Pictorial Tapestry Weaving

Inspired by some of Joanne Hall’s exquisite large tapestries, I have been taking steps to learn her techniques. This fascinating style that is unique to Joanne enables her to weave large tapestries at a comfortable pace. My Lizard tapestry last year was a step in this direction. (See Quiet Friday: Lizard Tapestry.) One thing that the lizard taught me is how much more I need to learn. So, you can imagine my delight in having the opportunity to take a Pictorial Tapestry Weaving workshop taught by Joanne Hall last week! (Contemporary Handweavers of Texas Conference in Fort Worth was the setting.)

Texas Wildflowers, tapestry by Joanne Hall.
Texas Wildflowers, tapestry by Joanne Hall. Photo credit: Steve Isenhower 2013
Detail of Texas Wildflowers, tapestry by Joanne Hall.
Detail of Texas Wildflowers. Threaded in rosepath, with a linen warp. Woven with butterfly bundles of wool yarn. Photo credit: Steve Isenhower 2013

Things to remember: Don’t beat hard. Bubble the weft more. Color theory is invaluable for adding depth and intensity. Simplify the cartoon. And countless more bits of insight and instruction! I am invigorated in my pursuit to develop these tapestry skills. Expect to see a tapestry on my 120cm Glimåkra Standard in coming days.

Workshop looms.
My hand-built countermarch loom is perfect for a tapestry workshop. Betsy brought her Glimåkra Julia loom.
Tapestry sampler in Joanne Hall's workshop.
Workshop sampler gives students various tapestry techniques to practice. We learned techniques of other tapestry weavers, such as Hans Krondahl and Helena Hernmarck, as well as Joanne’s unique approach.
Tapestry workshop with Joanne Hall.
Fellow student Cindy created this pear, taking advantage of the rosepath threading to add pattern to the image.
Joanne Hall's tapestry workshop.
Joanne, center, explains the process of creating a cartoon. She spreads out photos of flowers as a starting point for students’ cartoons.
Joanne Hall's tapestry sample.
Joanne’s tapestry sample demonstrates the outcome of her process. A portion of the photo was enlarged from which she drew the cartoon.
Tapestry workshop.
Fellow student Deborah creates a flower from her original cartoon.
Making a tapestry cartoon.
I am choosing to make my cartoon from an enlarged portion of a lily photo.
Weaving from a cartoon in tapestry workshop.
Color studies and technique exercises all come together in the last part of the tapestry sampler. Weaving from a cartoon.
Tapestry progress.
Time to take the loom apart and head home. Checking my progress with the photo before packing up.
Lily sample from tapestry workshop with Joanne Hall.
Lily sample is finished at home.

I find myself pondering how experiences fall into place in our lives. There are times when the stepping stones seem to be set out before us, showing the way, when we don’t know exactly where we are going. The Lord knows where I am going. He knows me. And he kindly sets out the next steps. Perhaps he smiles as he sees our delight when we figure out that we are the bundles of yarn in his tapestry.

May your joy in learning never cease.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

21 Comments

  • Petrina says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It is so interesting.

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Beautiful! Looking forward to seeing your progress. I don’t have the patience for tapestry.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, You might be surprised. In some ways it is similar to the inlay I’ve seen you do, but on a larger scale.

      In any case, I’m pleased that there are so many directions we can go with yarn and threads and a loom.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Annie says:

    Wow! Karen, you are always doing something amazing! Thank you for sharing the workshop since I was unable to attend any this year.

    I am curious as to how you were able to bring your loom. It doesn’t look very portable.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, The whole conference was a great experience. Maybe you will be able to attend next time, 2021 in San Antonio.

      These Swedish looms are easy to take apart and put back together. Think of it as large Lincoln Logs. The side gables are the biggest pieces. The rest —beams, crossbars, treadles, lamms— all fit into two large duffel bags. The gables and the duffel bags fit in the back seat of our Toyota Tacoma.

      Karen

  • Charlotte says:

    Oh my darling Karen! It is wonderful, reading your blog, this morning. En route to the Navajo Nation, our vehicle died in Albuquerque. What a story I have to share…His goodness to us…to place His people in our path…each one learning of us and needing prayer for themselves and their families. What a miraculous day He had planned.
    Thank you for being YOU! Thank you for taking such grand pictures from our workshop with Joanne. It passed by us all too quickly.

