So what’s new – the Navajo did it first

Four-selvedge weaving has been the way the Navajo have made their geometrically patterned chief’s blankets for a couple of hundred years – if not more.

The following Pinterest page clearly shows the looms set up with ancillary beams and supplementary warps:


My own attempt at setting up my modified Spears No 4 loom with supplementary warps collapsed. Current intention is – remodify loom to take account of the self-spacing nocks top and bottom – and thus avoid those annoying warp crossovers that can develop during warping, and set up for a hemmed interpretation of the light streaming into the Echidna Chasm.



Planning a four-selvedge tapestry

Having just completed my Savannah tapestry, I’m gearing up for the next effort.

I was intrigued a little while ago to come across Rebecca Mezoff’s detailed post on 4-selvedge weaving. The idea of no fringes and no turned-over hem is appealing.  Some years back my late sister found and gave me an old Spears No 4 loom – this was an English production of a stripped down rigid-heddle loom. I had modified it into an upright square tapestry loom – and now I added some height (to accomodate the upper supplementary warps) and put in some hooks so that the “jig” is part of the loom (though separate in Mezoff’s adaptation of Sarah Swett’s method.) This what it looks like:C14795D6-18B4-48C7-8450-794E445E2E3A

The idea is that the main warp is wound between the ‘top bar for main warp’ and ‘bottom bar for main warp’.

Two supplementary warps are wound, one interlocks the top of the main warp to the top tensioning bar, and the other, the bottom of the main warp to the very bottom bar.  The main warp bars are then removed one by one as tension is applied – and weaving can begin.

It seems finicky, but the extra time involved in setting up the supplementary warps is offset by the time it takes to weave and sew hems.

If one insists on the four selvedges, one is, of course, committed to the dimensions set by the placement of the removable bars, though one could compromise and finish short with a fringe or woven hem.

Savannah is very much about both the shapes and the colours of the northern outback.  I was also very much taken by the amazing colours in the Echidna Chasm at the north end of the Bungle Bungles. This is the image from there that will form the basis of the next one:


Planned size is about A3. I ‘ll be warping a Glenora 12/12 warp at 9 epi.

Now – interpretation. What is a ‘weaverly’ thing to do? Lots of lovely knobbly stuff in there  – do I add texture with pile techniques – or is that getting cheap thrills when I haven’t fully explored all that plain tabby can do? How geometric am I going to get? All is in the lap of the gods…

Usually I get through a piece this size in about three weeks, but I have the feeling that this is going to be a greater challenge for a longer time.

Practice on loom and on paper

With Cresside Collette at her intermediate workshop at the Australian Tapestry Workshop on 13 and 14 June:

I bit off a bit more than I could chew on this one – in my haste to get a full 20×15 cm done in two days I made a number of errors. There are several instances of jumped warps and I probably spent too much effort on the blue and green soumak ‘whip-lashes’. But overall I am pleased to have got some decent colour gradation going on, which was the focus of the workshop. Thanks, Cresside!

With Julie Mcenerny at her Watercolour Pencil Botanic Drawing workshop at the Cairns Botanic Gardens on 1 July:

Not quite A3 size, this drawing of jackfruit again a bit too large to let me get it to an adequate state in the five hours available – I had to skimp on the smaller fruit and the buds. Next time I’ve got to remember to keep the scale small.

Untutored life-drawing group meeting at James Cook University, 27 June:

Not really competition for Henry Moore!

Life-drawing group, 4 July:

Ok for a quickie.

A folded bean-stuffed heat bag – capturing the texture:

… with one eye on the TV!

Those Crazy Kuranda  Leaves – a study in tropical textures 

A mixture of soumak (i-open, ii – alternate closed and open with staggered rows), half-hitches over the next warp (giving the knot to the front), vertical wraps on two warps (essentially a sort of climbing open soumak), and loops. These are standard loops – i.e. they are supported  only by subsequent packing, and can be pulled  out from the rear. I’ve since realised one can lock them in by looping back under the previous warp. 

The plan is to have hems top and bottom, so no braids will show. Once off loom and all sewn down, the ideas is to cut the looped areas and have patches of tufted pile.

Softly, softly catchee Coptic

Assignment 1 Year 2 – copy a segment of historical tapestry in 20 cm x 20 cm.

