Arts Trail – Thank you!


I know I ‘m a week late, but I wanted to thank everyone who came to the Saltaire Arts Trail. One reader of this blog came all the way up from Leicester!


I wanted to get in early on Friday to hang my work, just in case there were any problems. From the start the plan had been to hang the tapestries using hooks over some unused doors. But the doors proved too thick for the hooks. June Russell, the chair of Saltaire Inspired arrived with helper, an array of tools, fixings and fearless determination and managed to hang the pieces nonetheless. It was a strange thing to see my work hanging all proper like! I was really thrilled with how it looked, and not a little proud.


The event was fabulous, lots of wonderful visitors, very engaged and full of questions. But without doubt the best part for me was meeting the artists I was sharing the space with, especially Janis Goodman, Salma Patel, Gemma Lacey,, and of course our host, Jacky Al-Samarraie who looked after us so well. They all made the whole experience absolutely delightful and a laugh a minute. In truth I didn’t want the event to end, I had such a great time. It was also great to get feedback on the work and observe people’s responses to it. I certainly feel a few feet taller as an artist. My only regret was not getting to look round the other houses and exhibitions, but it was clear there was a fabulous atmosphere across the village.


The gift cards were a virtual sell out so I will definitely be doing those again! The frames were a big hit too, so I am going to look at doing some smaller framed pieces that are more affordable for Art in the Pen in August.


I am really glad I did some little samples that folk could touch, they were very popular and certainly helped reduce the amount of folk going for the tapestries themselves. There were a few. I know who you are.


With the Arts Trail done with, I’ve taken a few days to catch up with my Fellowship plans. I know where I want to go, but it has been good to start getting in touch with potential contacts. I’ve also made plans to do some experiments with different cameras to see how best I might best photograph the tapestries I’ll be visiting. The sixteenth-century tapestry at East Riddlesden Hall will serve as a stand-in. Talking of which, on the 30th July I’ll be at East Riddlesden doing some demos. Once it is all confirmed and I have more details I’ll let you know. Later this month I’ll be heading to a rather grander stately pile here in Yorkshire to discuss some conservation issues, but more on that in a later post.

hyIn the meantime, the loom needs warping, and I need to get some more work underway! Cheerio for now x




New new tapestry!

If you are a regular follower of this blog, you’ll know it has taken a long time for me to find a way to weave that is unique to me and which gives me a way to say what I want to. The last tapestry, No Longer Mourn, was a bit of a breakthrough. All I had to do next, was do it again. Was it, perhaps, a fluke?

I had plenty of warp left over so I was quick to make another cartoon and to get it on the loom. The design was something I’ve been playing with for a good while but couldn’t quite get it how I wanted it, but now, with this new way of thinking I was able to create a version I liked pretty quickly. I suppose in my head it is about strength in the face of regret, but no real title as yet. It is pretty nerve-wracking unwinding the beams and seeing the completed tapestry for the first time, but I have to say I was pleased with the result and I sat down and looked at it with a sense that I have finally found my feet as a weaver and as an artist. I know what I want to do – and I know now exactly how to do it. I’ve got more ideas and designs in my head and in my notebooks than I’ll ever probably have enough lifespan left to weave. This is a massive change and relief for me (not the lifespan thing). I feel in some way, like I am just starting out.

woven tapestry

This tapestry was woven in a slightly different way technically to the last and once they are both cut off the loom I’ll go into a bit more detail about that. This tapestry is destined, as with the last one, to go to the Saltaire Arts Trail. It will be the first time I’ll have slapped my insides onto a wall for other people to look at and I am rather nervous about it, and if truth be told, rather excited too.

The event takes place here in Saltaire on 28-30 May. I’ll be in the Art Rooms in Salts Mill – just follow the signs to the Tourist Information Centre. The list of artists taking part in the Arts Trail has just been released. As well as the juried exhibitors in the Open Houses there will be local people opening up their homes and showing their work too. There is also the Makers Fair and lots of exhibitions and activities. In the Art Rooms I’ll be exhibiting alongside Janis Goodman, Salma Patel, Steve Rayner, Gemma Lacey, Dave Gowers, and the owner of the Art Rooms, Jacky Al-Samarraie. Do please come and say hello. Pictured below is one of Dave Gower’s amazing paintings; I can’t wait to see more.

