Around a year after finishing my doctorate, I was in a coffee shop with one of my supervisors catching up and discussing my future. The coffee shop was part of the Dovecot Gallery and Tapestry Studio in Edinburgh, which just happened to be down the street from the Art History department, where my supervisor’s office was located. It was only my second or third time in the Dovecot, as it had been closed during most of my doctorate, and at that point I hadn’t had a chance to observe the studio from the viewing balcony, as I always missed the balcony’s open hours (which are very limited).
Inevitably, the discussion turned to tapestry, and my supervisor suggested I try my hand at it. I equivocated. Oh, no, I wasn’t a weaver–oh, no, the amount of labor required didn’t interest me–oh, no, I wasn’t sufficiently skilled in that area of fiber arts.
Well, we know that the bit about me not being a weaver is no longer true.
I made a point during that trip (or possibly the next–they’ve blended together) to return to the Dovecot during the viewing balcony’s open hours. There were at least six different looms in the hall (which had once been a swimming pool), and tables cover in balls of yarn, bobbins, and cones. A swift was attached to the side of an empty loom. Two people worked on one tapestry that was wider than my bedroom, while one person worked on a much smaller piece, hemmed in on each side by folding tables filled with yarn. Around the balcony, smaller tapestries and samples were hung up for observers to view. The ones I best remember were samples for the Large Tree Group Tapestry, which only used undyed wool. As a baby spinner at that point, the beauty of these samples struck in particular, caused entirely by embracing the natural colors of wool.
I tucked these away in the back of my mind. I allowed myself to be a weaver, but only on a rigid heddle loom — plain tabby weave was enough for me, thank you.
And then early last month I heard about the Tapestry Unlimited Blog Tour, organized by the American Tapestry Alliance. I’m always looking for new fiber blogs to read, like watching tutorials, and have lurked on the SAORI (freeform) weaving boards enough on Ravelry that I’ve been wanting to try something a bit more creative with my loom (first sign of danger!). Six weeks of blog posts on basic techniques for tapestry weaving? Why not! I signed up for reminders.
I discovered I actually had a good background in at least the theory of techniques from prowling Ravelry boards, but I hadn’t tried it yet. So, with the help from the first blog post, I jerry-rigged my rigid heddle loom for tapestry, and started weaving with a bunch of Cascade 220 I pulled from my stash (bought initially to knit Noni Flowers).
As I read through the blog posts, I found much of the theory I read clicking. Finally I understood ends per inch! That’s why you choose between clasped and unclasped weft! It was like reading about a country for years, and then finally visiting it. You knew everything about it, but now it made sense.
And thus, this happened.
The white background is courtesy of Snowzilla 2016 — I finished my tapestry on Saturday as the snow came down. It’s not bad for a first try, I think! The tension of my warp was definitely uneven, causing the warp to sag and slip around, which made weaving evenly very difficult (and gave me no hope at even edges). But for a first try — not bad! I tried irregular hatching, making shapes, stripes, and even weaving irregularly to create curves.
There’s one week left to the blog tour, but I highly recommend reading through it all (even if just for the pretty pictures):
If you are at all interested in tapestry weaving, I’d recommend checking them out right away, since each week two readers win one-year memberships to ATA (one of whom will also win a free entry for the work into the Tapestry Unlimited show in July/August).
Oh, didn’t I mention that bit? Well, guess who one the double prize in week two? (Er… it’s me. I won.)
…so I guess now I need to practice a lot of tapestry, and get something halfway decent to send off by March.
Yeah, I guess I was cheating a little when I made one of my 2016 goals to have a piece of work in a show — I already knew I had an entry into Tapestry Unlimited. That said, I didn’t find out until the last day of 2015, and I’d already written down in my own notes that I would really like to show at least one piece in 2016, finances permitting — this is just holding me to it!
That said, I am truly happy that I finally gave in to the inevitable and have tried tapestry weaving. I was struggling to find a platform for my other fiber arts, which are either amorphous or which I prefer to work on a smaller scale. Tapestry is a wonderful form in and of itself, but it is also a perfect background, base, and complement to the other textile arts. I’m extremely happy to bring it into my wheelhouse!
But let’s try and keep it to this, shall we? I really don’t need more hobbies.