What Is Creativity?

I can follow a published weaving draft to the letter and expect to get the prescribed results. Or, I can change details and make the project reflect my own ideas. That’s creativity. And that’s why each handwoven piece reveals something about the one who made it.

Two-block broken twill on 8 shafts. Lovely linen!
Two-block broken twill on eight shafts. I like the natural variations in the linen thread.

With every given draft, I determine the width and length for the project I want to weave, and make adjustments accordingly. That may mean adapting the threading sequence to fit. Sometimes I choose a different size of thread. In that case, I change the sett, as needed. Treadling variations also come into play as the fabric takes shape according to my preferences. I almost always choose my own colors. It’s in the colors that I find the most enjoyment of letting my creativity flow. What is your favorite element for creative expression?

Weaving a linen table runner.
Linne, draft by Joanne Hall. The only adjustments I am making are some treadling variations at the start and end of the runner, and the color selection.
Eight-shaft 2-block twill.
Beginning of the runner is wrapping around the slender cloth beam of the Julia.

Creative ability is meant to be an expression of wisdom. Wisdom is a combination of things—experience, intellect, understanding—all put into practice. What you create makes your inmost contemplations visible. Each individual’s creativity is a small example that points to the most astounding example of all. Our Creator reveals his supreme wisdom in every facet of his creation. And you are a prime example of his wise attention to detail.

May your creativity blossom.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

Hazards and Rewards of Weaving a Portrait

When you want a better photograph you snap another picture. When you want a better tapestry you take out what you’ve woven and weave it another way. I recently showed you my progress on the tapestry of my mother. (See Tapestry of the Heart.) As I viewed the tapestry in photographs I could see that the 6/1 tow linen that weaves between the rows of wool was too bright. The golden bleached linen is lovely on its own, and melts into the background on the sides of the portrait. But this bright linen draws undo attention to itself within the darker portions of the tapestry because of the stark contrast. The day after that post I undid everything back to the starting line.

Weaving a four-shaft tapestry portrait.
Take One, with golden bleached 6/1 tow linen weft threads interspersed.

Undoing a few weeks of tapestry weaving is not physically hard to do, but making the decision to undo it is hard, indeed. Since then, I have been weaving every day to get back to the point where I stopped everything. This time, I am using a different color tow linen that will make all the difference.

Wool butterflies for a tapestry portrait.
Take Two. Golden beige tow linen, as seen in the header rows, is interspersed in the weaving.
Tapestry portrait in progress.
I was able to save and reuse some of the wool butterflies from the first take.
Tapestry portrait of my mother.
Almost back to where I stopped. Besides changing the linen weft color, weaving a second time allowed me to make other improvements to the tapestry, as well.
Is that a look of approval?
Small sample of each butterfly is pinned to the picture beside my loom. I choose colors for each wool bundle in correlation to its adjacent colors, working out the colors a few steps ahead of my weaving. …Is that a look of approval?

Now, instead of golden bleached, the linen thread is a golden beige that disappears into the fabric, while holding everything together. Come to think of it, that is an apt picture of a mother’s influence.

May you know when to go back to the beginning.

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

Tried and True: Linen

Take a short stroll through our home and you will see and touch linen in all its superb versatility. Linen warp and weft speaks of elegance. Yet, this natural fiber is right at home with ordinary daily living. Linen, oh, how it sings!

I am thrilled to be dressing the Julia now with 16/2 linen on eight shafts. We will have another linen highlight to grace our home—a table runner for our dining room table.

Bockens 16/2 line linen for a handwoven runner.
It is a happy day when new tubes of Bockens 16/2 line linen arrive at the door.
Making a linen warp.
Winding two threads together at a time on the warping reel.
8-shaft Julia and linen warp.
Dividing the warp into three bouts makes it easier to spread and beam the warp with even tension across the warp.
Glimakra Julia 8-shafts. Glorious linen!
Golden bleached linen is a gorgeous backdrop for the olive center section and contrasting midnight blue borders.

Is there anything more vibrant than the sheen of linen saturated with color? And, have you noticed that plain unbleached linen is anything but plain? Linen fills both ends of the spectrum—glowing exuberant color and natural wrinkled humility. Linen, oh, how it sings! There’s always room for more music in the home.

May your home be filled with everyday elegance.

Happy Weaving,
Karen