Woven Transparency Cactus Revealed!

It started with a prickly pear cactus in the front yard of our Texas hill country place, and then a photograph. Now, I have a woven representation of this interesting specimen of our Texas landscape! I am hoping that Steve will whittle a rustic rod from which this cactus banner will hang in our home.

Finishing woven transparency of a cactus.

Weaving the casing for the top of the transparency. Linen warp and weft make an appealing mesh that holds and surrounds the pictorial weaving.

Woven transparency of a prickly pear cactus. Just off the loom!

After cutting off, the complete front side of the transparency is seen for the first time.

Eager to hang this transparency, I didn’t want to waste any time. I finished the ends of the piece with a zigzag stitch on my sewing machine. And I sewed casings at the top and bottom. Now, in full view, a little back lighting reveals the complete picture of the woven threads.

Woven transparency. Prickly Pear Cactus. Karen Isenhower

Cactus spines in the woven image seem to reach outward and almost appear three-dimensional.

Detail view of woven transparency cactus.

Detail view of some of the shading in the cactus.

We weave thoughts and ideas in our heart. And when we speak, we bring those thoughts out into the open. Words reveal the treasures of the heart. When we speak words of value, we bring our choicest treasures out in the open. And what a welcome picture that is.

May your words be received as treasures.

Love,
Karen

18 Comments

  • Barbara Crockett says:

    Wow! Looking back at your June 30 post of the photo and how you started this project is fun. The details in the shading create an amazing effect. Great job!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Barbara, I’m thinking about framing the cactus photograph to hang near the transparency. The light plays off the yarn and gives it a feel of realism that surprises even me.

      Thanks!
      Karen

  • Deborah Pudliner says:

    Thank you Karen! I am not a weaver, but my daughter is. Each time I read your blog I have been blessed not only in seeing what you are weaving/teaching/learning, but the words you use to share bring it all to life and encourage not only the weavers but those who are blessed in seeing the work of the weaver unfold. May He bless you, encourage you and fill you with wisdom and much joy to continue the work He has to do in you and through you.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Deborah, Thank you for sharing the treasures of your heart with me! Your words have ministered to me today more than you know.

      Blessings,
      Karen

  • Betsy G says:

    Karen
    Well done! The cactus is so realistic with your use of shading. I want to keep clear of those prickers.

  • Maria says:

    Karen- it is absolutely fantastic. I have never done a transparency but I now would love to try . What an inspiration! The stickers on the cactus are so realistic.
    Just fabulous!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Maria, I hope you do try it! This project has been great fun. Transparency weaving is quickly becoming one of my very favorite things to do. It makes me happy that you like the finished piece. That means a lot!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Cindie says:

    Your piece turned out incredible.

  • Beautiful! Weaving transparencies is rather fun! Did you use something other than wool for the spines? Just curious, because sometimes when I weave white wool into a transparency it doesn’t show up very well. One other question – what brand and type of wool did you use for the greens?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lynette, I have to agree – weaving transparencies is fun indeed!

      I did use wool for the cactus spines. All of the wool in this piece is 20/2 Mora. I used 4 strands of yarn in each bundle, which gave me a lot of opportunity to blend colors. Most of the white is white and off-white blended together. By blending 4 strands together, it greatly multiplied my palette of greens. As much as possible, I tried to combine colors that are close in value, so they would really blend together well.

      Thanks for sharing your transparencies with me. Your work has been a huge inspiration!
      Karen

  • D'Anne says:

    The spines definitely look 3D! Great job!! Hope you will bring it to WOW sometime so we can see it in person.

  • Cindy Bills says:

    Thank you for showing us the finished piece. It is lovely! I find your whole process of transparency weaving to be fascinating.

  • Emily says:

    Hi, I came across this post while searching for information about using linen weft for tapestry. I had never heard of transparency weaving before and it has spurred a huge interest for me! I bought a book– I forget the author but I believe it’s the only one in English– and have been learning a ton. I can’t wait to try this out. I weave on a Mirrix, and don’t have a floor loom, but I am fairly confident I can make that work. It will be strange for me not to really pack my weft, and to put two wefts in the same shed. Can’t wait!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Emily, How exciting! The book I’m familiar with is “Sheer Delight: Handwoven Transparencies,” by Doramay Keasbey. It’s an excellent book, and very inspiring.

      I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t weave a transparency on your Mirrix loom. I hope you enjoy this type of weaving as much as I do!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

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Cactus Transparency Preview

Here is a glimpse of the front-side of the transparency weaving. The cactus is beginning to come around the breast beam. I can’t see the cactus clearly yet, but so far, it looks good! I only have a couple inches of cactus left to weave. Soon, the whole picture will be visible!

Beginning of woven transparency around the front beam.

Smooth surface of the woven pattern area is in contrast to the textured density that is seen on the back.

The back of the weaving that faces me as I weave, with all its weft turns, weft splices, and woven-in tails, is an accurate picture of what I am weaving. But it is incomplete. It doesn’t tell the whole story. I get used to this bumpy side sometimes and forget that there is something better on the other side.

Transparency weaving from the back. Prickly pear cactus.

