Weaving Sept 2011-2012

Their junk my treasure…

We were driving to have a cup of coffee when I saw wooden single bed abandoned on the nature strip. Those slats could be used for a loom, I thought. But on the way back from the cafe someone was actually in the act of taking the slats – but left the bed head and foot and two side beams. I lugged them home and turned them into this:

The dimensions of the open space are 85 cm (34 ins) wide and  80 cm (32 ins) deep – extendable to 112 cm (45 ins).

I am particularly please with the proper tensioning rods.

So no need for a schacht/ashford/gillimakra/mirrix!

November 16, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | 6 Comments » | Edit

More for topic 9

Kali, the symmetrical piece I have posted previously, is one of three pieces that   I wanted to attempt before the end of the year.  Two of them, Kali and Ascent,  seem quite successful, while the third leaves a lot to be desired…


In this first piece, ‘Ascent’, I was interested in working on slits and diagonals (twenty odd slits, I think), in the second, ‘Kali’, the focus is on symmetry , curves and textures (mixing tabby, half-hitches, soumak and clipped rya), and the third, ‘Tiffany’, based on Fibonacci ratios, explores colour mixes at quite high warp and weft densities and attempts to deal with the slits by dovetailing.

FromAscent, through Kali and to Tiffany  both warp and weft thicknesses decrease and woven density increases, Ascent is at about 6 epi (warp 12/18), Kali at about 10 (warp 12/12) and Tiffany at about 16 (warp 12/6). While there is a lot of 8 ply in Ascent with the mixed colour areas being plied together on a spindle with a Z twist, most of Tiffany is only three single colours layered together without twist. Those three colours are often a mix of wools and cottons. Kali makes a lot of use of mercerised cotton – to exploit the high gloss and ‘glow’ qualities.


I am most pleased with Kali (even though I find my choice of colours a little weird) , and I think both it and Ascent could be mounted with a quite wide cream coloured stock margin. They would be unglazed so that the ambient light can play with and highlight the textures. I can even visualise Ascent being successful on a larger scale.

At the time, I thought Ascent was reasonably easy to weave and hell to stitch! Working Kali, even though the design seemed complicated, was not all that hard.

 The most difficult turned out to be Tiffany:

– I had not anticipated how hard it is to keep track of what you are doing at a high warp density. I was working without leashes – I suspect that at much more than 12 epi leashes are essential unless one is to spend a very long time indeed at the loom. I enjoyed coming up with the design (the duller horizontal bands increase in width in approximately a 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 sequence, while the colours radiating from the lower apex of the internal lozenge are spaced at a 1 2 3 5 8 division of the 90 degree angle at the lower apex. It was fun to work out – but the execution, even though it is all tabby, was amazingly challenging. I think I had the tensions way too high and this, combined with my dovetailing the slits, might account for the distortion which effectively wrecks the piece.

November 12, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | Leave A Comment » | Edit

‘Kali’ – almost the last college assignment for the year!

Well, I made it to the end of the year… this is topic 9 – ‘a small tapestry’, yup, completely unspecified.

I wanted something symmetrical, with curves and texture – something glowing a bit. The design I doodled up looked a bit complex – but it seems to have worked. I had to mark up several times as the markings rubbed (even tho the pen is labelled ‘permanent’) – and both the cartoon and the actual weave changed as I got into the pattern and  the process unfolded.

This piece is 15 1/2 x 17 cm, a mix of wool and mercerised cotton, using plain tabby weave, half-hitches, soumak and rya. Here it is still on the loom – some patching up still to be done, and the loops in the white central rya button will be cut once it is off the loom to give a fuzzed texture.

Once it was finished it looked bit fierce to me, so I have called it ‘Kali’. And yes, the pink and light green colours are a bit weird!

If it was to hang, I’d have it side-lit so that the raised soumak bands would throw a little shadow for emphasis, and also to bounce more light off the mercerised cotton.

October 30, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | 5 Comments » | Edit

1st Year Tapestry – Topic 8 – a design commission

Proposal for a tapestry for the foyer of

the (imaginary) Multicultural Centre for Visual and performing Arts, Melbourne

The proposal is for a mixed-media approach, using traditional tapestry weaving techniques combined with macrame-cabling of wool skeins, wood carving and painting and ceramics. Size: 3 metres x 1 metre.

Explanation of the design:

The design is based on the notion of a warp-weighted loom, as one of the oldest, most ‘primitive’ and yet most sophisticated methods of weaving in the Western world. The seven vertical columns representb the warps, and each terminates in an enamelled ceramic weight. The columns are formed of cabled skeins of wool, loooped and braided.

The undulating top bar of the loom is made of carved mulga wood painted to represent the Rainbow Serpent of Australian Aboriginal mythology.

Hanging from the top bar are six woven double panels. The centre band dividing the panels represents the shed bar of the warp-weighted loom.

The eight central panels contrast two extremes in indigenous design (though both have their origin in sand painting). The four inner panels demonstrate the flowing harmonies of the Australian Aboriginal tradition, while the outer four show the jagged angularity and energy of the Navajo (Dine) weaving tradition.

The two outer bottom panels are symbolic of Jacquard cards and the modern transformation of weaving by mechanical and electronic techniques. The upper outer panels join our Australian national symbols to the Aboriginal ones.

October 17, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments » | Edit

Can one weave tapestry on an inkle loom?

Way back in March I posted a pic of a peculiar inkle loom I made at the beginning of the year – I call it the Drunk Loom, because it’s basically built on bits of an old wine rack… Unlike most inkle looms it is closed on both sides – and it is relatively wide (for an inkle), with a 20 cm (8 inch) maximum weaving width.

I wondered whether the shedding mechanism of an inkle loom would be useful in doing small tapestries – and have just warped and leashed the Drunk Loom for a width of about 14 1/2 centimetres (just under 6 inches):

It’s warped with 12/18 cotton seine (from Glenora) at 6 epi. The tension is certainly less than I would have got on one of my frames. The heddle is a continuous length of the warping cotton – about 4 metres worth.

