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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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

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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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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

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Two Kinds of Dressing

Before everyone arrives for our Thanksgiving family gathering, I am making pie crust for the pecan pie, dough for my “famous” cranberry bread, and doing the prep to make Gram’s turkey dressing. Each family is bringing their contributions to the meal (feast). Thanksgiving Day is a flurry of activity with too many cooks in the kitchen—just how we like it! And sitting at the table with the feast before us, we give thanks. Thanks to each other, and to our Creator. We are blessed!

Making perfect pecan pie for Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving feast prep. It takes two pastry chefs to make the perfect pecan pie.

And before everyone arrives I also manage to sley the reed on the Standard. A different kind of dressing—loom dressing.

Sleying the reed.

Two ends per dent in a 45/10 metric reed.

Sleying the reed.

I sit “inside” the loom on my loom bench to sley the reed.

Next step - tying on!

After the reed is sleyed, I remove the loom bench, lower the shafts, and move the countermarch to the front of the loom. Then, I place the reed in the beater and make sure it is centered. Next step–tying on!

Fresh warp on the back beam. Magical!

Getting dressed. Oh the beauty of a fresh warp going over the back beam! Magical.

A feast for the eyes and hands and heart. Thankful indeed!

May you give thanks,
Karen

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