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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Discovery Towels Workshop in Eureka Springs

Seven enthusiastic weavers came to the Discovery Towels Workshop I presented a few days ago. We had three wonderful days together. Thick and thin threads can do spectacular things when you combine them in the warp and weft. And Eureka Springs, Arkansas is the ideal setting for such a weaving adventure! This is a unique, quaint little town like none other. The Victorian-style homes, and the twisting, winding roads that follow the hillside contours make you feel like you are in a storybook village. We happened to be there at the same time as the annual Volkswagen Festival and Parade, which defies description. You just have to experience it for yourself.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Debbie Davis of Red Scottie Fibers, our gracious and knowledgeable host, provided the perfect setting in The Shoppes at Fleece ‘N Flax. Her classroom space is full of Glimåkra countermarch and counterbalance looms. What could be better?!

Weaving workshop with Karen Isenhower.

Discovery weavers!

You will be amazed when you see the beautiful towels that these seasoned and not-yet seasoned weavers produced! It was a joy to have some time with these enthusiastic discoverers.

May you enjoy the thrill of discovery.

~~On a personal note, regarding hurricane Harvey, Steve and I tried to drive home to Houston on Sunday, after our stay in Arkansas. We were unable to return all the way home because of flooded roads and highways, so we diverted our route to drive out to our place in Texas hill country. So far, our Houston home has not flooded, but our loved city is suffering greatly. Please keep these brave people, including many of our dear friends, in your prayers.~~

Yours,
Karen

20 Comments

  • Beth Mullins says:

    I hope you, your family, and your Houston home remain safe!

    So glad you had a great workshop. Love these towels!

  • Kay Rideout says:

    I hope you and your family and home are spared from the flooding.

  • Holly Deluce says:

    Very glad your safe Karen. My thoughts and prayers to everyone in the Houston area.

  • Bev Romans says:

    Karen, I am so thankful you are safe and out of harm’s way. Thank you, Lord! Great answer to prayer that you were away teaching and have your hill country home to divert to. I am continuing to lift up the Gulf Coast in prayer. And the towels are beautiful! Bev

    • Karen says:

      Hi Bev, We are thankful to be out of harm’s way. News from our neighbors this morning is that the water on our street is finally receding. That’s a big relief!

      Thank you!
      Karen

  • Liberty Stickney says:

    Oh Karen,
    I have been worried about you the last few days and I’m so happy to hear you are ok! Stay safe, lots of prayers going on for Texas.
    Liberty

  • D'Anne says:

    I wondered where you were. Glad you are safe and out of Houston. We are safe and dry here, but some of our weaving friends are not so fortunate.

    • Karen says:

      Hi D’Anne, I’ve been concerned about our weaving friends. I know some parts of Katy got hit pretty hard. I’m glad you’re doing okay, too.

      Karen

  • Becky Scott says:

    Very treasured memories. Thank you for sharing your time and knowledge. You and Debbie make a great team. I got caught up in the Volkswagon parade and counted about 350 of them, all shapes, sizes,and models. what a hoot!! Also praying.

    • Karen says:

      Becky, Great memories for me, as well! Too bad you weren’t driving a VW so you could fit in. Haha

      Our prayers make a difference. Thanks!
      Karen

  • tsw says:

    I am so relieved to hear that you are dry and safe and that your home is ok. You have been in my thoughts daily.
    Isn’t Eureka Springs the coolest place? I wish that I was enough of a weaver to have taken your class, but weaving is going to be my ‘dream job’ after I retire in two years. I love those towels, and your students did great. You have the soul of a teacher, Karen. When are you going to write a weaving book?

    Theo

    • Karen says:

      Hi Theo, I appreciate your kind concern! Yes, Eureka Springs is a fun place to be.

      When am I going to write a weaving book? You’re reading it. Haha. I do have teaching in my soul. I love the idea of helping other people learn.

      Thanks,
      Karen

  • Angie Roberts says:

    Looks like it was a very fun and educational workshop,
    beautiful towels. Prayers, positive thoughts coming to you and your community.
    Blessings

  • Ettenna says:

    Keep Montana in your prayer- we are literally burning up…

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One Thing on My Weaving Bucket List

I have a weaving “bucket list.” Making a handwoven jacket is on that list. I took a step toward that dream with Michele Belson’s (of Lunatic Fringe Yarns) workshop on pattern drafting last week. This Contemporary Handweavers of Texas Conference workshop was exactly what I needed.

Michele Belson's workshop. Body block pattern drafting.

Taking precise body measurements is the first step in making a body block pattern draft. The measurements are then transferred to the pattern paper in a systematic way. My handwoven “Mary Poppins” bag on the floor holds all my supplies for the day.

Making body block pattern draft in Michele Belson's workshop.

Front and back bodice patterns in progress.

Making a muslin in Michele Belson's workshop.

Making a muslin by transferring pattern markings and adding seam allowances.

I can weave fabric for a jacket. And I have sewing skills to sew a jacket. But the fitting! That’s been the missing link for me. And who wants to cut into handwoven fabric when the fit is not a sure thing?

Making a muslin from a body block pattern draft in Michele Belson's workshop.

Muslin pieces are sewn together so the bodice can be fitted.

Fitting a muslin in Michele Belson's workshop.

Michele Belson checks the fit of the muslin. After some small adjustments, she pronounces it a perfect fit! Ease will be added, suitable to the garment being made, when the time comes to make a garment pattern.

Adjusting a commercial sewing pattern in Michele Belson's workshop.

Michele demonstrates how to use the finished body block pattern draft to adjust the fit of a commercial pattern.

