Tried and True: Wool Skeins into Balls

I am adding about thirty more skeins to my yarn supply to get the colors I need for a new tapestry. At this rate, maybe I will have every single color of Borgs 6/2 Tuna and 6/1 Fårö wool on my shelves some day. That’s wishful thinking… But I do have what I need for now to make the butterflies for this special pictorial tapestry.

Preparing to weave a new pictorial tapestry.
Beautiful colors of wool skeins of yarn.

All these new skeins of yarn need to be wound into balls using my Swedish umbrella swift and a ball winder. In the past, I have used a manual ball winder. That means a lot of handle turning, but eventually all the yarn is wound into balls.

Swedish umbrella swift and an electric ball winder.
Skein of yarn is opened and placed on the umbrella swift.

This time is different. I found a new time-saving and arm-saving tool. It’s an electric ball winder, made by Fiber Artist Supply Company. I put the skein on the swift, cut the ties, secure the loose end of yarn to the ball winder, and then turn it on, gradually increasing the speed. In less than two minutes, I have another beautiful ball of yarn to use for making tapestry butterflies.

My new electric ball winder.
End of yarn is secured on the post of the ball winder.
Electric ball winder. Time-saver and arm-saver!
Dial on the winder allows me to gradually increase the speed. When I see that the skein is unwinding properly, I turn the dial to full speed.
Yarn swift is turning swiftly!
Maybe this is why it’s called a yarn “swift.” Previous pictorial tapestry, Siblings, is seen on the wall.
Electric ball winder. Time-saver and arm-saver!
One minute, fifty-four seconds later, and we have a ball of yarn.
New ball of yarn from the electric ball winder.
I will wrap the label on this ball of yarn and it will join the yarn collection for this tapestry.
Getting ready to start a new pictorial tapestry!
Linen warp is ready for beaming. Wool weft yarn is being sorted and organized for making butterflies.

May your tools give you more time for weaving.

Making it easier,
Karen

6 Comments

  • Beth says:

    Nice looking ball winder! Love that it has a yardage counter.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, The LED number on the ball winder has to do with the speed, not the yardage. Even without a yardage counter, though, it’s very handy for what I need.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    Good morning Karen,

    I forgot how beautiful the siblings tapestry is.

    You are a very prolific textile artist. Would you share what method/system you use to store and protect your works when not in use?

    Nannette

    • Karen says:

      Good morning, Nannette, Thank you for your sweet sentiments.
      I may not be the right person to ask about storing textiles. I try not to store things. If I have handwoven items that I’m not able to use, I try to give them away. If I weave a pictorial tapestry, I find a place to hang it where it can be seen.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Annie says:

    I can’t wait to see what subject you have chosen for this tapestry. My personal favorite is your lizard. This one looks quite large.
    Considering how many skeins of yarn you needed to wind into balls, an automatic winder was definitely a wise purchase. I purchased an electric bobbin/pirn winder several months ago and have not regretted the expense.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, Don’t let the number of skeins fool you. This tapestry will be smaller than the others I’ve done, but I needed some nuance in the colors. I will have a lot of yarn left when I’m done, but that’s no problem. It just sets me up in a better position for the next tapestry. 🙂

      Karen

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Swedish Art Weaves with Joanne Hall

Krabbasnår (or Krabba), Rölakan, Halvkrabba, Dukagång, and Munkabälte (Monksbelt). These unique weaves have intrigued me since I first saw photos of them. Some of the designs look like hand-stitched embroidery. The Swedish Art Weaves workshop with Joanne Hall introduces the simple techniques used for weaving these traditional patterns. I’m thankful to have the opportunity to learn how to weave these beautiful designs for myself.

Swedish Art Weaves workshop with Joanne Hall.
Joanne brought examples of Swedish art weaves for the students to view.

Joanne’s presentation to the San Antonio Handweavers Guild was enlightening. Photos of her travels to Sweden show how the rich weaving heritage there continues to thrive. That, along with Joanne’s knowledge of Swedish weaving traditions, gives context to these Swedish art weaves.