David Gowers, No 10

I’ve also been selected for Weave, a summer show at Craft in the Bay in Cardiff – it’ll explore the act of weaving across different mediums, not just with yarn, and I’ll share more about the exhibition in due course. It does sound rather exciting!

Cheerio for now and I hope to see you later this month x

Saying it with weft – a new tapestry finished

Putting weft in and out of warp, there’s only so much you can do without distorting the nature of the cloth. Whilst I’ve always tried to circumnavigate this rigidity by using textured weaves like soumak to create curves and flow, I’ve always felt I was somehow cheating the nature of the medium. But there are some weavers who seem able to just drip the weft from their fingertips and create incredibly expressive weavings; I’m thinking here of Finnish weaver Aino Kajaniemi, the twentieth century German weaver Johanna Schutz-Wolff and a weaver who I only know through a couple of small images of their tapestries, Rojane Lamego.


The need to find a more expressive way to weave myself became increasingly apparent after embarking on the life drawing classes made freely available by Bradford College of Art. Turns out I wasn’t entirely rubbish at drawing. I learned I had scope to explore, that I needn’t jump on the first quarter-decent image I produced despite myself and subsequently devote the rest of my weaving life to it. I became much more liberated in the design stages, certainly less petrified. I’ve begun to draw for its own sake and not just to make something to weave. I also.learned when it came to drawing I leaned towards quick, loose, abstract images (and large-scale, gasp), and I wanted to find a way to translate that looseness in my weaving.

Initial samples focused on eccentric wefts, loose weaves, plain weaves, painted warps and textured surfaces, but I found I was still ducking away from what tapestry was. I was still hiding behind texture and gimmicks. I wanted to get back to basics; simple weft faced weaving. Writing this post I realise perhaps this is a result of my recent research into earlier tapestries.

Embrace insomnia is what is what I say, because the answer appeared in the wee hours one morning, in-between ‘did I close the freezer door properly’ and ‘when is the council tax due’. I had the answer all along, I had already woven the way I was seeking in the studies I had made for the DMV projects and the Hanging Tree tapestry. I reworked one of my sketches into a proper design, made the cartoon and worked some samples including the more complicated areas such as the face (below).


I aimed to weave something where the figure and the background were intrinsic to one another, interwoven in design as well as structure, hoping this would make it more expressive than my previous tapestries.


I also found myself finally being able to express something trapped for some time. A sonnet someone once shared with me came to mind as I was designing this (No Longer Mourn for Me), and I realised the figure was sinking into the blackness, but read differently, she was also emerging from it, and that was basically what I’ve been trying to say and failing miserably, as the graveyard of abandoned tapestries attests.


I finished her today and I’m very pleased with the results. It took about three weeks to weave, but stupidly weaving 15+ hours a day, so probably more like five. She is 116cm x 82 cm, so smaller than what I normally go for, but she was a bit of a punt and I didn’t want to waste too much wool and warp in case she didn’t pan out. It was far more complicated than my previous tapestries but also far more addictive. I also found myself freely interpreting the original drawing at the loom which was a far more interesting way to work than being a slave to the cartoon.


She’ll have to stay on the loom for a little while as there’s loads of left over warp to use up. But this piece, and others along similar lines, will be ready to show in May. I am very happy to say I’ve been selected as one of the exhibitors in the Open Houses Gallery at the Saltaire Arts Trail. I’ve never really had the chance to show my tapestries at this event before and I am really looking forward to the opportunity. I feel embarrassed to think of myself as an artist, but I do feel this piece is something I can be proud of and is unique to me and my voice. The Arts Trail takes place 28-30 May and the work of the artists will be on show in houses of the World Heritage Site and I’ll let you know where I’ll be as soon as I do.


