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.
Documenting your work for repeatability is valuable for any any step-by-step process. With the Lizardtapestry I learned how to do the finishing, including the backing. By the time I was ready to put a backing on the Siblings tapestry, I had limited recall of that first experience. Now that Eye of the Beholder is ready for backing, I need help again. Fortunately, I made note of every detail while constructing the backing for the Siblings tapestry. So, this time I have the benefit of written and photo documentation. No guesswork!
How to Document Your Steps
Do research. Gather your notes, search resources, and get advice from experienced weavers regarding the process you want to document.
Outline the steps. Write out and number all the steps as you understand them. Doing this before you start helps you think through the entire process.
Refine the steps. Begin working through the steps in order. Adjust the steps as you go. You may need to add or eliminate steps, or change the order in which they are done.
Make it visual. Take a photo of any step that benefits from visual clarification.
Finalize. Simplify and clarify the instructions in every step as if they are meant for someone who knows less about this process that you do. Remove redundant and/or unnecessary photos.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I am making great progress on my drawloom rag rug, closing in on the final segment. And then, I take a picture and the camera reveals something I had failed to see. A mistake! Here is the dilemma that I’m sure other weavers face, too. It’s an internal dialogue. I can live with the error. Or, can I? No one will notice. Well, I certainly will notice. But I am sooo close to the end. I really don’t want to undo the last forty minutes of weaving. What would you do?
Back it up. Using the chart that I follow for pulling draw cords, unit by unit, I work my way back until I get to the error. On reflection, doing the task is easier than thinking about doing it.
My feelings can fool me. I don’t feel like going back and correcting my mistake. This is the time to pause and listen. Wisdom is at the door. Wisdom requires thinking, and listening, and time. Time is my friend, if I refrain from hurry. Wisdom is much like the skill of an experienced craftsman—one who understands precision and artistic expression and do-overs. Wisdom knows that patience is powerful. The easiest way to do something often forfeits the greatest rewards.