Friday, May 27, 2016

Weaving, weaving, and more weaving

Tapestry weaving takes time.  Lots and lots of time!  Here's where I spend hours a day when I'm working on tapestry:

This tapestry is one I began back in November.  I wrote about it at this post and have mentioned it occasionally since then.   I have a self-imposed deadline of finishing it by early August so that I'll have time to do finishing work on it and prepare it for hanging in the next exhibit I'll be having.  That will be at Piedmont College in late September.

Finishing work takes hours--sometimes days, in fact.  Not as long as weaving the tapestry, especially when the tapestry is a large one like the oak leaf one is (at least, large for me).  When I'm working on finishing I spend lots of time doing this:

What I'm doing in the photo is using a curved needle to whip stitch the warp ends to the back of the tapestry.  I've already used a half-Damascus finish on them that causes them to lay at the back.  Before mounting the tapestry, I like to be sure the tails of the warp won't flip out and so do the whip stitch to group a few ends together about 3/4" away from the edge.  I use sewing thread and just nip into the back of the weft... don't want the thread to go through to the front.

Here's the small tapestry that I was working on there:

This photo was done before the warp ends were taken to the back.  The little tapestry is 3" wide by about 6.5" high.  It's at the framers now to be completed--I want to use it in the exhibit along with several other small ones that are also being framed.  By the way... all the dyes of the black walnut tapestry were dyed with black walnut hulls as I wrote about at this post--except for the darkest in the walnut.  Those dark browns were from a commercial dye.

I have a couple of other tapestries in process now, too.  I'm hoping to have these finished before the exhibit.  Here's one of those... it's going to be about 12" square.  It's another of the several that I'm doing based on paintings I made while at the Lillian Smith Center retreat last summer.

And my 2016 tapestry diary grows daily.  I've devoted the month of May to the black walnut tree's catkins--I have a few more days to finish it up!  For June I'm thinking I'll do the female flower from the tree.  I was able to take a few photos of several of those... quite small compared to the catkins but I've drawn one version and will do a couple more before committing to what I'll be weaving for next month.  I keep learning more about black walnut trees as the year progresses and I see more and more of the seasonal changes the tree at our house goes through.

Now... back to the loom!  Inches more to do today. 

OH!  The Penland Spring 2017 Concentration catalog is now published--just had the link to it in email.  Here's the link -- scroll down to textiles to see the description of the class that Bhakti Ziek and I will be collaborating to teach next spring.  


  1. If you want to get a really, really dark brown from walnut hulls, the easiest way is to add a pinch of iron sulfate to the bath (or mordant the yarns in a combination of alum along with a pinch of iron sulfate), and then leave the yarn in the bath (room temp is fine, no need to heat) for a few days. I know that walnut is considered a substantive dye, that is, one of those that need no mordant, but the mordant helps the yarn take up the dye more thoroughly.

  2. The easiest way to get a really dark brown from walnut hulls is to soak the hulls as long as possible, then either mordant the yarn with alum and a pinch of iron sulfate, or add the iron directly to the dye bath. Then let the bath sit for several days to a week, so the maximum amount of color is extracted onto the fiber. Most people think walnut is a substantive dye, that is, one that needs no mordant, but alum helps the fiber take up the color more thoroughly than unmordanted yarn can.

  3. Thanks for the hint, Sandra. Part of my dyeing was in an iron kettle but I didn't use any other mordant. I'm not sure if I have any of the alum that's needed as mordant around but will check. I did save a quart or two of the hulls in the freezer from those that I collected in Jan. But I'll be collecting them as they begin to fall this year and will do a bit more dyeing before finishing the tapestry diary of the year. I'd like to achieve some very dark browns from the black walnut and will try your suggestion.