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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Cutting Off a Failure

I made an embarrassing blunder. No wonder this Tuna wool resists all my efforts. It’s the wrong yarn! Tuna is 6/2 wool—twice as thick as the 6/1 wool I should be using. Cowboy Magic won’t solve this sticky problem. (I thought it would, as I expressed in this post: Tame the Wool.)

The yarn is gorgeous, but my frustration level is pushing me to throw in the towel. I tried hard to make this work. I was so convinced I had the right yarn that I missed it even when reader Joan left a gentle comment asking if 6/1 Fårö yarn would work (I’m sorry for not listening, Joan). There is nothing left but to cut off this failure.

Cutting off out of frustration.
Every shed is a struggle. It seems impossible to get a clean shed with this “sticky” yarn. (It’s not the yarn’s fault, though.)
Cutting off a failure. Ouch!
Failed piece is cut off. There are unwanted floats everywhere, and the fabric is like cardboard because of the tight sett.
Cutting off a failed double weave project. Ugh.
Bottom of the double weave has even more unwanted floats than the top layer.

In this lowest moment a thought occurs to me. Re-sley the reed. An ounce of hope rises.

Re-sleying to a coarser sett. Hoping for success.
Reed is changed from 50/10 metric to 40/10 metric. This spreads the warp an additional 19.9 cm (7 3/4″).
Wool for a double weave blanket. Second try.
Sleying is complete and the new reed is placed in the beater.
Wool warp for a double weave blanket.
Warp is tied on and leveling string is tightened. On your mark, get ready, get set…

I re-sley to a coarser reed and tie back on. I hold my breath and step on the treadles. It works. And it’s gorgeous!

Double weave wool blanket on 12 shafts. Glimakra Standard.
Go! Night and day difference in being able to clear each shed.
Double weave at its finest. Wool blanket.
Double weave at its finest.
Weaving into the sunset!
Weaving into the sunset.
Double weave Tuna wool blanket on Glimakra Standard. Success!
Clean lines of double weave, with a (very) few unwanted floats that will be easy to fix later.
Double weave wool blanket. Success after starting over!
This is now a pleasure to weave!

Have you experienced great disappointment and loss of hope? Sometimes our own failure brings us to that point. The Lord makes things new. We come to Jesus with our failed attempts, and he exchanges our used rags of effort with his clean cloth of righteousness. In his forgiveness, the failure is cut off and removed. Our threads are re-sleyed and re-tied to make us gloriously new.

May you know when to cut off and start over.

Love,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Beth says:

    Where there’s a will, there’s a way! The “failure” would make lovely bolster pillows. We all make mistakes and move forward. The resleyed weaving is beautiful. I’m holding my breath about the project I’m about to start.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, I thought about making a handbag out of the failed piece, but bolster pillows is another good idea!

      I came perilously close to pulling all the yarn off the loom and calling it a total loss. What stopped me was the beauty of the yarn itself. I just had to find a way to make it work.

      I’ll be looking for your brave project on IG.

      Thanks for your sweet encouragement,
      Karen

  • Betsy says:

    I’m glad you figured out what the problem was and got it fixed. The colors are so pretty!

    Looking forward to seeing you next week!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betsy, Fortunately, most weaving problems are fixable…when we calm down enough to think it through.

      I’m looking forward to seeing you, too, at the CHT conference next week!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    Hi Karen,
    Very pretty lemonade.
    Thank you for explaining how to make a correction when plans need a little help.

    Kind regards,
    Nannette

  • Karen Reff says:

    It’s not fun when it’s happening, but oh, how good it feels to get everything straightened out! Good for you for sticking with it!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Karen, Thanks! I came awfully close to giving up altogether. You’re right, it feels terrific to get everything straightened out. At loom everything (or almost everything) is fixable.

      Karen

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Tame the Wool

I am in Germany this week, but before I left home I started the blue wool blanket. Twelve shafts and twelve treadles is challenge enough. Double weave with a sett of 5 EPC (12 EPI) per layer in 6/2 Tuna wool adds to the challenge. This wool stubbornly clings to itself in this sett. I don’t care to fight defiant wool to get a clean shed on every treadle! I could re-sley to a coarser sett. But I want to keep the sett as is, as written for this project in The Big Book of Weaving, by Laila Lundell. Cowboy Magic to the rescue! I discovered this horse mane detangler when I wove a mohair throw a few years ago. It rinses out nicely in the wet finishing. It worked magic for me at that time. Now, with a small amount of slick detangler on my fingers I can tame these blue wool fibers. Voila! No more fighting to get a clean shed.

Cowboy Magic to the rescue to tame wool yarn double weave.
Twelve treadles means clearing and adjusting the shed twelve times just to get started. Before Cowboy Magic, I had to run my hands through the shed to clear it each time. That’s asking for trouble–and skipped threads all over the bottom layer.

Now I have something to look forward to when I get home.

Blue wool double weave blanket on 12 shafts.
Twelve shafts gives me three blocks in this double weave small blanket. I think it will be a very pretty addition to use in our little Casita Travel Trailer on cool evenings.

May you eliminate unnecessary fighting.

Weave Happy,
Karen

10 Comments

  • Beth says:

    Beautiful! Cowboy Magic is a great solution. Hope you’re having a grand time on your trip!

  • ellen says:

    it is a great idea, but i don’t understand how you use it. you put it on your hands and wipe it on the warp? while you are warping or after? do you have to wait a while before you can use it? ellen

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ellen, So far, I have been putting it on my hands and wiping it on the warp behind the reed and in front of the heddles. I re-apply each time I advance the warp. I’m not very far yet, so as I progress, I may try applying it to the warp at the back of the loom and see if that works just as well. I haven’t been waiting. I just apply it and weave.

      I’ll let you know if I change my methods as I go.

      Karen

  • Ruth says:

    Wishing you a wonderful journey in Germany. Who would have thought the detangler I use on Reno, RD and Sitka would work at the loom? Love these cross overs from one aspect of my life to another weaving it all together. My one sure common thread is Christ!

  • Nannette says:

    Hope you had a wonderful and safe Easter.

    Just curious… Would any of the hair conditioners work?

    Love the color combination

    Nannette

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, I have wondered the same thing–whether other hair conditioners or detanglers would work. I think they would, but I went with something I had heard from other weavers. I thought about trying a detangler for children’s hair, as it would probably be mild.

      Karen

  • Joan says:

    Do you think that there would be less stickiness if one used 6/1 Fårö yarn rather than the 6/2 Tuna?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joan, I think the sett makes the most difference. At this sett, 6/1 Fårö would probably give no problems, but the fabric would be a looser weave. At a denser sett, I think the Fårö would have the same stickiness issues. But it would be worth an experiment… Maybe next time? I do love that Fårö wool!

      Karen

  • […] I made an embarrassing blunder. No wonder this Tuna wool resists all my efforts. It’s the wrong yarn! Tuna is 6/2 wool—twice as thick as the 6/1 wool I should be using. Cowboy Magic won’t solve this sticky problem. (I thought it would, as I expressed in this post: Tame the Wool.) […]

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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

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