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)








Posted by: lavernewaddington | January 15, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Taking Notes

large patternsI was rustling around in my pattern chart folders looking for ideas for my latest wool project.

It was a fun bit of nostalgia looking at designs I had charted many years ago. I haven’t woven every single one of them. Some half-charted motifs, which I guess I had abandoned because they were somehow not quite right, suddenly looked pretty good.

Some of the charts are huge, like the one I did for the Wayuu inspired wall hanging and the Shipibo song lines hanging. They are folded this way and that, a bit smudged and crumpled, with notes scribbled on the sides. I like charting on paper even though my charts often end up in this state.

In one of the folders, I found pages from one of my old project journals and I was astounded.

Wow, when did I suddenly lose the discipline to write up my notes so meticulously?! Each page has photos, miniature pattern charts and layout in colored pencils labeled with neat hand written figures.

These were made in the times when I had not yet discovered online weaving groups and did not own a digital camera. I am thinking that the time that I now spend online was once spent making pretty project pages.

old project notesAll the projects described on these pages have gone to live in other homes.

I still make good notes. They just aren’t pretty. The pattern charts do not stay together with the project page, there are no pictures or colored pencil layouts and my hand writing is an impatient scrawl. Here’s the project page for the two brown panels that I wove late last year and recently joined into one piece.

current project notesIt’s not quite as attractive as those earlier project pages! but I guess that all the information I need is there.

I have been watching a tapestry artist friend show online her process for her latest work. She finds her subject…quite often it is something from nature… a plant, flowers, sticks, pebbles. She then photographs it, paints it in water colors and then creates a black and white outline cartoon from the painting which sits up behind the vertical warp. She then proceeds to weave it. Each stage is a work of art in itself. A book of the paintings alone would be wonderful.

As for me, I took the trouble of making a rough image of what I had in mind for my latest wool project in my drawing program. No colored pencils this time. I wanted the colors to be as close as possible to my yarn colors and figured I could do that better with software tools. The result is hardly a work of art but it did help.

planning next backstrap weaving project

wool project designBut, first I had to choose the colors. There’s something about wool that says ”earth tones” to me even though I have some pretty blues, ruby red, greens and purple in the yarn that I bought in my last trip away. I guess I haven’t used wool enough to have gotten over the fixation with earth tones yet.

Apart from the bright Bolivian cloth that covers my backstrap weaving cushion seat you can see that my environment is otherwise pretty earthy. I chose, dark brown, brick red, tan and off-white yarn.

I got out a pile of books and those pattern chart folders and yes, even my own book is there. I stood over it all and looked and looked. It makes my head hurt trying to visualize how the colors will look together and how they should be placed and that is why I made the drawing. I just threw some large X patterns on there until I could figure out what design I wanted to weave.

There will be two panels like this that I will connect with a decorative joining stitch. The left edge of the drawing will be the joined edged and I hope to edge the entire piece with a decorative technique that I haven’t used before.

I finally chose the patterns. The large ones are a nice combination of Andean outlines with my own ”fillers”, tweaks and embellishments. There’s also one that I adapted from raffia Kuba cloth. The narrow ones in red and white are pretty much my own thing but there are definitely Andean influences at work.

It was time to crunch numbers based on the wool sample I wove last week and this is where the not-so-disciplined note-taking became a problem.

wool sample both faces

When I was winding the warp for the sample, I decided that the number of ends that I had written in my notebook wouldn’t be enough to give a good reading and so I added a bunch more. Did I adjust my notes? No! The added ends were so obvious, I couldn’t possibly miss them, right?

So, I measured my sample and used the numbers in my notebook (the wrong numbers) to make my calculations and happily wound the two panels of my new project. I was very pleased. The warping had gone wonderfully and I liked the way the colors looked together. If the warping goes well, I just know that the project will be a success. I even put all the heddles on one of the pieces and it was only then, as I started moving the threads around and settling them, that I realized that the panel was way, way too narrow. Then, I figured out what had gone wrong. Back to the warping board to double the amount of ends in all the solid color sections. I wound the extra ends and added them.

So much for the glitch-free success-guaranteed warping session. It wasn’t too bad fixing the mistake. If I had discovered this error the following day, I would have unwound the whole thing and started again…a different day, a different rhythm.

The heddles had to all come out. I quickly destroyed the evidence and pretended it had never happened.

wider warp on loom ready for heddlesNow, that’s  what I like to see…a fresh warp with the right number of ends, all evenly tensioned, stretched out before me.

hairiness of the wool warpYou can see the hairy little fingers of the wool yarn just waiting to cause mischief. Yes, it is pretty sticky stuff but as long as the threads don’t break, I can patiently deal with it. Well, even if they do break, I can deal with it but perhaps not so patiently.

I was 10 ends short of brown yarn when I fixed the second panel. That’s 10 short out of 1 980 between the two warps. So, I just took 10 ends off the first one to even things up and it’s just as well I did as I need brown yarn to fix breaks should they occur….so far so good. I have to use black for weft instead of the brown I had intended to use which is not a problem with warp-faced weaving. And yes, I adjusted my notes for these changes! My notebook will sit right by the warping stakes from now on.

second motif underway backstrap weavingHere’s the second of the large Andean Pebble Weave motifs underway. You can see that I am using the extra long beam that I used for the silk project. It is not necessary for this one but I have grown to really like the feel of that beam.

second motif finished backstrap weavingThe second motif is finished and the next will be the one inspired by Kuba cloth. I will probably just stick with those three unless something else leaps out at me in the meantime. I am really pleased with it. Of course, the challenge will be to weave an identical second panel. I think the secret for me will be to just keep weaving and not take too much time off…get a good rhythm going. I am glad I have already warped (and adjusted) the second panel.

The wool is fine and the fabric feels light and lovely, if not exactly soft. I’m getting used to the springiness of it as I beat.

And now for some projects from online friends…

Julia has been weaving with the KnitPicks Curio cotton and has been wanting to do something asymmetrical with all the gorgeous colors she got. She has an Andean Pebble Weave pattern lying within and amongst stripes of varying widths. My head would have broken putting this together as asymmetry kind of freaks me out. Julia has a great eye for design and layout and this piece is stunning!

julia asymmetryPamela in New Zealand (whom I am happy to say I met when she came over to weave with me in Australia) has been working on some Andean Pebble Weave projects and adding eyelets. I take my belts down to the market where I just mark the spots where I want the eyelets to be placed and the ladies use a big punch-like machine to take care of it. Pamela gave me some notes on the process, with which she is just getting comfortable, for anyone who would like to try…

I was advised to use an awl and then a chopstick to open up the hole, which of course would work well. Much closer to hand was my knitting needle collection and I found that it supplied a well graduated series of hole openers which worked well too. Then you ease the eyelet into the hole carefully. You may need a needle to flick any catching threads onto it.
The backs of my eyelets aren’t great; my hammer work needs improving but they are perfectly functional.

pamela nz

moniek deroo 2 mtrMoniek Deroo in Belgium wove two meters of gorgeous band on her inkle loom. She used combinations of Andean motifs with her own embellishments to make a unique pattern. The gold and white look fabulous together.

And, to finish, and just for fun, Diana Maria allowed me to use her picture of the baggage carousel in La Paz airport. There you can see one of those brightly colored cloths that are used here to carry babies and all manner of things, being given yet another good use as a piece of checked luggage. When I think of my monstrous wheely bags covered with TSA locks I think how nice it would be to travel so simply!

Picture by Diana Maria Azero Saravia.

Picture by Diana Maria Azero Saravia.
















Posted by: lavernewaddington | January 8, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Two out of Three Ain’t Bad

Here’s enough inspiration for this year. In fact, it might be enough for the rest of my life! I fell in love with this picture that recently showed up on Facebook…

From Afrostyle magazine and designer Tarun Tahilian

From AfroStyle Magazine and designer Tarun Tahilian.

c0abc54341cdd9965f8eb5c2b37b26dfThis was shared from the page of AfroStyle Magazine.

Just when I am into weaving and wearing wrist cuffs, along comes this image of forearms covered with them. And, I have always thought that a turban would be the perfect solution to that awkward transition period from dark brown to grey hair. Not just your conventional turban, but multiple layered silks!

And imagine multiple silk ribbon necklaces around the model’s neck. Gorgeous!

Do a Google Image search for designer Tarun Tahilian and be prepared to melt. I can’t believe my clothes-challenged self is so taken with this.

I chose just one of this designer’s pieces to show as I have been working on a 60/2 silk piece that is in a similar teal-y tone.

