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.

Hullo 2014!

People like me who didn’t heed the warnings and used to light up at every opportunity (I was even known to do a set of tai-chih with a cigarette dangling from my lips) – well, some of us got zapped in the end. COPD. Me, I tend to lose six to eight weeks every 18 months or two years – first a slight cough, then treat it at home, and then when that doesn’t work it’s often too late for my GP to do anything.  “This time,” she said, “we’ll do it with bells and sirens.” So the ambulance it was. Ten nights with the drips in… and then the long period coming down off the steroids (the ones that don’t let you sleep and turn you manic – the first time I had them I went out and bought six phones – but that’s another story.)  Impossible to concentrate or do anything constructive.

So EVERYTHING goes on hold.  No tapestry assignments, media posts, anything. And of course I still had an assignment to finish – so it’s been a rush to catch up so I can take the assignment down to tapestry ‘summer camp’ at Warrnambool in another week. The weaving was finished an hour ago, and now there  is the tidying the back, sewing slits, and the dreaded braiding. Anyway, here it is, still on the loom:


In the old days, some observant Jews would have a wall hanging on the eastern wall of a room (the wall that was turned towards Jerusalem.) These were called a mizrach – the word means ‘east’. There were several types of mizrach. The one I have made is called a shiviti, from the first word of its text. In some houses they were purely a traditional decoration (which still had some mystical power), and in others they were used as objects of meditation.

The weaving was very interesting to do – because of the lettering and also the long curves. My tapestry teacher at SWTafe said that lettering is usually woven on the side – and a second reason for the side weave was those curves…  The actual design is a bit obvious or banal (God’s name against a bckground of flame and lightning) and  the colour scheme is not particularly successful (looks better on screen than in real life). I did base the lettering on a  General Public License font that is royalty free. I learnt that next time the lettering must be measured out on the cartoon and marked on the warps with greater accuracy than I achieved in this effort.

Next post will hopefully have something about the ‘summer camp’ – signing off till then!

Underway at last

My “shiviti” piece which I posted the cartoon of in my last entry is at last underway – though it’s going to be submitted as a ‘small’ tapestry, it’s the biggest I’ve done so far – 18 x 24 inches, say 59 x 46 cm, 12/12 warp at 9 epi, unmixed yarn – knitting wools both natural and viscose:


So far, so good – apart from one  broken warp and probaly too much white!  Anyway, it’s going to keep me quite busy over the summer break.

Words after long silence

I seem to have got caught up in various local busynesses and family catastrophes lately and ignored the blog.  So – moving backwards – my current assignment is the last of the Drawing Techniques group, though being demented, I am doing it before the previous one, which is full-figure drawing. The final is to produce three designs of tapestries to be used as gifts for visiting diplomats(!), on  several Ozzie themes.

1 – Here is my take on the savannah:


This was   derived in steps by enhancing a photo and then pixellating part of it:




 2 The second design is The Reef – done straight as a drawing:


3 and finally – a floral theme – based on a drawing I have posted previously – the Kuranda Railway Station’s plants on steroids – but this time  without the steam engine!


These pieces still have a lot of work to do – they are to be presented framed, in a portfolio, with artist’s statements and a development trail of notes and preliminary sketches and drawings. Phew!


The last tapestry I completed  was for the so-called ‘Environmental tapestry’. assignment. Here again I used a drawing I had done in the north – this was about A5 size:

cl tropicana

 and translated into a tapestry of about 46 x 30 cm:



The last assignment for this year is completely open. I am planning my largest piece to date. It will be about 44 x 59 cm. Currently the loom is warped up, I have set leashes (also for the first time), and the floor and waste are in and the cartoon is marked up. This piece will let me work on letters for the first time too. The design is fairly bland – it is a meditative wall hanging called a ‘shiviti’ – with the lettering in Hebrew:


I am still considering the colour scheme – the legend says that the letters are written in ‘black fire’ – but I don’t know about that.

Enough for now!

If 3 horizontal is a triptych, what’s 4 vertical? – A Technical Sampler…

A black and white template was provided, with the sole colour stipulation being that the lines in the 2nd panel down be black. This assignment is to emphasise some problem areas:


I think these include  – getting slanting edges smooth  and straight (means having to vary the stepping), keeping curves curving, making sure that crossovers meet on the other side, keeping points pointy – while at the same time creating a harmonious colour composition. The end result is quite pleasing. Got some interesting calligraphic effects in that second panel down!

Mini tapestry major catastrophe

And this is what happened:


I’ll use the curate’s egg again  for this one – good in parts. However overall lacks focus, and is absurdly careless in some areas.

Errors include using varying yarn thicknesses without making warp corrections and  misjudging compatibility of textures ( not colours, but ‘finish’). The change in weft thickness resulted in my discovering the ‘swallowed warp’ phenomenon – anyone else found this one? – essentially, when the weft is too thick for the warps, an empty  warp between two adjacent colour blocks will get pushed backwards and vanish. I believe one can vary weft thicknesses by bunching warps together and then one could revert to the previous sett after a row of twining or soumak. Anyway, more thoughts on this later possibly.

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.