  • Betsy says:

    So fun to re-live the class through your pictures! Love your lily, that came out very well. I still haven’t put the Julia back together, I want to give it new dowels, so a trip to Lowe’s is on the list.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betsy, I’m so glad my CM loom had a sister in the room! It was fun to get to weave side-by-side with you.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Vivian says:

    It is so uplifting to learn from your heroes. It is a well of kindness that keeps on giving. Thank you for sharing. I appreciate the breakdown of technique and you were able to make tapestry seem just a little more approachable.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Vivian, “Hero” is a good word to describe Joanne. We are fortunate that she is so willing to share her expertise.

      If tapestry weaving seems more approachable, then I’ve accomplished one of my goals. Thanks!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Joanna says:

    Hi Karen, thanks for another great post. Joanne’s wildflower tapestry is a marvel. I’m wondering where she managed to find so many colors in what appears to be the same weight of yarn. Was it perhaps woven in the era of the famous Paternayan yarns (gone now and sadly missed)?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanna, That’s a great question about the yarn. If Joanne sees this maybe she will leave a comment.

      In the workshop we used mostly 6/2 Tuna wool and 6/1 Fårö wool. We made butterflies with the equivalent of 4 strands of Tuna wool. Using several strands together introduces great ability for variety of color and shading.

      I agree that Joanne’s tapestries are marvels.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

      • Joanna says:

        Back in the day I did a lot of needlepoint using Paternayan Persian wool yarn. The yarn came as 3 strands of 2-ply yarn and that put-up, combined with an incredible color range, enabled the stitcher to create the exact shade needed. It spoiled me. Do you know the date of JH’s wildflower tapestry?

        • Karen says:

          Joanna, I’m sure your needlepoint images were spectacular!

          Joanne Hall’s Texas Wildflowers tapestry was installed the summer of 1995.

          Karen

    • Anonymous says:

      Hi Joanna,
      As Karen said, we used 2 ply Swedish wools, Tuna, 109 colors available from Glimakra. We can extend the color choices by also using the Faro yarn,an additional 74 colors, using two strands as one. I did some dyeing for the Texas Wildflowers tapestry, as it is hard to get clear pastel colors.
      Joanne

  • Amazing. Beautiful.
    Right place. Right time. The rose path warp on my loom is exceeding my filler on some rag rugs. This technique has inspired me to weave the last rug as a tapestry in a simple design from stringers of red currants.
    Always an inspiration. Always a blessing.
    Thank you.
    Nannette

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, I would love to do some tapestry rag rugs at some point. I was thinking about that earlier this morning. Good for you!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Cindy says:

    What a treat to open your blog for the first time since I signed up and see my little pear! I had so much to learn and Joanne stuffed as much as she could into my sponge of a brain. Not sure where it will lead, but such an intriguing path!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cindy, Your pear deserved to be seen! It’s good to go as sponges. It will be interesting to see where all this leads!

      All the best,
      Karen

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Weaving History Carries Memories – Year in Review Video

Transition. Changes. Adventure into the unknown. That describes 2018 for Steve and me. When I review my weaving history for the year, everything on the loom is attached to a memory. Like an old song that awakens our thoughts to past experiences, the Lizard tapestry certainly sparks in me revived memories of our transition season and the moving of looms. See Quiet Friday: Tapestry in Transition.

Removing the warp beam. Relocating the loom.

Steve unscrews a bolster that holds one side of the warp beam so I can remove the warp beam.

I began 2018 with a plan to weave coordinated fabrics for our Texas hill country home—towels, upholstery for bar stools, and placemats, explained in this post: Harmonized Weaving for the New Year. Accomplished! I also committed to weaving a gift for each of my three daughters (daughter and two son’s wives), as described in this post: Weaving a Gift. Accomplished two out of three! The final gift is nearing halfway on the loom right now.

Hemstitching at the beginning of the cotton throw.

Cotton throw has hemstitching at the beginning. The ends will be twisted for fringe when it’s taken from the loom.

