Tapestry that Tries to Copy

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.

New tapestry project.
Yarn butterflies each have a mix of wool, mostly 6/2 Tuna and 6/1 Fårö yarn.
Weaving a new tapestry on the floor loom.
The mix of colors in each yarn butterfly is a deliberate selection for the specific hues, values, and intensities I want to portray.
Tapestry of a butterfly wing.
View from my seat on the loom bench.

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.

Tapestry on the floor loom, and how to view it.
Peering through the *wrong* end of the monocular gives me a distant view of the tapestry in progress.
Get a view from higher up to get a better perspective on life.
I stand on a stepstool near the loom to get an even broader view of the tapestry from a distance. This perspective shows me how effective my yarn selections are (or are not) for the image I want to create.
Intricate butterfly wing - subject for tapestry study.
Cartoon in a reduced size helps me see the color distinctions. Photo in black and white helps me see value contrasts.

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.

May you see what is hidden.

Happy weaving,
Karen

Tapestry of the Heart

It is a daunting task to weave a tapestry of an important person. Do I have enough skill to give what this project deserves? I started with a photograph of a beautiful woman in her eventide years, and made a workable cartoon. The person in the picture is someone who has significantly influenced my appreciation of beauty all around. This is my mother.

Tapestry weaving that starts with a photo of a beautiful woman.
Photo enlargement is printed and taped onto poster board. I keep it near the loom for reference while I’m weaving.
Planning a new 4-shaft pictorial tapestry!
Cartoon replica is printed and taped to foam board. I plan out butterflies for the first few rows of the tapestry and pin them in their place on the picture. Yarn overflow is on the windowsill beside the loom.

In preparation for the tapestry, I have been weaving sample areas of the cartoon. The eyes, the chin and neck, the mouth, the edge of the ear. The biggest lessons I’ve learned are to exaggerate contrasts in value, and to dull the colors that are adjacent to colors that I want to appear bright. It’s time to step out and give myself to the task. This is where I aspire to show more than the unique features of my mother’s face. It’s where I show her heart.

Beginning wool butterflies for a new tapestry.
First row of the tapestry has only four butterflies. Additional butterflies are added gradually over the next few rows. (Tapestry begins with a few rows of white 6/1 tow linen.)
Weaving a pictorial tapestry of this lovely woman.
Printed reference cartoon helps me check my work as I go along. The cartoon that is under the weaving on the loom is not only larger, it is printed at a lighter setting, which makes a better weaving guide for me.

A generous heart always has enough. Giving out of our surplus is not generosity. However, if I give you what I’d rather keep, I give you some of myself. Give time, resources, support. Share talents, fascinations, insights. Mom, thanks for giving me so much of yourself.

May your loved ones benefit from your generosity.

With gratitude,
Karen

Tried and True: Simplify Subtle Color Changes

When I pick up a color of thread I don’t want to have to guess if it’s the right color. Four of the five blues in the weft sequence are close neighbors in value. The one color that is easy to identify is the navy blue, which provides a good contrast among the blues.

Five blues in 8/2 cotton. 8-shaft twill.
Weft color order follows the sequence of the warp color order. Five blues for this 8-shaft twill in 8/2 cotton.

The weft order matches the warp order, and is marked out on a ribbon. I am using a separate boat shuttle for each shade of blue. But how do I know which color is which, when the difference is subtle from one color to the next?

Simplify Subtle Color Changes

  • Give each color a number. Write the numbers next to the colors of the warp order on the Project Notes.
Project Notes for weaving with 5 blues.
Weft colors are the same as the warp colors. The Project Notes show all the details. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5” is added to the sheet to give each color a simple number.
  • Label the thread tubes with a small piece of blue painter’s tape. Each tube of thread is numbered to correspond with the numbers on the Project Notes.
Make removable labels with blue painter's tape.
Handy blue painter’s tape is used to make removable labels.
Five blues are labeled for simplicity.
Thread tubes are labeled with their identifying number.
  • Label each boat shuttle with its assigned color number, using a small piece of blue painter’s tape.
There are five blues for this 8-shaft twill.
Each boat shuttle holds its own color.
  • Place wound quills under the rubber band of their respective thread tubes.
Simplify subtle weft color changes.
When I wind an extra quill I place it with its thread tube so I don’t accidentally pick up the wrong color quill.

It is easy to keep track of these five numbers as I follow the weft sequence that is marked on my reference ribbon. Now, it’s shuttle #4’s turn…

Simplify subtle weft color changes.
Next in line…

May you find a way to simplify.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

Wary Weaving

Sugar Pie has been waiting in the wings. Now, his nose wriggles up to the fell line. The day that Ari and Lucia went with me to visit my neighbor, their attention went to the cute furry thing in the rabbit hutch. At first, the bunny was wary, but before long, Sugar Pie was nibbling carrot slivers from Lucia’s hand.

Beginning the bunny in the large pictorial tapestry.
First pick of brown for the bunny’s nose.

Now, I’m the wary one. The rabbit will make or break this tapestry. I made notes when I wove the rabbit on a narrow sample warp several weeks ago. With careful review of my notes, I am inching forward, giving attention to value contrasts that shape and define the animal. The good news is that when I reach the end of Sugar Pie’s soft, furry back, I will be at the tapestry’s finish line.

Color changes are outlined on the tapestry cartoon.
Color changes are outlined on the cartoon with colored pencil.
Pictorial tapestry in progress. "Siblings"
Ari and Lucia, two of my grandchildren, in a moment of childhood wonder. This tapestry tries to capture that wonder.

In trying times, our senses are heightened. Will we flourish, or merely squeak by? In all the confusion, where is clarity? In the chaos, where do we find calm? The Lord extends an open hand. The open hand is an invitation. Come and taste. Trust. Find deep satisfaction that reaches the soul. Courageously inch up to the greatest challenge of your life.

May you step into a worthwhile challenge.

With you,
Karen

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