Big Beastie

The gallery pictures in Kirsten Glasbrook’s book “Tapestry Weaving” (available from Amazon and all good bookshops) and the picture of her large tapestry loom inspired me to dream up designs of my own for large tapestries, for which I would need a large loom. Without intending to buy one immediately (this was August 2012 and I had only just started weaving) I began a little research into such looms and how much they would cost. In the process I came across a website called The Loom Exchange which deals in second-hand looms and other equipment as well as books, so out of interest I took a look.

I found an advert for a large Glimakra Regina loom for sale not very far from where I live and arranged to go to see it. To cut a long story short, it was immaculate. I paid a deposit and we went home to arrange transportation. My husband offered to pay the rest for my birthday at the end of the month. We went back a few days later with eldest son and van to fetch it home.

Glimakra Regina TapestryLoomThe loom was warped up with some six inches or so of weaving on it and I decided that it would be good if we could transport it with the warp in tact so that I had something to practice on, the warp would not be wasted and, most of all I could study it properly before needing to warp it up myself. I must add here that the instruction leaflet with the loom was all in German, a language I do not speak! I tried to find a translation to download from the internet but failed miserably. (Later a friend did a rough translation for me).

We took loads of photos as hubby and son dismantled the loom to make sure we could put it back together properly, brought it home and immediately, while it was fresh in their minds, they reassembled it in a spare bedroom – it filled the room! It measures 73 ins wide by 42 ins deep by 76 ins high. We then realized what a large room it had been in when we saw it, size can be deceptive! As you can see I couldn’t get it all in the photgraph and it soon earned the nickname Big Beastie.

It is a two shaft loom, which means the alternate warps can be moved backwards and forwards for ease of weaving, but I had great difficulty in getting these set up properly and also getting the warp tension correct after reassembling the loom. I spent many hours fiddling with it and doing little bits of weaving practice. It was to be some time before I actually wove anything on it.

The gentleman who sold me the loom was disposing of his late wife’s weaving equipment and he kindly gave me a copy of Nancy Harvey’s book, also called “Tapestry Weaving” and subtitled “A Comprehensive Study Guide”.  Nancy Harvey is an American  tapestry weaver and this book is an ideal one to move onto after working through Kirsten Glasbrook’s book.  The book is available from Amazon but seems to be priced rather highly (at least for the UK market) so maybe I was very lucky to be given it.

In this book Nancy talks you through two sampler projects as well as detailing many other techniques and providing ‘cartoons’ for further projects. I worked both samplers, although I had to slightly redesign the first one to fit my small weaving frame. Here is a picture of the one I didn’t alter. This was woven on a sett of 6 epi (those of you who have read my previous posts will know this means ‘ends per inch’) and again in a variety of knitting yarns from stock. Here it is framed and ready to hang on the wall.

Purple Sampler

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The Black & White Sampler

I finally began to weave the black and white sampler that had initiated my journey into weaving towards the end of July 2012. I started by scaling up the drawing given in the book to make a cartoon to fix behind the weaving as a guide to the design. I slavishly measured and copied the cartoon precisely as it was in the book – this later proved to be something of a mistake!

All went well at first. Then I came to this bit:

Black and white sampler 1

The book described very well how to do the joins between the colours. Each time there was a new section to join it talked you through a new joining technique, but what it did not tell you was how to cope with joining all the sections together at one point. How hard can it be? I wove, undid, wove and undid countless times before I got it sussed and was on my way again.

A few inches later I realised my mistake in copying the illustration too slavishly instead of applying logic. Take a look at the next section shown here:

Blacj and White 2

Because I had copied the drawing exactly as illustrated instead of dividing the bottom section accurately into three, when I came to do the diagonals for the triangles they didn’t line up properly so the next section (the small triangles and uprights) wouldn’t work as per the original design and I ended up having to re-design the section (hubby had some input here too) – or I could have undone the whole piece and started all over again, but I didn’t really want to do this! You might like to compare my version with the original design in my previous post ‘The Nail Frame Loom’.

There were many other times when I had to unweave sections as I progressed through the sampler and weaving it was a major learning curve but I eventually finished it in October 2012. Here it is:

Sampler completeI was pleased with my efforts even if it is far from perfect. It was more complicated than I had anticipated and there is no way I could have done it without having worked through Kirsten Glasbrook’s sampler (plus a few others) first – see previous post.

The most important thing I learned was patience; weaving is a slow process and if you want to get it right you have to be prepared to unweave what could be several hours of painstaking work.

I also discovered I was hooked and I could not wait to commence the next project, which brings me back to the Big Beastie; the subject of my next post.

Practice

In order to properly learn and practice the techniques needed to weave the Black and White Sampler I bought a book: ‘Tapestry Weaving” by Kirsten Glasbrook. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for a beginner. The main part of the book talks the reader through weaving a simple sampler which teaches all the basic techniques. The step-by-step instructions are easy to follow, clearly explained and well illustrated. This is followed by other projects for which you can copy the designs and there is a gallery of Kirsten’s own work, which is most inspiring.

In order to weave the sampler in the book I bought a small frame loom. This came in the form of two pairs of frame pieces which you slot together and were very reasonably priced from George Weil Craft Supplies, who had taken over Fibrecrafts, where I originally bought my materials for the Black and White Sampler. You can buy these frame pieces in a variety of different lengths to make a frame to suit your own requirements. Mine is 20 ins by 14 ins.

One advantage of this kind of frame is that, having no nails, you can wrap the warp round to any number of ends per inch (epi) or per cm that you like. Also you can either wind the warp round fewer times and use the front and back warps together. For example, wrap the warp round at 4 epi, then combine the front and back to make 8 epi. Or, as I usually do, you can warp up to your desired sett and having woven a tapestry on one side then turn the frame over to weave on the other side. You don’t even need to buy such a frame, an old picture frame will do. Search for one in a charity shop if you haven’t got one!

Glasbrook SamplerHere is the sampler from Kirsten Glasbrook’s book still on the frame loom. The warp yarn is set at 4 epi. Another advantage of this kind of frame is that it is very portable. This photo was taken on board our sailing boat as I had taken the project away with me to work on.

When I learn a new craft I am always keen to work my own designs as soon as possible so having finished Kirsten’s design I turned the frame loom over and worked a similar design of my own using the same techniques for further practice.

For both these samplers I used yarn from my stash for the weft – like most people who knit I tend to have a large quantity of left-over yarns of various types. I am also a sucker for buying up useful quantities of yarns from charity shops, handed in no doubt by other knitters keen to reduce their stash. For these samplers I used anything from 3 ply to aran weight yarns with some rug/carpet wool thrown in for good measure, doubling up on the number of strands used if I needed to increase the thickness.

Two samplers.Here are the two completed samplers ready for hanging. I used a similar colour scheme for my own one so that they would look like a pair when hung together. It was only after I had finished these that I made a start on the Black and White sampler that had so inspired me.

But I had not finished with Kirsten Glasbrook’s book, which showed pictures of her large floor standing loom. In the gallery section were picture of tapestries completed on this large loom, some measuring 4 or 5 feet wide by, well almost as long as you like. Looking through this gallery I began to dream up some large designs of my own, for which I would need a large loom. This resulted in the purchase of yet another loom – my Big Beastie!

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and will continue with this saga after the festivities!