I am also thrilled to have been selected for Art in the Pen this year. This will take place in Skipton 13-14 August. I’ve also been selected for Crafted by Hand 5-6 November in Masham. I’ll update the events page on my website very soon, likewise workshops. It has been hard to plan for the year with my Fellowship travels in the offing, but as one of the places I want to visit won’t be open until the summer, it looks like I’ll be heading off later in the year. Obviously I want to go right now, now, now, but it does seem this will be more practical and give me a greater chance to prepare. It is Easter now and I am going to try to take a couple of days off. Whatever you have planned, I hope you enjoy it x

Sonnet 71: No Longer mourn for me (Shakespeare)

No longer mourn or me when I am dead

Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell

Give warning to the world that I am fled

From this vile world with vilest worms to dwell;

Nay, if you read this line, remember not

The hand that writ it; for I love you so,

That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,

If thinking on me then should make you woe.

O, if (I say) you look upon this verse,

When I (perhaps) compounded am with clay,

Do not so much as my poor name rehearse,

But let your love even with my life decay,

Lest the wise world should look into your moan,

And mock you with me after I am gone.

Weeks 13 & 14: Back at the tapestry loom

The Makers Fair of the Saltaire Arts Trail was great, I really enjoyed it. Much quieter than previous years, but fabulous to have a loom there, it seemed a real hit and definitely worth the effort bringing it over – it was a lot heavier than I thought it would be! It was lovely to meet so many people who are readers of this blog – thanks so much for stopping by to say hello.

Tapestry loom, Saltaire Arts Trail, tapestry weaverA major highlight for me was doing the weaving activities on Monday. Paula and Nicola of Sponge Tree were spectacularly friendly and were there to help set up and run the event too. It was so lovely to see kids weaving and enjoying it so much many took supplies with them so they could continue weaving at home. The card loom weaving and the peg looms were clear favourites. I’m really grateful for the opportunity and hope to do it again.

Saltaire Arts Trail, weaving workshops Saltaire Arts Trail, weaving workshops Saltaire Arts Trail, weaving workshops I took a couple of days off to recover, but was soon back at the loom. I had exiled myself from the studio whilst getting ready for the Arts Trail and it was great stepping back in there. It almost felt like I had had a break. One thing that had been bugging me before I downed tools was the blending of her skin, it seemed too tweedy. I wanted some tweediness to contrast with the more solid blends elsewhere in the tapestry, but it didn’t look right. I sampled a dozen or so more blends that would have looked exactly  the same to any sane person, and picked its replacement although still with doubts. With a fresh eye it was clear there was absolutely nothing wrong with the new colour and I was making a fuss about nothing. I did have a play around adding some shading to her neck area but in the end it just made it more fussy than it needed to be. I’ve had to be very careful weaving the hair as I know it won’t take much for the structure of the cloth to turn into a tumour once it is removed from the loom, but I’ve had a good look with the tension released and – hurrah! – it all looks remarkably good. tapestry weaver, tapestry loom, tapestry artist, tapestry studioYesterday I wove her face and at that point it all became a bit poignant, as, no doubt, it should. I’m finding it a bit odd not having the whole image before me as I would with one of my scaffold looms; I’m spending quite a bit of time on my hands and knees looking under the loom and referring back to what has already been woven. At least I’m not having to balance myself on boxes and goodness knows what else to keep level with the fell. That I am relatively comfortable has meant I can work much longer and I am pretty much living off toast and a loom-bed-loom-bed cycle at the moment in order to get her ready for Art in the Pen in Skipton in (gulp) August.

tapestry weaver, tapestry artist, chrissie freeth

My role as the weaving features editor of the Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, involves me working with authors to forge their articles into something publishable. It is very much a background and rather invisible role, so I was a bit nervous when asked to write something about Maides Coign and my time at East Riddlesden Hall to fill a couple of empty pages in another department of the Journal. It was quite an experience being on the other end of all those comments and edits in red type! But it was lovely to see the article in print. In the same edition was an account of Katharine Swailes’s tapestry Play woven at the West Dean, so I was in very good company!

tapestry weaver, east riddlesden hall, maides coign, journal for weavers spinners and dyersTapestry has also been in the newspapers recently with a feature on Maureen Hodge in the Independent and the resurgence of tapestry in The Telegraph.  I’m looking forward to the next episode of How to Be Bohemian on the iPlayer which will include Eric Gill, currently one of my favourite artists, despite the shagging of his dog and daughters. He was also a chum of the man who built my loom, so I will certainly be tuning in.

