Friday, January 1, 2016

How long did it take you to do that?

A year.

Easy answer to a question I frequently get if showing my work when a tapestry diary is among them.  Tapestry weaving takes a bit of time no matter what size or complexity.  But when there’s a self-imposed limit to the time to do the weaving—as there is in the daily practice I call Tapestry Diary—it easy to say how long it took to do it.  A year to do the weaving and then sometimes many more months to finish it, working on it occasionally to tidy weft ends at the back and to do the mounting for it.

My first foray into doing a daily bit was in 2008.  I decided to commit myself to a month of time, taking an idea I’d had for awhile and making it a reality.  I wanted to begin with few plans and weave a small area of tapestry each day within a set time frame.  As I started the adventure, I made some “rules” for myself.  I didn’t want to have an image to weave but I did want to have some sort of direction.  One of my rules was that I’d dig through my bins of past wefts and use only from those yarns, not get anything from unused skeins.  Another thought was that I’d mark the date in some simple way by using the structure of tapestry technique as my means. 

I set up a loom with sufficient warp length to allow about an inch high each day.  I made the warp only 4” wide since I thought that surely I could weave an area of 4” x 1”  for thirty one days without a plan!

As simple as it sounded on May 1 of 2008, the month-long daily weaving was challenging. I had a trip scheduled and so the loom had to be with me if I wasn’t going to fail the project!  Thus, I wove a daily bit in a motel room and another couple of days were woven while on an overnight visit with friends. 

A challenge that I hadn’t anticipated (and should have) was that indicating each day’s date would become harder and harder as the days added up!  Since I’d made the rule of using a “weaverly” method for the date marking I couldn’t let myself resort to weaving digits—I felt I must use structural aspects of weft-faced weave in some way to accomplish it.  Pick and pick became my good friend—as did individual passes of contrasting colors.  Yes, it’s hard for others to see the date but I know it’s there.  I can count the marks indicating each day by the way I’ve done the weave.

The rest of 2008 passed and I didn’t do another a daily tapestry in that year.  I wanted to give myself a longer time for a daily tapestry commitment and so I decided to wait until the beginning of the new year.  A whole year!  Could I do it?  Would I do it? 

With 2009 approaching, I set up a tapestry loom with linen warp and length enough to weave throughout the year with ten days of varying heights across the 12” warp width. Why ten days across rather than seven days of a week?  I don’t remember why now—seemed to make sense at the time.

Again, as in the earlier month-long tapestry, I created rules to follow but had no particular plan other than continuing those simple guidelines of space allotted to each day and using scrap wefts only.   I wanted to again mark the date and since pick and pick had been so useful in the monthly venture I decided to use pick and pick throughout the piece.

I began 2009 and the tapestry diary with high hopes—got to the 6th of January and FORGOT to weave the day.  Well, I’ll say in my defense that I was still teaching weaving at the university in 2009 and that happened to be the first day of class for the semester.  I’d spent the day in last minute preparations, met the students at the night class and was tired when I got home.  The next morning when I went to the studio to weave the day I realized I’d forgotten to get to the loom the day before!  After some choice words to myself about the lapse, I arrived at a solution.  I knew this wouldn’t be my only missed day of the year because I’d be out of town with teaching and other travels.  If I was truly going to think of this weaving as a diary of sorts I should figure out how to acknowledge those times.  My solution was that I’d weave a white “blank” for each day I was gone, putting those in place upon returning home.

The year of 2009 passed as slowly as any other year but I kept the faith with the piece.  By the end of the year I’d actually done it--stayed with the commitment to weave a discrete bit that recognized every day.  With the year-long tapestry diary unrolled from the loom, I could look back to see that I had many white days to show my trips, yet over-all the year was filled with color.  It was a happy record of a year in my life.

I've been posting about my tapestry diary adventures in my blog since 2008.  Here's a link to one.  If you're curious to read more about this obsession, use the search tool at the left side and type in tapestry diary.  It will take you to at least ten previous posts, some of those linked above and others after that.

I finished my tapestry diary for the year of 2015 yesterday, December 31.  You saw me holding it at the top of this post after cutting it off around noon.

Here's my new warp, tied on now and waiting for me to add the first of 2016.  What will I do this year?  Well, I have a few thoughts about it…

May your days be filled with daily makings of any and all kinds that 
cheer your souls and spirits. 