Here it is on the loom and in a place in my bedroom that doesn’t really favor photography. It looks away too blue.I simply could not get the camera to capture the green tones of the thread…

silk on silk supplementary weft motifsOnce the weaving had advanced so far that it was uncomfortable to reach forward and operate the sheds, I needed to roll up the fabric around the front beam. That was when I really had to do something about the lack of long enough sticks for this project. I was already lacking a suitable back beam and now, a roll-up stick. I looked up on the terrace where people who move out of their apartments frequently dump unwanted brooms and mops. I have cut down many of them for loom pieces. The search didn’t turn up anything and so I headed to the market. It’s all of a block and a half from my place to one of the biggest and most chaotic street markets in this city with its interesting sights, sounds and aromas.

broom stall la ramadaI am showing this picture of the broom stall that I visited on New Year’s Eve with a table of underwear in the background so I can tell you about a New Year tradition.

It is traditional to sell red and yellow underwear at this time of year as wearing red underwear to bring in the new year will attract love to your life. Wearing yellow will bring you money. The markets are full of this in the days leading up to January 1st.

There’s wood under the spotted plastic coating on the broom stick. Unfortunately, the melted plastic seam was very rough and would have shredded my silk and so I had to spend quite a lot of time picking it off and then sanding the gnarly wood underneath. Of course, a couple of days later when I was out and about, I ran into a stall selling bare wooden broom sticks that were wonderfully smooth. I bought two of these perfect ones…two out of three ain’t bad. They cost 80 cents each!

Someone on Ravelry posed a question to the weaving group  about changes in our loom inventories at the end of 2015. With my new extra long sticks, I guess you could say that I added a new loom to mine. A front beam, back beam and roll-up stick for under $4.

My collection of sticks and swords and shuttles has out-grown my bedroom and now lives in the living room. It may not be obvious, but there is some kind of order there.

new backstrap sticksAnd so, I was able to spread out the threads at the far end along the nice new long beam and roll up the cloth as I progressed. Once off the loom, I was able to pose the fabric in places with better lighting and I think this picture shows more accurately the true colors…

silk bandanna backstrap weaving

wearing silk bandanna backstrap weavingI am really pleased with it!

I am pleased and relieved that my small sample of 200 ends gave me reliable information for the 2000 ends that I eventually used. I was able to set the width and maintain it rather effortlessly for the entire project. I spent an entire morning trying to ensure that the threads were all evenly spaced before throwing the first shot of weft.

It is supposed to be a bandanna/neckerchief sort of thing but you may see me wrapping it about my head turban-style one of these days, if it is big enough.

You can see the cloth being worn and looking very blue again. The larger picture, above, shows it fresh off the loom before wet finishing.

I don’t think any picture will show you the exciting change after washing and pressing. You would have to feel it, but here’s a picture of it after washing anyway…

 Now I need to hem it.

One of my weaving goals for perhaps the last couple of years has been to go longer, wider and finer. I achieved two out of three with this project and it has been a great way to start the new year.

Maybe I will get a three out of three with the next project. Length has never been an issue. I have woven long warps stretched all the way across my room. I have rolled up unwoven warp onto the back beam when there hasn’t been room to stretch out the warp and I have also wound circular warps that have allowed me to halve the amount of space required in which to work.

I hope to go a bit longer than my standard lengths in the next project but the biggest challenge will be the sticky fine wool. I want to weave two panels that I will later join into one.  I have no product in mind for this piece. The project will be about learning how this wool handles in warp-faced weaving on a backstrap loom. If it works well, I will have something nice to put on a table and perhaps all the information I need to go on and make a poncho.

I spent some time watching dvds and listening to music while I rolled the yarn into balls. I had bought lots of it! Then I was ready to wind a sample warp. Hopefully this will give me an idea of the width I will achieve with a certain number of ends in both plain weave and Andean Pebble Weave.

wool sample backstrap weavingI chose a pattern with which I am very familiar as I really wanted to focus my efforts on handling the wool and not on the pick-up. I do have concerns about this yarn breaking over the course of a long piece. It wasn’t taking too well to being constantly rubbed against itself. But, what the heck…I think I will just dive in and try the larger project that I have in mind. You might have to remind me of this ”what the heck” attitude in the next few weeks when I start whining about all the broken warp threads that I have had to fix!

Below, you can see the two faces of the band. The width wandered about a bit before settling. Now to figure out colors.

wool sample both faces

Let me now show you what some online friends have been weaving and sewing…

marieke kranenburgMarieke Kranenburg set herself a sewing goal for the holidays and put together various inkle bands and fabric to create this fabulous pillow.

julia toft backstrapJulia T made a backstrap using the intermesh structure and her own pattern. She is pretty pleased to have this lovely cushy s trap now and to be able to leave aside the improvised pillow case backstrap she has been using. I teach the intermesh structure in my second book.

Lori has started making her own backstrap too using the Andean Pebble Weave structure. I wonder if Lily has been weaving at her side.

lori backstrap

annamieke ruijper apw

Annamieke's inkle loom with Andean Pebble Weave.

Annamieke’s inkle loom with an Andean Pebble Weave in progress.

And, Annamieke Ruijper has been using her inkle loom as a frame for tensioning her Andean Pebble Weave warp. She has woven a series of four-revolution patterns from my book and also included a couple of her own designs. I love that she already has the confidence to do that.

I do not give specific instructions in my book for setting up Andean Pebble Weave on an inkle loom using the loom’s own heddle system. My book shows how to wind a warp and dress it and then you are free to tension it any way you wish…using the frames of inkle, rigid heddle or tapestry looms, for example, or your own body at one end –  backstrap-style.

There are many possible ways to set this up on an inkle loom and this is just one suggestion. I have done it at least three ways, sometimes using the inkle loom’s heddle system, and sometimes not.

sophie regnySophie Regny wove this Andean Pebble Weave piece using a pattern in my second book. When I was putting that book together, I started seeing potential Andean pebble Weave patterns everywhere. I created this design from the pattern on the inside cover of a journal that I had been given. It’s lovely to see someone using the pattern and Sophie’s work is crisp and neat.

Marianne Planting  tensions her  Andean Pebble Weave bands using a backstrap set-up and a band locking device. Below, you can see her work in progress where she is using one of the patterns I adapted from the tablet weaving of Louise Ström in my second book.

marianne planting 1Here’s a gorgeous colorful band with a classic pattern of Chichero also made by Marianne…

marianne planting

Facebook reminded me today that five years ago I was working on the strap for my backstrap loom bag. I had decided to create the word ”weave” in various languages and fonts. I used a weft twining technique to do so. The strap didn’t need to be that long and so I only managed to fit five or six words on it of the many that Facebook and blog friends had given me. Today, when I shared the Facebook Memory, I received some more. I think I need to come up with another project in which I can use all the words I have been given from weaving friends around the world.

twined words for weaveHere are the ones I was given five years ago. Maybe you have a word to add for me. And, with that, I will leave you until next week…



















Posted by: lavernewaddington | December 28, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Silk, Stitches, Samples and Shed Rods.

I thought I would write a post between Christmas and New Year this week so that while everyone is relaxing between all the festivities, they might have time to go online and read.

Here are some sweet  handcrafted fiber decorations and ornaments that I have been seeing online…

arlene davisThese were made by Arlene Davis from a pattern by Heidi Bears. You can see more about this project on Arlene’s page Woollen Wonders. I was about to launch into a project using teal and was happy to have this confirmation that I was heading in the right direction by planning on combining purple with it. This really makes me want to pick up a crochet hook.

Jennifer Williams, aka Inkled Pink, came up with a way to fashion inkle bands into gorgeous Christmas decorations…

Jennifer Williams decorations inkled pinkAnd, she shared it by writing a tutorial for these on her blog.

As a testament to how well the tutorial has been written, Annamieke Ruijper, in the Netherlands, quickly followed the directions and made her own. What a great way to use those pretty patterned bands that we tend to accumulate.

annamieke ruijper

I don’t do Christmas. I was here at home on the 24th and 25th happily winding a new silk warp, stitching panels together and sampling for a new project. The weather has been kind these last days with lower temperatures than normal. It is awful working with silk when you have sweaty hands and fingers. Mango season is in full swing and the large rosy ones from the Yungas have arrived costing all of 12 cents a piece. Meanwhile the local smaller yellow ones are raked together in their hundreds to rot in huge, smelly, fly-infested heaps on the street. While people enjoy the shade that the mango trees provide, most people consider the abundance of fruit a curse.

gifts and purchasesI got out the tubes of 60/2 silk that Deanna had given me when I recently visited her. Beautiful tubes of teal and yellow…loads of it!..reminding me of the colors of mangoes and refreshing tropical seas.

You can see them there in the photo at left among other goodies I brought home. My pictures can’t quite capture the amount of green that is in that teal.

I was pretty excited about the silk. Although I have lots of colors in  60/2 silk that I had bought in the UK several years ago as well as some from Redfish Dyeworks, they were very small skeins and tubes…enough for use as supplementary-weft or for my small wrist cuff projects. I didn’t have enough to take on any kind of large project.

Speaking of silk wrist cuffs, I spent some time sewing plastic snaps to the ribbon necklace and cuff that I made to match the yurt pouch I showed last week. They are made from 60/2 silk in both warp and weft and these are the largest things I have made with this silk so far…

silk accessories backstrap weavingI was really keen to make something much larger with all the new silk I had to play with. But first….some sampling.

