Tapestry weaving progress

Where have I been? Sick as a flipping dawg! Went to London for a meeting and came back with what I thought was a sore throat. A few days in and I had lost my voice (which I thought was funny) and by the end of the week I could no longer breathe properly and had to call on a neighbour for help who took me down to the local hospital. This was the sickest I have ever been in my life and it has taken a long time to push past it. I’ve broken bones before, but this was something else. Regrettably it meant I had to pull out of the Holmfirth Art Market. This had been in my diary for most of the year, and it was a big event for me and I was very upset about it, but there was no way I could have managed and I was worried about spreading my infection further. The organisers were very understanding and I am very grateful for that. All together I lost nearly a month’s worth of working time and have had my head down since, trying to make up for lost time.

But progress has been made on the Long Night project discussed last time.IMG_7442

I warped up the main treadle loom in the workroom pretty much trouble-free even though it was the biggest warp I’ve put on it, around 570 warps, all six yards wrong. I threaded the warp onto the bar of the warp beam rather than tie it the warps on and although it meant shifting the loom a bit, it has made for a much neater start.

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I have always had a snagging worry that although I love textured surfaces, I was hiding behind them a little and wanted to tone it down a bit for this piece. I wove the hair of the first figure as simple waves.

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That was how I wanted it, plain, simple, calm and with just a line of soumak to separate them. But once it was done, it was pretty lifeless and I didn’t like the colours. They worked together in the samples, but didn’t seem to work on the larger scale.

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When I start doubting myself and start messing about on the loom, throwing out all the planning and preparation is where I generally start to go wrong so I was determined to see it through. I got about two-thirds through when I accepted it was wrong and it had to come out. It took all day to unpick as I wanted to preserve the wool rather than just rip it out.

It has taken a long time to find an alternative. I still wanted waves that followed down the length of the figure’s back, but it also had to have some life to it, but also be relatively simple. This is only a small part of the tapestry and I didn’t want it to be too overwhelming. The result is shorter waves and curls within the larger waves. It looks to me like fields or waves or even flames and the latter seems particularly relevant as the project is to me about survival and rebirth. The colours I kept the same and they seem to work much better now. My inspiration for the colours have come from Anglo-Saxon ship burial at Sutton Hoo which hopefully will become more obvious as the tapestry progresses. I feel that the cell-like structure of the new hair echoes something of the cloissonne technique used in the jewellery. In my head it does, anyway.

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Having to unpick as much as I did meant I could weigh the wool I’d used and get some proper calculations as to how much yarn I was using to cover an area so I’ve been able to make some good estimates on how much I need to dye for the rest of the project, which will be my next job. It is a lot less than I thought. I am going to try very hard to only dye what I need, and not do a few more 100 grams just in case the laws of physics should change when I am not looking.

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I’ve changed the way I’ve been winding my wool. I used to wind the wool from dyed hanks into a ball. It was a massive, rather unpleasant job, and they usually just got tangled on the spool rack anyway when trying to wind up the bobbins. I have instead started to use my mum’s old cake beater as an electric winder, putting the wool directly onto tubes (sitting on a drinking straw) which is much quicker. I then stand whatever tubes I am using to wind the bobbins on an upturned raddle. I am using more colours than I have done previously, and it seems a lot easier to just pick out tubes from labelled tubs than have them all fight over space on one of the spool racks.

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Looking over my last few posts I realise I haven’t shared some of the samples I’ve been working on for the DMV projects. Initially I was going to try working with fewer warps per inch than I am used to, but I wasn’t happy with the result. I was cutting corners for the sake of time. The new samples are a much more literal rendering of the original designs, and hark back to The Hanging Tree project, but I do rather like them, they are something very different and I will be warping up the smaller treadle loom in the next few days to get on with these.

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I had a lovely afternoon in Leeds visiting the British Art Show. I have to confess a lot of it was over my head. But I did very much like Jessica Warboys Sea Paintings, the one on show being made at Spurn Point. She scatters pigments onto canvas and lets the waves of the sea distribute the colours. I only had my phone with me, so forgive the quality of the photographs, but I did want to share something of the scale of her work. BAS8 is on until the 10th of January before it moves on and is certainly worth a visit.

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Sorry to be so cryptic for now, but in amongst all the nightmare of the last month or so, something rather wonderful has happened, which may or may not mean that my movements next year may be a little unsettled. For this reason I have delayed announcing the dates of my workshops until February. For that I sincerely apologise but I didn’t want to go ahead and then have to change them, wasting everyone’s time. And if you wouldn’t mind praying to the loom gods on my behalf, I would be very grateful.

It has been a wonderful year, and if things go as I hope, next year promises to be rather spectacular. Thank you so much for your support – it really does mean the world to me. Best wishes for to you all for the Christmas and the new year xxxx

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