Eight-shaft twill in an undulating pattern. Lightweight cotton throw.

Eight-shaft twill in an undulating pattern. Single-shuttle weaving gets me off to a fast start for 2019.

2019 is a continuation of transition, changes, and adventure, as we tiptoe into this retirement chapter. A drawloom is in the forecast, as well as some travel tapestry weaving, and more rag rugs, towels, scarves, and throws. And anything else we can think up. It’s going to be a good year! Thank you for coming along. I’m grateful to have you as a friend.

May you have much to look forward to.

Blessings to you,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Beth Mullins says:

    You’ve had an exciting and productive year. Wishing you all the best in 2019 and beyond.

  • Diane Leblanc says:

    I look forward to each post. I have had my loom for 38 years and it is retirement that finally gave me the time to weave and learn as I have always wished for. I am learning so many things I am inspired by weavers in my guild into their 80’s who are still weaving and learning. I wish us both a good weaving year in 2019

    • Karen says:

      Hi Diane, It is wonderful to have fellow weavers like you on this journey with me. Learning new things is one thing I look forward to in 2019!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • ellen santana says:

    well i’m real happy to have you too. i did that undulating twill in wool a couple of times and it shrank like crazy. do you find that in cotton also? happy new year to you and your husband. ellen

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ellen, It’s good to hear from you!

      I haven’t done undulating twill in cotton before, so we shall see about the shrinkage. I’ll be sure to mention it when I take measurements after washing.

      Blessed new year to you,
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    Remarkable year!!

    Please continue sharing.

    Kind regards,

    Nannette

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Quiet Friday: Lizard Tapestry

This is the moment we’ve been waiting for! We finally get to see the whole tapestry. This lizard has given me quite a ride! I have learned plenty. Things I’m happy with myself about, like drawing a cartoon from a photograph, following the cartoon details, making and keeping track of butterflies. And some things I’d like to improve, like choosing colors that give the best contrast, managing the cartoon under the tapestry, and choosing where to pick the floats. I’m eager to do four-shaft tapestry again so I can learn some more!

I wove the fringe into an edging, ending with a small braid. Next, I will tack the edging and braids to the back, clip weft tails on the back, and sew on a backing fabric. And then, I’ll find a special place to hang this Lizard tapestry in our Texas hill country home, just a half mile from the place I saw and photographed the cute little green anole in the first place.

Finishing the ends on the Lizard tapestry.

Finishing the ends.

 

Lizard Tapestry.

Lizard Tapestry. Next steps are clipping weft tails on the back, adding a backing, and hanging in our Texas hill country home.

May your learning experiences take you for an exciting ride.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

~Change Is Coming~
With Steve’s approaching retirement, I am implementing some adjustments for Warped for Good. Friday posts will become less frequent, and by December you will receive new posts only on Tuesdays. Today is my final Quiet Friday post, something I’ve enjoyed doing once a month for the five and-a-half years Warped for Good has been active.

I invite you to continue joining with me on this weaving journey at Warped for Good!

24 Comments

  • Beth Mullins says:

    The lizard is wonderful! It will be right at home in the Texas hill country.

    I’m happy for Steve and you! I have so enjoyed your bi-weekly posts as they bring bright spots to my mornings and will continue looking forward to weekly posts.

    All the best!

  • Betsy says:

    You captured him beautifully! I love that little lizard half smile. We see them a lot on our deck, and on the tree that grows just a few feet from the patio door.

    I will miss the second weekly posts, but hope you and Steve enjoy retirement as much as we do.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betsy, Of the many critters we’ve seen out here, the little green anole is the cutest, and maybe the most harmless. 🙂

      I’m glad to hear you enjoy the retirement season. I think we have a lot to look forward to.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Robin says:

    This is so inspiring. I have never even thought of doing tapestry on my big loom!
    Love it! How long did it take you? Looks like a LOT of work!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Robin, This was on the loom for five months. Part of that time, though, we had a lot of disruptions, including moving to a new location.
      You’re right, it was a lot of work. But I really enjoyed the whole process!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Cute little guy.

    Nice job.