I’ve already put in a cotton floor:

and we’ll see how we go!

In theory, with the continuous warp roll-on mechanism of the inkle, it should be possible to get just over a metre length of weave! I’ll be happy with 20 cm.

September 12, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments » | Edit

Over-optimism —> underestimate

I fairly grossly underestimated the time it would take to do the finishing off work on the “semi-abstract based on nature” piece, which ended up at 24 cm x 40 cm.

The back looked a bit like an underwater scene:

The piece had about a dozen quite long vertical slits – and these included jumped warps. The sewing therefore had to be done from the front, and I did this – with a curved needle – before removing the piece from the loom. I was surprised at how the sewing ‘sank’ into the wefts, and seemed (usually) invisible. Previously I had done the sewing off loom – it seems easier to do it on loom, with the piece tensioned up.

Once I had it off-loom I did some sewing down of the weft ends close to the edges, and then began the braiding. A  l.o.o.n.g  job, which requires attention to each braid to keep the tension tight. I then made a BIG boo-b00, and cut the south-end braids way too short. This may not really have mattered if I was going to mount the piece in a recessed board – but anyway, I attempted to remedy the situation by using a fusible hem strip over the sewn down shortened braids.  Not an elegant solution.

Once all that was done I gave the piece (covered, of course) a bit of treatment with a steam iron. Some chunks that I thought had a bit of buckling from too much weft packed in, seemed to settle down flat and the whole thing seemed pretty smooth.

Total finishing time – about 8 hours.

The texture of the finished piece is very rug-like – it feels quite thick.   There is some deviation from the original cartoon, and in the course of correcting errors  it grew in height by several centimetres…  but overall I am quite pleased with it.

September 9, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments » | Edit

Some frankly confusing figures culled from the internet on rates of tapestry weaving

Apart from the current discussion at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tapestryweaversoz/  I have gathered the following WILDLY VARIABLE FIGURES from the internet:


9. How long does it take to weave a tapestry? Tapestry weaving is labor intensive. This means that an image will take many months to design and weave, at the least, and a large piece can take many years. A skilled, professional tapestry weaver who works 35-40 hours a week at the loom, can weave about 1 square meter a month.  (say 450 sq cm pd). The rate of weaving varies considerably and depends upon how much detail is woven and the number of warps and wefts per centimeter.


MCG Tapestry Fact Sheet Who is the artist?  The artist is the celebrated illustrator Robert Ingpen.

How long did it take to weave?
Nine weavers worked for 10 months on the project. In terms of actual weaving time it would take one weaver 165 weeks (over three years) to weave the entire tapestry.

How long does it take to weave a single figure?
Depending on the complexity, it takes a skilled weaver at least four days to weave a single figure.

How many figures are there in the tapestry?
There are nearly 200 subjects depicted in 163 groups of figures.

How much yarn was used?
There are approximately 339,111 metres of yarn (including the ends) and as the yarn is three-ply there are 1,017 kilometres of individual thread.

What are the dimensions and weight of the tapestry?
The tapestry is seven metres long by two metres high and weighs approximately 42 kg.

7m x 2m – 165 weeks work  700cm x 200 cm = 140000

At 5 working days a week

165 x 5 = 825  170 sq cm per day




Erin M Riley  Interview by Felicity Helen Shaw  Intro by Felicity Ieraci

How long does each tapestry take to complete?My tapestries are mostly 36″ wide with varying heights, I have a job 4 days a week and sometimes make it to the studio afterwards but normally I can complete a tapestry in my three days off, spending 10-16 hours in the studio each day.

Say 13 hrs pd, 36” x 24” = app 410 sq cm pd


Why are tapestries so costly? Tapestry is a very time consuming process. On the whole, it takes hours to weave a square foot of tapestry. How long it takes depends on the amount of detail and the fineness or coarseness of the sett. The sett refers to the veritical threads through which the colored yarns are interwoven. The sett for contemporary tapestry usually ranges between 4 to 8 threads to the inch. For antique tapestries they were more in the range of 20 threads to the inch.

These days, so-called tapestries can be machine made. However, these machines are unable to produce the amount of color detail, variation and gradation that a genuinely hand made tapestry can achieve. Personally, a tapestry takes me approximately one week per square foot on average  (5 day week – say 720 sq cm pd). The sett is usually 6 threads to the inch. A great amount of detail can be achieved.

September 4, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | Leave A Comment » | Edit

Economics of Tapestry – a first take

I have now completed the SWTafe 1st Year 4th assignment: a 20 X 40 cm piece, being a semi-abstract design based on nature.

The work breakdown has been – design,and drawing – 2 days

Warping up and transferring cartoon to loom                  – 1 day

Actual weaving                                                                               – 8 .5 days

On and off-loom correction,  sewing & braiding estimated will take              –  1 .5days

So far, and excluding blocking, mounting and framing, which 1st year students are not required to do, the work will have taken a total of  13 days of 5 hours each.

On the weaving days the rate of weaving has been about 100 sq cm per day (say  a 10 x10 cm0, with one day jumping to 200 sq cm! square – actual measurements are 24 x 40 cm.

The final result still on loom:

I will be doing a post soon on estimates of weaving time I have found on the web – any input on this will be welcome.

September 4, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | 5 Comments » | Edit

Strike while the iron is hot? No. Weaver’s block.

My notion of ironing out  ripples has alarmed the good Marymac.  She remembers  ’that a teacher who is not a tapestry weaver, but is a weaver, taught us how to block our work and then steam it’.  She describes this at http://mary-marymac.blogspot.com.au/search?q=blocking+a+tapestry – and I must give this very serious consideration.  Thanks, Mary.

Surely there are  a whole series of repair and recovery techniques for errors on the loom, and I’d love to hear about them from anyone…

In the meantime, maybe I’m going into waay   too-oo much detail in this series – so a pause now till it’s finished.

