Category Archives: Tapestry weaving

Shadow Play

I recently took on a very, shall we say, intriguing challenge.  As someone who loves colors and how they play and interact together and blending on the bobbin, I decided to join my local tapestry weaving group in a collaborative weaving.  The challenging part? We could only use shades of gray and just one. other. color.

With the arrival of the ATA’s unjuried small format show, one of our members broached the topic of a collaborative weaving project at the Joan Baxter workshop in October.  Since we all live across New England, how would we unify our pieces for the ATA’s unjuried small format show?  She asked Joan for some creative suggestions, and Joan brought up the idea of using mostly shades of gray to be the unifying theme.  The introduction of one other color – a personal and individual choice, along with composition – would give us plenty of creative freedom while keeping to the requirements of the group’s challenge.

Many of us bought the Granite Collection of wool weft yarns from Weavers Bazaar, including myself, but I was stumped as to what my other color would be.  Since I was already changing up my palette with grays, I didn’t want to just go with one of my old favorites for the other color.  I wanted to challenge myself to think outside of the box, to stretch beyond my usual comfort zone of blues and purples. At the same time, I was pondering over some design ideas.  I thought of mountains rising out of the mists, a little river winding through a valley, or even my mom’s gray cat, Cole…



They were nice designs, but then I came across a short article about Carl Jung’s theory of the “Golden Shadow”, and I became intrigued.

On her blog Expressive Art Inspirations, Shelley Klammer writes how the golden shadow can be one of our greatest teachers.  Anytime we feel deep admiration for another person’s creativity or passion or success, it is really a reflection of our own power and potential.  Yet many of us have tamped down our most creative and powerful versions of self, sometimes because we’re trying to fit in with the mainstream, and other times because of roots going all the way back to childhood.  Whatever the source happens to be, the golden shadow is a beautiful invitation for us to open up and learn from our hidden, and often times most lovable, aspects of the soul. Klammer writes…

“The Golden Shadow is the soul part of ourselves that offers a particular strength of love to heal the areas where we have experienced the most hurt and lack.”


I’ve always felt a bit intimidated by the idea of shadow work, feeling like I’d rather not face the horrible monsters hidden in my subconscious.  In the past few months, however, I began to feel more curious and unafraid of the shadow, especially after reading about the benefits of working with the golden version!  I wanted to see what I could learn from it, and as a friend and I discussed my gray scale weaving challenge, she mentioned opportunities being like open doors, and that was when I saw my final composition. I actually drew it on my antiquated smart phone first…

Screenshot_2018-03-13-20-46-11 (1)

All artists should be well-practiced in the area of Stick Figure drawing!

If any of you lovely readers are curious about the golden shadow, there seems to be quite a bit of info out there on the web, not to mention some books I saw on Amazon.  I plan on diving deeper into this subject as well; the act of weaving this little piece has certainly peaked my curiosity!

And if you’re craving more weaver nerd stuff (like technical notes and learning experiences from this piece) then please read on…

This weaving was done on a Hokett loom, which has easily become one of my most beloved weaving tools.  The sett is 12 epi with a cotton seine twine.  As I mentioned earlier, I bought the Granite Collection of fine weight wool yarn from Weavers Bazaar, and this is what I worked with almost exclusively.  I’m actually not very familiar with this yarn, and when I have used it in the past, I’ve mixed it in with a wool weft yarn from Norway that I purchase from Between & etc. I love this long-staple Norwegian yarn; it’s soft, vibrant, and plays well with the warp.  I recently discovered that with this yarn, my weft bundle of 3 strands for 10 epi was too small, and the “bead” of the surface of the tapestry was subtle.  The Weavers Bazaar yarn is even finer, tightly spun and requires a bit more bubbling than what I’m used to.  At 4 strands for 12 epi, I had some tension troubles in the beginning, but I soon got my sett back to normal…


Bubble those wefts, weavers!

I soon found that 4 weft strands in each bundle was a pretty good size.  With enough bubbling, the yarn creates a crisp fabric with minimal fuzziness, due to it’s tight spin.  I of course, didn’t bother to sample, and that would have been especially helpful as this was a new weft yarn (and the only weft yarn) I was using. Another challenge with this piece that I realized very quickly was how difficult it was for my eyes to tell the shades of gray apart, especially when they were just one shade different.  So I numbered each tube and then kept very accurate notes on my sketch.  Believe me, my sanity (and my eyes) depended on it!


A little rainbow blip came along to help me keep my faith amongst all of these numbers.

