Monday, December 17, 2012

Almost halfway

As of this week, I am almost halfway done with my portrait of my daughter.  It has been a busy week, and not much time for weaving, but I thought I would post this photograph to show the progress.  You can see the image beginning to take form.  One thing that Helena Hernmarck said in her class was that she never unwove  anything on the loom.  After cutting off she would sometimes tweak a piece, but she just carried on.  I see things in this piece I would like to correct, but I keep telling myself to keep going and trust the process.  I think the overall effect is good, but I see some details that need some work.  I will keep on with the process and see how it goes.  This is the first full piece I have made using the Hernmarck technique.  Overall I really like it.  The weaving goes a bit quicker, and I love the decisions and effect of the image once completed.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Power of Introverts

I don't know about other weavers, but I am an introvert.  As I sat in my studio today enjoying the quiet of my house and listening to the radio, I heard a talk by an interesting woman, Susan Cain.  In her talk she is quoted as saying, "Solitude matters, and for some people it is the air that they breathe."

If you are an introvert, and want to feel better about it, just listen to Susan Cain's talk.

Finally, I am weaving again!

After a several month hiatus I am weaving again.  The past four months has been filled with parenting, riding my horse, teaching engineering and science at a local school, and sewing.  If you are interested in seeing why my time got so filled with sewing you can go to With Needle and Stick, which is my sewing and knitting blog.  If you are interested to see what I do at a local school one or two days a week then you can go to EaSiEE as Pi.  However, if you only what to see what I have been weaving, well here it is.

It took me quite a while to get the Macomber warped.  I have never warped a horizontal loom before, but thanks to the wonders of the internet and youtube, I got it done.  It wasn't pretty, and took three times of unrolling and rolling and the adding of warps, but there it is.  It took me a bit of time to realize that this tapestry wanted to be woven on its side and not from bottom to top.  I am weaving an image of my nine year old daughter whom I photographed wearing her new beret.  After going through several images, I selected the one you see below.  I am using Helena Hernmarck's method of weaving.

As of today, I am 1/4 of the way through the weaving.  It has been my fastest weaving so far.  I really enjoy the technique.  Next, I will try it with a color tapestry.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Life without Textiles

What would our world be without textiles?  As a tapestry weaver I think in yarns and images, but this video shows much more.  Ikea gives us their view...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Just a little thought

I saw this video at another site.  I decided to link it here also.  My father had a heart attack at 52 and almost died.  I figure I am prone to them.  It is something for all of us to think about.

This is a fun video from Elizabeth Banks about how women tend to take care of everyone around them but themselves.  I love the son's part.  It very much reminds me of my own son.  It is always good to be aware of our health!

Friday, October 12, 2012

A New Loom, and a New Techniques

Unfortunately, I am still not weaving, but big changes are underway in my studio.  I was fortunate enough to attend the Helena Hernmarck tapestry weaving workshop at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis.  It was wonderful!  ASI is a lovely place, and the workshop was planned to coincide with a large exhibit of Helena's tapestries.  It was fabulous.  If you want to read more about it and see the photos, then see Rebecca Mezoff's post.  She did a wonderful job discussing the workshop, so I won't rehash it here.  Needless to say, it changed my way of thinking of tapestry and its possibilities.  All of the participants, the instructors, and Helena herself were wonderful.

Helena's technique is quite different from the gobelin technique in that it consists of four parts.  First there is a set of tabby threads that run across the tapestry, then a thick bundle of pattern threads that give the piece its color and its texture, and a thin linen thread to hold it all together.  Also, she uses colored warp to give the piece depth.  Helena, coming from Sweden, said she didn't have the idea that tapestry had to be in the gobelin technique: a high warp, weft-faced tapestry covering all of the warp with an over and under technique.  Instead, she wanted to make a living at tapestry and figured out how much she had to weave in a day to be able to make enough tapestries to sell to make a living.  So, she came up with this modified technique.  It is very impressionistic.  The view from close up is very like viewing a Monet close up, but far away the eye fills in the picture so that it becomes almost photorealistic.