Krabbasnår, a Swedish art weave.
Krabbasnår (krabba) is a laid-in technique with a plain weave ground. The pattern uses three strands of wool Fårö yarn. The warp is 16/3 linen.
Weaving Krabba, a Swedish art weave.
Besides maintaining warp width, the temple is useful for covering up the weft tails to keep them out of the way.
Workshop with Joanne Hall. Swedish Art Weaves.
Joanne explains the next step to workshop participants.
Swedish Art Weaves sampler, with Joanne Hall.
Dukagång is another laid-in technique with a plain weave ground. A batten is placed behind the shafts to make it easy to have the pattern wefts cover two warp threads. (A jack loom can do the same by using half-heddle sticks in front of the shafts.) Dukagång can be woven as a threaded pattern, but then the weaver is limited to that one structure, instead of having different patterns all in the same woven piece.
Fascinating way to weave monksbelt!
With threaded monksbelt, as I have woven previously, the monksbelt flowers are in a fixed position. With this art weaves monksbelt, the monksbelt flowers can be placed wherever you want them. Half-heddle sticks at the back, batten behind the shafts, and a pick-up stick in front of the reed–a fascinating way to weave this traditional pattern.
Swedish Art Weaves workshop with Joanne Hall. So much fun!
Last loom standing… Time to pack up. As I prepare the loom for transport, I detach the cloth beam cords. Now we can see the right side of what I have woven.
Swedish Art Weaves with Joanne Hall. Fun!
From the top: Krabbasnår, Rölakan Tapestry, Halvkrabba, Dukagång, and Munkabälte.

Väv 2/2013 has instructions for the art weaves. I have the magazine issue, but Joanne’s workshop brings the historical techniques to life and makes them understandable. That is exactly the prompting I needed to begin exploring these fascinating patterns on my own loom.

Weaving Swedish art weaves from the back.
Back at home, my little loom is getting ready to weave some more beautiful Swedish art weave designs.

May something historical be your new interest.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

19 Comments

  • Beth says:

    Beautiful! I’m curious, how long did it take to weave this piece?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth,

      As with most weft-faced weaves, this is not fast weaving. I was happy to be able to finish this much in a 2 1/2-day workshop. I’m eager to do more of this slower-paced weaving at home.

      Thanks,
      Karen

  • Charlotte says:

    Brilliant that you were able to take your loom…your beautiful loom…your piece is absolutely lovely. The colors in your top match the colors in your cloth. Fun!!!! And, lovely cloth!!!!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Charlotte,

      I’m fortunate to have a countermarch loom small enough to be dismantled and relocated. It was a satisfying workshop. So enjoyable to make these unique patterns in the cloth!

      Thank you,
      Karen

  • Vivian says:

    Your explanation is bright and helpful. I will shelve these weaving methods. I have been interested in the weaves and you have helped untangle the concepts as well as highlight the various groups of Swedish weave structures.

  • Cindie says:

    How timely, I’ve just written my deposit check this morning for a guild workshop we’ll be having with Joanne this coming fall.

  • Jane Milner says:

    I recently took the same class with Joanne Hall at the Eugene Textile Center in Eugene, Oregon. Lots of fun, and I learned a lot!

    Is your small loom a Glimakra? What is it?

  • Anonymous says:

    I just got myself a 32 in Heddle. I’d like to make small Matt’s and runners. I live in Chilliwack B.C. Can you direct me to a class?

    • Karen says:

      Hi new weaver, I am not connected with any rigid heddle loom classes. There are some good books on rigid heddle weaving. A book by Syne Mitchell, Liz Gipson, or Jane Patrick would be a great place to start.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Ladella Williams says:

    Ladella from Portland Oregon actually knows Joanne Hall! Also she went to college with my cousin! I highly recommend her as a weaver with considerable experience! She has a wealth of knowledge and experience! Happy Weaving! I have been weaving forever it seems!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ladella, How wonderful that you have a personal connection with Joanne. Her weaving knowledge and experience can’t be matched. What I love about Joanne is her kind and gentle manner as she patiently passes on her knowledge to her students.

