Thursday, February 27, 2014

Hand Spun

Pia Skaarer Nielsen , Nova Scotia, Canada documented her process of creating her shapes for the Fate, Destiny and Self Determination project. 
She writes: "I had not woven tapestry for several months, but this project reminded me how much I love to sink into the colours, textures and the story of why I am choosing to weave a piece....time for deep contemplation and the start on another piece on the tapestry loom. "

Pia writes:
" It is strange how something so ‘small’ can take so long to get done, and finished up. Both the pieces were thought long and hard over......Pink Texture - Thinking of the shape and how to execute the actual weaving was not too much of a stretch for my vivid imagination. Then however.....I decided that I needed to do an experiment......I had dyed some of my lamb fleece earlier in the fall and so sat down to spin it one fine evening when I thought I had better get a move on. The idea was that I would spin a two ply, a three ply and a four ply and that the difference in one strand would make a clear visible difference in the woven piece. I wove and felt my brow wrinkle, probably there was more texture to my wrinkled brow than there was to the finished very pink but not very textured piece. In conclusion to this first experiment I have to say, that when I choose to do another piece where the liveliness and the interest is to be in the changing textures I would do not a 2, 3 and 4 ply of the same heaviness single but perhaps a 2, 3 and 4 ply of increasingly heaver singles..... I finished this piece with knots at the edges and then sewing in the ends for final was a ‘flat’ kind of learning experience, but fun!"

Yellow piece - (below)  knowing how ‘flat’ the pink piece had gone I decided to try some other yarns, having some of the same thoughts. The first yarn chosen was designed for an earlier tapestry project - I had plied and dyed some hardspun warp wool singles - In that project I had been aiming for a variegated yarn so the finished weaving surface would have colour movement that happened according to where the yarn wanted to go, not the colour of the butterflies I might choose to work with. The next yarn that I picked was a very heavy wool single, I think dyed with onion skins. I purchased looms and yarn from the family estate of tapestry weavers Gisela and Hans Dörfer in Little Narrows, Cape Breton some years back and still have some of their handspun yarns. I enjoy using them in various tapestry and weaving projects. The final middle part was spun from a variegated commercial blue faced leicester roving, the colours fit perfectly and the piece that I ended up weaving with just happened to have this greenish hue, although on close inspection it also has a good colour play and changes in it. I chose to finish up the edges with the ‘braiding’ technique I like to finish my bigger tapestries with and was surprised to see how well it worked - it ended up being quite inconspicuous since I had used the same yarn for warp and weft.....which I had noticed on some of the photos from participants who had already sent in their submissions. In conclusion I am excited about the feeling of depth which happened in this piece, due to the play between the textures of the yarns and the colours. 

Sheila Brown, UK. 
Similarly, Sheila also spun her own yarn. She writes that she is a textile artist and doesn't usually work in the tapestry technique. One could never tell based on how beautifully she has woven this little gem. 

Weavings by Audrey Moore: Ladies

Juana Sleizer is having a fibre/tapestry exhibition.Mimico Centennial Library: 47 Station Road, Toronto, M8V 2R1 Closest major intersection Lake Shore Blvd. West and Royal York Rd. Located on Southeast corner of Stanley Street and Station Road. The exhibit takes place at the Mezzanine and there is no elevator

Tapestry Tour in the UK with Cresside Collette 

Cranbrook loom for sale (for the serious tapestry weaver)

Thursday, February 20, 2014


Left to right: Bambi Rutledge, Tina Patsourakos and Christine Shipley
A great week! Today several people helped out with the finishing of the international tapestry (Bambi, Christine and Jutta). Tina works for the Toronto District School Board in marketing for the Continuing Education division, took pictures, and interviewed students. 

Jutta Polomski foreground, Michele Dubois background. 
We're nearing completion of one panel and still have a second panel to do. 

I was also very excited to cut off my section of the international tapestry project.....

the back.....

the front.......hmmm. I almost like the back better. It reminds of how chaotic and out of control life can be at times. 
Below, more shapes that have come in to be a part of the international tapestry project. To date, 200 people and 22 countries have participated in this project. New ones are arriving daily. 
Clare Coyle from Scotland, wove a shape in her favorite colour. Go to her Facebook page to see more of her work.