I had learned from past experience that not all my 60/2 silk was the same. The purple that I bought in the UK is finer than the turquoise, for example, which meant that letters that I had sampled in turquoise a long time ago had their proportions altered when I tried to weave them in purple. I gave up and just wove the ”real” piece in turquoise. I was not in the mood to re-chart my letters for the purple silk.

This is the silk bookmark I wove with the letters for my nephew, Ryan, the triathlete. The inspirational quote was his favorite at that time.

silk bookmark for ryan backstrap weavingIn another project, I found that the Redfish Dyeworks 60/2 silk did not behave the same way as the UK stuff when washed. I had used some of each as supplementary weft in a project and they shrank differently when wet. That was disappointing! As a result, I ended up with scalloped edges on the brown project below.

guatemalan cotton backstrap weavingSo, I wasn’t taking any chances with these tubes of yellow and teal 60/2 silk. I wanted to know exactly what I was getting…no surprises, thank you very much.

silk samplesI sampled with the yellow for width and a bit of weft inlay. And, it’s a good thing I did as I had very much underestimated the width I would get from 200 ends.

And then I decided that I couldn’t even trust the information for the yellow to be the same for the teal and I sampled again in teal. Fortunately, samples for backstrap weaving do not need to consume huge amounts of yarn. The samples are a bit lumpy and bumpy because I didn’t use a coil rod.

I messed about with some supplementary-weft motifs to see how many warps the wefts could span before becoming awkwardly long and impractical. I tried silk and embroidery floss as the supplementary weft and decided I liked the silk better.

You probably know by now that I am not product-driven. Its all about the process for me and so the very last thing I decided was exactly what I wanted to make. I really just wanted to weave something large with the fine silk in plain weave and see if I could manage it on my backstrap loom. I decided on a sort of bandanna, or neckerchief. I remember some time ago planning one of those in the Guatemalan cotton that I had. It had never materialized.

guatemalan loom and pick up sticksI planned for about 18 inches of width based on a cotton bandanna that I have, wound the 2000 ends that were required, and then realized that none of my loom bars were long enough to comfortably hold this width.

Fortunately, I have an old Guatemalan loom that Lorraine in California gave me years ago. It had been given to her by her weaving teachers in Guatemala in the 1970s and she passed it on to me.

That loom is old and well used and full of character. The loom bars were just long enough but I still felt uncomfortable with the warp ends sitting so very near the end of the rods. The wonderful shed rod that came with the loom was longer and did the trick for the near beam. The shed rod is a thick piece of wood that is amazingly light for its size…just what you want in a shed rod. I wonder what kind of wood it is.

You can see above, the shed rod that I am using as the front beam and one of the other beams that I will use as the roll-up stick. And there’s my favorite Guatemalan pick-up stick. Below you can see the complete set of sticks and a spindle that Lorraine gave me. Those swords get a lot of use. This is the first time I will be using the shed rod.

Lorraine's loomI so wish my camera would capture the green in the teal silk…Anyway, here is the warp stretched ready for heddles. I haven’t found a long stick for the back beam yet and have the threads crammed onto one of my regular loom bars for now.

2000 ends 60/2 silk backstrap weavingNow to make 1000 string heddles. I love making heddles and used some size 60 tatting thread for them (thank you, Sharon).

making heddles silk warpTaking a break to go look for more tatting thread….

And here it is underway…

sik o silk supplementary weft motifsBefore I could start weaving, there was the coil rod to install and the cross to flip. As usual, I spent an entire morning sliding threads around trying to get them evenly spaced before I could throw the first shot of silk weft.

I LOVE wide warps! I am having so much fun with this…using the big swords, strumming the silk threads with the blunt end of my pick-up stick, snapping the back shed through the heddles, having my legs completely disappear beneath the width…so much fun!

motifs in discontinuous supplementary weft

I am using a discontinuous supplementary-weft technique which has the weft-turns shadowing the outline of the pattern. You can barely see the turns because of the fineness of the silk. I did not want to carry the gold supplementary weft from one edge of the fabric to the other or even as far as the gold stripe as I didn’t want the fabric to be ”thickened” by the extra weft sandwiched between the layers of threads.

You can see that I chose, as I generally do, to use a fairly slim shed rod and that I have it secured to a second stick. There are so many different ways that I have seen to set up and operate what I will call the ”back shed”. This happens to be my current preferred way. Anyone who has spent some time backstrap weaving will soon realize that it is the back shed that is the trickiest to operate. Clearing the threads through the heddles and to the front of the loom can be difficult if the yarn you are using is sticky. Forget the common description ”smooth as silk”…this spun silk is surprisingly sticky. There is a lot of strumming involved while sitting back and and applying as much tension to the warp as I can. I insert my sword next to the shed rod and then tip it on its side next to the heddles while strumming in front of the heddles with my pointed stick. My llama bone tool would be a little too rough on the silk.

Many weavers prefer to use a shed rod with a very large girth. This can add a lot of weight to the warp and I have seen weavers here in Bolivia and Peru use pvc pipe to give them the girth without excessive weight…

pvc pipe shed rodThey simply draw the shed rod down to the heddles and strum in front of the heddles to clear the shed while applying tension to the warp. If the yarn is not sticky, those threads will snap right through the heddles effortlessly. The drawback  for me is that a  very thick shed rod requires the weaver to use more effort to raise the heddles. There are many different ways to operate these simple looms!

miguel-andrango-loomWeavers in Ecuador with a load of heavy-ish sticky hand spun wool on their looms use two shed rods, as you can see above. The number of warp ends are halved and distributed over the two rods and the rods are rolled so that one set of threads is first raised and then the other.

two brown panels backsrap weavingWhat I will need to eventually find is another long rod for my back beam. Right now, the coil rod is keeping everything nicely spread at the far end. I can usually count on going up onto the terrace of my building and finding an abandoned broom or mop to cut down. The place at which I used to buy my dowel rods stopped carrying them over a year ago. Well, I can always just buy a broom, right?

As I started a brand new project, I decided that it was also time to finish off an old one. You may remember that just before I left on my last trip, I had woven two brown panels which I had been hoping to join using one of the kinds of decorative stitches that weavers here in Bolivia use. I had been disappointed to find that the nice straight edges that I had been hoping to butt together and connect had come out scalloped after the wet-finishing process.

You can see the two panels, at left, before they got washed.

Well, I just went ahead and tried to connect them anyway…and, it worked!…far better than I ever could have hoped. I had anticipated everything that could possibly go wrong and none of those things eventuated.

finished joining stitch on two panels backstrap weavingI was inspired, as I have been so many times before, by my teacher, Maxima. You can see her below joining the two panels of one of her new carrying cloths with a different stitch to the one I used. Hers look like staggered triangles.

Picture courtesy of Dorinda Dutcher and PAZA Bolivia.

Picture courtesy of Dorinda Dutcher and PAZA Bolivia.

And speaking of Maxima and the weavers and spinners of Cochabamba, a new product has been developed by the co-operative. Maxima has been teaching the teenagers to weave and put together yoga mat straps. Aren’t they great?

Picture courtesy of PAZA Bolivia.

Picture courtesy of PAZA Bolivia.

Picture courtesy of PAZA Bolivia.

Picture courtesy of PAZA Bolivia.

Here are some projects from my weaving friends…

moniek derooMoniek Deroo has been using my Andean Pebble Weave books and weaves her bands on an inkle loom. She is even designing her own original motifs.

julia wall hangingJulia has added another wall hanging to a beautiful series that she has been creating. This one has a pattern from my second book. It is a motif that I translated to the Andean Pebble Weave structure from a tablet woven design by Louise Ström. In the chart in the book, I left a large blank space between the repeats and challenged readers to design their own ”filler”. Julia did just that and created something that so perfectly matches the rest of the pattern. She is using Knit Picks Curio cotton which has beautiful sheen. It is a 2-ply cotton and I imagine it to be similar to the Circulo Clea that I use. I do prefer 2-ply to the more ”round” 3-ply crochet cotton thread.

poncho bethanBethan sent me a picture of the first of two panels that she will sew into a poncho. She is using her own hand spun wool. She mentioned some struggles with the back shed and that is to be expected, especially when using wool. I have seen Bolivian and Peruvian weavers strum away patiently for quite some time trying to coax those sticky wool threads to break their grip on each other and behave.

Lily at the loomFinally, I will show you one of Lily’s Christmas presents from her mom, Lori. You may remember Lily weaving pick-up patterns in my ”Wee Fingers” post not so long ago. Lori wove a small backstrap for her. It’s adorable!

lilys backstrap

Back to my silk bandanna project and the hunt for a long back beam for my loom….










Posted by: lavernewaddington | December 18, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Flip and Turn…New Pattern!

reeled silk backstrap loomI have spent an entire week dressing up the little yurt pouch I showed you last week. The pouch was made using a plied reeled silk which is about the same girth as a #3 crochet thread.

