A summer of tapestry faces

It has been a tremendously fruitful time not having any events since the Saltaire Arts Trail, it has given me the space to experiment and try to consolidate my ideas and at the same time make new pieces for Art in the Pen in a couple of weeks, and to try to deal with all the things I have seen on my Fellowship so far.

The first thing I did was to decide not to try to squeeze in a new large piece for Art in the Pen. It was a tough decision, but I would have lost months to making something for the sake of it, and I knew what I needed to do was samples, samples, samples. I re-wove some of the tapestries that sold at the Saltaire Arts Trail. I wanted to make sure they weren’t a fluke. It was an interesting experience weaving on a cartoon I had already woven, but it meant I could change a few things I wasn’t happy with. My experience at the Arts Trail confirmed the sort of tapestries I want to make, and key to that is being able to weave figures and so I decided to try to push these face samples further.

Chrissie Freeth Tapestry Face Sample 3

When the time came to push them further and scale them up, I found myself hesitating, not trusting the designs enough to spend precious warp on either of my main looms, but my simple frame loom was too small to scale things up. There was an issue too with my ceiling falling down but the loom in the living room escaped by an inch.

I ended up with a sudden notion to make my own frame loom, it would cause much less loom waste and thus easier to justify trialling larger pieces. Perhaps a little crazy considering I never used a drill before and the use of anything with a sharp edge usually results in a visit to A&E. Nonetheless I girded my bobbins and headed down the canal tow-path to the local DIY shop. I brought two lengths of rough wood and chopped one in half to make the sides and cut from another length two pieces for the top and bottom. I joined the pieces using brackets although I do now have an urge to drill holes in everything. I added a paper ruler to the bottom and top and added a heddle bar hanging from clamps. I hitched the first set of leashes on and they were a pain in the a**e, whenever I wanted to move the heddle bar they got stuck and had to be guided up the warp one by one. I reverted to split rings the second time and they were a marvel. It took some time to find the right position to sit at the loom, but by the second warp I had got it down pat, and it is risking becoming my favourite loom and not least because I can get the tension just how I like it, rather than being at the mercy of the position of the teeth on the more complicated looms.

DIY Loom 1

DIY Loom 2

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The first piece I made was a bit of a chore, partly because of the leashes and the uncomfortableness of the level of the fell and my seat.

Chrissie Freeth Tapestry Face Sample 4

During all this time I had been living off diplofenac, codeine, cold tea and multiple tips to my fabulous dentist for an abscess that was not there and it looks like I may or may not have damaged a nerve into my face instead. The truth is I have been doubled up with the pain, suspecting at one point my eye was going to come out. Just imagine having every tooth on one side of your gob being drilled at the same time without anaesthetic and you’ll be pretty much there. Quite pee’d off that this was going to be a long game rather than solved with the whipping out of a tooth, I drew something a little darker, loved it and got it onto the DIY loom. This has taken a good few days to weave too, but it has been an utter delight, working well past midnight and not minding it a jot. I do feel this is much more me, darker and less twee and harks back to the blending techniques that I used in No Longer Mourn, but with some of the things I have learned during the preceding samples thrown in.

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I am having to abandon the loom for a couple of weeks to do all the practical things necessary to get ready for Art in the Pen. It takes place in Skipton on the 12th and 13th of August and is now easily one of the largest art events of the north with just shy of a couple of hundred selected artists exhibiting under one roof. The cattle stalls of the auction market are given over to the artists to turn into micro galleries. It is in no way a stuck-up event, there is absolutely no pressure to buy , so it makes a great and very different day out, so do come along.

Bradford Open

I am also very pleased to say one of my tapestries got selected for for the Bradford Open 2017 at the Cartwright Hall Art Gallery. It runs until November 12th and is a great opportunity to see the new Hockney Gallery there that has just opened. Anyway, hope to see you in Skipton, do come say hello! x

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Autumn Tapestry

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It’s the Knitting and Stitching show in Harrogate 21st-24th and as a member of the British Tapestry Group I was asked if I could help out on their stand and was delighted to be able to do so – I’ll be there on the on the Saturday and Sunday, on E10 – so do pop by and say hello if you’re coming along.

With all I’ve got on my plate I had been stressing quite a bit so when they asked if I’d like to contribute a tapestry to their display I said thanks but no thanks, I had nothing of a suitable size and of course wouldn’t be able to make something in time.

1454585_10151993378966071_1419534698_nBut then a couple of days passed some of which I spent sketching and as often happens in Freethonia, a really stoopid idea came into my head. I had three shop/gallery orders to fill, I had to host an evening of gin-ridden harpies (and inevitable hangover to deal with), do my grown up job and get The Hanging Tree finished. What the hell, let’s design and weave a tapestry for the Knitting and Stitching Show too, and just for fun, let’s leave it until the last minute!

100_3238 The most detailed areas were the eyes and lips and I thought they would work better vertically. I’ve wanted to get over my phobia of weaving on one warp and so decided it would be heavily outlined. I couldn’t find too much information out there to guide me but think I got there in the end. I really like the tapestries of Amanda Gizzi and this is a technique she uses a lot. I also used eccentric wefts for the first time and love them.