      Thank you for chiming in!
      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Arlene says:

    Facinating.. can you suggest a book but I could follow the technique …thanks in advance Arlene

    • Karen says:

      Hi Arlene, Yes, I recommend Heirlooms of Skåne: Weaving Techniques, by Gunvor Johansson. Vavstuga.com carries the book. The author covers all these techniques in detail. It’s a beautiful book.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • […] Joanne Hall’s Swedish Art Weaves workshop that I took a few months ago? With the warp that was left, I explored some of the art weaves in […]

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Siblings Tapestry and Process Video

Drum roll please… And now, I present to you: Siblings

Siblings Tapestry by Karen Isenhower

The Siblings tapestry is a woven expression of personal meaning. The tapestry tells a story of a singular incident, almost hidden in the excitement of the occasion. Lucia grasps Ari’s wrist as they approach Sugar Pie, the bunny. In that moment I see something worth keeping—precious sibling love.

Please enjoy this short video of the process of weaving and finishing the Siblings tapestry.

May you know the security of true love.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

32 Comments

  • Susie Redman says:

    Good morning- I did enjoy your video and seeing the finished piece. Ive only ever used a small frame for tapestry weaving but I think that Ill try using my floor loom. Thank you for the inspiration

    • Karen says:

      Hi Susie, I enjoy using a small tapestry frame, too. And using a big loom like this for tapestry is energizing, because your whole body is in motion as you weave. I hope you try it.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Wanda Bennett says:

    This is beautiful! Great job!

  • Susan San Martin says:

    It is in inspiring to watch your tapestry project from start to finish. You make it look easy, but I’m not fooled! I’m awe-struck!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Susan, On one hand, I would say it is not easy; and on the other hand, I would say that once I get going I’m just following the cartoon and I feel like I’m coloring in a coloring book, which is not hard.

      Thank you for your compliment!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Bethany says:

    As a beginning tapestry explorer, I am stunned and so very much in awe of the talent, time and the raw beauty of sentiment that went into this glorious piece of fine art! Congratulations and I am delighted that the artwork is hanging, finished in your home studio. Be very proud and may this be a treasure for generatuions. God bless!
    Bethany in Kingston, ON

  • Geri Rickard says:

    Well, that was certainly worth the wait! It’s marvelous!

  • Kevin Baumann says:

    Such talent! You’ve created a beautiful work of art! Thank you for sharing with us!

  • Nannette says:

    Beautiful. Mary Cassat and Georgia O’Keefe in a textile format.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Nannette

  • Betsy says:

    Just beautiful, Karen!

  • Linda Adamson says:

    This is lovely in design, workmanship and message. Thanks for sharing.

  • Joanna says:

    Oh wow! Just . . . Wow!

  • D'Anne says:

    A special memory made by your hands,Karen! It’s beautiful!

  • Marcia says:

    I recently had the privilege of seeing an exhibition by Helena Hernmark who has a world reputation for her amazing and huge tapestries, many woven for corporate offices on commission. She moved part of her studio to a local art museum and was “Artist in Residence” for several months. From a distance, her pieces are photographic and she weaves on large Glimakra looms (Helena is a transplanted Swede). Do look her up…she is inspiring. In December I got to visit her real studio in my town when she received my copy of Vav Magazine by mistake, probably the highlight of my year!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Marcia, I have a book of Helena Hernmarck’s work, and I study the photos in it for ideas and inspiration. I knew about her artist in residence at the Connecticut museum, but I didn’t find a way to make it there. I’m so glad you had the opportunity! How fortunate for you that your magazine was sent to the wrong address. Oh, visiting her studio must have been a real treat!