The colour purple was first used between 16000 and 25000BC by creating blending manganese and hematite and using this powder to draw and paint outlines of animals in caves found in France.  A new source of purple was discovered around 1500BC in the area of Lebanon where an intense and rich purple was created from a the spiny dye-murex, a sea snail. The process of extracting the colour was long, precise and required thousands, maybe millions of these tiny snails. Consequently Tyrian purple became the dominant colour used for the garments, fashion accessories and textiles of kings, magistrates and priests in the Mediterranean and for hundreds of years it continued  to be considered a colour that that conveyed high status.  Mention of it appears in the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament, the Iliad by Homer, in the Odyssey. Alexander the Great was said to have worn Tyrian purple and King Solomon was said to have brought dyers from Tyre to create purple fabrics to embellish the Temple of Jerusalem. The colour purple continued to be associated with sacredness and authority throughout history. Charlemagne was crowned wearing a Tyrian purple mantle, and was also buried in a shroud of the same colour which still exists! In the middle ages and the Renaissance there was a decline by clergy in the wearing of purple garments due to its lack of availability at one point, but university professors of this period modeled their robes after those of the clergy , and employed this colour in their caps or robes. Purple was rarely worn by 'ordinary people' because of its prohibitive up until the 19th century. A British chemistry student by the name of William Henry Perkin produced the first synthetic aniline dye - mauve, which made it instantly fashionable and him a rich man. 

Letitia Roller, Santa Fe New Mexico USA 
Letty writes: " I love the idea of having three works related by design but executed in 3 different ways.....about 30 years ago I lived in the Kitchener Waterloo area and used to get to Toronto frequently...fond memories."
Veronica Collins, Scotland. 

Gabriela Nirino Laroquette, Argentina

Gabriela Nirino Laroquette, Argentina

Leslie Munro, BC, Canada.

Friday, February 14, 2014


Debbie Harris shown here weaving on the group tapestry for the installation, Fate, Destiny and Self Determination. 
Debbie Harris
Debbie Harris has been doing fabric weaving on and off for about 30 years. Her first teacher was Lynne Milgram (now a University professor at Ontario College of Art University - who also introduced her to the Textile Museum which was then located on Bloor St in the Annex in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Although she had taken a tapestry weaving course for one semester with Frances Key, it wasn't until she watched a Navajo weaver working on her rug in Arizona that she decided to learn more. She has been studying tapestry weaving with Line Dufour at the Toronto Weaving School ( for the past 15 years. A few years ago, she took 2 tapestry weaving workshops with Maximo Laura in Peru where she learned many new techniques. Currently, she has been working on her own Navajo-inspired rug as well as weaving scarves.

Debbie Harris
In this piece, Debbie has used complementary colours. I love the way it radiates from the centre , like a glowing flame. 
"Yellow, in the form of yellow ochre pigment made from clay, was one of the first colors used in prehistoric cave art. The cave of Lascaux has an image of a horse colored with yellow estimated to be 17,300 years old. Yellow is commonly associated with gold, wealth, sunshine, reason, happiness, optimism and pleasure, but also with cowardice, envy, jealousy and betrayal. It plays an important part in Asian culture, particularly in China.
In Ancient Egypt, yellow was associated with gold, which was considered to be imperishable, eternal and indestructible. The skin and bones of the gods were believed to be made of gold. The Egyptians used yellow extensively in tomb paintings; they usually used either yellow ochre or the brilliant orpiment, though it was made of arsenic and was highly toxic. A small paintbox with orpiment pigment was found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun. Men were always shown with brown faces, women with yellow ochre or gold faces.[7]
The ancient Romans used yellow in their paintings to represent gold and also in skin tones. It is found frequently in the murals of Pompeii.
 Yellow has strong historical and cultural associations in China, where it is the color of happiness, glory, and wisdom. In China, there are five directions of the compass; north, south, east, west, and the middle, each with a symbolic color. Yellow signifies the middle. China is called the Middle Kingdom; the palace of the Emperor was considered to be in the exact center of the world.[58]
The name of the legendary first Emperor of China, Huang Ti, meant literally "the Yellow Emperor." The last emperor of China, Puyi (1906-1967), described in his memoirs how every object which surrounded him as a child was yellow. "It made me understand from my most tender age that I was of a unique essence, and it instilled in me the consciousness of my "celestial nature" which made me different from every other human."[59][60]
The Chinese Emperor was literally considered the child of heaven, with both a political and religious role, both symbolized by yellow. Only members of the Imperial household were permitted to wear yellow. Distinguished visitors were honored with a yellow, not a red, carpet.
In Chinese symbolism, yellow, red and green are masculine colors, while black and white are considered feminine. In the traditional symbolism of the two opposites which complement each other, the yin and yang, the masculine yang is traditionally represented by yellow. Just as there are five elements, five directions and five colors in the Chinese world-view, there are also five seasons; summer, winter, fall, spring, and the end of summer, symbolized by yellow leaves
The 18th and 19th century saw the discovery and manufacture of synthetic pigments and dyes, which quickly replaced the traditional yellows made from arsenic, cow urine, and other substances.
Circa 1776 Jean-Honoré Fragonard painted A Young Girl Reading. She is dressed in a bright saffron yellow dress. This painting is "considered by many critics to be among Fragonard’s most appealing and masterly".[9]
The 19th-century British painter J.M.W. Turner was one of the first in that century to use yellow to create moods and emotions, the way romantic composers were using music. His painting Rain, Steam, and Speed - the Great Central Railway was dominated by glowing yellow clouds.
Georges Seurat use the new synthetic colors in his experimental paintings composed of tiny points of primary colors. particularly in his famous Sunday Afternoon on the Isle de la Grand jatte (1884-1886). He did not know that the new synthetic yellow pigment, zinc yellow or zinc chromate, which he used in the light green lawns, was highly unstable and would quickly turn brown.[10]
The painter Vincent van Gogh was a particular admirer of the color yellow, the color of sunshine. Writing to his sister from the south of France in 1888, he wrote, "Now we are having beautiful warm, windless weather that is very beneficial to me. The sun, a light that for lack of a better word I can only call yellow, bright sulfur yellow, pale lemon gold. How beautiful yellow is!" In Arles, Van Gogh painted sunflowers inside a small house he rented at 2 Place Lamartine, a house painted what Van Gogh called "buttery yellow." Van Gogh was one of the first artists to use commercially-manufactured paints, rather than paints he made himself. He used the traditional yellow ochre, but also chrome yellow, first made in 1809, and cadmium yellow, first made in 1820.[11]
At the end of the 19th century, in 1895, a new popular art form began to appear in New York newspapers; the color comic strip. It took advantage of a new color printing process, which used color separation and three different colors of ink; magenta, cyan, and yellow, plus black, to create all the colors on the page. One of the first characters in the new comic strips was a humorous boy of the New York streets named Mickey Dugen, more commonly known as the Yellow Kid, from the yellow nightshirt he wore. He gave his name (and color) to the whole genre of popular, sensational journalism, which became known as Yellow Journalism."
Elizabeth Murdock, BC Canada
To date, we have now received 172 shapes from 22 different countries. More are still coming in. I have approached a number of different venues to exhibit this tapestry installation. All responses have been positive to date, but nothing is confirmed yet.
Elizabeth Murdock, BC Canada

