It’s as if every row ends with a cliffhanger, and I want to see what will happen next. I know the end of the story, but I’m still eager to see how it plays out. This is how I experience tapestry weaving. I linger here as long as I can. When I do walk away from the loom, I’m already anticipating the next time I get to do this.
I use a cartoon of reduced size as a color reference for making butterflies. A black-and-white version shows me value contrasts. I twist strands of yarn together to find a specific hue and value. Each new butterfly becomes integral to the cliffhanger story. At the loom, my thoughts are fully engaged in the details of this story.
When I pray, my thoughts are fully engaged in the details of life. Prayer answers our heavenly Father’s invitation to come and be alone with him. He listens as we talk to him about our life’s cliffhangers. Prayer is so much more than making requests. It’s about consulting with our Father to gain his heavenly point of view for the tapestry he is creating. When we see the strands come together just so, we know our life’s story is in the Grand Weaver’s hands.
For this second butterfly sample I am zooming way in, to expose more detail of the delicate stained-glass wing. Transforming the photograph into a weaveable cartoon is a fascinating task in itself. In real life, when do we ever get this close a look at the intricacy of the fluttering wing?
The primary reason for these butterfly samples is for me to gain a better understanding of how the details of the cartoon image relate to the sett of the warp on the loom. My goal is to thoroughly explore this style of tapestry. So, I aim to become adept in creating well-suited cartoons.
Let’s zoom in to the familiar scene of baby Jesus generations ago. The child born in a Bethlehem stable drew the attention of lowly shepherds, not impressive celebrities. Announced by angels, not by stately heralds. The detail clearly depicts something out of the ordinary: There is a kingdom that is not of this world. A King who shows up, not cloaked in royalty, but wrapped in the cloth on hand. What an intricate plan it is that a babe named Jesus would become our Savior King! And, that he transforms the image of those whose hearts invite him in.
The jumble of yarn looks like a random play of colors. But if you look a little closer, and push the yarn butterflies out of the way, you can tell that the color choices are deliberate. You see only a hint of the image, though, until you look through the back end of the monocular, or step up on the step stool to have a look from up above the weaving. That’s when you get an overview of what’s on the loom.
This warp is a study project. I want to test some tapestry techniques to help me develop my style. I made the cartoon by cropping and enlarging a photograph I took years ago. The butterfly had just emerged from its chrysalis! The subject for my study: the butterfly’s intricate wing.
Who designed the butterfly wing? A stained-glass artist may conceive it. A tapestry weaver may copy it. A silk dyer may imagine it. But only our Creator could bring it to life. God makes himself known. Push the obstacles out of the way. Look for design. Gain a higher perspective. With each woven row, the image becomes more and more clear. When the butterfly wing begins to flutter you know you are witnessing something from the mind of God.
I allowed the remaining warp to sit on the loom for a little while after cutting off the Eye of the Beholder tapestry. It crossed my mind to be completely done with it. Go ahead, discard the bit of warp that is left, I told myself. But this is linen. I have a hard time discarding linen.
The warp on the loom is threaded in rosepath, with a coarse sett of 3 ends per centimeter (7.5 ends per inch). The potential weaving length is no more than 20-30 centimeters. Then, the “what if” happens. What if…I use leftover butterflies from the tapestry as weft for a short rosepath design? One thing leads to another. Now, I have a new favorite purse. The tapestry memories live on!
I started planning this tapestry portrait of my mother one year ago. As I was concluding her portrait on my loom, it became evident that her real-life tapestry was also coming to a conclusion. I arrived at Mom’s bedside with the portrait in hand, warp ends dangling. Her smile in that cherished moment is one I will never forget. In the days that followed, she quietly slept. I silently braided the warp-end edging, trimmed the tails on the back, stabilized the tapestry through the lining, and stitched the lining in place. I carefully secured the last stitch. In the wee hours of the next morning, while she was asleep, the Lord Jesus called my mother home. Tapestry complete. Beautiful.
Eye of the Beholder is about my mother who taught me to appreciate beauty. This is a portrait of a woman with an eye for beauty, with beauty in her eyes.
I humbly share my process of weaving Eye of the Beholder in this video: