gets going. Maybe the book cover I bought in Santa Cruz airport was made this way. I was intrigued by it because it had the typical motifs of Chinchero, Peru, was made in acrylic, and was being sold with its ”Bolivia” label as a Bolivian souvenir. The consistent repetition of three mistakes in the widest band of pattern convinced me that it was not woven on a backstrap loom with a weaver doing all the pick-up.

Craylic knock off chinchero pattern Lastly, here’s something I saw online and wanted to share…

hmong triangle coin purses little mango importsThey are the work of the Hmong people of Thailand and are little coin purses. You can see them and maybe buy one on the website of Little Mango Imports. I can’t quite tell how they have been constructed and how much fabric they use but they are very sweet.

Now to ponder the next project…wool or silk?








Posted by: lavernewaddington | January 22, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Which Way is Up?

What kind of crazy person weaves with wool in a heat wave? Okay, I won’t dwell on that as I know that northern hemisphere folks are just as uncomfortable in a wave of cold weather right now.

I finished the first panel of my wool piece. It has a mix of Andean Pebble Weave motifs that have influences from textiles of the lowlands and highlands of Bolivia and Peru as well as from sources well outside South America. I managed to squeeze in six of them between the narrow bands of swirly lines. I like how the white lines in the narrow pattern bands reveal the red star-like motif in what one might call the negative space.

first of 2 wool panels backstrap weavingI have to admit that creating the pick-up patterns isn’t really the focus of this project for me. There are multiple other things on which to focus…

-working with commercial wool to which I did not add extra twist.

-managing sticky sheds.

-working with this new-to-me 20/2 wool, which looks like it might want to break if not handled well, in a width that I have never tried with wool before.

-ensuring that the motifs on the second panel are of the same proportions as those on the first so that the two panels will be as close to identical as I can manage.

I didn’t have any broken warp threads to deal with in the first panel…yay.

If all goes well, I will finish with two panels that I will sew together as I did in this cotton project…

finished joining stitch on two panels backstrap weaving

I had some decisions to make before I got to work on the second panel and looked at some pieces that weavers here in South America create and sew together to help with that. One of the typical pieces that comprises panels is the women’s carrying cloth, the lliqlla or aguayo.

Of course, the work of the indigenous weavers is on a whole other level.

For a start, their carrying-cloth panels are far longer and wider than mine and are woven with four selvedges. Weaving is started at one end of the loom for a few inches and then started and continued at the other end. Eventually, the two ends of the woven cloth will be so close to each other that the weaver will have to abandon the pick-up patterning and the use of heddles and sticks to create sheds. He or she will need to needle-weave in the remaining weft shots in plain weave. You can see the piece on which I learned this technique below. The two ends of weaving are just about to meet.

learning double weave potosi

This weaver is finishing this four-selvedged plain-weave panel. She picks up every other warp end with the blunt end of a needle to create a shed before passing the weft.

This weaver is finishing a four-selvedged plain-weave panel. She picks up every other warp end with the blunt end of a needle to create a shed before passing the weft.

I have taken the easy way and my latest wool project has been simply cut off the loom leaving fringe at both ends. I was not yet ready to add the further challenge of four selvedges to this project!

Before starting the second panel, I wanted to look at examples of aguayos to see if  indigenous weavers had planned on aligning the motifs on their two panels and, if so, how successful they had been. I find it quite difficult to weave the same motif along the length of a piece and have it turn out with exactly the same dimensions from start to finish. It takes a concentrated effort of measuring and adjusting tension and beat. I think it might be just as hard to produce motifs of consistent proportions on two separate pieces of cloth.

woven viscachaSimply applying a different amount of tension to a warp from one day to the next, or altering the beat slightly, will cause a motif to either elongate or contract. Shortening the warp, as the finished cloth is rolled up, also affects the amount of tension that I apply as a sit at the loom. It is much easier to tension a short warp than a long one and the tendency is to apply progressively more tension as the warp gets shorter. You then unroll the cloth and find that the cute chubby rabbit-like figure (viscacha) at the start of the cloth looks more like a long thin weasel at the end!

Look how different this kangaro motif is in the hands of two different weavers who are tensioning the warp and beating differently. Mine is the elongated one. My sister-in-law said it looked like a rat instead of a kangaroo. I was using new-to-me thread in Australia and had pushed the warp threads too close together.

difference in design proportionBelow, you can see a spectacular carrying cloth from Bolivia with bands of double weave amongst the plain weave. And, there’s that lovely triangular joining stitch that I used recently to join my two brown panels. I have been dipping into some of my books and found that in the Potosí region of Bolivia where I learned embedded double weave, the stitched join is known as siray and the triangle pattern is known as arku siray. The book describes and names other joining stitch patterns used in the region… zig zags, arcs, vertical lines and even butterflies.