I picked a bit of Coptic weave (Egyptian, 3rd or 4th century AD). The original full piece was itself only about 24 cm x 24 cm, and I am reproducing less than 1/4 of it. The original was at about 30 epi, and I have ‘blown up’ the image as it were and am working at about 8 epi. I got very discouraged early on – the images were distorting and the techniques were obscure.Have managed to get moving again – about 1/3 done as you  see:

little coptic people

Things to note:

1. The extremely tight warp sett (but not in my reproduction).

2. Warp of the original was probably linen.

3. All colours are pure – no mixed threads.

4.Extensive use of ‘flying shuttle’ technique.

5. Avoidance of long slits by frequent ‘dovetailing’.

6. But, paradoxically, frequent single warp wraps – which DO result in slits….

Still have quite a way to go – and will probably comment more later.

Failed Mountains to Sea – an object lesson in haste…

I have made two attempts at interpreting the Mountains to the Sea theme illustrated a couple of posts back, and both have failed: 

mountain mixed            mountain plain

On the left the mixed threads give a rich colour mixture – which loses all focus in the middle section and just leaves a confused impression. The flat cartoon-like quality on the right also fails in the centre section, both because of wrong colours being used and bad drawing of curves.  

A further  problem lies in the three shells being involved in an Escher-type optical illusion, in which the yellow shell areas are very ambiguous – are they outside or inside curves? – this ambiguity works (I think) in the original coloured drawing, but fails here. 

Also the colours for the recession of the mountains need correction.

I may try this again without benefit of Escher, and with only two, not three, shells.

Yes, it’s all a learning experience!

Warrnambool Tapestry Camp – summer 2013 (that’s January in Oz!)

We (my wife came down too for a week’s break) decided to use our seniors’ vouchers and get to Warrnambool by train and bus – and that would let my wife get to see the countryside for a change rather than concentrating on the road while she drives (I don’t drive – really). Flat basalt plain stretching westwards. Nobbly rocky chunks with stone strewn paddocks and hand-built  sharp edged stone walls. Ideas for compositions in sandy ochres and orangy reds…

I was surprised at the way Warrnambool seems to eat out a lot – at a number of very decent little cafes and restaurants like Figsellars, Images, Java, Logan’s, Brocky’s – it’s clearly no disadvantage to be in the country theses days!  The cafes were useful on the several days that it was both cold and rainy! And all roads lead down the hill to the Tafe College (Technical and Further Education) – which is a mix of preserved beautiful old buildings and the very new and refurbished:


Tapestry has just moved back into this central campus after a number of years’ ‘banishment’ to the Deakin University campus a at Sherwood, out of town. Not everything is fully set up yet – so dyeing will be deferred till later in the year.

It was great to meet tutors face to face for the first time – Cathy Hoffmann, Jude Stewart, Karen Richards and Sue Ferrari.  Cathy showed us a couple of her middle sized pieces including the Lake Mungo one (and in the library I found the brochure about her work on the Ballarat University tapestry).  Jude introduced us to the HUGE one of the bay that she worked on way back when – it’s hanging in the Lighthouse Theatre – and she also showed us the long historical strip tapestry she worked on, at Flagstaff Hill.

The four of them  presented, demonstrated and oversaw work on colour, drawing and mark-making ( this was a new area to me – mark-making – very great fun), history – and of course weaving:

Warrnambool weaving

As you can see, there was a variety of frames both wooden, metal, and combinations…

And then one met  fellow students. There were five first year, three second and two sixth – a good mix.  When you are face to face it is so easy to ask those little questions which seem to be too small to bother people with when you are away off-campus –  then when you do ask them it can lead into a discussion which illuminates several useful areas. And actually seeing how a professional does even little things – like holding the bobbin – and suddenly a light flashes!

As I noted before, we were doing a lot of other stuff than weaving, but even so all the first year seem to have done more than half of the first sampler – and none of their circles were squashed eggs. In second year, what with choosing the segment of historical wave we were going to do, making cartoons and warping up with 9 or even 6, we only got to doing most of the hem – we are hemming and not braiding.

The library catalogues and some material is available to us on-line, and the Tafe will send us books if we need them. Great.

A local wood-turner, Judith Sharrock makes and sells plain and brass-tipped bobbins (15 and 17 cm) for considerably less than one can get them in Melbourne!

All in all, this was a very rewarding experience and I look forward to the next one, even though it will probably be much shorter – a couple of days concentrating on dyeing.