    Nannette

  • Rachel Lohman says:

    Wishing you all the best in retirement with blessings surrounding both of you. .I have enjoyed the bi-weekly “warping” and learned a lot from you. Never knew that a tapestry could be done on the loom as you shared with us. The lizard will give color and joy wherever he is hung. Will miss you on Friday mornings but look forward to Tuesday’s! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and joy in the weaving of life. God bless!

  • susie weitzel says:

    Even more beautiful than I was imagining. Best wishes in retirement. So happy for both of you. Your talent and imagination are so inspiring. You have encouraged me to try projects I would not have tried otherwise. Again best wishes

  • Liberty says:

    Oh Karen, he is fabulous, I just love it!! What a long journey the two of you were on!
    Sorry to see you will be with us only once a week now, but I know you and Steve will be having a great time enjoying retirement now!!
    Hugs and love to you my friend,
    Liberty

    • Karen says:

      Hi Liberty, This was on the loom longer than I’d like to admit, but I enjoyed every part of it!

      It’s great to have you on this journey with me.

      Your friend,
      Karen

  • D’Anne says:

    Karen,
    Your little lizard turned out beautifully! What size is the finished piece? Hope we get to see him at the November WOW meeting.

    • Karen says:

      Hi D’Anne, I haven’t measured it yet, but on the loom it was about 36” x 48”. I’ll bring it to the meeting next week!

      Thanks for your sweet encouragement to me!
      Karen

  • Tonya Leach says:

    Karen,
    Where did you learn 4 shaft tapestry? I am fascinated! I will also miss your more frequent posting but I do hope you and yours enjoy retirement!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Tonya, I have not seen very many examples of four-shaft tapestry like this.

      I learned it from Joanne Hall, who generously shares her knowledge and experience. Her work is amazing and something I’d like to emulate. I have a long way to go in that regard.

      Helena Hernmarck is another person I’m aware of who weaves in a similar style. I’ve studied pictures in a book I have of her work.

      I found one other individual on Instagram from Sweden who has examples of this type of four-shaft tapestry. I’m always on the hunt for this kind of tapestry to observe.

      Thanks for your kind sentiments,
      Karen

  • Lyna says:

    Thank you for bringing us along on your lizard tapestry journey! If possible, could you show how you finish it–how close do you trim the tails, how the warp ends are handled, how the backing fabric is attached, how is it hung?
    Or just say “Look it up in this ___ book,” because we know you are busy going into another season of life! Looking forward to Tuesdays!
    God bless, Lyna

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lyna, It’s my pleasure to have you come with me on this journey! Everything is better with friends along.

      I’ll do my best to show the finishing that I do, though I’m still learning that part, too.
      I did make a little video a while back that shows the method I use to finish the warp ends. You can see it at the end of this post – Quiet Friday: Little Tapestry Diary.

      Thanks for being here,
      Karen

  • It looks wonderful, until I saw your lizard it hadn’t occurred to me that a floor loom could be used for tapestry; one day I might have to try it too.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Rachelle, I like using the floor loom for tapestry. This was my first attempt doing that, and I intend to do it again! Who knows, maybe I’ll have to add another loom just for tapestry. 🙂

      Thanks!
      Karen

  • Karen Reff says:

    That’s pretty amazing!

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Only Five Centimeters!

Five centimeters is not very far! That’s all that‘s left of this Lizard tapestry. I expect to cut it off in a day or two. What a delight this first attempt at four-shaft tapestry has been!

Nearing completion of Lizard tapestry on four shafts!

Close to cutting off! The Lizard will soon appear in the completed woven image.

Nobody makes a masterpiece on their first try. It takes practice—lots of it. And that’s something I’m eager to do. The experience has been richly satisfying as a weaver. I am invigorated by the challenge of paying attention to a cartoon, and then watching the image grow on the loom. It’s like painting by number, only better. I get to “make” the paint with multiple strands of yarn.

Afternoon sun on the wool tapestry image.

Afternoon sun gives an added dimension to the wool tapestry image.

Coming to the end of this four-shaft tapestry.

Many weft color changes are in the last few centimeters, which keeps it interesting. And I don’t mind the slow pace because I don’t really want the experience to end.

