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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Process Review: Casita Tapestry

This little Casita travel trailer is a good symbol of the retirement phase for Steve and me. I started the tapestry a few months before our move to Texas hill country, in anticipation of our new adventures. And then, the day after Steve retired we went to Rice, Texas and drove away with our new Casita La Perlita (Little Pearl), as if to say, “Let the adventure begin!”

Just off the loom - "La Perlita" Casita tapestry.
Just off the loom, La Perlita Casita. 37 cm x 26 cm (14 1/2″ x 10 1/4″)

Enjoy the Casita tapestry review.

May your adventures come at just the right time.

Happy journeying,
Karen

20 Comments

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Travel Blessings

My adventure to Germany and Austria with my sister was incredible! Many firsts and many blessings. First time to visit Europe. First castle, first currywurst, first German symphony, first hike in the Alps, first Austrian apfelstrudel, first close-up mountain waterfall. And many, many more wonders, delights, and amazements. Any weaving? We visited a handweaving museum in Germany. And I did some occasional tapestry weaving in the evenings. The best tapestry times happened while sitting out on the balcony at our room in Innsbruck.

Weberplatz of Babelsberg, Germany.
Weberplatz of Babelsberg. These were weavers quarters in days gone by.
We had a picnic lunch on the castle steps.
We had a picnic lunch on the castle steps.
Weaving an image from Big Bend State Park, Texas, while enjoying the balcony view in Innsbruck, Austria.
Weaving an image from Big Bend State Park, Texas, while enjoying the balcony view in Innsbruck, Austria.

Be open for blessings. Look for blessings. I don’t mean life should be easy, conflict free, or always comfortable. The blessings are often hidden in long hours, tired feet, and foreign words. Be ready for the best lessons the Creator has for you. The Lord’s faithfulness is stamped into the gardens, mountain peaks, and waterfalls. His glory is written on every face, voice, and pair of hands. His blessings are tucked into secret places, awaiting our delighted discoveries. Live blessed.

May you be surrounded with blessings.

Your Wandering Weaver,
Karen

10 Comments

  • Joyce Lowder says:

    Thanks for sharing your journey and I’m glad you had a special time/memories with your sister. Your tapestry is looking very good! Blessing to you! 🙂

  • laura says:

    Thanks for sharing all those beautiful pictures. So much inspiration that nature and the older buildings have to offer. Thanks again, enjoy the rest of your trip.
    I have one question, what type of loom are you weaving on? So cute and compact.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Laura, You are right about the inspiration from nature and the older buildings. I was constantly thinking in design terms as I viewed the various patterns and colors. I hope some of that comes out in future weaving projects.

      The little frame loom is one that my husband Steve made for me. I also have the Glimakra Freja frame looms that I really like to use. This handmade one is a little more portable for traveling.

      It’s good to be home,
      Karen

  • Beth says:

    Sounds like a fabulous time! You’re so fortunate to have a sister who’s also a friend. Thank you for sharing!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, I am blessed to have two sisters who are dear friends. And so grateful to have these adventures with one of them!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Annie says:

    Thank you for sharing all of your firsts with us, Karen!

    The tapestry is looking amazing. Quite the counterpoint of wide open spaces of nature to the view of crowded man made buildings of Innsbruck.

    Safe travels!

    • Karen says:

      Hi dear Annie, What a wonderful way to express the juxtaposition of the small tapestry with the view over the balcony!

      “Quite the counterpoint of wide open spaces of nature to the view of crowded man made buildings of Innsbruck.”

      Perfect description. And sometimes it’s a blessing to leave the wide open spaces in nature for Nachittag (afternoon) Kaffe und Kuchen at a cafe in crowded Innsbruck.

      Thank you!
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    Welcome back Karen,
    Weberplatz of Babelsberg is that where the you found those ancient looms in the video? I’d love to see more detail, if you have it.

    Your tapestry is coming along quickly. I look forward to it’s finish.

    May God be with you.

    • Karen says:

      Thank you, Nannette,

      The old looms were in the Handwebereimuseum in Geltow, Germany. They were fascinating. Most were 47-53 cm weaving width, and all with fly shuttles. The back beams were up high at the back of the looms, and they were all countermarch looms as far as I could tell. There were no English signs or explanations, so I just looked and enjoyed. I did not take a lot of pictures there.

      Here is a link of one of my Instagram posts with a video of a demonstration at the museum: Weaving demo.
      All the best,
      Karen

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Travel Weaving to Germany

I am turning right around to head out on another travel adventure. This time it’s Potsdam, Germany and Innsbruck, Austria with my sister Barbara. You know what that means—prepare my smallest tapestry frame for travel weaving. Besides the loom, I need necessary tools, warp thread, weft yarn, a cartoon, extra paper and pencil, book light and extra batteries, and a small bag in which to carry it all.