Although the bands and accessories I added this week are small, I was now working with 60/2 silk and progress is never fast for me doing pick-up with those tiny threads.

I used the same pattern on everything and now I am now thoroughly bored with that particular motif and shall not weave it again for a while! Well…at least, not until I come up with a new color combination for it that excites me. Using a variety of colors can make weaving the same pattern over and over instantly more interesting, as I discovered some years ago when I wove about 40 key fobs in one pattern. Here are a few of them…


keyfobs 2 and 3 Akeyfobs 4 and 5Sometimes, just the inclusion of a third color can make all the difference. You will see that all the key fob examples, except the brown and tan one in the upper right hand corner, use at least three colors in the pebble section. I like to tell weaving friends not to be in too much of a hurry to move onto bigger, more complex patterns. There are simple variations that can be applied to even the most basic patterns that can make them more interesting…as simple as dividing the pattern to add an extra band of color, for example. Use your energy and concentration to work on some other new challenge such as using finer thread or going wider while sticking with a pick-up pattern with which you are already familiar.

It was fun meeting Brian when I was at Vavstuga recently. He showed me that he still has one of those key fobs that you see above. He had bought it from me back in 2010 attached to the card with information about my newly-released e-book. That was back in the days when the book was available on the WeaveZine site.

Here he is among the looms in the Vavstuga studio, where he showed me the fob, taking a break from weaving to play his dulcimer accompanied by owner, Becky Ashenden, on fiddle. What a treat!

I wove the pattern for the yurt pouch and accessories using the Andean Pebble Weave structure. Because the 60/2 silk threads were so fine and were difficult to lift and separate with sweaty hands and fingers, I added an extra set of heddles for the light threads and created a temporary picking cross for each pick. This meant that I could scoop up groups of light threads using a pointed stick and not have to use my fingers to pick and drop each one. It also meant that I had to do away with my beloved Saver Cord but, as my pattern only had 16 threads, it was not a big deal. People who have been weaving using my two books will know what I am talking about when I mention Saver Cords and picking crosses.

yurt bag

yurt pouch with cuff and necklaceAbove, you can see the ”naked”version and now dressed-up version of the yurt-shaped pouch with some accessories, all bearing the same ”hooky” pattern. I intend cutting about a third off the tassels.I am letting them just sit for a while until I am completely convinced of the need to do that. Once they are cut, there’s no going back. I had intended weaving a matching ribbon to sew to a black top. I did weave the ribbon, which you can see on the right, but didn’t like the way it looked against the top and abandoned that idea. So, now it is a necklace. I made a wrist cuff as well.

I had examples of other cuffs and necklaces (the ones you see below) that I had woven in the same 60/2 silk to use as width guides. That way, I knew how many ends to wind and was able to get the width correct right from the start. That is always a big help. I love how I can start my weaving on my backstrap loom with a selvedge and, therefore, not have to bother with hemming that edge later. The lower edge of the cuff you see above is the selvedge. The upper edge is folded and hemmed. Two hems would create extra bulk at the place where the two ends of the cuff overlap to join. I’ll be able to use the nice clear plastic snaps that Susan sent me to connect the cuff as well as the necklace.

silk cuffs and necklaces backstrap weavingI was able to use the left over warp ends from the cuff project to make the tassels. It is nice when nothing gets wasted! Some left over pieces of the ribbon were used to make tabs through which the braided strap was threaded.

tabs for strap on yurt puchLast of all, I wove and sewed a plain-weave tubular band to cover the seam at the base. I dithered a bit with this part as I wasn’t sure how it would look. Would it be too big and bulky? I used 16 ends of a #10 crochet cotton and I think it was perfect match size-wise if not exactly color-wise. I love tubular bands. They make such nice finishes and I have to stop myself from adding them to everything.

tubular band on base of yurt pouchNow I want to place a circle of felt at the base on the inside of the bag to cover the cut edge of the silk fabric circle.  The fabric has been stabilized with Fray Check but does not look very attractive. If I had more sewing skills, I would have lined the pouch…maybe one day I will reach that skill level.

hook pattern andean pebble weaveOne of the weavers in the Ravelry group commented on the pattern I used to decorate all these pieces. It appears in my first book, Andean Pebble Weave, as a simple double hook pattern (at left) but you are excused if you don’t recognize that straight away.

There are many things that can be done with the basic double hook shape. A weaver could simply repeat it along the length of a band leaving a small space between each motif.

To make things more interesting, perhaps the motif could be flipped back and forth along the length of the band so that one motif looks somewhat like a letter S and the next its mirror image.

s pattern flipped

Jill, with whom I wove recently, played around with this same motif. Rather than flip the hook motifs or leave blank spaces between them, she connected them with a completely different little figure. I love her original idea.

jillYou could connect the hooks directly one to the other while flipping them back and forth. Compare the individual hooks in the picture below to the connected ones…individual and connected hooks

Quite a different look and fun to weave.

A long time ago I had wound a warp to weave a series of ‘S’ motifs in the simple warp-float structure that I had found on a Central Asian yurt band. I made a mistake in the warping and ended up with twice the required number of warp ends. So, I simply wove the ‘S’ pattern  as a mirror image of itself in two columns. I loved the way it came out and it has become one of my favorite items… a belt that I always wear when I am traveling. Many online acquaintances have recognized that belt around my waist before they have looked up and recognized me!

belt with central asian motif backstrap weavings pattern flipped and mirroredSo, that is basically what I did with the double hook motif in the Andean Pebble Weave structure that I used on the yurt-shaped pouch.

I wove two columns of the motif flipping it back and forth as I went. It really is very easy and creates a complex-looking pattern from elements that are ever so simple. You tend to look at the pattern as a whole and fail to recognize its individual components.

Above, you can see the green band, which has the double hook motif flipped this way and that, lined up alongside its mirror image. Take away the green borders between, and you have the motif that I used on the yurt pouch.

Weaving an even more simple motif, which is symmetric both horizontally and vertically (like the one below left), in several columns can often create beautiful patterns. If you want to work with more warp ends and create larger patterns, simply take a motif that you already know well and multiply it. Who knows where it will take you! Multiply it, flip it, connect it with other shapes, add additional bands of color…have fun with it. Use symmetry and repetition to your advantage.

X and O pattern in several columnsHere are some examples of a classic Andean pattern that has been multiplied and aligned in different ways on wider warps…

flipped andean hookFocus on the white hook shapes on the bands with the light blue border and then see how those same shapes have been aligned on the center band to create a completely different look.

andean hook alignmentCompare the white hook shapes in outer bands with the yellow ones n the center and see how different the end result is.

mistake patternHere’s a pattern that I created purely by mistake.

When I arrived back in Chile after my first experience learning to weave in Peru in 1996, I warped up to weave the classic ”meandering river” or ”linquito” pattern, as my teacher Maxima calls it..

Without realizing it, I had set up my pebble sheds the wrong way round. I continued to follow the instructions for the pick-up that I had scribbled down while working with my teachers.

I had no understanding whatsoever of the structure at this early stage and was just following steps. Imagine my surprise and confusion when I ended up creating something completely different, yet really very pretty!

That’s the pattern that you can see in the picture above…the one on the right. I haven’t come up with any kind of interesting name for it and just call it the ”mistake pattern”. Both this and the pattern I was actually trying to create are in my first book. You can see examples on the left where I have woven it as a mirror image of itself in two columns leaving space between to fill with other small motifs. Filling in spaces like that can be the first fun steps to creating your own unique patterns.

One of my weaving friends in California made the same kind of mistake. She was having trouble with a piece and showed me the motif that she swore she was following in my first book. My book…really? I didn’t recognize the pattern at all!

But, by bending my eyes and brain a bit, I realized that, while she had been doing the pick-up perfectly, she had her pebble sheds out of order. She had created her own pattern in the process.  Sometimes I think that I should weave all the patterns in my books that way and see what happens!


Speaking of flipping….flip the krokbragd patterns, pictured above, 90 degrees. They are weft-faced but if you flip them,  you could well believe that you are looking at warp-faced patterns woven in the warp-substitution technique.

These are wall hangings in the bedrooms at Vavstuga woven by Becky. I think I will weave some of these. I wove some similar shapes in the warp-substitution technique when I was studying Bedouin patterns. Some of these krokbragd pieces have the ”horse tooth” motif that appears on many Bedouin textiles. If you can tolerate the long warp floats on the back, the warp substitution technique allows you to use more than two colors along any part of the pattern. We did, however, find by looking at some Omani textiles, a cool and simple way to tie down those floats. I blogged about that some time ago. I’ll refresh you on that when I get down to weaving these designs.

