The Hind at the Meeting of Night and Day

12 x 14.5 inches, 8 epi. Undyed wool, 4 strands.

Even tho’ all one colour, at one stage 10 bobbins were dangling!

Clearly only an apprentice piece with lots of egregious errors – but a hell of a learning experience with sumac, chaining, twining and pseudo-twill all jumbled up together. But, ah, the texture!!!



The cutting off of Imants Tillers’s “Avenue of Honour”

It was a privilege to be present this morning at the formal cutting off of the huge tapestry “Avenue of Honour”, designed by Imants Tillers for the Canberra War Museum, and woven by the weavers of the Australian Tapestry Workshop. Weaving commenced last October, and had to be completed for installation for this Anzac Day, April 25th.

Imants Tillers in front of the tapestry still mounted on the loom:

avenue on loom

 Drs Hanbury and Brendan Nelson wielding the scissors:

the cutting off The tapestry laid out:

avenue laid out

A Matter of Design

Warping the loom is a very formal process, as is putting in the floor, adding the ‘waste’ (if you do that) and ‘casting on’ with either double half-hitches or a fold-over hem. And the weaving itself is going to be a slow, painstaking process needing constant vigilance and concentration.  It is not surprising, then, that few of us will proceed to extemporise on the loom without guidance of a plan or cartoon. Unless one is doing small incremental  units for a journal a la Janette Meetze or has the confidence of a Sylvia Heydon a plan is inevitable. Yes, in the course of the work there are often slight deviations or sudden inspirations for small additions – but I have found that these always must be able to be accomodated within the original framework.


It is not surprising then that the schools put such an emphasis on the design process preceding the physical approach to the loom. And it too can be a long process.

One exercise we had was to look at an environment both familiar and pleasing to us, indoor or outdoor, and to come up with a set of symbols representative of that environment – and then use those to produce four possible designs to weave.  I have always been drawn to the strip parks and creeks that we have here in Melbourne – the secret intrusion of the wild that has been allowed to remain, not out of any regard for its aesthetic value, but because it was ‘unuseable’ – flood-prone, marshy or too steep. Now of course, these hidden places are often torn apart by freeways, bounded by high walls constricting and imprisoning the secret places even more. The following sequence shows the development of my designs on this theme  from the quite illustrative to the more abstract.





I won’t labour the meanings embedded – I don’t think one should read the plaque next to the exhibited object for anything more than  the title, date,  name of author and the medium!


A second lengthy and fun design exercise I call

   A      FUNNY      THING      HAPPENED      ON     THE      WAY      TO      THE      FORUM

We had to think of a strange or funny or embarrassing or striking event that had happened to either us or a friend and use that as a basis for a design.

Once in hospital I got severe hallucinations after a dose of Stillnox:


This in itself is a comic cartoon rather than a tapestry cartoon – but the verticals of the drip-stands and the ballooning bladders of gunk hanging from them could perhaps give something:

stillnox dream2


On another occasion after waiting for two hours for an ordered dinner to arrive at a country hotel I was so hungry that I ate the carnations in the vases on the tables:


dinner flower.2jpg


On Rarotonga once we crossed the island by walking the track over the extinct  volcano, went canoeing in the lagoon and almost got washed out to sea, where we would not have been able to emulate the Maori canoes which left seven hundred years earlier for New Zealand and which I picture here:

canoes in surf2


And finally, there was a time when winter came early. Once we were in Marysville when it snowed in the first week of April. My fine leather boots got soaked and my wife tried to dry them in front of the cabin’s log fire – cooked boots (after which I graduated gratefully to modern, light, Katmandu type boots.) I  also happened to be reading Freud on infant sexuality – so here are images of boots and forbidden bodily parts in a design attempt to be true to the pixellation of tapestry – no curves and no verticals.

burnt boots 2



Now the question which all of this raises in my mind is – when does one look at the design and say – well, that’s not a tapestry, it’s a painting. Or can it become both?


Sevilliana – sketching fast and loose

They don’t really do our coffee in Spain. You seem to have to choose between cafe con leche (nothing like a latte – a bit yuck actually), cappucino (a small cafe con leche with a big dollop of cream) and a cortado (a short black with a small shot of milk) – probably the best choice!

So, in the morning one checks the weather from the balcony:


and heads out for the first cortado of the day:


before heading into one of the local ancient attractions:


 One can have too much of Moorish tiles, so after a while one can wander into the gardens, where the fountains bear strange decorations:


All that clearly calls for another cortado – and all that walking and the scent of the orange trees has thrown one off balance (or is the fountain really like that?):


The scent of these oranges is everywhere in the old city – but they are quite inedible, the raw taste being extraordinarily bitter. But they are apparently excellent for use in marmalade.

But back indo0rs – the old hospital for the care of the sick elderly, now houses a great little Velasquez collection,  and a marvelously decorated church. We caught it just as the organist was doing some practice for Holy Week:


After which, of course, another cortado:


Evening – so flamenco. Not allowed to photograph during performances, which are often on tiny stages. This is a really small one:



And after the performance – a cortado!


A bit bustly in the evenings! So at last one creeps home through  the courtyard gate:



Err..  hmm.. but who can resist a last cortado? Caffeine? Who sleeps here anyway?









Two Questions about the Warp-Weighted Loom

Before you read the whole of this post please note that my main question – cannot one weave from the bottom up on a warp-weighted loom – has been answered in the affirmative. Debbie Herd has provided this link:  which is to a clip of Kristin Saeterdal doing just that on a modern loom built for that purpose.

The  accounts that I have seen of the warp-weighted loom describe the weaving being done from the top down, and depict this with illustrations from Greek friezes and pottery.

My crude drawing of this:

img137 An advantage of  warp-weighting over winding round the weft beam is cited as being an even distribution of tension across the weave.

The obvious disadvantages are

a. the difficulty of beating upwards as compared with downwards, and

b. the limitation imposed on the length of the weave.

Question 1: has anyone noticed, on a  normal frame,  a real  tension problem across the weave? I know that the first few warps on either side can be noticeably slacker than the central ones – but has it been an actual problem for the end product?

Question 2: Why cannot one weave from the bottom up on a warp-weighted loom – with a very slight modification?

img138 All that has happened here is that instead of being tied to the top beam, the warps are carried over the top beam and across to a second top beam on a second set of pillars and tied to a weft beam below that second top beam – and now one can weave from the bottom up. The second pillars and top beam in the diagram are of course purely there for illustration of the principle. They are in fact redundant because the warps can simply run up and over the top beam and then come straight down to a lower weft beam on the same pillars.

Reading Maria Brekke Koppen’s ‘Norwegian Tapestry Weaving’ I find on pages 90-92 explicit instructions on tensioning the warp with weights, and with some close-up illustrations but none of a whole loom set up in this way.However it appears that such methods are in use currently at least in Scandinavia – and perhaps therefore in the US – say in Wisconsin?? 

Any comments or information on this, anyone?