Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Craig Gallery Tapestry Weaving Project 2011, part #1

Initial spark - this has been smoldering behind a screen somewhere in the grey matter between my ears for years. I first saw this when I visited with my husband's cousin about 10 years ago. It is a piece of wall from a church dated back to the 11th century. It was found in 1905 under an old house  being demolished and instead of just pulling it all down and loosing the story it could tell it was gently taken apart and then re-erected at the town museum in the town of Randers, where it was found.
I love the textures, the shapes, the flow of the bricks and the overall impression of this piece of wall.

In order to properly visualize the tapestry I had to make an initial cartoon. Due to the twists and turns of the brick work in the wall, I needed to clarify for myself where I wanted to go, disregarding colour, only looking at how the pattern and composition would flow, contemplating techniques and methods of weaving to facilitate how to make the piece emerge and develop on the loom.
Working on a cartoon like this does not mean that I stick to it all the way, it merely allows for an insight before the piece is begun of approximately where I would like to go.
The hurdle in tapestry weaving is that it takes a long time to weave a piece bit by bit, and since we go from bottom to top, one has to be pretty sure that the bottom part is right before getting to the top, because once there ...... the only way to make a correction further down is to take all the work out again, which is not very advisable or exciting.

Then I started spinning up a storm, visualizing yarns that would hopefully yield the texture and surface which floated around somewhere in my grey mass. I tried a few different techniques of spinning. I dyed several different wools in the same dye-bath. Since each sheep has a different fleece, just like we have different heads of hair, the different fleeces will take up colour in the same bath slightly differently. When spinning little tufts of this fleece or that, one can then make a slightly variegated yarn - this turned out to be a little too time consuming since I couldn't stop contemplating which red tuft to choose next.
So instead I spun the fleece au natural - washed but not dyed fleece and as I then proceeded to the dyebath, the overdyed yarns emerged with each their special tone and hue.
In order to save a bit of time I also made use of some wonderful tightly spun cones of wool I acquired some years ago. They are a natural white and plying two ends of these commercial singles with one end of my multi-coloured natural hand-spun yarn turned out to give a very round and beautiful yarn, just right for a good tapestry surface. 

Counting on the fact that the multi-coloured skeins would each have their own face of makeup to show off when they got out of the dye bath and were woven into the tapestry was a little bit of a leap of faith, one never really knows.

The skeins folded up to be able to fit in a box before I started the ball winding. The compacted surface of each one more easily interpreted when they were tighter and not so 'stringy' so to behold.


  1. Pia, your piece is truly stunning!! The description of your process gives us a glimpse into the amount of planning and work it takes to create a tapesty. As viewers we must not forget that you also raise your own animals and spend lots of time making sure they are safe, healthy, fed and sheared. Your creative focus from start to finish is truly astounding!! :)

  2. Thank you Angela, sometimes I think about that too, and the wonderous thing is, it really is a pleasure from start to finish, even when it seems to take forever and I start to get impatient.
    The sheep and lambs by the way are hoping for green pastures, I think they would be happy for that to happen in about minus three minutes =-)