Before I wander off even more in this post…we have been to Central Asia, the Andes, Scandinavia and the lands of the Bedouin so far…. I will leave you here with those warm krokbragd pieces that Becky at Vavstuga wove along with the peaceful view of the river and fall colors from her studio…



















Posted by: lavernewaddington | December 11, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – The Yurt and other Tales

It is strange as I go back and edit the pictures from my recent trip to look at crackling fire places, fall colors and warm and cozy living spaces while I sit here sweating in the ever green tropics. It is hard to imagine that I was going around in a down vest just over a week ago and that Melinda had given me one of her own handknit hats to keep me warm while visiting friends in the east for Thanksgiving. And, a yurt in California, with sheep skins, plush pillows, a down comforter, soft lighting and heating was my exotic bedroom for two nights.

yurt openingMy first time in a yurt was back in 2010. I went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival and  the temperature was unexpectedly high….well into the 90s. After a hectic morning visiting the vendors and waiting in line for cold drinks, I wilted and took refuge in a yurt that had been erected.

In more ways than one, it really was the coolest place to be. I attached my backstrap loom to the wooden lattice walls and sat on top of the sheep skins to weave. A refreshing stream of air was drawn within from the opening in the roof. I wished I could have stretched out and napped but people kept entering thinking that I was the ”keeper of the yurt” and asking me questions about it. I imagined spending a night under that roof opening and gazing at the stars above the plains of Mongolia..

The rabbit building was cool but this was THE COLLEST PLACE at the festival. I tied up my loom and spent the afternoon weaving in a yurt. The felt was great insulation, I had beautiful skins on which to sit and some cool grass for my toes and the opening in the roof provided nice air circulation. Here I am shiny face and slightly bedraggled after a day in the heat but having a ball!

I visited a weaving friend, Sara Lamb, on one of my trips and marveled at her exotic yurt fiber studio nestled in the woods….

yurt studioAnd this was my yurt bedroom at Susie and Rex’s place for a couple of nights on my latest trip. What fun!

susie and rex yurtIn his living room, Rex had erected a pole for his backstrap weaving so he could sit among the collection of exotic rugs and textiles and create some of his own. The pole is seated in a plank which is weighed down by piles of books and furniture and allows him to experiment with having his warp extended at different angles.

Perhaps one day he will create a band to encircle the mini yurt he built in the backyard in which I got to spend those luxurious nights.

lisas-yurt-bandYurt band woven structures became a part of my weaving experiments back in 2009 when my friend Lisa showed me a band that she had purchased.

Even earlier than that, in 2007, I had made my first visit to the Textile Museum in D.C where I was inspired by its exhibit of tent bands of Central Asia.

Using ideas drawn from that exhibit and Lisa’s 48-foot band, I went on to weave quite a few small pieces using the terme structure starting with this one, below, that I gave to Lisa for her cell phone…

yurt design cell phone pouchI spent some time weaving with both Susie and Rex. Rex showed me a small experimental bench he had built to make sitting at a backstrap loom more comfortable. I tried it out and I have to say that it was quite amazing.

bencj for backstrap weaving by Rex

Here’s Gwen showing us how it works….

gwen trying out weaving bench

cotton/linen and silk warpIt was really comfortable sitting in this position…a position which I simply would not be able to tolerate for long without the support of this little bench. This position, sitting on the back of the calves, is how my Guatemalan weaving teachers sit with their backstrap warps angled rather steeply upward. Put a little cushioning on the seat of the bench and it would be perfect! What a clever simple device. Rex wanted to give it to me to take back to Bolivia. If only I had had room!

All this yurt talk takes me now to what I have been weaving this week.

In the last blog post, I showed you the silk warp that Sara had given me. There it is above…the gorgeous reds, orange, fuchsia, copper and purple. It is reeled silk that she dyed and warped and passed on to me to enjoy. I am hoping that along the way, some of Sara’s color sense rubs off on me.

Here it is on the loom with a pattern in the Andean Pebble Weave structure that I chose… a serious of ‘S-hook’ shapes woven this way and that…

silk warp on the backstrap loomAnd now, off the loom and washed and pressed undergoing that wonderful transformation that I have told you about before. It’s quite likely that you won’t be able to see the difference but, believe me, you can feel it….

reeled silk washed and pressedNow….what to make with this lovely piece of cloth? I really didn’t feel like folding it over to make a square pouch with a flap…been there, done that. Even though I love cutting and shaping bag flaps and edging them with tubular bands, I wanted to do something different this time. So, I came up with this, a tribute to my recent yurt encounters…

yurt bagI made a little yurt-ish shaped pouch. We can even imagine, if we like, that the strip of pebble weave is the band encircling the yurt. I had enough fabric to be able to cut a circle which forms the base of the bag and then sew the remaining cloth to it…a rather big challenge to my hand-sewing skills. It isn’t finished. I hope to add some exotic tassels somehow with the copper-color silk that Sara gave me and  possibly edge the seam where the body connects to the base with a tubular band. And, of course, a strap is needed too.

Here’s another view… taken without flash so the colors are little duller…

yurt pouchSo, now I have plans….I have my 60/2 silk and I want to weave a ribbon to edge the neckline of a black tunic top that I recently bought. I have all the colors of the warp that Sara gave me, except the fuchsia. I want to edge the neckline of the tunic with a band of those colors and use the little yurty pouch when I wear it. Urgh…I can hardly believe what I am saying…fashion plans! There will be much sampling and I just hope that I don’t destroy the tunic top in the process. My main concern is whether I have the ability to neatly sew on the ribbon.

silk for new projectSo, there are the tubes of 60/2 silk that I plan to use with a line-up of possible replacements for the fuchsia that I am lacking.

And, that’s the backstrap I wove with the Good Earth cotton/linen yarn. It is not as plush as the Plymouth cotton backstraps that I have made before but I really like the way this yarn feels. It is certainly a good sturdy backstrap.

The fuchsia yarn labeled Luxor that you can see was a gift from my friend Wendy in Australia. You may remember Wendy Garrity from previous blog posts about the time we spent together here in Santa Cruz and later in Santa Fe and the weaving she learned to do in Bhutan. She sent me a care package that showed up two days ago with all sorts of Aussie biscuits and sweets as well as this yarn. I wasn’t expecting it at all! She had been using the yarn in the Key Fob Weave-along that we ran earlier this year and I was interested in trying it and writing about it for backstrap weavers in Australia. The Luxor 100% cotton, is made by Fibra Natura, the same brand as the blue cotton/linen.

So, there’s plenty to keep me busy and I have the linen warp that I wound from Lori’s stash to try as well. Speaking of Lori and the weaving friends with whom I spent time while away, let me show you some of the textiles that I encountered on this trip…

Two bags that form part of Lori's collection of Huichol textiles. They have been woven using a balanced double weave structure and have interesting edgings. I took lots of pictures of those edgings to study.

These are two bags that form part of Lori’s collection of Huichol textiles. They have been woven using a balanced double-weave structure and have interesting edgings. I took lots of pictures of those edgings to study more closely now that I am at home. It is so exciting to discover decorative edgings on these pieces from Mexico.

If anyone knows the origin of this scarf, Christine and I would love to know. Christine found this in a Goodwill store and I love it. I was trying to figure out how the patterns at the ends of the scarf were created. The little figures are identical on both faces. It seems that some of the warp ends themselves were used to wrap others and create the patterns.

If anyone knows the origin of this scarf, Christine and I would love to know. Christine found this in a Goodwill store and I love it. The main pattern is beautifully fine and simple and the whole thing is set-off by the fascinating more complex patterns at the ends. The little figures at the ends are identical on both faces. It seems that some of the warp ends themselves were used to wrap others and create the motifs. I would like to figure  out the technique and this is something else that will have me peering at my photos.

Nicole made me so happy when she showed me the tapestry puece she had woven as a cover for her ipad. Dhe edged it with aplain weave tubular band that she had learned using the tutorial on my blog. It is funny thath other weaving friends, Sara and Diane, had just been suggesting the possibility of using use the tubular bands as not only edging s for warp-faced weaves, but also for weft-faced pieces and even knotted pile.

Nicole made me so happy when she showed me the tapestry piece she had woven as a cover for her iPad. She edged it with a plain-weave tubular band that she had learned using the tutorial on my blog. It is funny that other weaving friends, Sara and Diane, had just been suggesting the possibility of using  the tubular bands as  edgings for not only warp-faced weaves, but also for weft-faced pieces and even knotted pile. And then, along comes Nicole to show how well it works.

nicoles tapestry

Here’s Leslie’s backstrap showing us how nice the variegated Plymouth yarn can look. She had just started braiding the ends. The pale solid stripe that she added in the center really sets off the variegated stripes.

backstrap Leslie

Jean and Jane's wide piecesI got to see pieces, now off the loom, that Jean and Jane had been working on last time I met up with them. Jean’s black piece with its pattern in supplementary weft is her new backstrap. She adapted a warp pattern from my second book to the supplementary-weft structure…so clever. I am pretty sure that Jane intends sewing her fabulous complementary-warp pick-up piece into a bag which she will edge and decorate.

Liz and Caroline showed me what they have been working on since we last met and wove together. Caroline made her own backstrap and is currently weaving the band with the bird figures. I love Liz’s band in the middle with the variegated thread. I keep saying I want to try out some of those variegated yarns and have not managed to do so yet.