I did have some rather lovely news on Wednesday. I’ve been approved as a  Member of the Society for Designer Craftsmen. This was originally the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society as in Walter Crane and William Morris, before it changed its name a few decades ago. It champions the work of contemporary designer makers and they foster emerging talent through their licentiate programme. I’m very pleased and honoured and looking forward to getting involved.Capture (2)So that’s what I’ve been doing over the last few weeks, give or take a bit of website updating, researching and general pondering. I’ve also been posting regularly on Instagram, so please drop by if you use it. Right, I’m back to the loom for a couple of hours before bed. I’ve got a good few days ahead of me blissfully empty of jobs so I’m looking forward to putting my head down and just getting on with weaving.

Ta ta for now x

Chrissie freeth, instagram, tapestry weaver

Saltaire Arts Trail Looms

I’m taking time out from the week thing, as I haven’t really got a chance to work on Found Drowned. It proved too hard to settle knowing I had so much to do in preparation for the Saltaire Arts Trail this weekend, so I decided to ban myself from the studio and just get it done. It proved a wise decision as it took me twice as long as expected. On Monday I am running a day of weaving activities for around 200 children (gulp) on behalf of Sponge Tree. I had all the instructions for the activities to write-up and get tested, as well as getting all the yarns and equipment ready. There will be peg loom weaving (which also involved dyeing a lot of fleece and carding it), tapestry weaving (did I mention I am still waiting for the tapestry frames and peg looms to arrive? Calm, aren’t I?) And then there’s the straw weaving and card loom weaving. IMG_2973 IMG_3191 IMG_3251I was also going to take along a table top loom and a replica Viking warp weighted loom, but then I had a call from an old friend from my archaeology days asking me if I had any use for some ancient Egyptian ground looms he had to get rid of. It was, as a friend of his outrageously suggested, like offering vodka to an alcoholic but how could I say no? There are five of them and perfect for children, simple to set up, easy to understand and perfect for folk who like to crawl about on the floor. And I wove on them myself twenty years ago as an undergraduate, of course I would make room!. I set them up, quite counter intuitively as the closed shed is kept open and it is the open shed that’s manipulated, if you know what I mean. I love, love, love them and quite frankly the children will have a great deal of difficulty getting me to let them have a go. But I think they will make the warp-weighted loom and table loom rather superfluous and so will leave them for another time. The ground looms will also be able to involve more kids at any one time than the warp weighted one. IMG_3344I’ve also had to get my smaller upright loom ready for demonstrations on the Saturday and Sunday. I’ve just finished the cartoon now and will warp it up tomorrow. With time so short, I wanted to weave something that I can actually use of later in the year, rather than something I will just cut off and throw away the minute the event is over. I’ve ended up with a similar design to a previous tapestry, but one I have longed to rework, and it will be quite different once it is woven. Cripes I’ll need to dye the wool tomorrow too. IMG_3402I think I’ve managed one day on the larger tapestry though, and have wound it on. It is quite frankly a wonderful thing to see more of the cartoon, and to have something different to look at over the coming months (although my g-g-g-grandmother does look a bit ghostly behind those warps). And that has what has got me through the last two weeks, knowing that the next two months should be clear weaving in time for Art in the Pen and the Art Market later in the year. IMG_3291There’s no where to hang tapestries this year at the Arts Trail and in the end this has worked in my favour, and I’m able to make use of extant stock rather than produce new work, I suspect that would have tipped me over the edge (although it was a good excuse to make a few new buttons). I am happy to report btw that I have been injury free these last two weeks, apart from walking into a kitchen cupboard this afternoon and bruising my forehead. I call that a successful fortnight, what with no broken bones.

IMG_3244Before I go, I do just want to share this rather fantastic video about one of my favourite artists, Claire Wellesley-Smith. She has a book coming out in September, ‘Slow Stitch; mindful and contemplative textile art’ published by Batsford, and quite frankly, I cannot wait.