August 31, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments » | Edit

Day 5 – maybe too much weft… rippling?

Much learning here. among other things:

1 –  in a slit there is double the normal weft thickness between the warps – so either draw wefts very tight (bringing danger of edge pull-in) or jump a warp – and have to sew over it, also with some pull-in

2 – laying in two or more yarns unplied, just as they come, will fill out the weave. Plying them, loosely or tightly, with say a spindle, will compress them considerably,  giving greater control but a less textured effect

3 – must plan colour changes ahead to avoid overhangs

4 – watch for 3D errors – for example, foliage placed in front when it shiould be behind!

5  – use that brass-point bobbin or heavy comb/beater to pack weft down well, else too much weft in the rows will lead to a ripple/bubble which won’t really iron out..

More soon.

August 29, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment » | Edit

Day 3

August 27, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | Leave A Comment » | Edit

Day 2

August 26, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | Leave A Comment » | Edit

It goes up, it goes down – Grendel renovated

Introducing the Leary Composite Loom (yes, Glennis I found an ironing board on the nature strip before a hard rubbish day!):

1. stool instead of chair with back – after I’d watched Archie Brennan sitting on his box

2. ironing board raises or lowers loom to comfortable working height.

3. small fluorescent daylight lamp allows evening working.

4. home-made spindle for plying different yarns together immediately.

5. Grendel himself has new arms for holding a leash-bar (tied navajo style) – though I am tending more to use a heddle stick (you can see it sitting in the open shed below the leash bar).

6. tensioning is quite crude – there is provision just above the projecting arms for a tensioning rod to sit at 4 different positions. To date I have not had to vary the tension on my, admittedly small scale, efforts.

7. my small frame ‘Tom Thumb’ is on the floor aginst the wall.

8. As seen next, Grendel is bolted to the ironing board, and is braced by the thick hemp cord to give some support against the forward force transmitted when beating down the wefts:

Marked up on the loom is the assignment described in my post “Not August but begun 1st Year Assignment 4″ 0f June 20th.:

and already there is unpicking to be done. The creamy section on the extreme right is done with two colours plied together (on the spindle),whereas the orangy-brown sections on the left (wefts hanging down) are with two colours just laid in together unplied. That has resulted in a too thick, bubbly area – it’s coming out and I shall have to ply the yarns.

More as work progresses.

August 25, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments » | Edit

The Abused Tapestry – completed at last

This is the end product for the ‘abused tapestry’ piece:

Now, the steps on the way:

The metal wire experiment failed (see previous posting on this). So, the wire having been successfully snipped out I decided to weave in two more bands additional to the original newsprint – one band of butchers paper and one of gift-wrapping paper.

I thought I would see if pliability would be improved if, instead of just dampening the butchers paper I soaked it in a dilute mixture of vinegar and hair conditioner (!) The gift-wrapping paper I would put in completely dry – so in total there would be three separate treatments of paper.

This gave the following results –


and back:

The vinegar/conditioner mix gave the butchers paper a very pulpy, fatty feel, and as with the newsprint, it was fairly easy to get full warp coverage. The dry wrapping paper, on the other hand, was quite resistant to pressure , had a harder feel and made for a more open weave.

I had decided to see if I could felt the paper. I placed the weave between two layers of soaked towelling and beat it with a 140 gm (5 ounce) hammer for a considerable period of time.  After that, I rolled the piece heavily a number of times with a heavy wooden kitchen rolling pin. The softest section, the butchers paper, merged well with the surrounds and spread a bit unpredictably. The hardest to move was the dry-woven wrapping paper. The total weave expanded to the sides considerably under the pressure – but the top and bottom acrylic double half-hitches didn’t move. I suppose I’d have got some movement had they been wool. The result was:

I placed the weave over a floor heating vent to dry – and found the result to be hard and stiff – I had invented cardboard! Hardly surprising – thick, dry, felted paper=cardboard. Next I trimmed it with scissors – it was just like cutting board:

I had also decided to see the effect of an improvised colouring agent. I had placed several slightly rusty nails in a diluted solution of white vinegar for several days to produce some home-made oxblood:

I neutralised the acetic acid by adding pinches of baking soda until frothing ceased and then I painted half of the weave with the solution:

This result is interesting but rather bland – a smooth, hard felted surface. More abuse needed –

so, aware that the whole thing might fall apart I s-cr-u-n-c-h-e-d  the weave up in my hand and squeezed. The final result is shown above – sort of crackling effect like on old ceramics…

August 18, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments » | Edit

Discoveries by the way – weaving leads to spinning (seems backwards…)

Playing with creating yarn/cording from newsprint and paper moved from finger-twirling to bobbin twirling to trying a spindle – made from CDs:

Take two Cds, one 12 inch length of  6 mm dowel, one 4.5 mm bolt, one screw eyelet and some construction adhesive. Lever eyelet open to form hook. Assemble and hold together with the adhesive. Cook in oven, 25 minutes at 150 – and presto – one low-whorl drop spindle.  Balances and rotates beautifully.

Weighs in at 50 gm or 1 3/4 ounces, which is apparently a bit on the light side.

Shall I become a hand-spinner?

August 18, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | Leave A Comment » | Edit

Nice notion – poor performance

The idea for the ‘beat me up’ part of the texture exercise was nice – a mixture of metal and paper.

Though in a previous post on textures I said that newsprint was too delicate and fell apart, I thought (provoked a little by Glennis’ efforts with paper in her shifu work) I’d try it again. Previously I had tried using individual  strips of newsprint, just as is after cutting. This time I cut long strips of The Age to a width of about 15 cm, and set them in pairs on a towel that had been soaked in cold water and then wrung out. Then the towel was folded over them and left for half an hour or so. I kind of rolled the paired strips between my fingers and wound them onto a standard bobbin as I rolled (in effect spinning, I suppose).  As I got towards the end of each paired strip I overlapped the next pair. I got a fair length onto the bobbin, and then laid the bobbin over a floor heating outlet to start the drying off. My fingers of course were black from the newsprint, and the paper ‘cording’ was, as you see, a varied grey.

