Twenty years in the making

2 May 2016

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started in the mid-90’s, finished today

This is my first ever backstrap weaving.  I took a backstrap weaving workshop with Ed Franquemont in the middle 90’s and this is the first warp.  It is Andean Style weaving, complimentary warp.  He gave us the prepared warps with heddles and shed loop made and the first bit woven in the design.

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first bit

 

I now know that first bit  contains all the info required to weave the design, but I sure didn’t get that at the time.  Besides I had all I could do to get the sheds open and not drop all the little swords.  I did manage to weave about half of the warp but I did not focus on this design.

 

 

novice's work

novice’s work

I just couldn’t figure out how it worked, it wasn’t like any other design system I knew in weaving.  We did another warp in the workshop with a different design, not the X&O of this one.

 

 

 

 

 

The warps got put away because my business was growing,  so no time to indulge in weaving until I retired.  Currently I have been working with  some Antioch College students, last fall we were spinning together.  They came over to see what I brought back from Oaxaca last month and expressed an interest in backstrap weaving.

 

 

 

 

 

They started with narrow warps, made with crochet cotton.  The first warps were colored combs: learning to warp, make string heddles, and weave on the backstrap loom.  They are working on their second warp,  weaving a Latin American Paired Float pick up design.

 

When they were here the last time one on them asked me how close to the end could you weave. I thought I knew the answer but as I was looking at old samples I found this half woven warp and thought it would work to test how close to the end one can weave.  So out came this old warp; with heddles and shed loop intact, ready to weave.  I tied it up and started with the pattern.

 

current weaving

current weaving

 

 

 

 

The design was effortless, the width steady and much narrower. Hard to believe same warp, same weaver… looks so different.

 

So what had happened in the years since I started this warp?

 

In 2011 I took another workshop in backstrap weaving, this time with Abby Franquemont and have been doing some backstrap weaving since then interspersed with spinning and other fiber arts.    I have made several bands with this design.

 

crochet cotton with beads, hand spun, hand dyed wool and linen

crochet cotton with beads, hand spun, hand dyed wool and linen

One thing I did learn from is that the perle cotton yarn used for the first warp is too soft and it fuzzes.  The fuzz makes lumps on the heddles that makes opening the shed more difficult.  It also eats away at the warps and you can see that a yellow warp broke close to the end, and then a red one broke.  Time to finish.

 

 

Learning backstrap weaving at an advanced age has not been easy.    Starting with Andean style weaving was daunting; much practice on narrow bands just to learn the vocabulary, difficulty finding suitable high twist yarns  lead me off in to the world of spinning.  The second workshop I took was shortly after major back surgery. Weaving in isolation; no one else in this village of 4000 is interested in backstrap weaving.  I had managed to work up to about 4″ wide warp-faced weaving when I went to Oaxaca.

In Oaxaca I learned to weave balanced weave on the backstrap loom.  Even at 8-10″ wide it was so so easy after doing the warp-faced  weaving.  Of course there were some new challenges.  But I have been doing a fair amount to backstrap weaving recently.

 

So the difference between the beginning and end of this warp is experience.  When I started I had never seen in person any Andean weaving— if you have never seen it how do you know what it is supposed to look or feel like. I have now seen some, and made some. Yet it is hard to explain what it is that experience changes.

Why is it so easy to focus and do all the weaving in the design now?

Oh, and you can weave up to about an inch from the end with out too much trouble.   It takes a little more effort to weave to the very end.

new and the old

new and the old

 

 

 

I’m at an age when I can walk less than I could 20 years ago, I have fewer teeth, I hear less, having something I can do better  than  I did  20 or even 5 years ago is uplifting.

 

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