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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Mug Rugs to Remember

Knowing I would be away from my floor looms for a while, I put a narrow cottolin warp on my little Emilia rigid heddle loom to take with me. Mug rugs—perfect for travel weaving, to use bits of time here and there. I had some bulky wool yarn and a few rag rug fabric strips to take for weft. In a burst of hopeful inspiration, I grabbed a bag of Tuna/Fårö wool butterflies, leftover from my Lizard tapestry (see Quiet Friday: Lizard Tapestry) a couple years ago, and tossed it in my travel bag as we were going out the door.

Mug rugs on Glimåkra Emilia rigid heddle loom.
Glimåkra Emilia 35cm (13.5″) rigid heddle loom. Narrow cottolin warp is from a previous warp-winding error that I had chained off and saved.
Mug rugs on my Glimakra Emilia rigid heddle loom.
Blue bulky wool yarn left from a long-ago project makes a good thick weft for mug rugs. Picks of navy blue tow linen are woven between picks of thick weft on some of the mug rugs.
Weaving mug rugs on my Glimakra Emilia rigid heddle loom.
Wool butterflies for the weft are made of several strands of Tuna and Fårö yarn.

Those colorful wool butterflies turned out to be my favorite element! They not only gave me colors to play with, they also provided variety, the spice of weaving. The forgotten Lizard butterflies will now be remembered as useful and pretty textiles.

30 mug rugs on the rigid heddle loom.
The end of the warp.
Mug rugs just off the rigid heddle loom.
Rag rugs for mugs!
Rag rug fabric strips are used for a few of the mug rugs. Rag rugs for mugs!
Mug rugs ready to be hemmed.
Mug rugs are cut apart to prepare for hemming.
Making handwoven mug rugs.
Hems have been folded and pressed under. Choosing bobbin colors to sew the hems.
Wool handwoven coasters.
Wool butterflies provided many different colors.
Handwoven wool coasters woven on a rigid heddle loom.
Alternating two different colors of wool butterflies was my favorite way to play with color.
Mug rugs for gifts.
Completed mug rugs, ready to be sent out as gifts.

How do you want to be remembered? Like my tapestry-specific butterflies put away on a shelf, our carefully-crafted words will soon be forgotten. Actions speak longer than words. Our deeds of faithful love will outlive us. Our actions that reveal the kindness of our Savior will stand the test of time. And that is a good way to be remembered.

Coffee or tea, anyone? Handwoven mug rug.
Coffee or tea, anyone?

May you be remembered for your deeds of faithful love.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

15 Comments

  • Joyce Lowder says:

    Very lovely Mug Rugs, but even more, your words of faith and encouragement! Thanks for sharing your skills and your faith! Very inspiring! God Bless! 🙂

  • Karen says:

    Amazing! Love the usefulness of leftover yarn!!! Even the small butterflies! Lovely!

  • Nannette says:

    WELCOME BACK TO THE BLOG!!! Hope you had wonderful travels.

    I love your reference to our gifts of today out living us. I repurposed crocheted lace of my long gone great grandmother. Wearing it with pride.

    In the case of textiles…. Everyday reminders of those beloved we never knew except through the work of their hands. What a blessing.

    Nannette

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, Thank you! It’s great to be back. Textiles are a vivid example of the work of our hands outlasting us. It is wonderful to see and use the quilts and needlework treasures of family members who came before us.

      Love,
      Karen

  • LJ Arndt says:

    Beautiful, I don’t have butterflies but I do have thrums that I think may fit the bill. I’ll have to take them on my next trip.

    • Karen says:

      Hi LJ, I think this would be a fabulous use of thrums! I definitely plan to make more of these mug rugs. Maybe I’ll need to start saving all my thrums again. Thanks for the idea.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Barbara says:

    To everything a purpose. Your little video and bursts of colour brought a smile to my face this morning.

  • Anastasia says:

    These are beautiful. What a great project.

    When you fold the hem bit under… do you fold it twice (back on itself), and stich through what would then be three layers? So that a little strip of the “between the tops weaving” would still be visible on the bottom, but the cut edge would be secured?