Weaving was done very slowly – there were a couple of unanticipated breaks in the cord, but it seemed to work as long as the cording remained damp and more pliable…

I had planned to have a metal section separating two paper sections. The second paper section was to be of butchers paper, and the metal separation was brass picture hanging wire.

But  the performance, alas!  Because the metal is completely inelastic, compression to cover the warps and get a weft-faced weave seems to be impossible. Further,  at small measurements the material is very rigid making the edge turns hard to make and even harder to correct.  The individual strands of wire are prone to break if bent singly, and the danger of damage to the warps is high.The result was a too open mesh and a  dreadful pull-in:

I am now going to attempt to cut the metal out (using very fine snippers), and proceed with the butchers paper only.

August 14, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | Leave A Comment » | Edit

Catching Up

Have now well and truly settled back in after returning  from the warmth of the north.

A big hooroo and thank you to Dorothy C for letting me in to your forest retreat (and the Town Hall Bus Station studio!)

Am busy going through a mountain of mail, getting the dye bottles ready for the dyeing exercise and working out what I’m going to do for the ‘distressing’ exercise (also known as ‘beat up your weave’). I think I’m going to try using news print and sort of ‘felt’ it by soaking and pounding. Then perhaps stain it with tea and rusty nail water… (thanks for that idea, Glennis).

Have been remiss in keeping up with peoples’ posts – sorry. And because one has to keep snug in the winter, her’e a snug picture for you, and in particular for Vera, to whom also thanks for the interest and very useful references…

August 7, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments » | Edit

New blog name – weirdwefts.com

I’ve been wondering for some time about a more tapestry oriented name for my blog – and I think my last post hit it.  weirdwefts.com  is going to be the primary name, as soon as I get the name change bugs sorted out! – and in a little while I will also modify the heading banner from ‘Misha’s Place’. Old names will continue to function until this December.

Of course, the question is: What is weird?

The economist Nassim Taleb thought the idea of a bird like this was weird – but then he was wrong, wasn’t he –

July 30, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments » | Edit

Weird Wefts and Wonky Warps

This post describes the making of that part of the First Year Textures Exercise that uses  man-made materials not normally found in weaving.

We are currently on holiday in the tropical north, with lots of inspiration, both small:

and large:

But this exercise will not be using local colour – I did that with the plant material in the last piece.

I began with a collection of: 1 – plastic multi-coloured drinking straws, 2 – fine 9 lb fishing line, 3 – newsprint – general news pages and glossy magazine pages, 4 – thick brown paper bags, 5 – plastic shopping bags – 5a – the Myer store bags that are black on the outside and creamy inside, 5b – another silvery grey plastic bag, 6 – blue and white extruded polypropylene kitchen wipes from Coles, 7 – fine propylene tubing used for putting on fishing lines just above the hook (to stop the fish biting through the line), 8 – imitation metallic cooking pot scourers from Coles, and 9 – a pack of assorted elastic bands – I don’t know if they are rubber or a synthetic.

The straws and the fishing line turned out to be too inelastic and I couldn’t use them. The various newsprints tore too easily and couldn’t take the pressure (though I think that with greater care they could work). I worked with the rest of the list.

Seeing as this was a very open exercise – trying what would work, I began wondering about the warps. The manual makes it clear that one can vary the warps within one piece – I suppose this would include  changes in epi, in the thickness of the warp, its composition – even its colour.

I thought I wouldn’t be too adventurous with those, but instead I wondered about the ANGLE of the warps. With a normal warp one achieves a sloping band by stepping across the warps:

But what  if the diagonal was woven on actual diagonal warps? Perhaps one could lay down a band of diagonal warps over a  base of vertical ones – a sort of supplementary set.

That at once suggested that the wefts of the diagonal be woven at right angles to the supplementary warps, and therefore would not run horizontally – this is shown above.

There is now a further problem. If there is to be a horizontal border at top and bottom of the piece, or some other horizontal band below the diagonal, then the supplementary diagonal warps will have to pass BELOW the main warps in the area meant for the horizontal weave and ABOVE the main warps in the area where the diagonal will show – as below:

A final problem to be resolved is how to anchor the supplementary warps. They must be anchored both at the top and bottom, AND at  the sides where they meet the normal wefts. I did the side anchoring by ‘overlocking’ the horizontal wefts to the edge transverse warps, and half-hitching the tops and bottoms of the transverse warps. At the edges of the piece there will be double the number of warps where the diagonals end (diagonal plus normal). No matter what one does I suppose there will therefore be areas thicker than others. .

Here is Tom Thumb warped up with a band of diagonals and clearly showing the diagonals moving from behind the verticals to the front, and back again:

and this is the back view

as can be seen, the original warp up included some supplementary coloured vertical warps – however these were discarded as the weave progressed as being redundant.

This is the layout of the various weft materials:

This is the front view of the final result:

and this the back:

The two flexible rubbery materials – the fishing line protector and the elastic bands – both ballooned out alarmingly, and any serious use of them will have to be very carefully calibrated. I am quite taken with the glitzy kitchen scourer, but the most satisfactory result for me was the brown paper bag – gave a nice solid, crunchy feel…

July 27, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | 6 Comments » | Edit

Tropical Textures

We are having a longish break from bleak Melbourne in delightful FNQ (Far North Queensland) and it is true that I originally thought I wouldn’t be posting till we got back – but as things are happening in my weaving, I am attempting to keep this up to date.  It’s a little clumsy, doing stuff on a tiny 7 inch screen original Asus Eeepc ( with no mouse and with Linux Mint for the nerds out there) – but possible.