      I’m grateful that you thought of letting me know about Helena Hernmarck!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Aleta says:

    I was taught at my Grandmother’s side how to embroider and I developed a love
    of making pictures with needle and thread. I can’t draw a straight line or make a round circle with a pencil, but I love the cross stitch and how a picture slowly takes shape with the slow transition of color.
    I visited a museum recently with some fun loving friends and we saw some lovely pieces of hand made art, but there was nothing in that museum that spoke to me of a labor of love and passion like the “Siblings” tapestry.
    Last year I started to teach myself how to weave and twine, with the help of new friends in the guild I joined, but WOW. I see I have a very long way to go and learn. Thank you for sharing your prize with us. God Bless You.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Aleta, I admire your ability to create pictures with needle and thread. That ability will carry over as you explore tapestry weaving. Get all the books and resources you can to learn and practice the basics of tapestry weaving. And then, maybe you will be fortunate like I was to take a workshop or class from Joanne Hall, or another world-class tapestry weaver. I, too, have a very long way to go and learn. But that’s the joy of this weaving world—there’s always more to learn.

      God bless you and lead you, too,
      Karen

  • lanora says:

    Karen, thank you for inspiring us and
    letting us be a part of your adventure… It turned out beautiful! Tapestry is now on my list of ‘To Do’ items for sure!

  • louise says:

    Amazing piece! I love it! The texture is wonderful in it..It looks like you skipped places in order to achieve the texture. Could you coment on that?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Louise, Thank you for such kind words! This is threaded in rosepath, a particular four-shaft twill threading. I use a rosepath treadling pattern in between plain weave rows. So, part of the texture you see comes about naturally through the floats (skipped threads) in the rosepath.
      Thanks for asking about it.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Linda Cornell says:

    So beautiful and precious!

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Tapestry Promise

You will see the front of the Siblings tapestry. I promise. When I cut a tapestry from the loom the weaving is finished. But the tapestry is not complete until the finishing is finished. And I have substantial handwork yet to do before this tapestry is ready for display.

Cutting off a new tapestry!
Cutting off the tapestry.
Back of the Siblings tapestry.
View of the back of the tapestry. Non-distinct imagery.

I am securing the ends in a woven edging. Then, I will trim weft tails, stitch things down around the perimeter, and put on a backing. Additional hand-stitching work will stabilize the whole piece. When you see the Siblings tapestry again, you will see it in full view on the wall right behind my loom.

Woven edging on the new tapestry.
Warp ends are woven together along the edge, and will end with a short braid.
Tapestry just off the loom. Finishing process.
Edge will be folded under and stitched down before the backing is added.

Hope is built on promise. Do not forget God’s promise. Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. And, Jesus expresses the promise to His followers, I will be with you always. We see the tapestry of life from the human side, the unfinished side. Hope, paired with patience, takes us through the uncertain future. We have assurance of the Lord’s grace, His meticulous handwork, bringing His work to completion. In the meantime, we give Him our burdens and He gives us rest. As promised.

May your hope be strong.

With you,
Karen

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Waiting to Cut Off the Tapestry

I desperately want to unroll this tapestry so we can see the whole thing. The tapestry and its linen header are finished. But it’s not quite time to cut it off. First, I am weaving the rest of this beautiful linen warp. Not another tapestry, just a lacey rosepath weave using a tomato orange 6/1 tow linen weft.

One more row of weft for this Siblings tapestry!
With one more row of wool weft this tapestry is completed. Ten picks of linen in a plain-weave header follow. After that, a few rows of wool weft (leftover butterflies) are woven to secure the weft.
Linen on linen, with linen hemstitching.
Hemstitching secures the weft for this lacey weave.

It won’t take much time to weave this off, especially compared to the slower process of weaving the tapestry. Hemstitching, which does take time, will help keep this loosely-woven piece from unraveling when the warp is finally cut off. Soon enough, we will enjoy the full view of the completed Siblings tapestry.

View of the messy underside of the tapestry.
View of the messy underside of the tapestry.
Only a short distance remains on this beautiful linen warp.
Only a short distance remains on this beautiful linen warp.

Time. We all have it. And yet none of us knows how much of it we have. How many days have we been given? We don’t know. Time is temporary. Imagine a place where time isn’t measured. That’s heaven. Our short time here is but a pilgrimage to another destination. Our trust in Jesus opens heaven’s doors. In the meantime, the Grand Weaver’s warp will be woven, and not wasted, to the very end.

May you complete your pilgrimage in the time you’ve been given.

Blessings on your journey,
Karen

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