  1. Your year's work is beautiful. I have a friend who has on two different ocassions commited to posting a painting on face book every day for a year. She works in pastels mostly and a year ago started her year long endeavor to post an oil work every day. Successfully did that and happily posted the last one last night. Her facebook page is Pamela JoAnn Willis. If you have a little spare time, I think you would enjoy her work.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Sue. And thank you for the mention of Pamela JoAnn Willis. I'll look her up right away!

  3. Thank you for giving me the inspiration and determination to try a tapestry diary. I'm rather new to this type of weaving and I'd love to try it. Your work is absolutely beautiful! And what I'm wondering is, is what type of materials would be good to start with? I only have a small hand loom and I never seem to use the right material for warping or weaving. I've been using hemp for the warp and various different scrap yarns for the weaving with not such good results. I'm sure I probably should look into a bigger loom one day. Well, sorry to go on and on here but please know that I truly admire your work and look forward to reading more on your blog. I find what you do fascinating. Thank you so much. Anne

  4. Anne, about materials to begin with... cotton seine twine is a great warp to use. Any type of yarn may work fine as weft, but you want a nice, strong warp that's not going to give you any unfortunate surprises--as in breaking with you!

    Hemp and linen are great warps but both don't have lots of flexibility and if you're using those on a smaller frame loom that doesn't have tension adjustment ability they may not be working well because of that inflexible nature.

    You might want to take a look at some of the posts at my other post, Tapestry Share, for suggestions about warp. There is also a post there about my suggested way to warp a small copper pipe frame loom built in the style of Archie Brennan's design. The blog link is

  5. Hi there,
    Thank you so very much for answering my questions.

    I have just looked at your other blog and boy, there sure is a wealth of information on it. I will certainly be learning a lot from what you have there.

    I have definitely seen what you have mentioned about the limited ability that hemp has. I'm learning as I go and I think that I'm going to have to try to find some cotton seine twine to try. Though I'm just starting out, I want to try to use what works best so I can concentrate on learning the right techniques. I know I have a long way to go.

    Thank you once again for being so kind as to help me out. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it and I look forward to learning more from your blogs.

    Take care,

  6. Anne,
    You might want to take a look at the cotton seine twine that is from Glimakra USA. I use several of the sizes from them. Norsk Fjord Fiber also has at least one size of seine twine. The seine twine is strong and reliable for tapestry (Maysville carpet warp is not, in my experience with it for tapestry).

    I use 12/12 size at 8 epi, or 12/18 at 6 epi. For smaller setts I usually use 12/6 at 10 or 12 epi, and 12/9 at 10.

  7. Hi Tommye,
    Thanks for the information about the cotton seine twine. I was reading about that on your blog too. And I actually didn't feel to comfortable with the Maysville warp that I always seemed to come across in my Google searches. I don't know why but there is something about it to me I guess. Nice to hear that it's probably not what I should be using. I almost wish that there were small sample packs or even kits to get started on small tapestries. That way a person could get a taste of what and how different materials work and what to look for as far as a finished project. I know people use different looms and such but I know for me it would be helpful. Sometimes I think I get myself more confused with everything I read about. Overthinking I guess.
    So far I'm keeping your information as my go to information. You're blogs really are the most informative to me so far and I'm so glad I found them.
    Thank you again for all your help. You're a gem!!!

  8. Sample kits sound like a good idea.

    If you haven't seen Kathe Todd-Hooker's book, Tapestry 101, you might like to. She has a wealth of information in the book.

    Also, take a look at Rebecca Mezoff's blog and Elizabeth Buckley's blog. Both have valuable info. Other online sources do, as well.

    As far as learning on your own, Rebecca Mezoff has online classes--take a look at her offerings. And there's a 16+ hr. DVD set with instruction from master tapestry weavers, Archie Brennan and Susan Martin Maffei available through their website.

    A face-to-face workshop is, of course, one of the most valuable things to do as one's learning about tapestry but it isn't always possible.

    Good luck with your tapestry journey--it can be a rewarding, joyful, AND frustrating one, let me tell you! But all-in-all well worth taking.

  9. Thanks for the additional tips and references. I will surely look into them. I wish I could take a class but I don't know of any in my area. But I will figure it out, slowly but surely I hope. And you have been the one place where I have found a wealth of help and information for which I am very thankful. I look forward to seeing all the other things you create. You're very inspiring. Thanks again. Anne