Here’s a nice selection of Andean Pebble Weave bands from the weavers in Arizona…

And, Deanna made me smile a lot when she went on to design her own Andean Pebble Weave figure after my stay with her. These are experiments for a hatband for her Mustang-driving husband. She was inspired by some tablet-woven horses that she had seen. As she discovered, designing for Andean Pebble Weave is just like a connect-the-dots exercise.

deannas mustangsAnd here is what Julia wove, after we parted, using Andean pebble Weave patterns from my second book….we all  love that red and black! Julia’s work is gorgeous and always so beautifully finished. She is great inspiration for everyone in the Ravelry group. I was tickled to see a pattern I had charted for the second book but never woven myself…the one on the right.


I just read on Facebook that Unicorn Books closed last week. Sad. In 1995, my new weaving friend in Colorado, Gladys, gave me their catalog to take back to Chile with me. The catalog was like a newspaper and oh, how I would love looking over the pages and pages of fiber arts books. I ordered Double Woven Treasures of old Peru from that catalog and waited impatiently for it to be shipped to the southernmost tip of Chile where I was living. It was that book that had me throwing on the backpack and heading to Peru to learn to weave in 1996.
And, just to show that my recent trip wasn’t all about crackling fires and chilly nights…southern California put on some spectacular weather and Deanna, Gay and I spent a gorgeous afternoon having lunch at the ocean.

You can see the exotic woven band…a  balanced double weave pick-up… on the Panama hat that Gay lent me for the strong sun.

It is one of many textiles that Gay and her husband collected in their travels. You may remember when last I visited her I was so excited to buy a Huichol belt from her that had designs I had once chosen to weave in a piece of my own, also in balanced double-weave pick-up.

I took lots of pictures of it and then gave it a nice home in my friend Janet’s place.

huichol belt

I will leave you for now with the setting sun on that perfect day down by the sea and get back to decorating my little yurt bag….




















Posted by: lavernewaddington | December 7, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Wee Fingers

Hello! I am back.

Last year I met up and wove with 5-year old Lily’s mom when I was in California. Lori went home to show her weaving to her daughter. I didn’t get to meet Lily but she made and sent me a paper bracelet with the words…Mitakuye Oyasin which, according to Wikipedia,

is a phrase from the Lakota language. It reflects the world view of interconnectedness held by the Lakota people of North America. It is a prayer of oneness and harmony with all forms of life: other people, animals, birds, insects, trees and plants, and even rocks, rivers, mountains and valleys.

lilys bracelet
lily plain weaveLittle did I know that the tiny hands that had fashioned that paper bracelet and written those lovely words would soon be weaving!

Lily would sit by Lori’s side and watch as her mom did, what they came to call in their household, ”some Laverne weaving”. Of course, after some time, Lily wanted to try. Lori set her up with some warp threaded through a small rigid heddle. It wasn’t long before Lily really wanted to try using string heddles, just like her mom. Lori shared a video with me of Lily deftly opening the shed on her tiny backstrap warp using all the coordinated hand and body movements to weave her wee band. Her joyous exclamation part-way through the moves of ”Oh dorgy, this is easy!” makes me smile every time. There’s a screen shot from the video at left.


This year I got to meet Miss Lily herself, now 6 years old, and watch her weave. She is left-handed, as is her mom, and uses the two-finger method to create a picking cross that I was shown here by one of my Bolivian weaving teachers. It was such a kick to see her at work. As her focus shifts from basic loom operation to pick-up, she has stopped using some of the moves that we use to smoothly raise the heddles but, never mind, her yarn is friendly and she can get clear sheds. One thing at a time. It will all come together soon.


Here’s a video of Lily doing some two-finger pick-up…

And here she is doing a little Andean Pebble Weave pick-up using the two pencils in place of her fingers as a permanent picking cross….

lily pebble weaveMeanwhile, Lily’s mom’s continues to explore backstrap weaving and pick-up patterns. This is what she completed after my visit…


Her balanced-weave piece, something she has been studying on her own, is gorgeous! She is achieving a nice balance without the aid of a reed.

loris balanced weave piece backstrapLori’s friend, Eden, came over to weave with her. She brought along her daughter, Isabella, who is almost 11. Isabella went home wanting to weave too and her 8-year old brother, Oliver, got into it as well. More wee fingers at the loom….

oliver and isabella 8 and almost 11And then, while hanging out in Florida with my weaving friend, Gwen, I got to see what she has been teaching her young friend Mariana to do. Mariana is 11 and can weave up a plain-weave band in minutes! She hasn’t started doing pick-up yet, but she can wind a good warp and make her own string heddles, While Gwen and I chatted and watched, Mariana wove a band which turned out to be just the right size for a pouch for her weaving sword. She then wound a new evenly-tensioned warp, made string heddles and proceeded to weave away again.

mariana backstrap weavingIt is so delightful to see these wee fingers at work and see my weaving friends passing on these skills to young ones on opposite sides of the USA… in California and Florida.

Gwen and I wove some double weave together. Here is Gwen’s sample with her own pattern…

gwens double weaveMy travels took me through such a variety of landscapes and temperatures…

From Florida, with its glorious old oaks hung with Spanish moss….lakes abounding in elegant strutting birds…and expanses of lily pads suspended on glassy surfaces…

spanish moss

lake in florida

lily pads florida…to expanses of fallen fall foliage and all those classic colorful New England hillside scenes…

fall foliage

new england fall foliage

…Pacific Ocean sunsets and Spanish Missions…

sunset pacific

Southwestern deserts…

desertAnd, of course, there was lots and lots of backstrap weaving along the way with friends old and new….wee fingers and not-so-wee ones in among the warp threads.

I will show you all the weavers and textiles in my next report. That one will place me back in my regular Thursday night/Friday morning posts.

Here are some gifts and purchases that I brought home with me…

gifts and purchasesThe gold and blue tubes of 60/2 silk were a gift. I am excited about that and can finally make something large-ish in silk. The colors are gorgeous! The tubes of 60/2 silk that I have here at home hold very small quantities…just enough to make some cuffs and to be used as supplementary weft.

The large tube of Navajo warp was also a gift from a friend who does a lot of Navajo-style weaving. I have been looking for light-weight Navajo warp to dye and use for a discontinuous-warp project. I happened to mention that fact and…! I just didn’t get my act together enough to buy wool dye to bring home. There isn’t any to be found here. Oh well, I have plenty to weave in the meantime.

The plastic snaps were a gift from a Canadian weaving friend. My metal ones are already rusting. These plastic ones will save my cuffs from getting rust stains.

You can see 5 buttons there. After spending a long time at WEBS touching absolutely everything, that is all I bought. It seems that I will be planning weaving projects to go with the buttons rather than the other way round.

charting shipibo patternI got some more charcoal pencils and a ”disappearing ink” pen for marking  my ikat projects.

And, I bought a lot of DMC #12 cotton for another double weave wall hanging. I have decided to make a series based on the Shipibo-inspired one that comprises solid lines and squiggles. A weaving friend on this trip showed me pictures she took in India of wooden lattice-work window shutters and from there comes my inspiration for the next double weave project….more solid lines and squiggles. I will be back down on the floor with charting paper and pencil for that.

I was given lots of naturally-dyed cotton from Mayan Hands in Guatemala. It was part of several towel kits that a weaving friend had bought. Those are just a few of the lovely colors that you can see in the photo.

And then, I went a little mad at Vavstuga and bought lots of fine wool which I hope will work for backstrap weaving. I will make it work! I bought LOTS! I have been inspired by the pictures that the CTTC has been posting of the annual backstrap weaving competition among individual weavers from the various Cusco communities….gorgeous wool pieces in natural dye colors. This one in particular caught my eye…

12308639_905019236200663_1944169302157504867_nUsually, two pieces are sewn together to make these very large cloths. The join is covered with embroidery which makes a  very attractive central line. You may remember that I wove two identical pieces recently with the intention of joining them in such a way. However, this piece has a band of pick-up weaving in the center and the join is not to be seen. I am guessing that the weaver wove one panel wider than the other to include the central band of pick-up patterning and then joined her two pieces so cleverly that the seam is not noticeable at all. I would love to take a closer look at this piece. Unfortunately, the photos on the CTTC site are not labeled and I do not know from which community this weaver comes. The style of pick-up patterning on the shoulder cloth that she is wearing is so very different to that on the piece she is holding.

Anyway, I am toying with the idea of making a poncho with the wool I bought at Vavstuga. I bought lots but maybe not enough for a poncho. That’s okay, I can always get more. Hopefully, I won’t be cursed with what has so often happened in the past….I find a yarn that I like only to find that it gets discontinued shortly after my great discovery.

warps I brought home for backstrap weavingreeled silk pouch backstrap weavingAnd here are some ready-to-go projects that I brought back. Above right, you can see a warp of reeled silk that Sara Lamb dyed and wound and gave to me. You may remember that she gave me one the last time I visited with her and I had so much fun with that…feeling the cloth I wove transform from a sort of crunchiness to liquid smoothness after washing and pressing and then sewing and dressing  up the cloth as the cell phone pouch pictured at left. I can’t wait to weave this!

