Smaller Things

As there had been some interest in seeing my Big Beastie loom our group’s next meeting was held at my house in December 2013. Two of our number had been back to the gallery where our exhibition is to be held in order to discuss further details and needed to report back. Each weaver was also requested to bring some work along (or photos of it) and to say something about it, so that we could see how the exhibition was shaping up.

My work, of course, was already here and in my mind this was to be my make or break point – if the others considered it not to be up to standard I was prepared to withdraw from the exhibition. As ever the other weavers were very kind and encouraging and seemed to think there was no reason why I should not participate. They suggested that the relative simplicity of my work, would make it easier for the general public to see how it was done than would be the case with their more detailed work.

I had deliberately opted for a self-set brief of ‘simple but effective’ which would enable me to produce work fairly quickly but I was still concerned that I would not produce enough in the time available. However it soon became apparent that we did not need a vast amount of work to fill the gallery space – indeed the exhibition would be more effective if the works were well spaced rather than overcrowded. It was also pointed out that the tapestries did not need to be big, small pieces could be just as effective.

With renewed confidence in the acceptability of my weaving and of being able to produce sufficient work I began to think smaller. Inspired by a gilded tea light holder on my coffee table the idea of a ‘cloth of gold fragment’ began to take shape . I warped up my small wrap-round frame loom with a fine cotton warp used double at a sett of 8 epi and bought some beige crochet cotton and some gold metallic thread. I had used the warp double thinking to intersperse some filigree fringing threads by singling out the warp from time to time. Unfortunately I found the metallic thread quite difficult to handle as it was very slippery and difficult to tension properly. I soon wished I had never embarked on the project! Also I couldn’t find any filigree thread to match the other threads in the way I wished, so I abandoned the fringing idea.

Because of the slipperiness of the thread and the difficulty of controlling the tension I found it almost impossible to keep the edges straight, so the weaving began to taper towards the top. I had warped the frame in such a way that I could do a piece on each side so, never one to give up, I persevered with both pieces. I think this was a worthwhile exercise, from which I learned a great deal, but I am far from satisfied with the result, nor am I pleased with the designs – they are nothing like the idea I had in mind when I started out. For what they are worth I picture them below but they are NOT going in the exhibition!

Cloth of Gold small tapestries

Maybe I will return to the idea at a later date to see if I can produce something more like the tapestry I had envisioned, but meanwhile it was back to the drawing board.

Side by Side

For my next exhibition pieces I returned to my Big Beastie loom, now installed in our new conservaroom, alias my studio (or playroom, as my husband calls it). Having cut off the two cushion covers that I had worked side by side (see here and here to view) I pulled down the warp and tied it off again on the bottom beam as there was still plenty of the original linen warp, with a 6 epi sett, to go at. I didn’t want to work to the full width of the warp as this would be too big and take too long – I could complete more work more quickly if I wove smaller pieces, so once more I decided to work two pieces side by side, but not a matched pair this time.

It was design time again. I had inspiration for one piece from a strange source. One of our neighbours often clears out scraps of wood from his shed and gives it to us to burn on our multi-fuel stove and one day, amongst a bag of firewood, I found a painted cut-out of a crescent-shaped ‘man-in-the-moon’ with a hanging loop as if it had been part of a child’s toy. I decided to simply draw round it and incorporate it into a design for a hanging suitable for a child’s bedroom. The colour scheme spoke for itself and I already had suitable colours.

The second design gave me a little more pause for thought. I decided I wanted to try weaving something sideways. This is an accepted technique in certain circumstances, especially if the design incorporates a lot of long vertical lines as it is easier to do these horizontally. Finally, after searching through various pattern books for inspiration I decided on a simple zig-zag pattern with vertical bands incorporated in the design. Choosing a colour scheme was the next problem, but I had plenty in stock to choose from without the need to buy new.

Here are the two pieces being worked side-by-side on the loom, remember the one on the right is sideways on:

Two tapestries, side-by-side

I call the moon tapestry ‘Goodnight’. Here is another picture of it nearly finished. There is only the top triangular pattern left to do, to match the bottom.

Goodnight nearer completion

For the finishing touches there will be a tassel from the tip of the moon-man’s hat and tassels hanging along the bottom. Woven tabs at the top will loop over the hanging batten. The finished piece will be approximately 16 x 14 inches, while  ‘Zig-Zag’  will measure 22 x 14 inches.

 

Red Swirl

Just a few months to produce a body of work for an exhibition! Where to start?