    Please pardon my newbie questions. 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Hi Anastasia, Newbie questions are the best! You described the hems perfectly. Only one more detail to add— I serged the edges before folding and pressing them under, so nothing will unravel over time.

      When I do this again, I may make the hems longer. In which case, the edges will be zigzagged or serged, and the hems folded under twice, then stitched. That way the hem will show at the edges, not just underneath. I like them either way— hems hidden underneath, or hems as visual borders.

      Thanks,
      Karen

  • Kim Mills says:

    Thank you for your post. I’ve now have a new way to use up all those leftovers I have been collecting. Thanks as well for your inspirational words.

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Most Unusual Tapestry Tool

Suddenly, I am able to see the tapestry on the loom from a distant vantage point. Aha! I can see that the left shoulder of Lucia is nicely defined, and that her shoulder appears to be in front of the turquoise rabbit hutch. What I am not able to discern up close becomes crystal clear from a distance. I have an unusual tool in the basket at my loom bench that gives me this advantage. Binoculars! I use them whenever I want to get a better sense of the overall context, color, and definition of what I am weaving in the tapestry. By peering through the WRONG side of the binoculars I am able to view the tapestry as if from a great distance. It is just the help I need to keep pursuing this mystery of weaving wool butterflies on a linen warp to make a recognizable, memorable image.

Pictorial tapestry in progress.
Each row is a new adventure.
Pictorial tapestry on the Glimakra Standard loom.
Photo image of the complete scene sits in the windowsill by my loom. I frequently refer to the photo as I weave.
Binoculars - unusual tool at the weaving loom.
I wish I could show you what I can see through the wrong end of the binoculars. It always surprises me how the image is clearly shaped at a distance.
Weaving a picture of my grandchildren.
Skin tones blend for the area of Lucia’s neck that is coming into focus. Before long, I will get to play with her flyaway hair.
Weaving a pictorial tapestry of my grandchildren.
Greater distance from the tapestry provides more clarity of context. But still, we only get to see the slice of the image that is in view on the loom. It takes faith and patience for the rest.

May you gain the perspective you need.

Blessings,
Karen

10 Comments

  • Joyce Lowder says:

    Great discovery, Karen! Who would have thought it? Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joyce, A few years ago I saw a picture of another tapestry weaver looking at her work through a monocle, and that gave me the idea.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Beth says:

    Ingenious!!

  • Nannette says:

    What pretty colors. I can’t wait to see it completed.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, I’m looking forward to that, too.

      Thanks,
      Karen

      • Nannette says:

        Back in town. I met with a builder to add a 4 season sunroom to the retirement house, back in the Wisconsin woods. I could have set up the loom in the basement and woven through the winter. But why have a home on the most beautiful piece of God’s world if you can’t enjoy it.

        Back to topic. Are you weaving this tapestry on the rosepath set up? If so, how are you keeping track of the pattern as you weave?
        Nannette

        • Karen says:

          Hi Nannette, Your sunroom sounds delightful.

          Great question. I have a very low-tech way of keeping track of my rosepath treadling sequence. I drew a small arrow with a black Sharpie on a small piece of blue painters tape. My weaving draft is hanging at the top of the beater on the right-hand side. Every time I am ready to move to the next treadle I move that little piece of tape to point to the corresponding square on the treadling draft.

          All the best,
          Karen

  • Kelly says:

    Wow, this piece will certainly be a labour of love! How rewarding it will be to finish.

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Yarn Is My Paint

The best thing about weaving a pictorial tapestry? Having a cartoon to follow, with row-by-row definition. This Siblings tapestry has its joys and challenges. It is a joy to weave Ari’s hair, as if I get to comb his locks into place. At the same time, it’s a challenge to see up close what can only be recognized at a distance. Lucia’s shirt is a joy to weave because of the bright colors and distinct shading. But what a challenge to get the right value of turquoise for the leg of the rabbit hutch in relation to the value of orange in Lucia’s left shoulder.