So there we are. Please pray for me this weekend, I care not to whom. Ta, ta x

Weeks 11&12: Artist in Residence at the BRI

Well not quite the new artist in residence at my local hospital, the BRI, but I might as well be. I had a fight with one of my dismantled scaffold looms and ended up in A&E. Again. I had an open fracture of a toe, lost a nail and sliced the nail bed. The plastic surgeon did talk at one point of putting stitches into the nail bed. No vomiting please.


At the end of my last post I was pretty much ready for a full-blown panic attack with how busy May was already. This was the last thing I needed. And after twenty years, this was the second time I’ve ended up in A&E in a matter of months. I wallowed, feeling sorry for myself for a couple of days, but then brushed myself down and got on with it. I can still weave and get around, I just can’t wear shoes or slippers. I have a pair of sandals but am petrified of being trodden on (until I saw a way to put my old crocheting skills to use, sometimes, my own genius scares me.) The real downside of all this was missing the Heritage Crafts Association’s conference A Place for Craft yesterday. I watched it all unfolding on twitter and it looks like it was an amazing day with great speakers. Here’s hoping I will be injury free next year! IMG_2795

Despite everything good progress has been made on the new tapestry. The way I am weaving the hair is slowing me down and it is rather tedious to do, but it is starting to pay off.

IMG_2760Whilst it may well be the making of this tapestry, I will be thinking twice before doing it again. Despite the delay it should still be finished in time for Art in the Pen in August. card weaving

I’ve also been working on the children’s workshops for the Saltaire Arts Trail on the 25th May. There will be card weaving, straw weaving as well as tapestry weaving and peg loom weaving. It has been a lot of fun trying to remember what it was like to be a kid and what they would enjoy doing. The straw weaving in particular was pretty addictive and everyone will be getting a woven bracelet for the next two Christmases at least.

straw weavingI have banned myself from the studio for a few days to focus on getting ready for SAT, but am looking forward to getting back to her. My first job will be to wind some of the finished tapestry onto the cloth beam and then I will be able to start work on the middle of the figure. You can just see her hands and face/mouth in the cartoon.

IMG_2769So that’s where I’m at.  Here’s hoping I can make it through the next fortnight or so accident free!

Weeks 8-10: Finally weaving Found Drowned

IMG_2332 I have been massively busy, hence the shockingly rubbish frequency of posts. I am sorry, I will give myself a good slapping later. At last I have been able to source some local wool;  it will reduce my costs quite drastically although I have had to buy in bulk, and I now need to climb over a huge box as well as the now residence scaffolding poles and acrow props to get anywhere. But it is a worthy sacrifice – having this stock of wool has made a big difference to how I work, I’m no longer penny-pinching over ever inch of yarn too afraid to waste it, I’m much happier to experiment with dye colours and to tweak things when they aren’t quite right, and at the back of my mind, I know I have plenty to see me through this tapestry and several others.


The loom is now warped (and the studio nowhere near as tidy as this). It took a little while to tie the warps onto the lower beam and get an even tension but overall I suspect it didn’t take any longer than warping the scaffold loom, and it was certainly a calmer more gentle process and I think I prefer it. I am some slight trouble getting the level of tension I want but the cables on the cloth beam (which I should have replaced but didn’t), are protesting wildly, but hopefully as I wind on more of the completed tapestry I should be able to push the loom more. Meantime I’ve been able to compensate by putting in some shed sticks.


The tapestry is building up astonishingly quickly, that’s about a week’s worth above, not including a couple of days dyeing. I knew the treadles would make for faster weaving, but it is also so much more comfortable to use so I can work for longer. I really couldn’t be happier with this loom. IMG_1856In case you need reminding, this is the design. It is quite strange working with only part of the image before me, that is one of the advantages of the scaffold loom, having the complete cartoon/tapestry before me. It will be a real treat to see the whole thing once it is finished. At the moment I am working on the right margin. IMG_2481I wanted the finished tapestry to be calm and still, and so sought to use horizontal lines when I could, especially with the water. I had researched long and hard about how I might translate the idea of water into woven cloth, especially at night. I didn’t want to go down the rippled moonlight route; knowing the area Jane might have drowned herself in, I looked at images of the River Trent, one of which was just a stretch of brown. I couldn’t quite shake it off thinking it would work well with a palette of blacks, greens and rusts. At the end of the day, it is the colours that are one of the most important things for me as a weaver.  However, weaving the tapestry on its side has meant a compromise has had to be made in that the hatching from light to dark in the water is now vertical rather than horizontal once the piece is hung. But I am really pleased with how it has worked out; looking down the length of the loom I keep thinking the surface of the tapestry has become distorted. It hasn’t, there is just a natural shimmer and dappling that has materialised and one no amount of planning could have come up with.