We may be on holiday – but assignment pressure is still there… so have decided to do as much as possible of the SWTafe First Year Textures Assignment while we are away. So the Autumn Leaves with Birds piece (which is currently marked up on my large non-transportable loom Grendel) is currently on the back-burner…

After much consideration of the sizes of suitcases, ease of packing, etc, finally settled on Tom Thumb as the frame I’d bring away – here he is, with a 30cm ruler to show his (fairly small) size (‘cos bigger ain’t always better):


When I first read the assignment requirements  it seemed a very demanding, complicated  chunk of work – and then there were pages and pages of illustrations of what seemed like terribly intricate techniques…

The Textures Assignment, as I read it, is in five parts –

1. using normal yarns demonstrate other techniques apart from basic tabby (simple under-over under-over) – this includes hitches,  soumak, rya and ghiordes knots, and various loops and wraps.

2. weave using also various non-yarns, being both

   a – natural things, like plant material including grasses, leaves, bark, etc, and, I

        suppose, animal fur and hair, skin, etc, and

   b – man-made items like…. paper, plastic, twines and lines,  wire, rubbery things –

        whatever takes your fancy, really, and then

3. weave using various materials and then ‘abuse’ the weave by burying it, boiling it,

   soaking it or staining it and observe the results, and finally

4. weave a final piece choosing methods from the previous exercises.

I decided I’d leave the ‘abusive’ exercise till we get home and I’ve got my normal work space and won’t be messing up holiday accomodation, so that means also leaving the final piece till then too. But even so, the remaining work seemed very, very daunting!

So far I have completed items 1 and 2a.

Much to my surprise the  Yarn Texture piece turned out to be a delight to do. There was no cartoon – I improvised as I went along, trying to create a balanced sort of design, both from the technique and the colour aspects.  My colour does tend to the bright , almost garish – but I like to think of it as fauve!

I just loved the resulting fuzzy and bubbly effects – this was really showing what fibre is about!  One can make knobbles and lumps, and then depending on the lighting there will be the effect of shadows and shading. Great!

Here it is:


Then I moved on to natural non-yarns. I stuck to plant materials – some of it dry and stable like paper-bark, but most of it was fresh and therefore ‘green’. I have no idea  how, or if, the materials will change as they age and dry out. Also, some of the stuff is fragile and will probably brush off the front of the weave –  will that improve it or wreck it? and what the heck will happen to it in the mail to and from Warrnambool — who knows. Part of the experiment, I suppose!

This was the approx 12 x 16 cm outcome, called ‘chaotic tropic‘ –



The first mistake I made was to have too many warp ends per centimetre (I misjudged the Coles made in China cotton string I was using). This meant that tabby weave wouldn’t work – the warps kept showing through. I could have re-warped – but where would the fun have been in that? By sticking with the setting I was forced to think a way around the problem – which was to use lots of hitches and wraps.

The next problem was that much of the material was inelastic – so couldn’t get it round every warp – and even if I could have, it would have stopped one seeing the texture of the material. So there are lots of skipped warps – both back and front.

Here is the back view:


Finishing off was a problem too. The piece was too fragile to work on from the back, so I decided to simplify the borders, leaving the bottom one as a fringe, and trying to just simply thread the top warps back into the weave from the front.

I didn’t like leaving the exposed warps plain, so added a bit of colour with oil pastel – again, I don’t know how this will last.

So now I’ve got the man-made materials piece yet to do – have been collecting stuff, so watch this space!

And hooroo from FNQ, and yes it’s true – beautiful one day, perfect the next…

July 7, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments » | Edit

About learning tapestry by correspondence

Someone a long way away emailed me to find out my thoughts about the SWTafe College course.

Some of what I told them might be useful for others wondering about learning in this way:

“As I think you know, I am very new at this – I joined the Diploma of Tapestry course given by the SouthWest Tafe late, in February of this year.I have only completed three assigned pieces of work (and now planning the fourth). I have also done three pieces of work in addition to the assignments, so have in total six things that qualify technically as tapestry – and all of them are small – not more than about 8 x 6 inches or so each. You will have seen from the pictures that my colour sense isn’t that great, that I’m not yet using the recommended ply in my yarns, and that I probably rush things too much.All that being said – what about the course itself? I think you will have downloaded the course descriptions on line, so I won’t describe the content.The course is delivered by ‘snail mail’ – they send you large softcover A4 size manuals which are pretty comprehensive in their content – so far I have received two – one on weaving and one on dyeing. They seem as comprehensive as the books you can get such as Kirsten Glassbrook’s text – except they are not glossy hardbound. They cover everything from setting up a simple frame loom to advanced knotting techniques, mounting, colour theory and so on.One is able to consult tutors by phone (may take a bit of time to get that set up – they are not always available) – or by email. Face to face contact is possible twice a year – they have ‘camps’ of several days on campus in July and January and people do come from quite far afield – but I suppose that some don’t ever go… I have not been on one yet, but hope to get to the next January one.There is a an online Yahoo Group set up by ex-students (tapestryweaversoz), and I get the impression that though there may be only about twenty or so regular contributors, there are many, many more ‘lurkers’ listening in regularly! The contributors to this group are not all Australian, many of them are formidable weavers,and their generosity in giving of their expertise is quite amazing.

For some people this is the only other point of contact apart from the tutors at the college. If you look at Michelle’s blog  (see link on my blog) and browse through her Tapestry posts, you will find some comments on how it feels to be relatively isolated from other students. A number of the students live way out in the boondocks and some of them make it to the July/January meets.

I am lucky in that there is a local Hand Weavers and Spnners Guild, and some current and ex-tapestry -students have organised a monthly afternoon get-together at their premises. That certainly helps to keep the momentum going. It’s great to have the chance of talking face to face with people one has met on line.

A number of students and ex-students have their own blogs and websites – and often  post very valuable material. Useful discussion also goes on at the Ravelry and Weavolution websites.

