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 Some Simple Borders

I need to free up this little loom in order to put on a different warp that has a deadline. So, now that I have returned from my travels, my attention is going to these towels. My friend is letting me weave this lovely cottolin warp that she got at Vavstuga.

Simple border stripe in first towel of the Vavstuga towel kit.
Simple border stripe in first towel. Straight twill.
Cottolin warp and 8/1 tow linen weft.
Cottolin warp and 8/1 tow linen weft.
Point twill on four shafts.
Point twill on four shafts. Three horizontal stripes made with half-bleached tow linen weft.

Straight twill, point twill, broken twill, and now “rick-rack.” And after that, a couple towels in plain weave. Everyone who weaves this Vavstuga towel kit and follows the instructions will end up with the same six towels. True? Not necessarily. I like to step off the expected path. That is why I vary the weft and include some type of simple border design on each towel.

Loom with a view. Texas Hill Country.
Three colors of 8/1 tow linen sit on the little blue table as choices for weft. Half-bleached, Unbleached, and Bronze.
Broken twill for a cottolin towel.
Changed the tie-up to broken twill, which allows me to keep a simple straight treadling pattern. Dashed weft pattern for the border stripe is produced by alternating the bronze linen weft with the half-bleached linen weft.
Color-blocked towel uses three neutral weft colors.
Long wavy vertical lines give the appearance of rick-rack. Again, I changed the tie-up to keep the simple straight treadling pattern. I use all three weft colors in this color-blocked towel.
Cottolin towels with 8/1 tow linen weft.
Plain weave, with four shafts and two treadles. The main body of the towel uses the unbleached linen weft. Two picks of half-bleached linen are sandwiched between several rows of bronze linen weft.

There is a wide path that is crowded with many people. It’s the common and expected way of life. It’s where you stay if you want to fit in with everyone else. But if you search for it, you’ll find an uncommon path. It’s narrow; and few find it. It’s the path of life that is found in Jesus Christ. Stand in the narrow path. That is where your unique features will show up as border designs that set you apart as a cherished child of God.

May you be set apart.

Happy weaving,
Karen

9 Comments

  • Joanna says:

    What a timely post this is! I have a long striped towel warp on that I was getting seriously bored with after only two towels. Right now it’s 4S/2T in a straight draw, but I was mulling over putting more treadles on and fiddling with the tie-up. Thanks for helping me decide (I’m prone to dithering). Bless you, Karen.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanna, I tend to thrive on variety. Maybe you’re like me in that regard? I have changed the tie-up three times on this warp so far. With only four shafts, it’s an easy way to change things up. The instructions that came with the Vavstuga towel kit gave different tie-up options, so I thought – why not do them all? 🙂

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Kristin Martzall says:

    Your posts are so inspiring! How do you use the grosgrain ribbon? as a measuring device? Like a cash register tape bit not as bulky and fragile.?
    Thanks ,in advance ,for your help in explaining that process!

    Kris

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kristin, Welcome!
      The marked grosgrain ribbon came with the Vavstuga towel kit. I normally use twill tape for the same purpose – to pre-measure the desired length of what I am weaving. Here’s a blog post I wrote about it: Tools Day: Measured Weaving

      Happy weaving!
      Karen

  • Annie says:

    Welcome home, Karen! I am sure that you missed your looms! Were you able to finish the tapestry from Big Bend?
    I also like to try different tie ups or striping when I make towels. I like the combination of striping and pattern you have with those colors.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, I made some good progress on my Big Bend tapestry while away. But my floor looms have a louder voice in calling me than the portable frame loom does. I guess I better set aside some quiet evening time to finish the tapestry.

      Thanks!
      Karen

  • Linda Cornell says:

    Five sentences, so precious, choose the narrow path!

    Thank you and Blessings.

    Linda

  • Pam Cauchon says:

    Thank you, Karen, for such wise words. I had been questioning my decision to simplify my life. While simplification is good for contemplation it can be a bit lonely. Weaving provides those moments for contemplation and it is encouraging to hear from someone who is like-minded. To know Christ’s narrow path is well worth it. Then I realize I’m not so lonely after all. Indeed, thank you for the encouraging words.

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Weaving Rhythm Awakening

All the looms are bare right now. Four empty, quiet looms. But they won’t be quiet for long. I have thread/yarn and plans ready for each loom. I hear a rumbling as the looms begin to wake up. Before long, the weaving rhythm will be fully awakened in this place!