In our workshop, I quickly found out that the pipe looms that I use that were designed by Archie Brennan which I really love, did not work well for Helena's technique.  I struggled to get much done.  I really needed to have a loom with harnesses or at least one where I could get a good shed.  I had made leashes for mine.  I have never used a leash.  Previously, picking the shed has always worked well for me.    Here is a photo of what I got done in the workshop, which is not a lot compared to those that had the appropriate equipment.

I have to say, I really enjoyed the technique.  I love tapestry, but sometimes I feel that it takes so long for me to get much done.  I am always impressed by those weavers such as Joan Griffin, whom I know, and Kathy Spoering and Tommye Scanlin whom I only know through blogs and ATA, that weave with dedication and get beautiful big pieces done in a reasonable amount of time by themselves.  I find Helena's technique quite fun and love the mixing of the color bundles, and I hope that with her technique I can produce my work just a tiny bit faster.  In the class, we only worked in grey scale so that we could master the technique without the added complication of color.  I decided at the class that I wanted to continue with the technique, so I started looking for a loom.  I sold my Shannock, and found a lovely, old 1948 Macomber loom nearby.  It took me over a month, but I cleared out my studio and moved all of my sewing into a guest room and made room for my new Macomber.  Here it is now in place.

I realized I also had to get a warp winder, and I still have to make a raddle before I can warp the loom.  I bought a book for warping it, but couldn't make heads nor tails out of the directions in the book.  I kept thinking it couldn't be that hard.  So, I went onto youtube and found a great video on warping a loom by yourself.  In the meantime, I have gathered together my wool as you can see below.

In the workshop handout, on the back cover was a photograph of a tapestry that Helena did of a neighbor's son, called "Boy".  This tapestry is 51" x 45" and was woven in 1969 by Helena Hernmarck.  The small photo of course does not do it justice.  It is held in the collection of Jack Lenor Larsen, and the photo below was used by permission of Helena Hernmarck and The Longhouse.

I was struck by how this portrait echoed one that I had done of my son two years ago when he was 9.  I did this portrait as part of an assignment for an art composition class.  In the class we were asked to choose an 8x10 photograph, grid it, and then we would make a 12 x 16" pen and ink of the photograph using a type of Chuck Close technique.  The assignment was to use a different symbol in each of the grid squares to represent one of 10 shades of gray.  I decided to make a portrait of my nine year old son.  Instead of symbols I used words that had meaning for him in his life.  Here are the results of that exercise. You can see the post about the piece here

 I decided to further my understanding of Helena's technique by continuing the use greyscale as we did in class, before adding in the complication of color blending.  I thought that a portrait of Linden would be just the thing.  That way, both children would have a portrait of themselves at age 9.  Below are some of the photographs I am considering for the project.  In the meantime, I need to go and build a raddle.

At this time, I am really taken by the one with the hat, but I also like the one with her sailing the boat.  Both of these were taken while on vacation in the Bahamas.  I will do some more thinking before I choose, and probably will grid the photograph before I select one.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Instead of Weaving, Part III

Summer is in full swing.  We survived the derecho.  This was a new weather term as well as a new phenomenon for me.  About 9:30, we were hit suddenly by very high winds, which are now reported to have been about 80 mph.  The power went out, and soon it was over.  The next day we assessed the damage, and we had lost 4 big trees, one a big oak which was about 3 feet in diameter at the base of its trunk, and another tree which took out five sections of our fence.  Luckily, the field our horses were in was undamaged and the horses and chickens seemed unfazed.  We stayed at the farm for 3 1/2 days until we ran out of water, then went to a hotel (flush toilets is a good thing for an 8 year old girl, although my 11 year old son was happy to use the manure pile, or a horse stall).  We could only stay two days in a hotel, and then had to leave because they were overbooked.  Luckily, we were taken in by some friends.  Our dogs came with us, and I commuted back and forth to the farm to care for the horses, donkey and chickens.  We had to haul water at least once a day, until we found out that Southern States was hauling water for free.  Thank goodness for their kindness and generosity.  It saved a lot of work.  We still had to haul water to the fields by the bucketful, but we didn't have to pick it up first at a neighbors house.  (I have to say, the water hauling did wonders for my biceps!)  We got power back almost exactly 7 days later (about 9 pm the following Friday).  Since then we have been trying to get cleaned up.  We will have an awesome bonfire at our next party thanks to all of the limbs!

