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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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