Transparency woven from the back means that all the weft turns are seen on the back. The front side of the weaving will have an appearance that is truer to the clean lines of the picture drawn on the cartoon.

Almost finished woven transparency of prickly pear cactus!

With the end in sight, anticipation of seeing the whole picture from the front grows!

Getting a glimpse of the true cactus picture made me want to see more. Looking for, and eagerly waiting to see the finished front-side of the transparency is like seeking truth. The lines in the design are obscured from the back, so we are compelled to keep going, keep advancing the warp, and actively look for the truth to appear. Love truth. The beginning of the cactus coming into view is a welcome sight that reminds me why I’m at the loom.

May you love what is true.

Welcoming a new grandson into the world!

We welcomed a new grandson into the world a few days ago!

Big brother loving his new baby brother. Awww... so sweet.

Big brother loving his new baby brother. Truth matters because of these precious little guys.

Yours truly,
Karen

18 Comments

  • Joanna says:

    Many congratulations! May he live a long, safe, and faithful life. Babies are miracles made visible, entrusted to our care, and I know this little one will be cherished.

  • Deb says:

    Prayers for your new grandson and his family.de

  • Beth says:

    Congratulations on your new grandson! The cactus is looking amazing!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, New grandchildren are always fun to meet! I’m glad you like the cactus. I am so eager to turn the whole thing over! It won’t be long…

      Karen

  • Bev Romans says:

    Congrats on this precious and beautiful new grandchild, Karen! What a blessing to your whole family!

  • Maria says:

    Congratulations! Grand children are the best!! Can’t wait to see the finished work – your transparency that is!

  • Martha says:

    Lovely new baby and wonderful big brother – Grands are just the best. Enjoy every minute you get to spend with them. Looking forward to seeing the finish transparency

  • D'Anne Craft says:

    Congratulations on the sweet new grand baby, Karen! He’s precious!
    I look forward to seeing your finished cactus soon.

    • Karen says:

      D’Anne, Thank you! There’s nothing like holding a newborn. It’s always surprising how short that newborn stage is. This cactus is just about ready to be cut off!

      Karen

  • Congratulations on he the grandson! Interesting journey with your cactus. What size Glimakra are you weaving on and why?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Linda, Thanks so much!

      This is a 47″ (120cm) Glimakra Standard. I love your question! This is the size Glimakra I like best. I like that it is large enough to get “in” the loom for threading and tying up. This also provides a very comfortable weaving experience for my 5’2″ frame. I sit high on the bench and everything fits me. My 39″ (100cm) Ideal isn’t as easy to dress, and is a little more awkward to find a comfortable position for weaving. The times I have woven on a wider loom I found that my arms just don’t have the “wingspan” to make it a comfortable weaving experience with throwing and catching the shuttle. But overall, I enjoy weaving on any Glimakra.

      I guess I could call this my Goldilocks loom – not too big, not too small, but juuuuust right!

      Karen

  • Emily Lefler :) says:

    Congrats on your new sweet grandbaby!!

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All Those Weft Tails

This prickly pear cactus transparency is inching along. I wait for the day when we will get to see this from the front side! Weaving from the back has its advantages, though. I am able to deal with all the weft tails as I go.

Cactus transparency weaving in progress.

In some rows there are as many as twelve or thirteen different weft bundles. Every weft bundle has tails that are either tucked under adjacent warp ends, if possible, or woven in later with a needle.

After every inch of weaving, I stop and trim weft tails. I use a blunt needle to weave loose tails in first before trimming them. This part of the process is time consuming. But I do it happily, thankful that I won’t have hours of tedious work at the end of the project.

Transparency weaving in progress. Cactus.

Each pattern row is woven straight across, from left to right, with weft bundles following the lines of the cartoon underneath. The linen tabby weft lies between each pattern row.

Trimming weft tails on the woven transparency.

An inch-worth of weaving, with weft tails to weave in and to trim. Wefts that were spliced while weaving can be trimmed close to the fabric. Tails of weft bundles must be woven in with a needle, and then trimmed.

Weaving hack using dental floss threader!

Sometimes it works best to put the needle through warp ends first and then use a dental floss threader to help thread the weft tail bundle through the eye of the needle.

Woven transparency of a prickly pear cactus.

Cactus keeps growing, inch by inch!

Give thanks. It is right and it is satisfying to give thanks to the Lord. The little things that we get to take care of now, daily inching along, are reminders of the big work in progress that we are in. Eventually, we will see the front side. And what a joy that will be!

May all your loose ends be secured.

Happy weaving,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Beth Mullins says:

    The back side looks amazing! I can’t wait to see the front. I love this!

  • Do you try and tuck most of your ends under the warp that shows on the back? It will be interesting to see the clear picture when it is done.

    My sister-in-law and I were talking about tragedies and how God can make all things good. As in your transparency, we only see the backside of our immediate life picture, but how glorious it is as life goes on. We can only hope the messy parts of our lives will make an incredible impact in someone else’s life, to the glory of our Creator and Savior.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jenny, Yes, I tuck most of the ends under the warp the shows on the back. Hopefully, all those little ends won’t be seen from the front. Also, all the weft turns are on the back. When we see the front, the turns won’t be visible and all the edges of the design will be much more distinct.

      Thanks for sharing a beautiful word picture of what God can do with the messy parts of our lives. We look forward to the day when we will truly see it from His view.

      Karen

  • Looking at your transparency progress brings back so many happy memories of weaving these through the years, and encourages me to get another one started. Even though it is slow weaving, I’d always say “just one more row, and then I’ll stop”, it was so satisfying. I love how the cactus spines stand out! Can’t wait to see it hanging in a window with light shining through!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lynette, I agree, this is so satisfying to weave. Oh, light shining through will be the icing on the cake!

      I love hearing your thoughts about weaving transparencies!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

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Woven Transparency Cactus

I found a subject for my next transparency. It’s a prickly pear cactus in Texas hill country. Weaving this cactus is a fantastic experience! I started with a photograph, from which I made a cartoon. And I have an outline that shows where to place each color. It’s all based on the timeless beauty of colors in nature. I’m hopeful that when light shines through the final woven transparency we will see a likeness of the original cactus.

Prickly Pear Cactus in Texas hill country.

Prickly Pear Cactus in the front yard of our Texas hill country home.

Make a Cartoon

  • Crop and enlarge the photo. (I use Acrobat Reader to enlarge and print in multiple pages, and then tape the pages together.)

Prickly Pear Cactus in Texas hill country.

  • Outline the main lines of the picture.
  • Turn the enlarged picture over and draw the traced lines on the back to have the reverse image. (This transparency is woven from the back.)

Photo to sketch to cartoon for woven transparency.

  • Trace the line drawing onto a piece of buckram to use as the cartoon.
  • Draw a vertical dashed line down the center of the buckram cartoon.
  • Pin the cartoon under the weaving, lining up the center line on the cartoon with the center warp end. Move the pins, one at a time, before advancing the warp each time.

Buckram used for transparency cartoon.

Color Selection

  • Use the photograph to select yarn colors for the transparency. (I used the iPad to view the photo, and selected sixteen shades of 20/2 Mora wool.)
  • Sort the yarn by hues. (I used my iPhone camera black-and-white setting to help in the sorting.) Sorting by hues helps me blend similar-hued colors, and shows me the contrasts that will help define the picture.

Color selection for woven transparency. Sorting by hues.

 

Sorting colors by hues for woven transparency.

  • Assign a number to each yarn color.
  • Make the enlarged outline into a color-by-number sheet by designating a color or blend of colors for each section. (I taped this sheet to the wall beside my loom, to use as a color guide. The iPad photo also serves as a reference.)

Butterflies of Mora wool for woven transparency.

Virtues are timeless. Virtues are like colors that blend together to weave a masterpiece. When we let the Grand Weaver lay in the weft, these are the colors that appear as light shines through His woven transparency: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. And when this occurs, it shows that we are made in His image.

Making a transparency cartoon. Tutorial.

 

Woven transparency from a photo. How to.

May the next leg of your journey be a fantastic experience.

I’ll meet you back here on Tuesday, August 1st, 2017.
In the meantime, I hope you investigate claims of Jesus. Take time with people. Keep weaving. And the same for me.

Head over to Instagram to stay in touch with my daily journey.

Love,
Karen

16 Comments

  • Beth Mullins says:

    This is going to be fabulous!

  • So exciting to see your transparency! That is my absolute favorite thing to weave, and yours is inspiring me to do another one too. What size linen and sett are you using?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lynette, You are responsible for inspiring me! I couldn’t stop thinking about your beautiful transparencies, and knew I wanted to make another attempt. It’s not hard for me to understand why this is your very favorite thing to weave. I may be following you in that! I can’t thank you enough for answering my questions behind the scenes!

      This is 16/2 linen, 12 epi.

      Happy Weaving,
      Karen

  • D'Anne Craft says:

    You’ve put lots of planning time into this piece. Can’t wait to see the finished work!

    • Karen says:

      Hi D’Anne, The planning for this has been a lot of fun. I was getting discouraged trying to find a good subject to weave, but when I found this pic that I took on our own property I got pretty excited about the whole thing! I can’t wait to show it to you when it’s finished!

      Karen

  • Liberty Stickney says:

    This is so exciting Karen, I can’t wait to see it!! Have a wonderful vacation, I will be looking forward to august and this finished piece!
    Liberty

  • Wende says:

    Love this!

  • Maria says:

    Karen,
    Where in the hill country do you live? I so enjoy your blog- I like how you “weave” your faith in your posts!! Gifted weaver and writer?

    • Karen says:

      Maria, We are a little north of Kerrville. We currently live in the Houston area, but this special place in Kerrville will become our permanent home when my husband retires. Your sweet thoughts are very touching. Let me know when you will be in Houston again, or in hill country. I’d love to meet up.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Carol Ashworth says:

    I am so glad I found your site! I love everything and have a lot to learn!
    I love how you try to do every so nice and neat!
    Carol

  • Patricia Tiemann says:

    Great blog! Thanks for posting so much info.

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