Meanwhile, I am busy driving between basketball camp, soccer camp, art camp, sewing camp, and pony camp.  Not all in the same week of course, but the kids have a smattering of camps throughout the summer.  They don't seem to have the camps at the same time, so I have had little time for weaving or other projects.  However, I have been able to spend some time one on one with each of them which doesn't happen very often.

Our new puppy Giallo has been great fun, but takes a lot of time.  My son and I are working with her to train her to do all those basic dog things:  sit, stay, come, fetch, potty outside....So, we are having a fun, full, enjoyable summer, with little time for weaving.  (don't you just love her little puppy face?)

I am now working on putting together and warping my loom for the Helena Hernmarck workshop in Minnesota.  I am so excited about it.  I have all my yarns together, and a bunch of copper pipe on my studio floor that I am putting together.  I hope to finish the loom this afternoon, and get it warped.  I will ship it to Minneapolis by mail so I don't have to hassle with checking it, and will have it shipped back.  I will give a full report of my experiences in the class.  I only have two more weeks....

Rockfish tapestry sighting

I was reading Weaving Diva's blog the other day and enjoying her photos of the ATA Small Format show, Pacific Portals, when I spotted a photograph of my tapestry which is displayed in a case at the Long Beach Public Library.  I was thrilled to see it there.

I am sorry I won't see the show in person, but it was fun to see the photographs.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Still not weaving....

I am still not weaving.  I am going to work on fixing my cartoon today and maybe get to warping a loom. I did fix my washing machine and it is running great.  Now, I am a little hesitant to wash my horse laundry in it, but on the other hand, I was doing that for a few years.  We have had the washer for five years and it just now clogged up, not bad for all the farm laundry I do.

In the meantime, we got a puppy.  So, she is keeping me a bit busy.  It is the last week of school, so there have been brownies to bake, exams to monitor, and thank you notes to write.  Here is a photo of our new puppy and her foster mom Elsie.   She is yet unnamed, and is a Spinone Italiano, a very sweet and cute little girl.

I am also gathering supplies.  I have been accepted into Helena Hernmarck's workshop at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis.  I am very excited about going.  I ordered my warp today, and will get my loom ready next week.  I bought all my yarn last week.   The workshop isn't until the end of July, but summer camps, and other activities mean little time to do things without children.  Better to get it done early, rather than panicking at the end.  Now, while my little pup is sleeping, I am going to work on my cartoon.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Instead of Weaving....

Instead of gathering my yarns, warping my loom and starting my new tapestries, I was doing this today.

I was doing laundry Wednesday night, and went to put things in the dryer and they were soaking wet.  I tried just spinning them, but they remained soaking wet.  Then, I got an E21 error code.  I knew that if I waited for a repairman it would take near a week to get one here, and the last time it was a door latch problem that he fixed in less than 30 minutes and cost me $375, more than 1/2 of what I paid for the washer.  My husband is on crutches with a  broken ankle, and besides, I have a degree in mechanical engineering.  It can't be that hard, can it?  Google and youtube to the rescue.  I looked up my error code, found a youtube video showing how to repair the pump (awesome video from and off I started on my morning long odyssey.  I got the dryer off of the top, yes we stacked to save space, but what a pain it is to get to the washer parts!  I got all the doors off, could they make repair any harder?  Yes, yes they could.  I got down to find the pump knowing that the problem is a blockage somewhere.  I started with the hoses.

