Pebble weave progress

Backstrap Progress

For my second backstrap project I wove a backstrap for my backstrap loom and no longer use the folded pillowcase you see in the first picture below. The final backstrap has braided cords attached that hold the front rod in place.

Weaving the backstrap on a backstrap loom

Finished backstrap

Another giant improvement included replacing my broomstick backstrap loom with the real thing—a genuine backstrap loom from Guatemala. Actually I received two in the mail in a surprise package from my friend Karen Piegorsch, the founder of Synergo Arts. She had purchased them in the Chichicastenango market several years ago, knew of my beginning attempts, and sent them to me. The wood is lighter weight than the broomstick wood, the beaters (swords) work better than the ruler I was using, and I feel more in tune with the whole world of wonderful weavers who use simple sticks to create items of incredible intricacy and beauty.

Two Guatemalan backstrap looms

Two Guatemalan backstrap looms

My next project was a slightly more complex pebble weave band. Still only 16 warps wide, it presented some new challenges in picking up the pattern. And I still haven’t mastered setting up the loom with ease. Yesterday I finished yet another more complex pebble weave band. This time it is twice as wide with a more complex pattern. But there is much yet to learn. And today I will continue the trip.


Peruvian Pebble Weave

In November there was Tinkuy de Tejedores (a gathering of weavers) in Peru. I would love to have gone, but it was not in the cards. Several people I know and/or have met from Guatemala, Bolivia, El Salvador, Chile and Peru, as well as the U.S., were going to be there. But more than that. The pre-Columbian weaving that is still being done in the highlands of Peru is incredible. No one should ever underestimate the ancestors.

Trying to learn a little about this weaving, I found an article by Doramay Keasbey in a Handwoven magazine from January/February 2000 that explained how to do Peruvian pebble weave on a floor loom (instead of the backstrap loom commonly used by Peruvian weavers). I put on a long warp and started weaving bookmarks.

I used the designs from the article and then branched out to try other possibilities. The bottom bookmark is from a Chinese lattice design. Lattices made from wood were used in window openings in China for many years and have been documented in a book I acquired some years ago. I also found a pre-Columbian Inca design, which is seen in the bookmark on the left.

Intrigued by this complex pick-up weave, I came across a recent publication by Laverne Waddington, a woman who lives in Bolivia with whom I had earlier corresponded about the ergonomic benches for backstrap weavers being developed by Synergo Arts. Laverne, who is from Australia, is a teacher of English and weaving who is doing an incredible job of learning, documenting, and teaching indigenous backstrap weaving. She has recently published an e-book through Weavezine on Andean Pebble Weave.

I think I see a backstrap loom in my future and further exploration of this and other pick up weaves. I just received the most recent Handwoven magazine (January/February 2011) with articles by both Doramay and Laverne on pick up weaves. Too much to do, too little time!