We need something to guide us. We need to align our lives with a sure standard of truth, like matching up the image being woven with the center warp end, so we won’t drift off course. Pay attention to the truth. There are persuasive arguments and countless opinions, but isn’t it truth that helps makes sense of reality? God opens our eyes and hearts to see truth. And as we pay attention to truth, and align with it, we get to experience the amazing view of his tapestry being woven all around us.

May you know when to pay attention.

Happy weaving,
Karen

8 Comments

  • susie weitzel says:

    I have been following this tapestry closely. So very anxious to see the finished work of art.

  • Margaret says:

    Thank you for your weaving words. May your day be blessed.

  • Marjorie Clay says:

    Can you explain briefly how the multiple shafts work in creating this tapestry? When I think of tapestry, I think of Navajo weaving, which is essentially plain weave. How do the different sheds available on a 4-shaft loom work on a tapestry?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Marjorie, Most tapestry is woven on two shafts. With four shafts I can thread the loom for plain weave and a rosepath or twill threading, and then I have plain weave and a patterned weave for the tapestry. This Lizard tapestry has a rosepath threading. I became interested in this type of tapestry after seeing some of Joanne Hall’s tapestries, and pictures of Helena Hernmarck’s tapestries. This is a new endeavor for me, so I’m still learning how it all works (or should work).

      Karen

  • Liberty says:

    I’m so excited to see it!!
    Liberty

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Tools Day: Cartoon Trials

Making a cartoon for a lizard tapestry this size is quite a process. First, I enlarge the photograph. Then, I trace the outlines of the details onto a sheet of clear acetate. Next, to make the cartoon, I trace the bold Sharpie lines of the acetate image onto interfacing material meant for pattern making. But next time, it will be different.

Tracing photograph to make a tapestry cartoon.

Tracing outlines from the enlarged photograph onto the sheet of acetate. Photo image on the iPad helps clarify which distinctive lines to draw.

Making a tapestry cartoon.

White poster board under the acetate makes the Sharpie lines visible. The interfacing material lays on top of the acetate so I can trace the lines to make my cartoon.

I don’t plan to use this interfacing material again for a cartoon. It is not stiff enough. As the tapestry progresses it becomes more and more difficult to keep the cartoon from puckering and creasing in places. A better option would have been stiffer buckram, like I used for my transparencies. (See – Quiet Friday: Painting with Yarn and Animated Images.) But I am not able to find buckram in sufficient width.

Unwanted creases in the tapestry cartoon.

Interfacing material is susceptible to puckers and creases. Unevenness in the cartoon can result in a distorted woven image on the tapestry.

After I finished weaving the lizard portion of the tapestry, I decided to experiment. I removed the interfacing cartoon and switched to the acetate sheet instead. There’s no puckering with this one! It is much easier to line up the cartoon with the weaving. It has drawbacks, though. Noisy! When I beat in the weft it makes thunderstorm sound effects. (Not so great for our temporary apartment life.) It’s also harder to see the cartoon lines. And the magnets I use to hold the cartoon slip out of place too easily.

Using a sheet of acetate for a tapestry cartoon.

Slat holds the cartoon up to the warp. To beat the weft, I move the slat out of the way of the beater, just under the fell line. The sheet of plastic would be a good prop for making sounds effects for a film about a thunderstorm.

Next time... White paper, like the gorgeous tapestry cartoon I have seen in Joanne Hall’s studio. That’s what I’ll use. Next time

Joanne Hall and her tapestry cartoon!

Joanne Hall in her Montana studio. This is the cartoon she made for her impressive Bluebonnets tapestry that hangs on display in a Dallas hospital.

May you learn from your experiments.

All the best,
Karen

2 Comments

  • Good morning Karen,

    My interest is always drawn to how things work. Tapestry is not an easy medium to work in. But, oh… Such beautiful results.

    Could the widths of the buckram be spliced together?

    May you continue to find new paths to explore.

    Nannette

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, Yes, in hindsight I could have used the buckram crossways, and continued the pattern across the separate pieces. The other advantage I see with the paper is the ability to color the design, and work from that. I’d like to try that.

      Karen

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