Mindful attention to details. Processing information to apply it to the work in your hands. Learning a glossary of terms. Combining new skills with old ones. Listening, with an intent to understand. These are elements of wisdom. Think of the created world around us. Look at the detail, complexity, and beauty in it. Is it any surprise that our Creator is the source of wisdom? Wisdom is the key to skillful work. And, as always, it must be applied and practiced. I will certainly practice fitting and sewing. And then, when it’s time, I’ll weave jacket fabric, and let wisdom guide me in cutting it.

I’m curious, do you have a weaving bucket list, too?

May you cross something off your bucket list.

Happy sewing,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Joanne Hall says:

    Back in the old days when I was teaching sewing pattern making, we called it a sloper. Did you hear that word being used? After careful fitting, we made the sloper out of cardboard. Then, you could use it to make any type of garment. My usual problem was not adding enough ease.
    Joanne

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanne, I am familiar with the term sloper, but I didn’t hear Michele mention that. She did say to make the pattern on poster board, so that’s exactly what I did when I came home. I’m not ready to draw my own jacket pattern, but I’ve started an attempt to adjust a commercial pattern. We’ll see how it goes.

      Thanks for chiming in!
      Karen

  • D'Anne Craft says:

    What a great class! I am looking forward to seeing your creations, Karen. So glad you took Michele’s class.

  • Sandy says:

    Good for you! So many people are afraid of taking this step. As a former patternmaker in the fashion industry, I can’t wait until my weaving skills are up to the task of making yardage for a garment for myself. I’m sure it will be a rewarding experience, as I’m sure that making your jacket will be.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sandy, I’m impressed that you have experience as a patternmaker! Weaving yardage for a garment will be wonderful accomplishment. I can’t wait to see what you make!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Peg Cherre says:

    Sounds like a great workshop, and one that I need! I’ve got 2 lengths of handwoven fabric now that I’m afraid to cut into. I’m going to suggest this as a local workshop.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Peg, Maybe you can start with making something small with your handwoven fabric. I’ve had fun making bags and things, and even a hat from smaller pieces, as well as a skirt that didn’t take much fitting. That has helped build my confidence for cutting into the fabric. If you get a chance to take Michele Belson’s workshop, though, I would recommend it!

      Karen

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Quiet Friday: Kuvikas to Taqueté and video

The color is rich, the drape is fluid, and the pattern in the lustrous cloth is eye-catching. “Kuvikas to taqueté” was not an easy project. Eight shafts, double treadling, and double-bobbin shuttles with slick 8/2 Tencel weft. But the fabric is incredible!

Warp chain of 8/2 cotton.

Warp chain of 8/2 cotton hanging from warping reel.

Thanks to a unusual tie-up, two treadles are pressed simultaneously, something I had not thought possible for a countermarch loom. I started with kuvikas (summer and winter), which has tabby picks between the pattern picks. The dark teal 8/2 cotton tabby weft and the bright teal Tencel pattern weft produce a tone-on-tone effect for the square and stripe patterns. These two pieces will become the front and back of a throw pillow.

Kuvikas on the loom. (Summer and Winter)

Kuvikas panel 1 complete. I always use red thread for a cutting line between pieces, so there is no accidental cutting in the wrong place.

I then changed the treadle tie-up to switch from kuvikas to taqueté. The taqueté has no tabby weft. The teal and cream Tencel weft threads lay back-to-back, producing a double-faced fabric. This piece is being used as a table runner.

Kuvikas to taqueté, change in treadle tie-up.

Stripes in kuvikas, and then square pattern in taqueté after changing the treadle tie-up.

Finished Tencel kuvikas (summer and winter) glistens!

Finished kuvikas glistens in the sunlight.

Enjoy the little slideshow video I made for you that follows the process from three lovely aquamarine warp chains to fabric glistening in the sun on a Texas hill country table.

May you finish something that is not easy.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

Do you remember my Handwoven Thick and Thin Towels (that appeared on the cover of Handwoven), and my Black and White Towels (These Sensational Towels)? I will be teaching a workshop on that thick and thin technique at Shoppes at Fleece ‘N Flax in beautiful Eureka Springs, Arkansas August 24 – 26, 2017. You’re welcome to join us! I’d love to see you there! Contact the shop at the number below if you are interested.

Our weaving classes for May, June and July are filled ( but you can sign up on a waiting list!) and we still have a few…

Posted by Shoppes at Fleece 'N Flax on Wednesday, May 10, 2017

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Weaving Double Binding Rag Rugs in the Ozarks

Come with me to the quaint little town of Eureka Springs, nestled in the heart of the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas. First, we need to prepare and pack up. Then, enjoy the day-long drive. Put rug warp on six looms (five of them Glimåkras!) with Debbie Davis and me. And then, greet each eager weaver the next day and enjoy the process of creating special patterned rag rugs together.

Sit on the porch swing with me at the serene cabin secluded in the woods, and do some small frame tapestry while Steve whittles out more little men.

Then, greet the second round of weavers, and be sure to congratulate each one on their fabulous work. Drive home to Texas with me and let’s recount all the blessings–the kind and interesting people we met and all the fun we had!

Beaver Lake in the Ozark Mountains.

Beaver Lake

Double binding workshop, designing rag rugs.

Designing double binding rugs.

Double binding rag rug workshop at Red Scottie Fibers.

Debbie Davis, of Red Scottie Fibers, enjoys the end result of her design. She let me share in the fun of weaving some of the rug.

Double Binding Rag Rug Workshop 2015 from Warped for Good on Vimeo.

May you enjoy the results of your efforts.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

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