Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Where are you going?

I hate to admit how long this warp sat on the loom. A nice, large 4-selvedge warp in beautiful wool singles, held in place by two brightly-colored supplementary warps of fly line backing, just sitting on the loom; all dressed but missing the weft. It was a thing of beauty. But, just after I put the warp on the loom, my first solo show was scheduled and I was afraid of getting tied up working on one piece while preparing for the show. So, it sat by patiently, overseeing the frenzy that is me getting sorted for a show. But no one comes to look at dressed looms, much less dressed tapestry looms, so I needed to eventually pack in some wefts.

Warped, ready and waiting!

I learned the 4-selvedge technique from Sarah Swett in a workshop in Garden Valley, Idaho, a few years back. It was a revelation to have no warp ends to clean up once weaving was complete. There are many tapestry artists weaving 4-selvedge and all have their little variations on the method. Michael Rohde uses it to weave teeny tapestries that he makes into fetching pins using his handdyed yarns (which were the envy of all at the Textile Society of America Biennial in 2012). Archie Brennan and Susan Martin-Maffei also have their technique for warping 4-selvedge. I think it involves a set of keys on a keychain. Sarah’s is what I’ve seen, been taught and swear by. Her most excellent blog has a great explanation of it here.

Because I constantly just itch to make everything more of a challenge for myself, I decided to set up one of my 2-foot tapestry looms to weave 4-selvedge, weaving a much larger tapestry than the 2”-3” samples we wove in the workshop on copper pipe looms. While the technique for putting the warp on the loom is much like what I’d already done, everything needed to be bigger: the loom, the size of the scaffolding the warps are wound on, the thickness of the warp yarn, all of it. It was not an elegant set-up by any means, but once the dowels came off, it was pretty freaking cool. Here are photos of the warping process on this piece.

Dowel scaffold held up with C-clamps to stabilize while masking tape applied
Scaffold taped up and ready to be warped

guide markings taped onto scaffold to assist warp spacing

Spacing warp
Winding on

Wool singles warp on scaffold

Begin winding on first supplementary warp

Supplementary warp catches each lower wool warp end

Begin winding on first supplementary warp

First supplementary warp wound on

Winding on second supplementary warp
 catching upper wool warp ends
Second supplementary warp wound on

Just before removing the dowel scaffold 
The photo you never see: weavers use piles and piles of masking tape!

Dowels removed!
What have I done?! Time for courage. Don't panic!!

Tensioning device to the rescue...


Small dowels inserted to create shed

I began weaving on the tapestry after my show Fiber Pursuits closed last summer, moving ahead with an image from a piece I planned with my long-distance tapestry mentor, Barbara Heller, many years ago. I had already painted the image in oil and had woven part of the image in an earlier, smaller tapestry during a workshop at Haystack with Marcel Marois.

Tapestry start with "Detour", oil on canvas, behind

"Escaped" hair woven on supplementary warp

There are some things that your mind and hands know, so things went quickly at first as weaving a figure I was so familiar with came easily, but once I started looking for weft colors to weave the Airstream on right side of the cartoon, I got stuck. So it went, once again, into hiatus, only to be revived last month by the thought that the Airstream needs its own tapestry and an altogether finer sett to do it justice. A combination of ditching the Airstream for the time being, the desire to weave a less literal image and the completion of a painting by Jean-Francois set the rest of the tapestry on a different course. It was exhilarating to be rolling again.

After Robert Swain, acrylic on canvas by Jean-Francois Landeau

While I like the simplicity of the finished tapestry, I think my sett was too coarse at 6 epi. I think I wound on a bit loosely aiming for about 8 epi, but the nature of the singles twisting on itself to become a single warp end is a contributing factor to the larger sett. My smaller 4-selvedge pieces are sett much finer because I used a thinner singles.

Lately I’ve had the question “Does it look like I know what I’m doing?” going through my mind.  What are the things I do where the answer to that question is “Sure!”? I don’t so much feel that with tapestry yet, but I’m determined to get there. In mastering any skill, practice, problem-solving and experience are essential.

"Where are you going?", off the loom
I still have many more hours at the loom to feel like I know what I'm doing, but with each half-pass of the weft, I feel as if I’ve come home again. This always happens to me when I’m away from the loom too long. At those times, I have to remember my Bill Withers mantra,On the road to wonderful, you’re going to have to pass through all right and when you get there, take a good look around, because you might be there awhile.” Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment