Weeks 17 & 18: Finished! And thoughts on scaffold vs traditional loom

tapestry weavingI think I was so grateful for getting the opportunity to finish the tapestry after all the horrors with the dyes a few weeks ago, I just put my head down and got it done. I finished it last night.

tapestry weavingI’ve unwound as much as I can to get a sense of it and I think I am pleased. It does seem like an anticlimax, but I am beginning to think that’s a natural response. The actual weaving has only taken a couple of months; granted I’ve been working fifteen hour days, but it has still come together a lot faster than Maides Coign. There’s quite a lot of warp left so I am going to wind the tapestry back onto the beams and make use of the warp. I’ve still got an awful lot of pieces to make before Art in the Pen in a month, as well as to think about the stall design. I’m having an admin day today, and a tidy up tomorrow and back to it on Monday, but hopefully not quite so intensely. 10940497_928828950485021_5878933473570143150_nI did manage to have a couple of days away, in fact I knew I had to take a break as I was starting to develop a lot of twinges in my forearm, and RSI was the last thing I had time to go down with. I’ve mentioned the Leeds based jeweller Liz Samways before on this blog. I am a huge of her work (above) and she invited me to stay and see how she works. There is a huge symbiosis in her work between jewellery making and printing. She makes etching plates, but instead of making prints from them, she makes them into jewellery, creating very individual pieces of the most amazing colours and quirky designs. Etching is something I’ve never done before, and Liz was incredibly generous with her materials, skills and techniques. I’m working on some future designs that will be encompassing this work.

IMG_4699I’m really lucky to know some of the most amazing craftspeople and Fiona Drake is one of the most supportive and good-natured people I know. She is such a great listener, and very intuitive and a great person to bounce ideas off. She knows so many people, and is so generous, she acts as a bit of a pimp to folk with items that are looking for a new home. So when I got a phone call one evening asking if I could take in some weaving silks and equipment another friend of hers was looking to relocate, I was thrilled and willing. I’ve learnt you can’t have too many spool racks!

IMG_4667I also had to take some time out to spend a day in London. There was a meeting of the trustees of the Heritage Crafts Association at the Art Workers Guild, one of my favourite places; I do love strutting around Bloomsbury like I’m all that. A late morning start meant I was able to nip into the British Library to have a look at the Magna Carta embroidery by Cornelia Parker.

Magna Carta EmbroideryMagna Carta embroideryI also saw there my first Dovecot tapestry in the flesh, RB Kitaj’s If Not, Not woven in the mid 90s I also had a bit of time to run into the British Library. It was quite a busy day, but I do love the meetings so much. For a such a small organisation, the HCA is achieving so much.

IMG_4607It is with massive regret I’ve decided to take a less active role on the committee for the Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. Instead of being their weaving editor, I’ll be a consultant editor. I’ve really loved working with authors, and quite proud of some of the articles we’ve produced. There are a lot of articles halfway through the process and I’m going to be really sorry not to see them through to publication, but I know it is the right decision.

But before I totter off to bed, having now completed a tapestry on my George Maxwell upright loom, it seems a good opportunity to explore some of the advantages and disadvantages of this type of loom and opposed to scaffold looms.Scaffold vs traditional loomIt seems there is little difference in how long it takes to warp the two looms, although warping the traditional loom is less physical but a more complicated process. It does seem easier to get a good consistent tension on the scaffold loom (but I suspect this might be because mine needs some cords replacing). Obviously with the traditional loom the only restriction on size is the width, whereas the scaffold loom will be dictated by the size of the scaffold/ceiling.

Being able to adjust the fell on the traditional loom resulted in a far more comfortable weaving position, which also meant I could weave much longer. Using the scaffold loom I generally end up balancing on whatever I can grab in order to reach the height of the weaving. Weaving on the traditional loom is also much quicker as one doesn’t need to pick out the closed shed, it’s there instantly at the press of a treadle.

But the traditional loom does have a major disadvantage; with the scaffold loom one can watch the tapestry grow, but with a traditional loom the woven areas are wound onto the beam out of sight. I’ve been quite surprised that despite the amount of planning I do before weaving, I still make a vast number of decisions at the loom including adjustments to the colour and design and some of those decisions can be difficult to make and assess, if you can’t see what you’ve woven beforehand.

For me the speed of weaving and the greater comfort means I’ll be sticking with the traditional loom. I will however have to think more carefully about how to compensate for not seeing the whole tapestry as I weave, I don’t know if that means more careful planning, but it would be a shame to lose any spontaneity at the loom.

Right, bed beckons; I’ll be back very soon. Ta ta for now x


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