A Lesson in Design

Having been invited to attend the Midland Branch Meeting of the British Tapestry Group (BTG) at the end of the Shropshire Yarns exhibition and to bring some work along I needed to get something started on my small wrap round loom. It was Autumn, leading up to Christmas so I had the brilliant idea (well I thought so) of designing something snowy or Christmassy that I could then photograph and use to produce my own Christmas cards. I also decided it would be good to have more practice at doing circles as these are quite hard. This is what I came up with:

Tapestry Trees design Nice and simple. I would colour it with cold, snowy blues, greys and whites and do a pattern around the outside of the circle in ‘pick and pick’. This is a technique where using two colours you do alternate rows in each colour; due to the under/over nature of weaving this means that the two colours always go over or under the same warp, resulting in stripes.  I bought some cotton yarn with a bit of ‘lustre’ and I warped up with the 6 epi sett I had been used to using on this frame and set to work.

All went well until I got to the trees. However I tried I could not get the steep angle of the sides to work out in any sensible way. The usual way to do verticals, or lines near to vertical, is to weave the piece sideways – I knew that, but in this case opted not too as I thought the snowy ground lines would then not work. I tried and undid, tried and undid several times until I realised it was just not going to happen. I obviously either needed a much finer warp sett or to work the design on a much larger scale, or both, to achieve the result I wanted. Neither was an option as I was running out of time and anyway, if I were to do it on my bigger nail frame loom I would not be able to take it along to the meeting.

What was I to do? Well I undid most of it, at least down to the start of the circle. I decided to stick to the colour scheme, continue with the ‘pick and pick’ around the sides and fill the circle with something else – basically making it up as I went along. It needed to be simple and quick so that I had something to show, but it didn’t need to be finished. I opted for a simple pattern of horizontal stripes and had probably just over a third finished by the time of the meeting. I finished it later by simply working the top half as a mirror image of the bottom half and, though I say it myself, I was pleased with the result, considering that is was ‘designed’ in a bit of a panic. In fact I am so pleased with the result that I use it to represent me as a weaver. You have probably already seen it as a symbol of this blog. It measures 8 x 8 inches and I call it ‘Blue Moon’.

'Blue Moon', 8" x 8"

At the meeting I met all three of the Shropshire Yarn weavers – Maralyn Hepworth, Lindsey Marshall and Pauline Fisk and also the Midlands Branch organizer Victoria Green. They were all very kind about my efforts (I also took along the mauve sampler I had worked from Nancy Harvey’s book – click here for a reminder) and a few weeks later I joined The British Tapestry Group as an Associate Member.

The design lessons I learned from this are: 1) to consider the size of the piece, the sett of the warp and the best way to weave a design before embarking on a project, after all warp is vertical and weft is horizontal so all shapes need to considered in light of this fact, and 2) that simple can be effective!

I actually still like my original design and may have another go at it (finer, larger and probably sideways) at a later date!

Links to the BTG, the Shropshire Yarns website and the individual Shropshire Yarn weavers, including Victoria Green, can be found in the sidebar blogroll.

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