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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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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Heart of a Tiny Tapestry

Though small, this pocket-sized tapestry took a few months to complete. A car ride here, a coffee shop there, a move across town, and an imminent move across the state—this tiny tapestry has been in the background through it all.

Car-ride weaving.

Car-ride weaving.

Coffee-shop weaving.

Coffee-shop weaving.

The weft tails are neatly trimmed, but the back is completely exposed. I’m not weaving the tails in this time, nor covering them with a fabric backing. Just hold the tiny tapestry in your hand and feel it. Remember that all the pleasant color distinctions and pick-and-pick samples on the front side have a back side, too. True, the back doesn’t make as much sense. However, I want my friend who is receiving this to see and touch the heart of the weaving.

Finishing ends of small tapestry.

Using a needle to pull the warp ends back through the warp thread header. After pulling through, the warp ends are trimmed close to the surface. The weft tails are also trimmed to about 1/2″.

Steaming the tiny tapestry. 12/6 cotton warp pulls together nicely as the back of the tapestry is steamed.

Exposed back of the tiny tapestry weaving reveals trimmed weft tails.

Exposed back of the tapestry reveals trimmed weft tails.

Tiny tapestry. Visual and tactile satisfaction.

Visual and tactile satisfaction.

This is a picture of grace. Look at the heart of the matter. We so often rely on the rules. Break a rule, and you’re condemned. But Jesus is interested in the heart. A pure heart doesn’t stand condemned. This is why the gift of his forgiveness is so wonderful. God knows the exposed messy side of our tapestry. Yet, his grace sees us as perfectly covered by Christ Jesus himself.

May your hands keep making.

Simply yours,
Karen

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Weave Beyond Your Momentum

Do you remember that I said the background is less interesting to weave? I take that back! Blending these colors and forming the shapes is no less interesting than weaving the lizard. The green anole is the featured subject, filled with detail and many minute color changes. Weaving that lizard was a skill stretcher! But as I continue, I am weaving details of a different kind. The background is a log, not easily recognizable. It’s like looking at wood grain patterns through a magnifying glass. I’m hopeful everything in the final image will fit together when we see it from a distance.

Four-shaft tapestry. Shading and texture.

Color, shading, and texture work together to make the surface appear uneven. Some areas look as if they are raised, and others, especially the dark places, look like they are indented.

Detail of lizard tapestry.

After about three more warp advancements, the lizard and his green toes will be nowhere to be seen.

Four-shaft tapestry. Glimakra Ideal.

Little by little…

View of the tapestry in the direction it will hang.

Standing on a chair, I get a view of the tapestry in the direction it will hang. This is only one slice of the tapestry image, but it helps me imagine what the finished piece will be like.

Continue. I don’t want to lose momentum just because I finally made it through the hardest part. Keep going, being faithful to what you know to do. Faithful to what you know is true. Don’t be fooled by compelling, convincing, and subtle messages that divert from the truth. Continue walking by faith, trusting the outline, the cartoon, that the Grand Weaver prepared for us. It will all fit together when we see it from heaven’s eternity. That’s real hope.

May you keep your momentum.

In faith,
Karen

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Last of the Lizard Toes

Every time I advance the warp, more of the lizard disappears. After I finish the tips of these toes, the rest of the weaving will be background—the log on which the green anole is perched. The lizard is more interesting to weave than the log. But without the background, the lizard itself would be incomplete. It’s all part of the journey. Every bit of the picture is needed to tell the full story.

Lizard tapestry. Only the tips of the toes are left.

More than half of the tapestry is complete. Most of the lizard image is under the breast beam out of view.

Lizard tapestry. Four-shaft tapestry on a Glimakra Ideal.

More of the lizard disappears every time I advance the warp.

Four-shaft tapestry Lizard. Glimakra Ideal.

Only the tips of the lizard’s toes remain. After this, it is all background.

Tapestry detail. Texture and shading.

Log detail. I am enjoying the many opportunities for color blending and shading in the background portion of the picture.

Journey. We are on a journey. We see the scenery changing as we move from one point to another in our seasons of life. There’s the main focus, plus the background. All of which tells our story. Knowing that we never see the whole tapestry while it’s on the loom, let’s ask God to watch over our journey. As a request, not a demand. And then, express gratitude with joy as we see that we’ve indeed been granted safe passage.

May your journey be joyful.

Happy weaving,
Karen

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