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

4 Comments

  • Beth says:

    I admire your patience…and very much so, your talent.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, Thank you so much for your thoughtful insights. You’re making me reflect on patience and talent. Patience doesn’t seem hard for me most of the time—at the loom, at least. I like the whole slow process, so I’m not in a hurry about it. Talent, on the other hand, seems elusive. I think patience and talent may be related. The more patient I am to practice what I know, the more talented I get. 🙂

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    Good morning Karen,
    You are an artist nose to toes. To do the weaving that you do requires a working skill of the craft. No matter how much I tried, the skill to make music from the viola was not possible because the craft was beyond my physical ability. As much as the mind desires, without the craftsmanship foundation to describe creativity, nothing happens. Mathematics, so necessary with science and engineering and business. Color theory with the visual. Mechanical understanding of the instrument, viola or loom or CNC or human body.
    You are constantly sharing as you explore the craft of weaving. Your craftsmanship is honed to the best it can be. With that, the blessing of being an artist occurred. It is like running barefoot in a field as a child with no cares… Just the freedom of no boundaries.
    God has blessed you with being a textile artist and you have extended that to the world with your blog.
    Praise God. Thank you Karen.
    Nannette

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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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Tapestry Butterflies and Video Tutorial

Wool butterflies are my crayons. I use them to color the spaces of my color-by-number cartoon that’s under the warp. I am using Borgs 6/2 Tuna wool and Borgs 6/1 Fårö wool in this tapestry, combining strands of various colors to get just the right hue, value, and intensity. Getting that right is the hard part. Winding butterflies is the easy part. Especially if you learned it from Joanne Hall, as I did.

Pictorial tapestry beginning.
Start of new tapestry. Butterflies are composed of specific colors to achieve desired results for contrast, shading, and depth.

It is essential to know how to make a good butterfly when you want to weave a tapestry on a big floor loom like this. A good butterfly is compact enough to easily pass through warp ends. And secure enough to stay intact through all those passes. It also needs to have a tail that is simple to extend. A good butterfly never ends up in a knot or a jumble of threads, but instead, gives your hands pure delight as it flows through your fingers to color your tapestry.

Colorful tapestry butterflies.
Detail of colorful tapestry butterflies.
New butterfly is ready to fly in.
New butterfly is ready to find its place in the mix.

This video shows how I make my tapestry butterflies.

May your days be colored with delight.

From the crayon box,
Karen

12 Comments

  • Joyce Lowder says:

    Beautiful colors! 🙂 Nice, simple video. 🙂

  • Charlotte says:

    Good morning, dearest! What a lovely way to start my day…a fresh cup of coffee and your sweet video. I am so thankful that we were able to take Joanne’s workshop. I finally finished my sample and realize how much I like the movement in the cloth. There isn’t a cartoon in mind, for me. But, I hope one day to dream up something and put it on the floor loom.

    Thank you for blessing me with your faithful love and kindness…

    • Karen says:

      Hi Charlotte, I, too, am grateful for that pictorial tapestry workshop! Movement in the cloth is a good way to describe it. It’s such a satisfying way to do tapestry.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Well, isn’t that slick?! Thanks to you and Joanne for sharing this trick!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, It is slick! Before I learned this simple method, my butterflies were nothing but trouble, coming undone and ending up in knots. Something so simple can make a huge difference.

      Have a great day!
      Karen

  • Annie says:

    Thank you for the video on butterflies, Karen! I have tried them from a book illustration and was thoroughly disappointed. They were loose and sloppy so I bought tapestry bobbins instead.
    I am saving this video for a future planned project.

    May you have a blessed day. I am looking forward to seeing what you create with with these butterflies.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, It’s nice to have butterflies that hold together. I had trouble with mine, too, before learning this method.

      This tapestry will give me many hours of enjoyment! I’ll show it little by little.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Butterflies were used on a cardboard tapestry loom for a 1973 high school art project. The slick wrapping was not taught.

    It would appear there is more to learn, even I areas I was confident..

    Don’t know about West Texas, but after a humid, rainy and sunless Monday..Tuesday is dry and cloudless. Beautiful day! New skill! God is in the heavens today.

    Nannette

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, You have a great memory. It’s sweet that you remember these details from a high school art project.

      In this part of Texas (not quite considered West Texas), sunshine and scattered clouds have been the norm. Every day is a good day!

      Blessings,
      Karen

  • Allison Grove says:

    Thanks for this video. I’ve struggled with using butterflies, but now realize I haven’t been winding the tail end tight enough and too few times. Allison

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Weaving a Personal Logo

This logo goes back to at least 1982. It is on the underside of a bowl I made that year in my one-and-only pottery class. kmi for Karen Marie Isenhower. This personal logo will be woven into my upcoming pictorial tapestry. I know how I want the image to look, but it’s not easy to weave it successfully. I am practicing on a sample warp.

Woven logo in a tapestry.
Lizard tapestry, woven from the side. This was my first attempt to weave my personal logo into a tapestry.

I am starting with the little cartoon that I used when I wove the Lizard tapestry last year (see Quiet Friday: Lizard Tapestry), thinking I can improve in the weaving of it.

Sample warp.

Nope. It’s not any better. I am redrawing the cartoon to spread the letters out further.

Practicing weaving my personal logo.

Nope. Now, the letters are too spread out.

Finally, I reach a happy medium.

Woven personal logo.
kmi

Yes. This attempt is successful. Now I am ready to weave my personal stamp into the new tapestry project.

Warp is almost ready for the next tapestry.
Linen warp is beamed for the next tapestry.
Ready to weave!
Ready to start the new tapestry!
Final cartoon.
Cartoon of the logo is traced onto the big cartoon that will be used for the pictorial tapestry.

You were made on purpose for a purpose. When the Grand Weaver created you He started a masterpiece with your initials on it. He develops the cartoon and lays out the colorful butterflies of yarn, with your personal logo in mind. Finish what He started. It takes a lifetime. In the end, my personal logo, never quite perfect, will diminish. And His royal insignia, embroidered in threads of gold, becomes the label on my life’s tapestry.

May you see your great value.

With you,
Karen

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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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