12/6 cotton rug warp in Pear and Brass for rag rugs.
Glimakra 100cm Ideal countermarch loom has moved into the spot vacated by my recently-acquired Glimakra Standard 120cm countermarch loom that we have moved to a new location.
12/6 cotton rug warp in Pear and Brass for Rosepath rag rugs.
6/2 Tuna wool for a 12-shaft double weave blanket.
Glimakra 120cm Standard countermarch loom in its favored position in our home. This loom has not been moved.
6/2 Tuna wool in Lapis Lazuli and Almond for a 12-shaft double weave blanket.
Vavstuga pre-wound warp for towel kit.
Handbuilt little 70cm countermarch loom in its perfect little corner by the windows. Pre-wound warp from Vavstuga (Mary’s Towel Kit) that my dear friend Elisabeth is letting me weave.
22/2 Cottolin in Sapphire and Yellow Ochre for towels.
Moving the Glimakra Standard loom to its new studio space.
Glimakra 120cm Standard countermarch loom…in pieces. We are moving the newest loom in the family to a room that is next to Steve’s carving workshop.
Starting to put together the new drawloom.
Glimakra Standard horizontal countermarch loom is being reassembled in its new Drawloom Studio! The drawloom boxes have been opened and parts sorted and organized. Let the fun begin!
The room is undergoing some renovations, too.
New jacks for th horizontal countermarch to fit with the drawloom attachment.
Draw attachment frame obstructs the jacks in the horizontal countermarch on the 120cm Standard loom. So Steve made all new horizontal jacks for the countermarch.
New drawloom!
Loom has an extension added at the back. We put it at its fully extended length to make sure it fits in this room. It does!
New drawloom! Just about ready to start!
Glimakra Standard with Myrehed Combination Drawloom–Shaft draw system and single unit draw system.
Unbleached 16/2 cotton for I-don’t-know-what-yet. But I will soon!
Book pictured is Drawloom Weaving, An introduction to warping and weaving on a drawloom by Joanne Hall.

May you see your best dreams unfold.

Happy, Happy Weaving,
Karen

18 Comments

  • Debbie says:

    You are gathering quite a herd of beautiful looms!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Debbie, I can’t deny it. Each one fills a purpose. However, the reality is that I can only weave on one at a time. So I think I’m done gathering looms…for now.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Kelly says:

    Wow, so many looms, it’s like a dream!

  • Betsy says:

    Oh, look at my baby all dressed up in a drawloom! I thought you couldn’t put a drawloom on a horizontal CM loom, but I guess you found a way. Very interesting! One of these days i’d like to see that. 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betsy, Your baby is just waiting for you to come and see her! As soon as I get her all dressed and ready I’ll let you know. I’d be thrilled for you to come out!

      Yours,
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    Wow! I look forward to your postings on the progress.

  • Mary says:

    Wow!! I am excited to see what you bring forth from that draw loom!! Have fun!!

  • Alice says:

    You are an inspiration, my dear!!!!

  • Robyn Tanchum says:

    What a lucky girl you are to have so many beautiful looms! I too am a lover of Glimakras. I love their simple beauty, the way they whisper while you weave, and the ease of treadling. Can you help me with a warping question, please? Where do you put the raddle when you warp back to front? I have tried Joanne’s method of putting the raddle on the back beam, but I would prefer to rest it further toward the front, perhaps on top of the castle or even resting, clamped, to the shafts. The lease sticks would be in their usual position per Joanne’s method.
    Also, I wonder if you have any tie-up tips for the original Ideal that doesn’t have the “doorway”and extra room that the Standard has. I find the tie-ups truly tough to reach. Thank you! I LOVE your blog!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Robyn, I have never used a raddle. I just pre-sley the warp ends in a reed. So I don’t have an answer for you on that one.

      For the Ideal, I do most of the tie-ups from the front of the loom. It can help to set the treadles on a box so that you can have both hands free for the tie-ups. I also usually put in all the treadle cords first, and then attach the cords to the treadles. That seems to make it a little easier. I also take breaks so I don’t strain my back.

      I’m so happy to have you coming here. Thanks for asking great questions!
      Karen

  • Shari says:

    Amazing! You are the Gkimakra poster child!

  • Annie says:

    I am so happy to see your draw loom dreams come true, Karen. Life is good!

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Bold Color and Weave

Remember the placemats I started on my Texas hill country loom in Colors on Trial? The pattern in the fabric looks nice and pretty. But it doesn’t display the striking color-and-weave effect that I expected. The problem is not the threading, nor the colors.

Color and weave using single weft instead of doubled weft.

Nice and pretty, but lacking the boldness of the planned color-and-weave effect.

Aha! I overlooked an important detail on the treadling draft—the weft is supposed to be doubled. That changes everything! Since there is very little excess warp for this project I need to back up and start over.

Backing up the weaving. Clipping through weft threads. Yikes!

Backing up. After loosening warp tension, I carefully clip the weft threads down the center of the warp. I go at a snail’s pace to avoid accidentally snipping any warp ends.