Well, as I said I had decided that ‘simple but effective’ was to be my solution on the basis that simple is a bit quicker to weave than more complex. Now I needed inspiration, so I began to look around for ideas. I came across a pattern for a door screen in a book about cloth weaving, which was a rather bold image of large blue oval shapes swirling about on a light blue background and this set me thinking. I got out some paper and began drawing various swirly patterns until I came up with something I liked, in fact I ended up with a choice of two and wasted several hours deciding which would work best until finally making my choice.

So in October 2013 I warped up my nail frame loom with a sett of 8 epi and drew out a ‘cartoon’ of my design to measure 16 x 25 inches to pin behind the work as a pattern. I wanted the tapestry to be striking, perhaps eye-catching from a distance so I decided to work the piece with red for the swirls and with a white background. Just to relieve the monotony a bit I also decided on patches of beige. This would use rug wool that I already had in stock,  the red from the cushion covers and the white and beige carpet thumbs I had bought in the local charity shop.  Here is the finished piece still on the loom with the board behind to hold the cartoon:

Red Swirl

 

I had hoped that the bold shapes using just three colours would prove fairly quick to weave.  This turned out to be the case; I completed it in a matter of just a few weeks of fairly concentrated weaving despite quite a lot of time spent undoing and redoing where I wasn’t satisfied with the curves. I hadn’t intended that the curves be perfect or the swirls be of even thickness as I wanted a feeling of fluidity in the piece but it has ended up rather more uniform than I had planned, however the first exhibition piece was under my belt – well other than the small matter of cutting it off the loom and preparing it for hanging.

For my next piece I would return to The Big Beastie.

 

 

Missed Meeting

In April 2013 the Midlands Branch of the BTG held a meeting. I was unable to attend as I had a bad flue-like cold, couldn’t face the journey and didn’t want to spread my germs.

I later received an email from the group and discovered that one of the items discussed was the possibility of holding an exhibition in the Spring of 2014 with the working title ‘Between the Edges’ and asking if anyone was interested. I replied that I was but, being new to weaving, doubted that I would have anything of a sufficient standard to exhibit. The reply that came back was to ‘go for it’! Completely out of character for me, I thought ‘why not?’ and decided to accept the challenge.

The Riversley Art Gallery in Nuneaton, Warwickshire was duly booked for an exhibition of woven tapestry to take place from 24th May – 13th July 2014. The confirmed title was to be ‘From Edge to Edge’, the idea being that this could cover almost anything! Six weavers would be taking part – besides myself there would be the three Shropshire Weavers (Maralyn Hepworth, Pauline Fisk and Lindsay Marshall), Victoria Green, the group co-ordinator, and Jane Freear whom I had  yet to meet.

All six of us went along to the next meeting, which took place at the Riversley Gallery in late August, where I met Jane  for the first time. We discussed the arrangements for the exhibition and had a look at the space we needed to fill. I felt completely out of my depth, with talk of pricing the work, producing quality photographs, writing artists statements and everything else connected with a professional exhibition, none of which seemed to apply to me – I was an amateur, a hobbyist! What had I let myself in for?

By the time the exhibition details were confirmed it left me with about six months to produce a suitable body of work as it would need to be ready well in advance of the exhibition to allow time for the photographs, catalogue listing etc. and panic began to set in.  Weaving is a slow process. The other weavers had been at it for considerably longer than me and had, no doubt a suitable body of work to fall back on while maybe producing one or two new pieces. I had nothing.

Or had I? Perhaps I could use some of the work I had already done. Not the copied samplers of course, but I had done some original pieces. Maybe I could submit the cushions, then there was also my ‘Blue Moon’ and ‘Pinwheel’ small tapestries – it was a start.

Design-wise I had been ready to try something a bit more complicated than I had done so far, but complicated takes longer to do and with the exhibition on the horizon I couldn’t afford the time to try out more complex techniques. I decided that ‘simple but effective’ would be my watchword, I would consolidate what I had learned so far while trying to come up with what I hoped would be attractive pieces of weaving.

Poetic Interlude

A cousin of mine sent me the following poem, knowing that I also love poetry, and I thought I would share it with you. I had not come across it before. I hope I am not infringing any copyright by reproducing it, if so I apologise to those concerned. She tells me that there is some debate on the Internet as to whether or not this is the full version and she had found versions with other verses.

The Weaver

My life is but a weaving
between my Lord and me;
I cannot choose the colors
He worketh steadily.

Oft times He weaveth sorrow
And I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper,
And I the underside.

Not til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver’s skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.

Benjamin Malachi Franklin