Designing for tapestry weaving

Designing for tapestry weaving

There is certainly as many different ways
to design for tapestry weaving as there are tapestry weavers. I do find as I am teaching
though that after students learn the mechanics of it… you already know how to do joins
or to make a curvy line or what weft to use and how to warp your loom. Once all those
things become easier, you start to think a lot about how can I design the kinds of things
I want to weave? And that, I’ve found for many people, is really a stumbling block.
Some people have a lot of ideas but they don’t know how to translate that into a woven form.
Other people struggle with just having ideas at all. Many of us did not come from art school
and we’re not used to, or we’re not trained, to take ideas and put them into a visual format.
Over the last couple years I’ve adopted a practice of weaving small things based on
either my thoughts or something that I saw in the environment. One of the easiest ways
to do this is to have some sort of an inspiration–a color, a shape, a form, something you saw
somewhere that you went. Maybe on a trip. And translating that into a very simple and
small tapestry. I think the key there is that the tapestry be small. Because it’s not intimidating.
Put it on a loom that is quick to warp and just play a little bit. I’ll show you what
I mean by all of this in just a moment. But I think the advantage of these little tiny
things is that your brain doesn’t get stuck. When you’re facing a tapestry that you want
to be of moderate size and you know it is going to take a long time to weave, your brain
really resists that and there is a lot of fear that comes up because you’re going to
spend months or maybe years weaving on this piece and if the design is poor, that is kind
of scary. That you might spend that much time and then not like it when it is finished.
So this particular method of doing quick little things, I sometimes even call them sketch
tapestry. They don’t have anything to do with sketching or drawing. It’s just that they’re
fairly quick and they are just an idea of a place or a color or a form or something
even that I’m upset about. I wove one recently that was called “Anger”. Things like that
can help you in your life, but it can also help you practice weaving and getting your
ideas down in a form that is pleasing to you. I really think if you’re having difficulty
with ideas and expression and design in tapestry that this sort of quick sketch-like approach
can help break you free of that fear that gets in the way of actually doing it again.
It also, at the end of the day if you have many of these little things that you’ve woven,
gives you a kind of a diary or a record of the things that were important to you over
that time period. Let me show you a few of the little things that I’ve done over the
last couple years. These small diary-like tapestries have taken different forms. Many
of you know that I’m an avid backpacker and a tiny Hokett loom often comes along with
me. On recent trips I’ve taken dyed fleece and a spindle. My weaving on these trips is
focused entirely on the colors, the blending, and the feeling of sitting in a meadow, watching
the sun set with a tiny loom in my lap. I do enjoy time outdoors and many of my weavings
are inspired by things that caught my eye in an outdoor environment. Of course the same
thing could happen in any environment for you. I spent a month as a resident artist
at Petrified Forest National Park in 2016. This is where I started this idea about weaving
quick things from environmental inspiration. What I wove there often came from something
small. Maybe it was the color in a piece of petrified wood. Sometimes I was interested
in the layers in the rocks or the landscape. In other examples I wove petroglyphs I found
or designs from pot sherds. I was there during a supermoon and wove images of the sun setting
and the moon rising at the same time. All of these pieces ended up mounted together
to four panels. But when I started the project I didn’t know if I would make it past day
three. Now I find this sort of exploration of my world important in a consistent and
ongoing way. Last year I spent a few weeks as a resident artist at Hambidge in Georgia.
This 2 x 4 inch piece was inspired by one red leaf still hanging on a tree from the
prior fall surrounded by new growth. I spent some time sitting beside a waterfall and looking
at these bluets. There was far too much detail to weave in such a small piece, so I picked
a few elements and this was the result. Weaving in different environments can be fun. I was
working on this piece taken from a view at the top of Owen Mountain at Hambidge while
sitting by a stream the next day. Over the last few months I’ve been weaving another
diary which is fairly far ranging in content. This piece is called “Save the ta-tas” and
it was woven right after I had a mammogram. Maybe that’s why they got so squished. The
“Look” piece came from my own irritation at someone close to me who loves to start a contentious
conversation with this particular word. And then there are times when I just want to experiment
with materials. I had a small bit of Lincoln fleece dyed in short repeats which means it
blended wonderfully in the spinning. I spun it up for tapestry and wove all of it sequentially
into little squares. The ideas are endless. I keep a small notebook handy to scribble
down ideas of this or that. Sometimes there are little drawings with a lot of text to
remind me what I want to portray. Other times it’s just words and a potential title. I’ll
likely never have time to weave them all, but when I’m ready for another piece, there
is always one waiting. I’ve posted on my blog quite a lot over the last few years about
this method of sketch tapestry. If you’d like to see more about it and get a little deeper
into my experience of it, there is a post that summarizes them all with links on my
website at Or if you’re on YouTube, simply look below
into the description and there should be a live link for that post. So here’s a little
secret for you. Every summer, high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, I hold a retreat
based on this very idea. If you’re interested in an in-person experience based on this sort
of designing for tapestry, go to my website, and
see if there is a spot for you this summer in Colorado. I’ll see you there. Backsplash, weave. W W W dot Rebecca Mezoff dot com backsplash. Backslash blog, B L O G backslash weave. Uh,
one more time! No backsplash. It’s not backsplash. It’s backslash.

9 thoughts on “Designing for tapestry weaving

  1. You are speaking right to me, Rebecca. Thanks for all your inspiration here and on your blog and in your classes.

  2. Hi Rebecca! Your videos are so helpful and inspiring! I have just started weaving and I have been a spinner for a while. What size yarns do you spin for your tapestries? Are they single ply, 2-ply, etc.? How many wraps per inch? What sett are your smaller weavings? Thanks so much for taking your time to teach us!

  3. Rebecca, Thank you for this. Especially inspiring is seeing the sorts of things that catch YOUR eye and then wondering what mine are. I find what I call "little weavings" very liberating right now. I don't worry about their end, I am more immersed in what I am doing now, in the moment. Whew! What a relief!

  4. I am such a newbie! But so excited! I went to your website and I can't afford the retreat but I am going to watch your youtube video and hopefully I can stop considering myself a newbie in time. What is that tool you are using – it' like a manual sheddle??? I want one but I guess I'll be using just my hand. I've already purchased a loom and I've got so much cardboad to make my own. One big box that my 49" tv came in. Such beatiful patient work you do. WOW!!

  5. True! very true for writers or painters is calles the fear of the white paper! in starting something to weave it happens to me the same! great video

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