Monday, 28 January 2013

Back-strap Loom Weaving

Projects get started and not finished. The inspiration gets lost. It doesn't turn out right. Other things come up. What should one do? If the project is simple like dyeing thread and the colour is not just right it is easy to over dye. But weaving something can take ages. And ages. You could waste weeks weaving away at something that will never be worth it. This goes for cutting stencils. The touch can be wrong. Do you keep on cutting away or just scrap it?

 No. No. No. It isn't working. It could be much better.
A clumsy warp. A stencil that lacks something. It is better to try to salvage the thread or use part of a stencil. I can be ruthless if it seems like it will become a time waster. Out it goes.

I've had this warp on my back strap loom over....four years. There were too many other things on the go. A few meters had been woven and it was a rare piece that was coming out exactly as envisioned. But it had been left too long on the loom and had probably atrophied. There was not much to do except cut off the thread and start something new on the loom. A few passes of the shuttle and it was apparent that it wasn't a write-off and the rest of the warp could probably be woven up.  It was originally warped  as an experiment with the color scheme and a thread test.

The inspiration for the weave had come from a January sunset. (The photo reminds me much of the one that Velma has recently posted on her blog.) Madder and tannin and pale indigo sky with dark menacing tree branches warping upwards. It is finally on it's way to being finished. There may be enough for a men's obi or if not there wil be plenty to make various bags for the tea ceremony.

It is great to be weaving again on a back strap loom. Your whole body get's involved in the weave. It weaves up so tightly.


  1. ok, since i've "inspired" you i'll come clean: i have a warp on my big loom (folded up in a niche in the studio) for around 20 years. and yes there is a problem with it. sigh. will i be inspired by you? i will say this: it's not beautiful like your warp.

  2. I think we all have some of those projects hidden away - in closets and in the back of our mind. Perhaps it is part of the creative process, not every piece can be perfect. But it is very comforting/meditative to just weave, plain weave, back and forth, one shuttle. Enjoy. btw- did you get my email?

  3. Hi Jean,
    Back strap weaving is slow....very slow....makes you think carefully about any warp. Not as open to experimenting. Setting up a green silk saki ori to go on next. I found your email in box. I don't check that one very often. I replied. Danke danke

  4. beautiful warp.
    weaving is slow, yes. but what about wasting yarn? esp if it's silk. i hate that so i force myself to finish that warp, even if it doesn't sing or doesn't go anywhere.
    i can waste time, but not materials, go figure.

  5. I waste time and occasionally materials. I have meticulously picked apart the stripes of a long warp re-arranged and re-threaded. I made the silk from scratch and couldn't stand to waste it. This particular warp as well. I have used the thread off a splintery warp as kumi himo thread. Wasting materials does make me feel sick. If I do, I get it over with quickly and get it out of sight as soon as possible. The goal is to understand the materials so well as to never make mistakes.

  6. you guys shame, my old warp is just plain "fiskgarn" a very nice cotton for tapestry or rugs. i'm not sure i can cut it off, but i might get it out and just weave up some simple rugs.

  7. Thank you so much for this post. I love seeing those old looms and that branch operating the shaft! The cloth is so lovely. I'm in the process of making a simpler backstrap loom and I was wondering if you have any suggestions for reed materials (since bamboo doesn't grow in the desert).

    1. Hi Kristin,
      I can't imagine what to use. Bamboo itself is quite tricky to remove the oil and steam, press and splice. I have some old reeds. I could send one off to you. Just ask.