My confidence was knocked by the last tapestry which didn’t really work and which I wasn’t too sorry for when it I had to cut it off prematurely from the scaffold loom to make way for the new one. But this one is turning out just as I had it in my head, better, in fact. I am certainly learning to trust my own eye more. Part of that has been to make sure I have done all the planning and preparation I can, before the weaving starts. But despite all that work there has been some tweaking when at the loom. I have toned down the green of the dress, it was too yellow and it needed to be stronger to counterbalance the black background. I’ve also decided to intermingle the heavily textured hair with more normal weaving. It happened by accident as I was thinking it might be easier to ditch the time-consuming textured weaving, but I am going to do both – I think the contrast is going to add even more to the texture in the end, as well as to save a bit of time. IMG_2438The only problem with weaving faster, is getting through bushels of bobbins. I’ve rigged up my old pirn winder with tubes and elastic bands (to give the tubes some grip) and it has helped muchly in the winding department. I will have to take some time out to get ready for the Saltaire Arts Trail next month (23rd-25th May). I don’t have anywhere to hang tapestries so will instead be selling some of my older woven accessories. On behalf of Sponge Tree on Monday (25th) I will be organising and running a day of family orientated weaving activities and demonstrations. I’ve only ever heard good things about Sponge Tree and of course public engagement is very important to me so I jumped at the chance when it came my way. It will mean I’m only at the Makers Fair on Saturday and Sunday, but the opportunity to get kids weaving is just too much of an opportunity to pass up. I’m very keen to get some workshops going, so it will also be a good chance to make a start on that. I also like to think Titus Salt, the Victorian mill owner who built the village I live in, would be pleased children weaving in Saltaire once more, we just need to see them malnourished and suffering from rickets and we’ll be all set. Photo1503I’ve not long got back from a jolly this morning out to the Platform Gallery in Clitheroe. My small tapestry Apologies was selected for the Yorkshire and Lancashire Craft Open and it was great to see such an eclectic mix of exhibits from crafts folk across Yorkshire and Lancashire. My little tapestry was in a space all to herself, quite prominent. It was strange to see her like that; again I felt that sense of divorce from my work, like with Maides Coign. She simply isn’t mine anymore. Photo1510Jo Whitehead from Glassprimitif also had some of her lovely glass selected and very kindly took me to the opening today as well as delivering the tapestry itself last weekend rather than risk it to Royal Mail. The exhibition is on until 4th July; I’d never been to Clitheroe before and definitely want to go back and explore it more. 11160582_670847713019258_2619126881025349429_nA couple of weeks ago I went to another opening. The Imaginarium Gallery in Haworth has not only had a rebrand but has moved to much bigger premises across the famous cobbled street. Hawksbys as it is now named was full of spectacular work by artists and craftspeople, its owner Claire has a stunning eye. I wish I had photographs to show you, mine, as it turns out, are of the spectacular spread they put on for everyone (how predictable was that?) This picture above I’ve nicked (with apologies) from their Facebook page. They are such lovely people, one can only hope they have all the success they rightly deserve. IMG_2446 - CopyAaaaaaaanyhoo, talking of spectacular spreads, this, ahem, little thing, landed on my doormat this week. April was manic to be honest, and May is not looking much better what with the Arts Trail, Sponge Tree, the Heritage Crafts Association’s conference, A Place for Craft, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a copy deadline for the Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, ongoing work for my events later in the year, my grown-up job, and now this and the inevitable shopping for a new frock it will entail. …And….And….Anyone else feeling light headed?……… I am trying to be good and not over do things, but I am just so happy and excited by everything at the moment it is quite hard to rein myself in.  Here’s hoping I am still here to post next time and not some dribbling wreck crouching in a corner. I will try not to leave it so long next time. x