Once I had got this weaving bug, there was not much choice of courses available. A local face-to-face diploma had existed, but closed down. Some students transferred to the  SWTafe course and some continued on their own and kept contact through the monthly meeting at the guild. Other supports are, for instance, exhibitions of tapestry and the opportunity to listen to or ask questions of exhibitors on opening nights. And one must try and take advantage of all such opportunities – and of short workshops and so forth as they arise.

All the talk and contact of course takes away from the time spent on actual weaving – and it’s the weaving that is the core. Somewhat like writing, by its very nature it is a solitary activity – a very slow, very focussed, almost meditative process. So slow that you want to be sure that the design is worth implementing – so a lot of preparatory planning and mulling over.

Sorry to be so long-winded… if you really want to do this, it seems  to me that there is always a way, whether re-inventing the wheel completely on one’s own, using books, cruising the websites like the American Tapestry Association and the British Guild, or enrolling in this course I’m doing!”

And then ideas – why they are all around – everything seems to be weaving!

June 24, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | Leave A Comment » | Edit

Not August but begun 1st Year Assignment 4


This is the plan for the 1st year 4th assignment for the Diploma of Tapestry at the SouthWest Tafe College in Victoria Australia. The design specification is for one to design and weave a piece 20 X 40 cm being a semi-abstract design based on nature.

At time of posting the design has been transferred to cartoon and marked up from the cartoon onto the warps (12/18 cotton at 8 epi).

The design was begun on paper, then transferred to computer and worked on in mtpaint using a Wacom Graphire tablet. On completion it was dragged into the winstitch demo program,  worked on in picasa and  enlarged from that to cartoon size. This is the  image shown here.

Actual weaving won’t start till 2nd or 3rd August. Completion hopefully in three weeks from then… that will be pretty full-on full time weaving to get it done on time!

Later I hope to describe the design process in more detail.

June 20, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | Leave A Comment » | Edit


This blog is now going on hold till August 2012!

See you all later…    

Use this hand-woven hideaway  here while waiting –

May 29, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | Leave A Comment » | Edit

“hand-woven, weft-faced fabric with discontinuous wefts”

So maybe this just fits into the formal description:

done on these:


weaving sticks (six of them) improvised of course from my favourite material – Japanese wooden chopsticks, with the squared-off end cut off, and the pointy ends tapered more and rounded off.

Just an experiment on a rainy day (not every autumn day is golden). 

May 25, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | Leave A Comment » | Edit

Completed: Melbourne Autumn – an impromptu


I overdosed on Sylvia Heyden – and then went and scrunched the autumn leaves. This is the scrunch and the colour. 9 x 16 cm.

The central band is rows of rya, woven and then cut, the rows separated by a full pass of black cotton.

Who is Sylvia – what is she that all tapestry weavers adore her?  See Debbie Herd’s  post of 22 May – and get the book and DVD! A tapestry is NOT a painting or a photo. It has its own rules and rhythms. If  I can implement some of Sylvia Heyden’s ideas I’d be very happy. But I have a very very long way to go on the learning trail.

May 23, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments » | Edit

Moving on to the next assignment

Well, the Colour Sampler has gone to Warrnambool by snail mail, and I am thinking about a design for the second ‘small tapestry of your own design – an abstract based on landscape’. We are going to FNQ (come on you lot – far north Queensland of course), and there is a friendly adolescent salt water croc in a little creek on the walking path from Clifton Beach to Palm Cove:


But then, perhaps that’s a bit of a cliche. Maybe the heron in the same pool – or the crabs in the mud at the edge could form the basis for some sort of patterning…



Or something entirely different –

wood textures

But in the meantime, I have been to see Joy Smith’s exhibition of her small scale tapestries at the Hawthorn Gallery (if you walk towards it from Glenferrie Road don’t be alarmed at suddenly seeing a full sized aeroplane almost on the pavement on your left!!).

She does, on the one hand, little whimsicalities of repeated images of ducks or puppies, and on the other, detailed studies of unexpected objects – an oscilloscope or a tradesman’s work belt loaded with tools.

I stood in front of the oscilloscope, which has severalf panels next to the display  screen – and realised that the boundaries between the panels were indicated, not by a woven line of some sort, but by nothing. By the slit between two blocks. It never occurred to me that slits could be used in that way.

Looking at the sidchrome toolbox I said (to myself) ‘how does she do that, it’s impossible’. There were some incredibly fine vertical lines. Which I worked out were done easily enough if you worked the weaving on it’s side – and I could then see she had done that as shown both by the braiding finish and, of course, by the ribbing effect on the warp.

 She’ll be giving a talk at the gallery on Saturday, and I hope to be there.

 In the meantime I’ve put Grendel, the big loom, away,

Out walking was having fun scrunching the autumn leaves. It’s one of those colourful May’s in Melbourne, and I wondered if I could capture any of it as a tapestry. So out came Tom Thumb, my very small frame – and here is the start of Melbourne Autumn. It’s an impromtu, and I really have no fixed plan. But I thought I’d get the leaf scrunch by trying a bit of rya –


May 21, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | Leave A Comment » | Edit

Phew! That took a long time!

The sampler, that is. Yes, the 1st year colour sampler is now completed on the loom –  


Click for larger versions  showing all the appalling detail.

Finishing off work (trimming, sewing slits, sewing down ends, and braiding still to be done).

The pull in is obvious. The second gross problem is that of keeping things level. Difficulties arise here from two sources:

1. When half-hitching a new bobbin in, there is a slight increase in height at that point,

2. When using different yarns in the same pick the yarns weights have tended often not to be equal, and the pick sort of tilts up or down a bit.

The yarn weights vary enormously in different parts of the sampler.

I did most of the work in the small areas using plastic tapestry needles and not full size bobbins. This probably slowed things down a lot – as did the fact that I did not use leashes on the back warps, but lifted them by hand (well, finger, really!).

In  really  generous postings by some brilliant weavers on the TapestryWeaversOz discussion board, a number of very helpful technical suggestions have been made which I will implement in future. I thank those artists for their encouragement.