You can see that the weaver has created the same double weave motifs on either side of the joining stitch but that those on the right are narrower and much more elongated. A different piece, a different rhythm. But, who can say if this even mattered to her? And, this is certainly not something I noticed when I first saw and photographed this textile. I was immediately overwhelmed by the fineness and beauty of this piece. I only notice the differences in the proportions of the motifs now that I happen to be focusing on that particular aspect.

double weave aguayoI feel a joyful jumping rhythm in Maxima’s aguayo, below, and I love it.  The layout of the bands and distribution of colors is identical on both panels but she has not tried to match the figures themselves.

Picture courtesy of PAZA Bolivia

Picture courtesy of PAZA Bolivia

And then the question came to me: ‘’Which way is up? Maxima’s little horse figure is standing right way up but the feline figure to the left is on its head. She could have woven it right way up if she had wanted but it seems that she chose not to. An animal figure in the upper half is aligned in yet another way. I suppose that this cloth could lie or be worn any which way and chances are you would get to see a figure positioned the right way up no matter where you were standing. These are just my thoughts and ramblings. I don’t know how the weavers themselves think about this. I am usually quietly observing or doing when I am visiting with weavers. The questions come later….quite often too late.

aguayo CuscoThe weaver of this cloth from the Cusco area of Peru has aligned her motifs on either side of the join. Phew! I hope I can do as good a job. Our eyes have something to look at from all angles. The horse figures are the right way up on the right hand side of the join and upside down on the other. The bird figures that switch positions on either side of the horses give you something to look at from other angles and sides.

terminal-areasWhat is consistent in all the pieces I looked at is that fact that both panels appear to have been warped in exactly the same way. If one panel has a wide pick up pattern on the left hand side and a narrow pattern on the right, the second panel is also warped in this way…one being a sort of carbon copy of the other Therefore, one finished panel needs to be rotated before being joined to the other.

I did it in a different way and wound the colors for my second panel as a mirror image of the first rather than as a copy. I don’t know why, but it just seemed to be the right thing to do at the time!

I am wondering if the indigenous weavers work the way they do so that the terminal areas that end up toward the far end of the woven piece (and which are kind of an unattractive but virtually unavoidable interruption to the beautifully worked pattern) lie at opposite ends of the cloth once the two panels are joined rather than at the same end.

As my pieces do not have four selvedges and, therefore, no terminal area, it doesn’t matter which way I set them up.

So, after looking at many examples before starting the second panel, I had to decide if I would…

-try to align my motifs so that they start and end at the same time, but not weave the same ones side by side.

-try to align my motifs and weave the same ones side by side as a mirror image of the first panel.

-weave the same motifs but mix it all up by weaving long ones next to short ones and not worry about aligning them at all, or

-weave six completely different motifs and not try to match anything.

I went with trying to make the second panel a true mirror image of the first. I need the symmetry but may live to regret this decision!

starting second wool panelI guess if they grow at different rates and end up hopelessly misaligned I can always change the way I join the panels together. Right now I am planning this…

join 3Those funny triangles down the center are supposed to be the joining stitch, the arku siray.

If the motifs end up out of sync, as they are in the image above, I’ll probably do this…

join 4I’ll put some distance between the motifs which might trick my eyes into not making comparisons. In fact, this arrangement is already growing on me. It’s always good to have a back-up plan, right?

While looking about for examples of joined woven panels, I read of the existence of two main types of carrying cloths in the northern part of Potosí in Bolivia: the siraynin, which comprises two equal parts joined with visible decorative stitching and the qhewallo, which comprises two panels of different widths. A band of pick-up pattern sits in the center of this second type rather than the stitching and the stitching itself is done in the least visible way possible. (Lliqllas Chayantakas López, Flores, Letournaux PAC- Potosí) This was the very thing I had been wondering about when I showed in a recent blog post one of the entries in the first regional backstrap weaving competition run by the CTTC in Cusco last year. Quite possibly, weavers in Cusco have entirely different names for these styles.

12308639_905019236200663_1944169302157504867_nFor now, all I want to do is put my two small panels together and make a nice table covering. I am sure I will learn a lot. As far as my goals of going longer, finer and wider go, it’s another ”two out of three” for this project. I didn’t go longer as I wouldn’t have had enough yarn for the width I wanted. But, I am pleased with the width and the fineness of the wool.

Before I leave you, let me show you Sophie’s bold and beautiful double-weave band with her own pattern. Don’t you just love the crisp patterns this technique allows you to create? If you are tempted to try it, you can see my intermediate-level tutorial here.

sophie france (1)

sophie france (2)








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