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There wasn’t much blending on the bobbins, because of time I couldn’t do samples, but the hand dyed yarns did offer some inherent variation and interest. It was such a pleasure weaving discreet areas, I didn’t keep ending up in the wrong shed. It was also such a tonic to work with colour. I think this was just the break I needed from The Hanging Tree. I really got to know my upright loom Doris but suspect I have been spoilt rotten by her treadles – such a joy compared to the leashes.

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There’s a lot I would have changed if time allowed. I don’t like the white for the skin, I would have planned the colours of the hair better, and there’s too much forehead. The outlining has added additional weft and I think this has caused a wee bit of buckling in some areas; but all these can be fixed with time and practise. It’s so easy to see the flaws in something rather than the successes. Until a couple of months ago I never thought I could draw let alone do something like this. My head is now buzzing with ideas. I feel there is nothing I can’t at least try.

100_3178So that’s been my last six days, helped along by Doctor Who re-runs, the encouragement of friends and lots of tea. Tonight I am having a well deserved rest, and hope to see you at the weekend x

Workroom Revamp!

Been revamping the workroom. Haven’t been as productive as I would like to have been on the rag-rugging front because it had got into such a mess. Now I’ve forked out for a new sewing machine I felt obliged to get in order, besides as the temperature dives it’s the smallest room to heat. Beforehand it was all very practical but I’ve tried to make it a bit more of a creative space, somewhere I would actually willingly want to spend time rather than have to.

Most of the shelf space has been given over to jars and baskets. Rather than ferreting about a jumble of boxes to try to find something I can now just pull out a tub of adhesives, or reach for my basket of needle felting things, paints etc. Hopefully I’ll be more likely in an idle moment to just have a play.

I’ve also put all my embroidery threads into jars, as well as some of my great grandmother’s threads. I don’t do much embroidery these days but you never know, now they are in sight I might just fancy it one day.

I dismantled my frames and stored them in an old wicker bin. I also uncovered some abandoned projects including a blackwork sampler and a canvas work one. I had forgotten how much I used to love black work.

I put a thick piece of chipboard across my rag-rugging frames so I have an instant work bench when I need it, and I can move the chipboard away when I want to get rugging. I’ve put up fairy lights everywhere so hopefully it will be more inviting of an evening. I want to look out for some cheap spice jars and rack to sort my buttons into smaller colour coded jars. I’m lucky to work in front of a big window but it is a lot of blank space so I thought I would look out for a big plant to break it up.

In the meantime this is where I weave, downstairs where my dining table used to be. My spinning wheels are in the living room and fleeces and fabric are absolutely everywhere. It is time, perhaps, to think about renting a little studio somewhere…

Ahem, oh alright then, this was the before. But in my defence it is a very small room, and I dumped everything in there after an event, and I was distracted by my new loom and well, I have been very busy you know.

Warping up my loom

 

I’m all set and ready to go – I’ve beamed, I’ve raddled, I’ve threaded, I’ve slayed, I’ve tied on.

When it came to warping up everything I had read put the fear of god into me but in the end it all proved rather intuitive. The loom itself is so well used and full of dents and nicks and shaded patches it’s been like the loom itself – or rather the weavers before me – have walked me through the process.

I’ve also been making use of Deborah Chandler’s incredibly clear and well written Learn to Weave. I feel very confident in her hands, as well as knowing there are people I can turn to on Ravelry if I get stuck.

Even though I’ve been sitting next to a window and with my back to an open door, the only real problem has been light. I went out and got a floor lamp half way through threading and while I was at it got a wooden broom handle from Wilkos to use as a front apron rod.

I’ve painted a bit of wood this morning to make a raddle but yesterday my peg loom worked quite well as a makeshift one. I only dropped it off the loom once. As Dot  at Fibre2Fabric has suggested, I’m going to hammer in some panel pins (when I find the darned things) 1/2 an inch apart. There’s a ledge on the loom which seems to be for the raddle and I can already see how useful it is going to be.

So, paint drying, work area tidy, washing up done; no excuse but to go get on with it!

Well, I’ve lost my heart….

I’ve been a little bit naughty.

He’s a four shaft counterbalance loom and I love love love him. I have been searching for a loom for sometime now and in the end it all happened rather suddenly; this one came up a few days ago on the Loom Exchange and he was even local to me. His previous owners were incredibly kind and even brought him over and set him up for me. I’ve had a few queries and have been making use of the modern day courtyard sisterhood that is Ravelry and one lady in particular has talked me through a few of his quirks/my ignorance.

I’m particularly keen to get going as I’ve already prepped my warp – I don’t have a warping board but fortunately as we all know necessity is the mother of invention and I threw a couple of Ikea side tables on their backs and voila.

And now, some sunlight through my warp.

However, it looks like I’m going to have to cover him up in a couple of sheets and pretend he isn’t there, as I have just found out I’ve been selected for the Maker’s Fair Festival Special. Only a few weeks to go (cripes!) so I really need to go and make some more rugs. Do we think I will manage it, or do we think I might have to play with Boris (yes, really, I’m  sorry) for a few days until the novelty is out of my system?