May 15, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | Leave A Comment » | Edit

What Ply’s the Right Ply

 Been looking at my so-called “mixed threads” – and they just won’t do. And clearly that’s because I’m using 8 and 4 ply quite thick acrylics and wools. Should have got a bunch of 2 ply cones from the Australian Tapestry Workshop…

So now I am planning to spend a couple of days untwining some of my thicker yarns, and winding the reduced ply onto more of my Japanese chopstick bobbins!

For the next few days actual weaving goes on hold.

And then – on with Colour Sampler.

Ah, colour. How it DOES splash.

May 7, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | Leave A Comment » | Edit


SW Tafe 1st Yr Colour Sampler – exercises 1-6 of 11

This the current state of the sampler:

It’s starting to pull in badly – lack of attention on my part.

May 6, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | Leave A Comment » | Edit

Second attempt at Small Tapestry before moving on to First 3 Colour Sampler Tasks

 I did make a second attempt at the small tapestry – which I think bombed. Here is the initial design and  cartoon:





And the final result on the loom, which has turned out to have lost the simplicity of the original design, is cluttered in places, too complex in others and , well – it just doesn’t cut it:

I was just in too much of a hurry.

I am now working on the Colour Sampler.

First, the cartoon:

and the initial steps on the loom:

I have added an “introduction” – the rainbow.

And have completed the first exercise – monochrome with three tints and a little bit of mixed thread.

three done – from the bottom:

an introductory rainbow

1. monochrome – in green

2. analogous colours – red moving to red violet

3. complemetaries – yellow-violet

I overlapped 2 and 3.

Looks rather weird to me! Ah, well. Continue undaunted.

And here it is:


Be the first to like this.

This entry was posted on April 25, 2012. It was filed under Uncategorized . Edit this entry.

Second attempt at Small Tapestry before moving on to First 3 Colour Sampler Tasks

 I did make a second attempt at the small tapestry – which I think bombed. Here is the initial design and  cartoon:





And the final result on the loom, which has turned out to have lost the simplicity of the original design, is cluttered in places, too complex in others and , well – it just doesn’t cut it:

I was just in too much of a hurry.

I am now working on the Colour Sampler.

First, the cartoon:

and the initial steps on the loom:

I have added an “introduction” – the rainbow.

And have completed the first exercise – monochrome with three tints and a little bit of mixed thread.

three done – from the bottom:

an introductory rainbow

1. monochrome – in green

2. analogous colours – red moving to red violet

3. complemetaries – yellow-violet

I overlapped 2 and 3.

Looks rather weird to me! Ah, well. Continue undaunted.

And here it is:


April 25, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | Leave A Comment »Edit

Finished Small Tapestry!

Because I anticipate a period of time away from Grendel (my big loom) I have been trying to get ahead with my assignments for the tapestry course.

At first, I was unhappy with my attempt at the “Own design small taperstry assignment”:



 but now I quite like it. 

April 21, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | Leave A Comment »Edit

Thoughts that came up doing the 2nd assignment (see the finished first attempt in previous post below) –

First, about the design process – the kick-off exercises given to stimulate possible ideas (several structured doodles) definitely helped to suggest significant patterns. It was useful to do several ‘cut and pastes’ on the small drawings I made. I picked one idea, and then it began transforming itself (it did it, not me! – that’s how it felt). Small changes came, one at a time. The process was like nothing so much as working on a poem, where, excruciatingly slowly, one word has to be changed, that demands a small change somewhere else, etc, over a number of iterations.

The initial design changes were simplifications – leaving an item out, or replacing it with a simpler version. The final change was just a change in angle of the central object – but that felt like the major effect which somehow gave life to the whole idea.

My notion was to move through two sets of colour gradations. Only during the actual weaving did I think of bringing the colours together at the top of the weave. I am not satisfied with the result – my colour blending technique was very primitive (in a negative sense), and not smooth.

Moving from design to execution a whole different set of experiences came up -mainly technical incompetence ! I didn’t know how to make a vertical line (yet I framed the piece with lines top and bottom) – and finally did columns of half-hitches, which slipped and wobbled round the warp, bulging unevenly…

And never,never weave a piece overhanging an empty space – even by only one warp.  You won’t be able to force a bobbin into the empty space, and will have to escape either by using the weft on a needle, or doing a Penelope and undoing the overhang.

I wanted to get a pointillist effect with the colours and failed, and was often frustrated by the colour sequences getting out of alignment, particularly when the pick in one colour changed length.

Unlike on the other objects, the dark-green outlining is not completed on the central object – and I feel that this lends a certain tension to the piece – one expects it to be complete, but it isn’t. I think that’s a positive.

Overall I am pleased with the result while recognising its faults. I am happy that the colours seem to work even though they are a bit brash. But I intend to attempt another one for this assignment.


… but some things still look good backwards and sideways:

March 26, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | Leave A Comment »Edit

First stab at 2nd assignment for SWTafe – a small tapestry of one’s own design, utilising techniques learnt in the Basic Sampler.

Well, of course that last post was NOT the last take on the idea. The designprocess continued, with the final draft being inked onto my small loom Gimli (younger brother to the larger Grendel):

I thought a smaller loom would be easier to work on for a small piece. I was wrong. The problem is the height at which the current weaving line is in relation to one’s body. On this smaller loom it starts out a little too low for comfort – I sat on a low stool.

The cartoon got transferred to the warps:

and  here you see the front and back at an early stage. The back shows that I’ve floated wefts over quite a large area of colour – it gives a little cushioning (!) that I hope won’t be a problem in mounting.




March 25, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | Leave A Comment »Edit

Last take on first idea

Ok, can’t leave it alone can I?

Here is the final draft of idea 1. If I get it on the loom it will, I suppose change yet again – but that’s a different process.

