All this work with tapestry got me thinking of some of the great tapestries I’ve seen.
The Unicorn Tapestries (1500’s) at the Cloisters in NY
The Apocalypse Tapestry from the 1300’s in Angers, France
The Lady and the Unicorn (1500’s) at the Cluny in Paris. Found a wonderful video here.
My first experience with the Unicorn Tapestries in NY was one hot summer day many years ago back when I knew nothing about tapestries. A friend said he had a surprise and we got on the NY Subway in mid town and headed north. I had no idea where we were going and the train was hot and miserable. We traveled what seemed like forever and then got off and had to take an elevator up and up and up.I thought we must have reached hell it’s self but when we arrived we were outside the Cloisters – it was breezy and delightful! Trees and flowers – then we went into the museum and I was blown away!
The other two were on a trip to France to meet my son who was studying in Strausbourg. We got there a week early and went on a bit of a tapestry tour. By now I had studied textile history with Sigred Wetlge who made the subject magical and I was a weaver. We first saw the non tapestry Bayeux Tapestry. Nothing prepared me for the length of this work – it’s condition and wonderful graphic stitchery!
Pages from a very old sketchbook!
The Apocalypse Tapestry is known as a Tapestry with no back – the back is as clean as the front! Images of destruction and mayhem – interspersed with little bunnies that run into holes in one tapestry and climb out several tapestries later. And, the fact that records show when it was commissioned 1373, and by whom amazes me!
And the Lady and the Unicorn is pure poetry!
Been away at “Tapestry Camp”, a retreat with Rebecca Mezoff at Colorado State’s Mountain Campus. Can’t think of a more beautiful place to weave! It’s about 1.5-2 hours from Fort Collins up very twisty dirt roads at roughly 9000 feet!
I hiked, sketched, met wonderful new friends, and wove!
Hike in the mountains
Bob and I flew to Denver and visited with Mary and Estes, then I left for camp and Bob stayed with them, saw a Rockie’s game, and continued his summer of trains by visiting train sites. We both had much fun. I managed to fall on my face and spent most of time in dark glasses, a story for another day, but didn’t let it stop me.
Quick sketch before class
The gist of our retreat was to be influenced by our surroundings and develop a weaving from our experience. Right up my alley – PROCESS! – I also wanted to work on making smoother curves etc. I love the aspen leaves and decided to use them – to concentrate on their rounded forms. So I began by photographing and sketching, then exploring colors.
Designing my project
Six dent Hokett looms were part of the retreat and Rebecca supplied wonderful yarns to use including these oh, so wonderful Weavers Bazaar yarns. The weaving in my last blog post was done on an eight dent Hokett with much thicker yarn. Now I used the six dent loom warped double creating a twelve epi design with much finer yarns.
tools and fibers
Rebecca introduced me to eccentric outline weaving which allows the curves to become smoother esp if using colors from each of the adjoining blocks of color. That and the 12 epi with finer yarns did the trick.
Off the loom – still needs finishing.
I still have a way to go with this new skill but I’m much happier with the results than with my last project of bison horns. But…not so happy I had to discover more expensive yarns which are not available in the US and have to be imported… Champagne taste and a beer budget…
I am heading to Colorado for a little loom tapestry workshop and thought I should review what I had learned earlier this year…Well…It’s a good thing!
I decided to work with the sweet little horns I saw on the bison at Fermi Labs, so I made lots of sketches, cropped my photos and narrowed it down to a simple design derived from the slight curve on a wooly background with just a bit of reflection. I know I need practice with curves so keeping it simple seemed like a good idea.
I was happy with my design and warped the loom. Lots of redos and I still need a lot of work on curves. And I did my soumak rows backwards. and I messed up with my meet and separate – try as I might… gots lots of work ahead of me.
Off the loom and still has to be finished but THIS WILL BE REDONE!
Rebecca has her work cut out!
Two and a half years ago I decided to explore Theo Moorman’s weaving technique. I have done double weave before and long wanted to try the imagemaking possibilities of this method. It is basically a double weave—one fine warp is used to tie down a supplementary weft. Being fine it does not show and is also integrated into the thicker main warp of the background. I sent away to Halcyon Yarns in Maine for my yarns. Green for the main warp and black for the tie down warp. Purple and green were to work as the main weft and I did lots of experimenting with the image weft. The yarns arrived and I got busy winding the warp!
First the green warp through the front heddles and then the black through the back two. I used strings to keep my two warps separate as they went through the reed. A 12 dent reed with 3 ends per dent—one black and two green.
My small Harrisville Loom!
Finally all tied on and winding the bobbins. This is a hand bobbin winder that belonged to my grandmother’s cousin. I was given her counterbalance loom which is currently in my attic.
For warp I also used some pine needles from walks in the Wissahickon, some sticks that I soaked, shredded, and dyed with rusty bits. I used some yarn that tied up lunch from my trip with the Garden gals… This warp turned into a journal of my life during this time.
And I did The Moorman Technique with it’s ability to make wonderful densities of design. A square within a square. Towards the end there were squares – positive squares, negative squares, heavy squares, delicate squares, squares with stripes…and then I ran out of warp!
My “Stitches not Words” project uses squares and lots of squares appeared here. One early bit of weaving that was removed to adjust the warp didn’t have squares but it ended up in a rusty bit dye pot with stitched bits on it! It has since become a work on it’s own titled “Liar, Liar”.
“Stitches not Words!”
The final project in Rebecca Mezoff’s “Little Looms” online tapestry workshop was to weave some letters. I decided to weave this sideways and leave some fringe. I designed the letters and while they didn’t look quite like this, you get the idea. It’s 2.5″ x 4″ woven 8 epi on my Hokett loom.
The green and bright orange yarns are natural dyed and the brown is natural fleece handspun. The background and the white are commercial, all from my yarn stash and the depths of history…
Love my little lettering tapestry.
Again, I’m happy with the results and the color but the jaunty charm is mostly due to my inexperience.
We had a snowy day on Jan 7th and I settled down with my snuffy cold to warp my little loom. I was starting the part of the Little Looms Workshop dealing with curves and decided to work with the drawings I’ve been doing of the small shell bits I gathered on the beach shortly after Christmas. I loved their curving stripes of various oranges and had been wanting to do something with some dye samples I had. I had used various mordants with onion skins with one dye bath to produce a range of colors. So I warped the loom, made a series of simplified sketches, and wound my samples into little balls of yarn.
Getting set up on a snowy day!
There are 4 different shades of orange: a dark brown using chrome and iron, a brighter orange above that using alum, tin and iron, a lower chroma resulting from just alum and tin and finally the top two had no mordant at all, plus white. These samples were done years ago and I was pleased that not only could I find the small skeins but also my dye notes with attached samples. I was taught by very thorough teachers. Linda Berry Walker, Myrlie Misskelly and Trudy Van Stralen to name a few.
One of the reasons I wanted to do these small tapestries was to use some of these small samples.
Finished product with it’s inspiration.
I’ve learned a lot and still have a lot to learn. I like the free forms of these arcs but I’d like to gain more control over my weaving – time and practice… I also wanted to have more variety in the orange areas but felt at this stage i had enough to work with keeping all the yarns in the correct sheds. This too will get better with practice – so I may revisit this idea in the future but for now I’m pleased with the result.