On the left is a cotton/linen blend yarn that my friend Liz thought would work well for backstraps. So, I bought a skein. You can get a backstrap out of one $11 skein. It is not as cushy as the Plymouth Yarn that I usually recommend for backstrap projects but it makes a nice sturdy backstrap and is super easy to weave with. There is a hint of intended unevenness to the coloring that gives it a very natural look. I love this stuff!! I wove that blue warp up last night and will finish the braids for the backstrap today. You will see it finished on Thursday when I post more details about the yarn. This is the first time that I have woven with any kind of linen and there is more to come. The center warp in the picture is 100% linen. Lori let me wind a warp with linen in her stash and I am looking forward to trying it out.

I am leaving all the textile fun for the next post. I met with all sorts of cool people. Friends have found textile gems in Goodwill stores, bought textiles directly from indigenous weavers and created their own marvels on their backstrap looms. I also saw some cool homemade weaving gadgets. I have plenty to show you next time. This post was about the wee fingers. The next one will show what the grown-up fingers have been up to.

I will leave you with a picture of a former weaving buddy who used to get down on the floor with me to chart…

charting helperIMG_20151203_095045I had to part with her almost three years ago. It simply wasn’t fair leaving her all alone when I traveled. I hadn’t seen her since. Now she has just moved a block away from me and there has been a happy reunion. It was first thing I did after dragging myself home from the Miami-Santa Cruz red-eye and changing into clothes better suited to the tropical heat.

She remembered me!

Thanks to all who opened their home to me on this trip and to those who wrote to me concerned about the lack of blog posts. I am back 🙂













Posted by: lavernewaddington | September 25, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Color Catching

I have been washing all the pieces I have made with the cotton my friend Betty brought back from Guatemala. Two of the pieces were recently made and two were made quite some time ago. Why have I waited? Well, the Guatemalan cotton was around 30 years old and that might explain why the color was coming off the thread as I wove. The most serious case was the purple thread in the spring scarf I made. It is flecked with white where the color had completely come off in places while I wove giving the cloth a sort of denim look. To tell the truth, I really liked that denim look. But, I was afraid to wash the piece thinking that it would lose a lot of color and that perhaps the purple would bleed into some of the silk supplementary weft.

I suppose that people who have more experience with fiber and dyeing would have told me that that wasn’t likely but, what did I know? I didn’t want to take the risk. And so I waited.

supplementary weft patterned scarf backstrap loomI had been hearing about Color Catcher cloths in one of the online groups and my friend Claudia got some for me when I was visiting her in the U.S. They work like a dream. You throw one in the wash with the garment and it magically takes up all the color that is released and is roaming about loose in the water. So, I washed all the pieces and there were no disasters. I can’t tell you how happy I am with the results after giving all four pieces a good press. They feel so wonderful!

The purple scarf doesn’t look any dfferent for having lost what seemed like a lot of color in the water.. I was worried that it might end up looking quite worn. It looks as bright as ever and feels gorgeously soft.

Four pieces got washed and three of the four were a great success. The fourth piece was the subject of a mini disaster. It taught me how the use of different kinds of silk supplementary weft in the same piece can effect the way the fabric shrinks.

Let me show you the red ”leaf” piece that I recently made. This is one of the successes.I finally got around to hemming and finishing it with a wash and press.

red and brown cotton panels backstrap weaving It’s sitting on top of the two brown panels that I showed you last week that are now off the loom. I used the same kind of silk throughout this piece and all went well.

As soon as the brown pieces were cut off the loom, I couldn’t resist placing some of my small woven samples on them to see how they looked. As you will know from my previous posts, I want to sew the two panels together into one piece using decorative stitches to cover the join. Here they are fresh off the loom. I haven’t even tidied up the broken warp threads yet.You can see the replacement threads still pinned to the cloth.

two panel display cloth backstrap weavingAnd now you see them, tidied and hemmed….

two brown panels backsrap weavingAt this point, I was a little unhappy with the fact that the brown color wasn’t nice and solid. The off-white supplementary-weft was showing through in several areas where the warp threads were spaced slightly further apart than in others. I could have called that a ”denim” look and been happy with it but I didn’t want that denim look in this piece.

What I was really pleased with were the edges…good and straight. That is something that I have under control. Once I have figured out the width a piece wants to be, I easily manage to keep it there and don’t need to fuss with it. The two panels were going to join up beautifully. I was excited. I was also happy that the motifs on both pieces lined up nicely. Although I didn’t have to measure and check on width as I wove, I did have to check and compare the length of the two pieces as I finished each motif to make sure that my picks per inch were the same on both.

I washed and pressed the two panels. The Color Catcher cloth drank up the significant amount of brown dye that was released into the water….yay.

The good thing:   as the piece shrank, the warp threads smooshed together and gave me a much more solid brown piece of cloth.

The bad thing:   my edges got messed up.

I had used three strands of one kind of off-white silk as the supplementary weft to make the double hook pattern and four strands of another kind, in yellow, to weave the diamonds. The parts with hooks pulled in more and now my edges are scalloped. The scalloping is so regular….the fabric draws in for the hooks and out again for the diamonds…that it almost looks like it was planned! My two panels are not going to join together as neatly as I had hoped. I will have to come up with another plan and perhaps sew the tiniest seam possible. I read somewhere that the strips of Kente cloth that are sewn together are connected with 1/8” seams. Maybe I can pull off something like that.

guatemalan cotton backstrap weavingAbove, you can see the even edge of the red piece next to the wavy brown edge.

I so love the way the red piece feels and looks now. The floats of supplemental weft in the leaf pattern are quite short and now, after pressing, the patterns have really become embedded and it looks as if they were printed on the cloth rather than created with supplemental threads. The patterns on the brown piece don’t quite look that way as the floats, particularly in the hook pattern, are considerably longer.

I hope I can get more of this Guatemalan cotton. I love working with this weight of thread and there are empty loom bars asking to be filled. In the meantime, I will continue with my curved ikat experiments and see where they take me. Now to see how I go with my decorative sewing.

backstrap weaving Guatemalan cotton









Posted by: lavernewaddington | September 18, 2015

Backstrap Weaving- 5 years

Facebook has started reminding me that it was five years ago that I opened my account. Every few weeks I get a Facebook Memories reminder showing me a picture I posted on that day five years ago with the option of sharing it with the public. It seems they consider five years the period of time that should pass before a person can look back on an event with nostalgia.The first one I got was this:

40547_151962888150890_2724025_nThis was taken the day before my birthday five years ago. I was in North Carolina and went to visit some ladies from Vietnam – Montagnard, or hilltribe, backstrap weavers –  to look at their textiles and watch them weave. They dressed me up in one of their traditional skirts. The skirts are made of two panels which are woven on backstrap looms. The panels are sewn together and the join is covered with decorative stitching. The entire piece is then placed on a frame so that it can be edged with weft twining. They also gave me one of their shoulder bags to carry for the picture.

The following day I returned to watch Ju Nie prepare her warp. I learned a lot about her use of the coil rod on a circular warp and heddles that are applied during the warping process. It was a perfect way to spend a birthday. I was lucky to be able to return to visit Ju Nie and Ngach again a few months later and study their weft twining technique.

I went home and wove something to put into use some of the things I had learned and seen…a patterning technique using warp floats, patterning with supplemental weft and weft-twining.

This Montagnard inspired piece was on my loom this time last yearI can’t believe it has already been five years since I did this. It takes me back to the time of my beginnings in the online weaving communities, the purchase of my first digital camera and the start of this blog. So much has happened since then in my world of weaving and even more had happened prior to that. I am in my 20th year of backstrap weaving now.

I can’t believe that it has already been eight years since I went to coastal Ecuador to study cotton spinning and weaving with Trini and her family.

weaving with cotton coastal ecuadorThis has been on my mind because my friend,  Janet, has just returned from time spent with this same family and it has been amazing seeing some of her pictures. Trini’s nieces and nephew have grown and one even has a child of her own now. I am waiting for Janet to send me pictures so I can show you. She has been busy practicing the simple warp float technique that she learned there…the patterning technique that you see on the piece in the above picture. She also came back with the confidence to warp up a 10-foot long piece using a dovetailed warping system (see below) on a large vertical frame to make a plain-weave panel for a hammock.

dovetail warp

She will weave and sew two panels together to make the complete hammock in the same way that my Vietnamese hilltribe teachers sew panels together to make their skirts and blankets. The dovetail warping system allows a weaver to work her way around the circle of warp and then open out the cloth once it is off the loom without having to cut the warp ends. Stick D in the above drawing is simply removed and the intact end loops of the warp can be used to form the ends of the hammock.