March 18, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | Leave A Comment »Edit


Designing 2nd assignment SWTafe Tapestry Diploma – the saga continues…

Continuing the story at the Tapestry & Weaving tab ( up above on the right), perhaps a rearrangement of items against a simplified backdrop would get somewhere:


Hmm. I like the black and white sketch, and I like the rather blatant background flow of colour – but the central objects are not integrated into a coherent pattern. I think I abandon this particular idea!

This where I will post about me and weaving and tapestry – how I got interested and the steps on the learning journey. Also, of course,  my involvement with others in the field. It’s going to takea little time to get this going and to collect scraps I have spread across several computers and websites – but it’ll get done.

Tuesday, 13th March, 2012:

Duty 1 – pay Visa card. Late again. Hmmn.

Duty 2 – think about 2nd assignment – a small tapestry… vague, huh? Read manual.  Think. Do exercises:

doodle madly

cut and shuffle

perhaps this one?

play with this one…

perhaps this might work:


better give it some colour

now it’s time to brood, think, consult and let it simmer…

Brighter maybe:

bright gumnuts

No. Pretty but difficult. My wife says: too complicated. You’re not listening to what Linda Whitefeather said – keep it simple (see quote from Linda on the Comments page).

So take out a couple of elements and reverse something:

get rid  of the  ripples:

side ripples gone

How does it look in colour?

colours still in blocks

or perhaps a little freer?

flowing background…

No. Could be interesting as a painting, but not yet a tapestry cartoon. Best sleep on it.

Monday, 12th March, 2012  My Small Looms: Over the last few months I experimented with a number of small looms. I browsed the web for ideas, using search terms like ‘trilooms’, triangular looms’, ‘hand looms’, ‘weave-it’ and ‘loomette’. 

I found the very informative Ravelry website and associated groups, and got a lot of information from Jana Trent’s great site at http://www.eloomanation.com/ .  Caroline Alexander’s site at http://kero1au.tripod.com,  and Wayne Schmidt’s at http://www.waynesthisandthat.com/triloom2.htm were also goldmines. Barbara Herdman is the full bottle on triangular looms, while the inspirational Noreen Crone-Findlay (google her – she has a couple of sites) shows how one can do remarkable work on small looms, and combine disparate techniques into an integrated whole.

As a result of all this I built a number of small items.

After that I discovered the Handweavers and Spinners Guild here in Melbourne and attended a one day session on weave-its and one on inkle looms. Naturally I couldn’t resist trying to build an inkle or two. Here are a few of the small looms and inkles:

1st op shop loom and a small tri-loom

3 inch per side hexagonal loom

4 1/2 inch weave-it style loom – a two-dollar shop chopping block

cardboard (yes) inkle loom

drunk loom – cells from an old wine bottle rack

Director’s Inkle – the arms from a folding picnic chair

and a small selection of weaves done on them:

a rather plump hex


off the triloom

inkle strap

mixed yarn on weavette

rosette of hexes



Friday, 9th March, 2012:

My first hand loom arrived about last October  in the form of a picture frame bought at a Salvos op shop

for a couple of dollars. It  was not quite a square, a bit over 4 by about 4 1/2 inches. I treated it for a severe iron deficiency (using 5/16 inch brads), gave it a hook culled from a coathanger and attempted a continuous weave on the bias:





which, as you see, was a little wonky!

And from there it was only a short move to a 17 inch picture frame:

Wednesday, 7th March, 2012  The last steps on the loom are now done for the Basic Sampler – the first assignment of the Tapestry Diploma course. Here are the last two pics of the front:

Almost done….


and DONE:

Now I have to sew the slits, get it off the loom and tidy up the back – which in fact is rather a pretty artefact in itself – 

There will be (I hope) a final pic of the piece with plaited borders top and bottom.

Monday, 5th March, 2012  I’ve had a pleasing response to my sampler – really appreciated.  The yarns I’m using were accumulated in a bit of a rush, without much thought as to their quality or differences in ply, thickness, texture and ‘fluffiness’, or their origin – natural wool and cotton or acrylic, If it seemed a bargain at Lincraft or Spotlight I got it (did get a little at the Button Shop in Glenferrie Rd).

This was before I had any thought about doing tapestry. I was at that stage weaving only on small handlooms like the old weave-its (my home made versions), triangular continuous weave looms, or the Martha Stewart Knit-and -Weave set. Also a bit of inkle work. I intend posting pics of the looms and some work done on them in a little while.

I was so eager to get into that stuff that I just rushed out in a buying spree before doing any research into the matter. Discrimination is coming, I hope,  but slowly!

So in answer to that question, Glennis, most of it is 8 ply acrylic or acrylic crepe, with some cottons and at this stage very little wool. The colours I guess are almost 100% manufactured dyes. Give me time…I also got several ‘silly’ yarns – bobbly things and mixed colours! 

Sunday, 4th March, 2012. But first, for Christine – and anyone else who is interested, here is my loom Grendel, version 1. He is clamped to a little old table we have had lying around for years, and is warped up with 12/18 cotton. Next he is shown with his new leash bar and leashes in place – using the same warp cotton. I put the leashes on because doing the first few rows was a real pain in the neck grabbing each back warp and pulling it through! The problem was made worse because my open shed is VERY wide – 4 cm at the top! 

The leash bar and tension bar were cut from a plastic-sheathed metal curtain rod that had seen better days. Grendel’s body was put together from the timber housing of a disused spa pump. The wood has been outside for twenty years, but has taken the weathering well…













And now – the current state of my First Sampler:

Perhaps I should explain what this is.

I have recently enrolled in a tapestry weaving diploma course auspiced by by the SWTAFE (South-west College of Technical and Further Education) in Warrnambool, western Victoria. This an off-campus course, delivered by mail. But serious stuff.

The first assignment is a sampler demonstrating several elementary techniques, plus a little landscape using those techniques. I have completed the first chunk, leaving the landscape still to come.

March 17, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | Leave A Comment »Edit

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