Backing up. Weft removal, one pick at a time.

Removal, one pick at a time. I press the treadles in reverse order to pull out each row of weft threads.

Weft has been removed. Now ready to start over!

Back to the start. Sufficient weft has been removed. Now I am ready to start over.

I am losing the nice and pretty fabric. But it is being replaced with something better—fabric with a bold color-and-weave effect.

Two double-bobbin shuttles with color and weave.

This is the color-and-weave effect I was looking for! Two double-bobbin shuttles carry the weft threads.

Color and weave for placemats.

First placemat is a “Joseph’s coat” combination of colors. Bold color-and-weave effect has a striking pattern.

I would like my life to be nice and pretty, easy and comfortable. But if I get closer to the Grand Weaver’s intentions, I see something different—a bold strength of purpose. Not necessarily easy. God’s will is better than mine. When we aim to understand his will, we see details that we’ve overlooked. It affects how we walk through life. We take his doubled weft threads to replace our well-meaning attempts. The result is a beautiful display of striking life-changing effects.

May you be mindful of the important details.

With you,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Annie says:

    I love your analogy and courage to cut out all that work. It did look nice before but wow! Such a great difference with such a small change. An encouragement to make small changes in life as they may lead to great overall improvements.

    Have a great day, Karen!

  • Cynthia says:

    Hi Karen, I used to work for your husband in Tulsa. Love your work. My cousin weaves and I have shared your blog with her, she sure enjoys.

  • Ruth says:

    Good Morning Karen,
    Thanks for sharing your technique for unweaving. To correct mistakes I’ve literally thrown the shuttle across my warp threads to take back many inches of weaving. This seems a much gentler way to save a warp. I like your calm approach to correcting an error and enjoying the outcome. Blessings to you and yours, Ruth

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ruth, I do think removing the weft this way is less damaging to the warp. Even if I don’t clip through the center, I usually cut the weft and pull it out rather than send it back with the shuttle if it’s more than one or two picks. This is especially important if the warp is linen, which is much more susceptible to breakage from abrasion than this cotton warp I have here.

      One thing I enjoy about weaving is that just about anything can be corrected!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • SM says:

    These are, as all your projects are, beautiful! Is this a little like doubleweave? You see the back on the front and the front on the back?

    • Karen says:

      Hi SM, I appreciate your sweet compliment!

      This is much simpler than double weave. This is actually plain weave with two treadles. It’s the arrangement of stripes in warp and weft that give it visual complexity. This fabric is the same on front and back. It’s amazing what can happen with color and weave!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

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Colors on Trial

This color and weave is decorated plain weave. I have nine weft colors to put on trial. Which ones will pass the test? The winners will be used to weave colorful placemats for our Texas hill country home.

Nine colors on trial for cotton placemats.

All 8/2 cotton, with a small quill of each color waiting to be sampled. The two end tubes on the left are the same coral and camel as the stripes of the warp.

Eager to begin, I start weaving, despite knowing that evening is approaching. Even with good lighting at the loom, it is hard to judge the colors. I need daylight!

Weaving at dusk fails to show true impact of the colors.

Weaving at dusk does not give me a true indication of how the colors work, even though I have a good light at my loom.

The morning light does not disappoint. I find that the colors that are the most similar to the coral and camel in the warp showcase the color-and-weave pattern. The slate and apple green win, too, because they add welcome color contrast. The abundance of natural light in the room makes it easy to see the impact of each of these colors.

Color-and-weave effects with plain weave and 2 shuttles.

Natural light of the morning gives a true perspective of the colors. Even the subtle differences of weft colors can be seen. Keeping the camel color in one of the two shuttles helps bring out the color-and-weave effects. Which colors win? All nine of them!

We have been given a well-lit path. When we choose to go our own way, with our own artificial light, our perceptions can be off. There is a kingdom of light where Jesus is on the throne. To be one of his subjects is to be in a place where his light reveals true colors. He exchanges our colors with his own to make color-and-weave fabric that is heavenly!

May you be invigorated with color.

Happy weaving,
Karen

3 Comments

  • Annie Lancaster says:

    Good morning, Karen.

    I like your analogy of artificial light guiding our way. I think the artificial light being shown by so many groups has been blinding to so many people. We think we are enlightened because it’s easier than sticking to Heavenly Father’s guide book.

    Being a woman who likes colors and patterns, I think all those colors are winners too.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, It’s easy to fool ourselves, isn’t it?

      I was surprised how well some of the colors work. The red and orange, for example, could clash with the coral warp, but here, those two colors look exceptional!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • […] the placemats I started on my Texas hill country loom in Colors on Trial? The pattern in the fabric looks nice and pretty. But it doesn’t display the striking […]

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