These days, many people around the world are getting involved in traditional clothing crafts, retrieving the almost lost knowledge. And hand-weaving is one of those crafts. While to learn weaving on the ordinary 4-post loom is a complicated task – because you have to get this machine and find a place for it in your home – weaving on a simple backstrap loom is much easier. All you need is a few different wooden sticks. That’s why the traditional backstrap weaving you can try at home, after watching a few videos and reading a few instructions. Like these ones.
The craftswoman in the photos and video is Sra Claudia Vega from Panchimalco, El Salvador.
Part 1. Dressing the weaving loom
You will start by loosely tying your thread on the left peg, with a small one-loop bow. Don't tie a knot so that you'll be able to undo it more easily later.
Take the thread and start winding around the pegs in a continuous figure “8”. The thread should cross the center each time and come around the outside of the peg. This should continue in the exact same direction the entire time.
As Claudia wraps the thread, she continually pushes the threads down the peg. Note that Claudia is counting every thread and has pre-calculated the length of the final piece.
Once Claudia is finished wrapping the warp, she ties another one-loop bow and cuts the thread.
At this point, Claudia slips her hands into the two holes of the figure “8” and removes the warp from the pegs.
She then inserts the 2 warp rods – the upper and the lower – into the 2 holes created by the figure “8”.
Part 2. Sitting down at the loom
Claudia has already placed her back strap on her seat and has tied a lasso around the column, with which she will attach her warp rods. At the end of the lasso, there are 2 small loops, which fit into either side of the warp rod.
She places the loops around the notches of the rods and continually pulls on the loom to create tension, as she sits. The tension helps keep the threads in place.
Once sitting, Claudia takes the loops of her back strap and ties them tightly around the ends of her lower warp rod.
Part 3. Organizing the threads
You will now insert your lease stick in the gap at the upper warp rod, which separates the upper and lower sheds.
This next part is not precise, but try to keep the spaces and sections even, as you separate the threads into small groupings.
Now you will take a thick cotton cord and guide it through the space created by the lower warp rod, again, separating the two sheds. The width created by these separations will be the ultimate width of the fabric.
You will tie one end of the cord to the lower warp rod with a secure bow.
Then, you will tightly wrap the cord around the edge of the rod several times, before continuing to wrap it down the entire length of the rod. Claudia wraps the cord once through every interval created by the spacing of the threads.
Once the wrapping of the cord is complete, you will manually tighten each loop, pulling all of the excess cord down the line.
With the cord pulled taut around the rod, you will tie it with a secure double bow, followed by a knot.
Claudia releases the rod attached to her back strap and pulls the newly wrapped rod down towards her waist. And then, she replaces the unwrapped rod with the lease stick from the upper shed.
She then switches the direction of the loom and attaches it once again to the lasso and her back strap.
Now, you will repeat the steps for wrapping the cord around the rod. Please note that you should follow the original groupings of thread so that they are matched exactly on the opposite end.
Now, you will go through the threads and find the two bows that you’ve created at the beginning of dressing the loom, at the beginning and the end of the figure “8”. You will undo the loop that you’ve created and feed the thread through the white cord on the warp rod, tying a knot down there at the bottom of the shed.
Note that Claudia has extra threads she needs to repair because she chose to work with two colors.
Part 4. Preparing the heddle sticks
You will take an acrylic thread and pull it through the space between the two sheds at the bottom, just as you have done with the white cotton cord.
At the end of this thread, you will tie a loop, which is about 1,5 inches in diameter. Using this loop, you will create a circle “8” around your two heddle sticks. And you will continue looping around the heddle sticks in a figure “8” formation about 15-20 times.
What comes next is a little bit tricky. The purpose is to pick up the thread of the bottom shed into each loop of the figure “8”. To do this, Claudia picks up every other thread, creating a second cross of the two sheds.
So, if the sheds are labeled A (the top shed) and B (the bottom shed), Claudia will only pick up the threads of the B shed into her figure “8” of the heddle sticks.
It's important to keep your figure “8s” about the same size, not too loose and not too tight.
Once you reach the end of the heddle stick, you make a second loop at about 1,5 inches in diameter. Using this loop, finish the heddle sticks with one last figure “8”.
Part 5. Getting ready to weave
You will swap out your lease stick for a thick rod.
Then, you will replace the lower thick rod with what they call the “machete”. This is a very wide and thin piece of wood.
Then, you will wrap your needle with a thread that you will use to weave.
Claudia is using a third color because this particular part will not be part of the final fabric.
In order to create space in your shed, you will flip the machete onto one side and then push the needle through the space that this creates. Then, you will lay the machete back down and slide the heddle rod with the thin rod back and forth. Pull the machete out and place it in the space created right below the heddle sticks. You will then pull the machete down towards your waist, pushing the stitch into place.
This is the beginning of weaving.
Now, you will repeat the action with the machete and send the needle back in the opposite direction.
This time, instead of sliding, you will take out the machete and use it to hold the top shed down as you pull the heddle sticks up towards your chest. This creates another space between the two sheds, where you will now place the machete.
Note that these two actions – the sliding of the heddle sticks and then the pulling up of the heddle sticks – are the basis of the weaving process. So the pattern is: stitch – slide – stitch – pull – stitch – slide – stitch – pull.
Now, using a large sewing needle, you will separate the threads where they meet at the warp rod, creating a very even platform to continue the weave.
Part 6. Flip the loom and weave
First, push the heddle sticks, the machete, and thin rod up towards the top of the loom.
Undo the back strap from the loom and also the lasso from the top and, once again, switch the direction of the loom.
Reattach the flipped loom and, using your newly filled needle, start to weave.