Okay, now I am beginning to see why people sneak their horse blankets into laudromats.  I pulled that big clump out of the hose, then went to get the pump out.  I found out there was a coin trap before the pump and pulled that out and it was full of coins, bobby pins, and hair, lots of hair -- dog, horse and human!  I cleaned everything out with water, reattached all the hoses, got the sump back on with its three connectors, which took me 20 minutes of struggle, a lunch break with my daughter who is home sick with a fever, and another 20 minutes of struggle.  I plugged it all back in and lo and behold!  it works.  Okay, so the washer tried really hard to get the water out of my clothes, but the pump was shot.  So, I tried to buy local, and couldn't find any repair shops in our town with the pump, and went back to google and found a part and had it shipped overnight.  So, here I sit waiting for the Fedex truck.  

I have to say though, we bought this washer in 2007 and this is the first time I have had a clog and have washed my horse blankets for a couple of years now.  But, the designer of these washers are definitely men who do not have to do laundry on an ongoing basis.  Why put a sump that is supposed to catch stuff that will kill the pump in a totally inaccessible place such that it can't be cleaned out?  Besides that, there was no filter before the pump.  All of that dirt that my kids accumulate in playing on our farm, playing soccer, and playing in my sand riding arena is now deposited in the pump.  So, what we really need is design company of women engineers that know how to do tough laundry to design a new washer with features that we all want. 

Now, I have to go back to the laundry room to take out the pump before my replacement pump gets here. Keep your fingers crossed that my washer works after this.  Our laundry basket overfloweth and my son has a soccer tournament this weekend and no clean shorts, socks or jerseys!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Peony Cartoons

I drew and colored my cartoons.  I see some problems, but now I am debating whether to fix them in the cartoons, or whether I fix them in my choice of yarns.

In the blooming peony, I colored in with a purple which was too dark.  In the middle section with the dropping petals, there are two problems:  the peony seems to float in space, and there is a disconnect between the bottom background and the upper background that makes the drawing look unconnected.  I might just work on those in yarn selection rather than recoloring.  Recoloring the drawing means I need to go and buy another couple of art markers.  The final picture of the seed pods also has a green that is too dark and I really need another couple of greens to make the drawing work better.

I love the markers.  I have used pencils in the past, but I think I like the markers better, although they are expensive.  Now, on to warping my looms!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


After finishing my tapestry for the Pacific Portals show, and my long project, the Sand Pail, I have been taking a break from weaving.  I just haven't decided what I should work on next.  There have been lots of things in my head, but nothing that just jumps out to inspire me.

We have been having lots of rain here, and the colors of spring are fabulous.  Everything is a beautiful rich green, and after a rain in the morning light, the water and sun combine to make everything look fresh and dew covered.  Yesterday after I dropped the kids off at school, I took my camera out for a walk around our farm.  I am hoping today to take these photos that I have played with on photoshop and start sketching to end up with my cartoons that I will weave from.  I think I will make a triptych with the flower shown below with the petals beneath it as the big centerpiece, and the two other pieces half that size.  I am not sure about the sizing, but I will work on it and give an update.

 After that, I am thinking of working on a vegetable garden series.  So much has been done with these, but maybe I will find something to new to say.  I have started with this photo of a head of lettuce and a strawberry bloom.  I love the light shining through the leaves.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

An On-time Finish

Two years ago I struggled to finish my piece for the Small Format show at the ATA (American Tapestry Alliance).   This year, I actually finished a week ahead of time, was able to ship it out without having to pay for overnight fees.  Last year, I had to call around and find more yarn, I ran out and the local yarn store that had carried it, discontinued the yarn.  Yeah! for the web.  This year, I had yarn left over.