Guaraní weavers here in the Bolivian lowlands where I live also use this system. They use vertical frames and cotton thread and weave their hammocks with pick-up patterns all in one piece.

Picture courtesy of Aude Rossignol.

Picture courtesy of Aude Rossignol.

Warping for a hammock in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. This would certainly give you a work out.It’s been thirteen years since I first met my Guaraní teacher, Angela, pictured above warping for a hammock, here in Santa Cruz. She left shortly after to return to her community. It was only in 2010 that I found her again back in the city.

I have had the joining of woven panels on my mind lately which is partly what has been responsible for all these thoughts about my past experiences with this practice and the weaving teachers who showed it to me. My latest project is about weaving two identical panels and then joining them using a decorative stitch.

I have done this in the past using narrow pieces which gave me a chance to put to use one of the decorative stitches that my Montagnard backstrap weaving teachers use. Below, you can see how I joined two bands to make a tool bag…

47543_160384537308725_6646315_nYou can see the stitching down the center. I also joined a long belt that I started weaving on a floor loom at a friend’s house and finished at home on my backstrap loom. This is the piece that I used to put together my instructions for Andean Pebble Weave on a four-shaft loom.

andean pebble weave strapI cut the long strap in half and sewed the two pieces into a backstrap. It has been used by many people who come to weave with me and is a favorite. I used the same stitch as the one I used on the tool bag for this project.

new-backstrapI came across some belt weavers in Peru who sew their pieces together to make satchels to sell to tourists. They create neat joins which they do not cover with embroidery.

bands joined to make satchels peruI decided to be moderate in the width of this project rather than fill my loom bars up completely with thread. Weaving two very wide pieces with pick-up patterning and joining them is my ultimate goal. These panels are just under 12” wide with 1100 ends of Guatemalan cotton in each. I am weaving a pattern using silk supplemental weft along the four edges and leaving the center blank as I hope to sew large stitches over the seam where the two pieces will be joined.

The project has progressed with all the challenges that I had anticipated and then some more!

Firstly, I wrongly assumed that this brown cotton from Guatemala was the same as the red cotton I used in the project I showed you in my last post. I calculated to get a 30cm width based on measurements taken from the red piece but, once I started weaving, the piece clearly did not want to be that wide. So I unwove and started over at 27.5cm.

Both panels have exactly the same number of ends and are the same width yet the one on the left is exposing more of the white supplemental weft than the other. I have three broken warp threads in the one on the left and several others are looking kind of sad. Meanwhile, the threads on the one on the right are in excellent shape. I am scratching my head about that. I also have to be on the lookout for the need to adjust my beat as the picks per inch on one panel tend to outnumber the ones on the other. So far, it is pretty much under control. I expect the embroidery over the join will be another challenge and I think I will practice on other cloth before I attempt it it on this piece.

I have the idea that creating identical panels in plain weave in this fine thread may be more difficult than doing so using a warp-float structure. I think that finishing this project will place me in a good position for a second one in Andean Pebble Weave.

I played around a little with supplementary-weft designs before starting this piece. I had seen a picture online of a flower motif and wanted to try something new in the way I used the supplementary weft. The image was so tiny that it was impossible to see any kind of detail by enlarging it, but it gave me ideas.

Bhutan design bagOne of the limitations of the single-faced supplemental-weft patterning technique that I use a lot is that you can’t really create and fill in large solid shapes. You are limited by the length of the weft floats. This is simply because very long floats are not practical. They won’t lie flat and can get caught on things and pulled. One of the supplementary-weft threads around the buttonhole in this bag that I made got pulled right out of the shed. It got caught on a finger nail as I fastened the button. It was too long and placed in a high-traffic area.

Naturally, the finer the thread you use, the more detailed the patterns can be. With fine thread, the weft could float over 15 warp ends, for example, and not cause any problems, whereas heavier yarns might make anything more than a 5-span float impractical. This means that if you want to fill in a large shape with supplemental weft, you need to break the weft floats into several short segments.

This is the picture I saw online…


I am not even sure if this is a handwoven piece of cloth or what the technique is but I like the idea of having the shapes of the leaves and petals broken into those regular diagonal sections. It gives the shapes the look of being solid without being heavy. It is a lovely delicate look and I would love to create something like it.

At the bottom of this red band you can see my first rather clumsy experiment with this idea. I wasn’t pleased with this and will definitely keep working on it. In the meantime, I decided to go with something more Andean-like for the current project and wove a couple of samples to test design proportions.

sampler for supp weft project backstrap weavingMy Guatemalan weaving teachers have their ways of dealing with large shapes.  I took out my Guatemalan samples pieces and journal to refresh my memory and, again, I had to pause in disbelief at the realization that it has already been 7 years since I went there to study.lidia-and-iBelow, you can see one of the patterns that is typical of San Antonio Aguas Calientes. You can see that the large shapes, that look quite solid when viewed from a distance, are made up of several short weft floats. Three short floats take the place of one long one which would simply not be practical on a woman’s blouse.

short float lengthsThe weavers of San Antonio Aguas Calientes use both single and double-faced techniques when patterning with their supplementary weft threads. The double-faced technique allows them to create truly soild looking shapes without the sort of ”speckled” effect created by the exposed warp ends that you can see in the single-faced method above,

single and double faced supplemental weft patternsThe bird and flower motifs that I wove above are made with the double-faced technique. The motifs look exactly the same on both faces as you can see below. Although the figures actually comprise a series of several short weft floats, they look solid.

double-facedHere’s a brief explanation of how the double-faced method works. This is not meant to be a tutorial as I have not gone into details of thread weight and how to actually start and end a pattern. I just want to give you an idea of how the solid look is created as I have been asked many times about this especially by my backstrap weaving friend, Eladio, in Mexico. I hope he is reading this!double faced supp weft

The ground cloth is warp-faced plain weave. The next shed in the weaving sequence is opened and the band is beaten. Then, blue supplemental weft is worked over and under the warp ends on a closed shed, that is, the weft goes over and under all the threads rather than just the threads in any one shed. The supplemental weft goes over and under groups of four warp ends…two ends are taken from the upper layer of threads and two from the lower layer to form this group of four threads.

In the first picture,  you can see the weft going from right to left over, under, over, under four groups of threads. The weft then turns around behind the last group and passes from left to right (see the second picture above) going over, under, over, under. The supplemental weft needs to be laid quite loosely in the shed. The original shed is then reopened and the main white weft is passed.

The next shed in the sequence is then opened and the band is well beaten. The two passes of supplemental weft will pack to look like a solid line. After beating, it is time to use the supplementary-weft again on a closed shed to build up the pattern as you can see below. The supplemental weft shows on both faces of the band.

Below, you can see the little bee motif which was the first one that I was taught by my Guatemalan teacher. The weavers often use sheets and booklets of cross stitch patterns for design inspiration. Lidia took me yarn shopping and the little stores had many cross stitch magazines and individual pattern sheets. One of Lidia’s wishes was to to find patterns to which no one else in her community had access. Competition to sell weavings is fierce.

bee and chartYou can see how I have chosen to chart the bee motif. Each filled square represents four passes of the supplementary weft (my two explanatory photos above show how to make two passes). A half-filled square, therefore, represents two passes. What is critical to the success of this technique, as with all work with supplemental weft, is finding the right balance in the weight of the ground weave material and the supplemental weft. That is a matter of trial and error. Supplemental weft that is too light will not provide enough coverage. The opposite will make it difficult to maintain a horizontal weaving line.

One of these days I will make this a complete tutorial, take much better pictures than the blurry ones I took in low light this morning and fill in all the details.

However, I have to tell you that this is the slowest and most tedious technique I have done so far! I wove my large piece with the quetzal birds (at left) when I got home as well as a couple more samplers, and I have not done anything with the double-faced technique since!

I used the quetzal piece as my journal cover which was not such a great idea as you can’t see the other side and appreciate the double-faced nature of the technique. However, the Guatemalan weavers’ double-faced work is also hidden on the inside of their blouses.

It’s time to get out some cloth and start practicing my stitching for the join in my two panels. I want my sewing to be as neat and pretty as my teacher Maxima’s is. I hope to sew triangular shapes, as she has, and I chose the supplementary-weft motif that I am weaving, with its sort of triangular base, with that in mind.

Picture courtesy of PAZA Bolivia and Dorinda Dutcher

Picture courtesy of PAZA Bolivia and Dorinda Dutcher.

I will leave you with a couple of hat bands that Anne wove using the intermesh technique that we wove together on one of my visits. My teachers in Huancayo 19 years ago, taught me the intermesh structure with a two-heddle set up which makes it partly loom-controlled. You can see Anne’s two heddles and sticks holding her picking cross below.12011180_10203611210680313_88856834057994414_nShe has used the lettering that I include in my second book in which I also teach this structure. The other design is charted in my second book and was adapted from a Mexican tapestry motif. Anne started the hatband as part of a weaving get-together we had on one of my trips. It is lovely to see it finished. I think her hatbands have come out beautifully.










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