Fresno Canyon in Big Bend Ranch State Park is breathtaking. Steve captured the awe last week with his Canon Rebel T3i Digital SLR camera. My dream now is to capture the view in yarn. I am making a cartoon directly from a black-and-white print of the photograph.
Choosing Fårö wool yarn for a tapestry.
My Fårö yarn is housed in three baskets of an Elfa cart. I look at a photo image of Fresno Canyon on my iPhone to select colors to use for the tapestry.
Preparing for some travel tapestry weaving.
Selected colors of yarn are wrapped on labelled embroidery floss bobbins to put in the travel tapestry bag.
Preparing for some travel tapestry weaving.
Weft colors are sorted and placed in the plastic pockets of this craft holder I found at Hobby Lobby.
Travel tapestry supplies.
Everything needed for a little 3 1/2″ x 6″ desert vista tapestry is being tucked away in travel bags.

After that, I can pack my clothes, etc. First things first.

(By the time you read this Barbara and I will be in Germany enjoying the food, listening to fine music, and scouting out fiber-y treasures whenever we get a chance.)

May your adventures be memorable.

Glückliches Weben,
Karen

9 Comments

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En Plein Air Weaving

It is delightful to weave in scenic surroundings! After two full days of hiking and exploring remote vistas in Big Bend Ranch State Park we had a leisurely do-nothing day. Time to take the loom outdoors. En plein air weaving!

Casita in Maverick Ranch RV Park at the base of Lajitas Mesa.
Our campsite is at the base of Lajitas Mesa.
Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas.
Hiking the Fresno Divide Trail in Big Bend Ranch State Park in west Texas.
Mountainous view in the desert of Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas.
Mountainous views in the desert.
Fresno Canyon in Big Bend State Park, Texas.
Fresno Canyon vista, with the mountains of Mexico in the distance.
En plein air tapestry weaving by the Casita travel trailer.
En plein air tapestry weaving during a leisurely morning. Camera tripod cover doubles as a loom topper that prevents the loom from scratching the Casita.
Casita Travel Trailer - tapestry in progress!
Wool yarn for the Casita tapestry is wound on labeled cards and kept in spare Tupperware Modular Mate containers.

We also went exploring in Big Bend National Park.

Hiking the Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park.
Hiking in Santa Elena Canyon, with Mexico to my left and USA on my right. And the Rio Grande River in between.
Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park.
Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park, the least visited National Park in the United States.

And then, I like to wind down the day with some quiet evening tapestry weaving in the Casita. And Steve pulls out his travel pouch for some leisurely woodcarving. Ah…all is well.

Tapestry weaving of our Casita Travel Trailer.
Ending the day with some quiet tapestry weaving.

May you find delight in your surroundings.

Happy adventuring,
Karen

14 Comments

  • Nannette says:

    Just when I think God’s world cannot possibly be more beautiful, surprise! Wow, oh wow!

    Nannette

  • Beth says:

    What a treat for you! Thank you for sharing photos of this part of our country. It’s breathtaking!

  • Lynn says:

    Love the photos and seeing what you are doing – thanks for sharing!

  • Annette says:

    Big Bend National Park has been on my bucket list for years. I am so glad that you are adventuring there, Karen. At least I get to enjoy it vicariously.

    You have a definite talent for tapestry weaving! I have yet to try that, also. Although I purchased a tapestry weaving book about a year thinking that I would like to try that,too, someday. For now I will just enjoy my bucket list vicariously with you. Keep posting, Karen!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, I hope you do make it out to Big Bend! It’s definitely worth the drive.

      Thank you for your encouraging words about my tapestry weaving. I don’t feel very confident in that area. I like doing it, though, so I keep trying.
      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Joanna says:

    Hi Karen,

    What a great way to retire! Exploring more of Texas is on my list. We made a trip to the hill country a couple of years ago and I thought I could surely give up my die-hard Yankee status.

    May I ask what your warp and weft are, and approximate sett? Your tapestries are wonderful, don’t sell yourself short. The emotion and character of the subject/setting come through quite powerfully.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanna, When you make it back to the hill country, be sure to come by for a visit!

      The warp is 12/6 cotton rug warp; the sett is about 10 epi. I have 16/1 linen weft that alternates with the wool pattern weft. Most of the weft is 2 or 3 strands of wool – 6/2 Tuna and 6/1 Fårö wool, but there are a few other odds and ends mixed in.

      I appreciate your kind thoughts so much! My intent is to present expressive tapestry weaving, and it sounds like that is what comes across to you.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Joanna says:

    Thanks for your reply. My hubby gave me a Mirrix Big Sister and I want to be sensible about the sett.
    Your portrait of your granddaughter was so loving and the funny little gecko made me laugh every time I got a glimpse.

    Thanks for the invitation. Same goes for you if you’re up in Colorado.

  • Linda says:

    Seeing your frame loom reminds me of days gone by.

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