On the right, Darlene Haywood is helping in doing the finishing work on the group woven section of the Fate, Destiny and Self Determination tapestry installation project. We could still use more volunteers to help with this process. Contact me at if you can make some time to contribute. All those who have assisted in this project will have their names included as co-creators of this project. Across from her is Suzanne Job and Jane Richmond. The person we barely see.....Phyllis Fitzsimmons.  For those who do not know about this project, below a description of the main thrust of this initiative. 
Recently I received a grant from the Ontario Arts Council to undertake a project entitled Fate, Destiny and Self Determination/le sort, le destin et l’auto-determination. Weavers and non weavers from all over the world were invited to participate in co-creating this tapestry installation. It is composed of three sections. Section one is woven entirely by myself in my studio and will measure 60’’h x 36”w. Section three was woven by the public visiting the premises of the Toronto Weaving School in Toronto and it will measure 60’’h x 18’’w. These two approaches, working alone and in a group, on tapestry references the contemporary, traditional and historical practice of tapestry weaving.  Section  two (below)  is composed of shapes, not greater than 10cm (4”).  250 people from 22 countries asked to participate, made possible by social media. The shapes are mostly woven in tapestry or rug techniques, but some are felted, needle felted, knitted, crocheted, sewn, needle pointed. To date 167 shapes have been returned from 22 different countries (more are coming in) and I have been documenting them all on Facebook on a page of the same name as the project as well as on my blog. This part of the project alludes to our multicultural composition as Canadians, as well as reveals that weaving is a practice that is shared with every culture. All who have participated will have their name included as being makers of the tapestry installation. I’ll be putting together a video and slide show of the project and this video will be exhibited with the final tapestry installation if desired. 

The Community Threads tapestries, a community tapestry project I was involved in in terms of art direction and technical support,  are still being circulated and on exhibition in the New Tecumseh region. The tapestries really benefit the somewhat austere environment. A group of 10 tapestry woven banners include images of aspects of living in this community. Sandi Nemenyi writes: 
"Thanks to Linda (Needles) who did the main work of getting up the ladder to hang the tapestries this morning, to Jean who organized the tapestries, and to myself, who just managed to be awake enough to see that the tapestries were (mostly) level.  Thanks also to Vaughn Thurman, Library (in Beeton ) Manager, who helped with the ladder and made sure we were safe! " 
Other resources related to tapestry:
Heading to Aubusson France. Read what's happening in tapestry endeavours there: 
Cite de la Tapisserie

Jenny Gilbert sends along this link to some simple and contemporary takes on weaving and tapestry weaving as art.