Five different shades of butterflies for this hair.
Ari’s hair has butterflies in five different shades of brown. Sometimes while handling the yarn, it almost seems like real hair. And I reminisce about my sisters and I braiding each others’ hair way back when.
Color decisions in a pictorial tapestry.
Trying to find the right hue for the turquoise rabbit hutch. Choosing a darker hue helps make Lucia’s shoulder appear closer than the hutch leg.

The yarn is my paint. I make decisions and adjustments as I see how the colors interact. Under the warp, of course, is my cartoon with all the details—outline, hues, value changes. That cartoon is constant, unchanging, and reassuring. It’s the key to this whole process.

Under the warp is the detailed cartoon.
Right under the warp is the detailed cartoon. Hues are lightly colored in with color pencil, and value distinctions are penciled in.
Siblings tapestry in progress. Glimakra Standard loom.
Right at halfway on the Siblings tapestry.

In the joys and challenges we face, we make decisions based on what we see. Take a look below the surface. Look through the warp to see the cartoon. True love is in the details. Jesus instructs and guides through his love. Constant, unchanging, and reassuring. It makes perfect sense to follow the Maker’s cartoon.

Cartoon under the tapestry.
Cartoon held in place with a suspended warping slat and some plastic quilter’s clips.

May you grow in love.

With joy,
Karen

4 Comments

  • Beth says:

    I admire your patience…and very much so, your talent.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, Thank you so much for your thoughtful insights. You’re making me reflect on patience and talent. Patience doesn’t seem hard for me most of the time—at the loom, at least. I like the whole slow process, so I’m not in a hurry about it. Talent, on the other hand, seems elusive. I think patience and talent may be related. The more patient I am to practice what I know, the more talented I get. 🙂

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    Good morning Karen,
    You are an artist nose to toes. To do the weaving that you do requires a working skill of the craft. No matter how much I tried, the skill to make music from the viola was not possible because the craft was beyond my physical ability. As much as the mind desires, without the craftsmanship foundation to describe creativity, nothing happens. Mathematics, so necessary with science and engineering and business. Color theory with the visual. Mechanical understanding of the instrument, viola or loom or CNC or human body.
    You are constantly sharing as you explore the craft of weaving. Your craftsmanship is honed to the best it can be. With that, the blessing of being an artist occurred. It is like running barefoot in a field as a child with no cares… Just the freedom of no boundaries.
    God has blessed you with being a textile artist and you have extended that to the world with your blog.
    Praise God. Thank you Karen.
    Nannette

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Biggest Challenge of Weaving a Pictorial Tapestry

Lucia grasps Ari’s plump wrist as they bravely inch a step closer to the rabbit hutch. For them, it’s a step of faith. Sugar Pie, the bunny, is wide-eyed at their approach. You’ll see the bunny later in the weaving of this pictorial tapestry.

Detail of a pictorial tapestry in progress.
Lucia’s tiny thumbnail is on top of Ari’s hand. Contrast in skin color is exaggerated to make the two arms distinct from each other.
Color gradation in a new large tapestry.
Five shades of orange/red butterflies are used to make the fabric of Lucia’s orange shirt.

It is a huge challenge to work on one element, like the hands, while not being able to see it in the context of the whole picture. The row-by-row weaving is an act of faith. I peer through the wrong end of the binoculars, and stand on a chair to take pictures. And I’m reassured about the outcome. It’s not blind faith. It’s a series of carefully reasoned and thought-out steps.

Gaining a higher perspective.
Gaining a higher perspective by standing on a chair.

We see only a small slice of life at a time. Where do my day-to-day threads fit in the context of the big picture of a lifetime? Grace is amazing! Grace is unearned good favor. Grace is a final tapestry that makes sense of all the wanderings. Grace is good favor extended by God to all who trust Jesus. So, with God’s grace we walk by faith, with carefully reasoned and thought-out steps. And we extend grace at every opportunity, holding the wrist of our fellow adventurer to walk by faith together.

"Siblings" tapestry.
Siblings tapestry, work in progress.

Grace is amazing.

May your life make a difference.

Grace,
Karen

10 Comments

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