This piece measures 9 3/4" X 9 3/4".  It is of a Pacific rockfish that swims off the coast of California in kelp beds.  I really enjoyed weaving this piece, and think it is one of my best pieces.  I used beads for the eye, and embroidered the outline of the eye.  I decided not to weave the kelp leaves in the tapestry, but make some type of quilted leaf.  In the end, I took leftover pieces of silk organza from another project, cut out the leaves, roll-stitched the hem, and then took other pieces, rolled them up and couch stitched them to the leaves to form the ridges that you see on kelp leaves.  It was a really enjoyable piece.  Hope you like it.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Winter Weaving Frenzy

It seems that the only time I get any significant weaving done is in the winter.   We live on a farm, so the gardens are dormant, the weather is usually cold (not so this year), the grass is not growing, and the weeds are at rest.  Therefore, I am not called outside to weed, mow, and pick things.  I do have school activities, but my commitment varies from week to week.  These last couple of weeks I have had some time to be able to finish one long term project that I wrote about previously, and I have now started on my entry for Pacific Portals.  The tapestry I did two years ago was a change for me.  So once again I am trying a new thing with this tapestry.  The design is a bit more graphic than what I have done on other tapestries.

My fiber arts group has an exhibit that travels called Wish You Were Here.  There are selected travel photos that we use for inspiration then develop pieces based on these photos.  The piece above was inspired by the following travel photo from the Monterrey Bay Aquarium.  It also fit with the Pacific Portals theme, so there we are.  I know that Joan Griffin is also using this photo as an inspiration for her Pacific Portals piece.  I can't wait to see what hers looks like!

On a different topic, which is just fun farm stuff.  One of our young hens (hatched in May) left an extra large egg for us.  You can see the size of her normal egg at the bottom and the extra large egg at the top (OUCH!).

One end was not quite fully formed and as you can see below was a little wavy and it was oozing egg white.  We decided eating the egg was dicey since it was oozing, it could mean bacteria could get inside the egg.

At dinner, the kids and I were telling dad about the egg and took it out to show him, then all of a sudden I said, "I bet it has a double yolk!"  I had heard of them, but never seen one.  Sure enough, when we cracked the egg, that is what we found!  Our lucky dog got a double yolk fried egg for dinner that night.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A four year journey

I have been on quite a journey with a tapestry that I just cut off my loom.  I started the design of this tapestry four years ago while still in a cast from having my arm broken by my horse.  Yes, he is still with me, but a much calmer individual as he emerges from his youngster hood.  I started a long distance tapestry study with Pat Williams through the American Tapestry Alliance.  My daughter, my youngest child, had started to preschool, and my son was finally settling into elementary school, and for the first time in 7 years I had a bit of time to myself.  I wanted to improve my tapestry weaving, which I had started learning from Joan Griffin.  Pat helped me to hone my design from a number of options that I had.  She was very wise in guiding me to develop my own voice rather than helping me to follow her voice.  I love her whimsical and humorous tapestries, but that is not my voice and she helped me to see that.

I started with a photograph of a lonely sand pail abandoned in a sandbox.  One of my children had taken the photograph, which was a bit crooked and bit out of focus, but I loved the image.  I drew and redrew the image until Pat and I decided that it had been honed and ready for using.  I started weaving it with Joan in a workshop that she held in June of 2008.  I learned a few new things, and then came home and started weaving.  In between, we renovated our house, I herniated a disc and spent 5 weeks in bed two  summers ago unable to weave for months because I couldn't sit and lift my hands, we had other losses in our family, and life continued on.

I reached the sand pail part of the weaving and spent months struggling with it.  I wove and rewove it 8 times, then finally got it so I was happy with it in March 2010.  Then I got to about 7 inches woven by February 2011 and realized that I was really pulling the sides in.  So, I lost 3 inches or so that I unwove.  Since then, I have not posted any photos.  I have been weaving when time allowed so that I could finish this piece.  It was hanging over my head and preventing me from developing other large project.

Today, I am done!  I have cut it off the loom, but I still have to finish it and mount it, but I am pleased with it.  It is not a large tapestry (113/8" X 13 1/2" ), but it has been a real learning journey for me.  When I mount it, I will post the final photo of it, but here is a photo of my finished sand pail tapestry, as yet unnamed.

Thank you so much to Joan and Pat for their help and their encouragement.  Now I can really concentrate on my new tapestry for the Pacific Portals show in LA!  That one can't take me four years, it is due in LA by March 15 and can only by 10X10" max, and I have already woven 4 inches on it.  I will show photos of it later.