So in the end, my passion for both tapestry weaving and understanding my golden shadow came together to produce this…


“The Meeting of Shadows”, 4.5″ x 8″, 2018, cotton warp, wool weft, metallic thread

In the end, I’m really glad I decided to give myself a challenge by working with a different palette of colors, for trying out new materials, and broadening my creative design ideas.  It’s easy to stay in our comfort zones, away from the shadows, but when we step into the light of our own creative potential, we may find that the shadows are filled with glorious possibilities!

Keep creating!



From the Woods to the Sea

A Tapestry Weaving Retreat with Joan Baxter

With my travel sketchbook and camera in tow, I wandered down the old dirt road to the sea.  The autumn sun was casting a soft amber light upon the trees as it made it’s journey below the horizon.  The woods suddenly parted and I found myself in a private secluded bay with little waves gently crashing upon the sand.  I climbed up onto the old crumbling jetty and sat on a rock, watching the golden sky fade to dusk.  An overwhelming sense of gratitude and awe washed over me.  I was here in this place of beauty and tranquility, where the woods meet the sea, and about to enjoy five whole days of everything tapestry weaving with one of my most favorite tapestry artists, Joan Baxter.


From the time I met Joan, I felt as though she were a familiar friend, like perhaps maybe she was one of my beloved faculty members from college. She greeted me warmly as she laid out a dazzling spectrum of her gorgeous hand-dyed yarns.  The room we would be using was dark and cozy, surrounded by forests and near to the retreat center’s chapel.  It was in this room, with my fellow tapestry weavers, covered with yarn, books, looms, and bobbins, and fueled by Joan’s tutorials and evening talks, that my imagination sprang to life.


How do the places and landscapes we hold dear to our hearts change with the passage of time?  This was the question Joan Baxter asked us to ponder over the months leading up to our workshop.  Compiling sketches and photos of our favorite place at different times of the day, we were asked to do some color studies.  Using our own yarn, and some of Joan’s, we played with colors of different values and hues.  We also had some of her samples to inspire us.  Joan is a magician when it comes to playing with and mixing colors…



A sampling of Joan’s beautiful samples…



And here’s mine!

During the day, she gave tutorials to small groups of us on how to create dots, flecks, and color blends. She really inspired me to become more bold with my weft colors, and to understand how to carry consistent colors from one area to another, like with a reflection on water or creating transparency.


A tutorial on weaving dots.  Joan enjoys simple weaving equipment like wooden frame looms and pipe looms…



More dots and flecks (and check out that beautiful bobbin!)

For this theme of the passage of time, I chose to visit a small lake by my parent’s house.  I visited many times over the summer, always drawn to the sparkle of sunlight across the water and the forest that surrounded it’s shore.  It wasn’t until the fall, right before the retreat, that I noticed a lone tree that stood out from the others.  It had transformed into a brilliant golden yellow, and I had an a-ha moment: This tree would be the focal point of my composition…




I thought I could weave an entire tapestry in five days! I must have been crazy.  The only tapestry I ever wove in five days is the size of a small photograph! Joan encouraged us to not weave for more than four to five hours a day, so as to not strain our eyes. So we went for walks, mingled and chatted with each other about our ideas, shared books and tips, were treated to several of Joan’s inspiring slideshows, and were fed three meals a day by the retreat staff.  The food was simple and nourishing and I loved that.  I found the simplicity and humbleness of our accommodations to be the perfect backdrop to focus on my art and my time with my new weaving friends.


The view from my bedroom window…

And I noticed my idea for my tapestry was beginning to change and be shaped by the beauty of the retreat center grounds.  I was particulary inspired by Joan to think differently about how to weave water.  I’ve always woven flat, mirror-like reflections, but Joan encouraged me to think about time transpiring and how I could create that.  I began going down to the little bay to observe how ocean waves would rise and fall.  Sometimes I’d go down to the pond and throw pebbles to watch the ripples fan out.  I realized I wanted to capture the multi-dimensional appearance of those ripples moving across the water.  This was my sample of that idea…


This sample was meant to try the techniques of carrying one consistent color throughout the water, capturing the light and shadow of a water ripple, the lines of a labyrinth underneath, and one of my trees golden yellow leaves (which ended up looking like carpet from the 1970s)

I’ve always been drawn to labyrinths as a symbol for personal and spiritual journeys.  I was so excited to see the retreat center had a lovely and simple one created from mowed grass and some shrubby trees.  I also knew I wanted to incorporate this symbol into my final design as well, perhaps underneath the water’s surface…


So after a few days of observing and sketching, I had a pretty solid idea for my Time inspired tapestry.  When the last day of the retreat came, I was sad and yet also eager to get back home to try some of my new ideas and techniques I had learned.  I also had a new appreciation for myself as an artist, and the endlessly inspiring life we artists can live if we just open up to it.  It was an unforgettable experience to learn from Joan, and also it was the first time meeting some of my fellow members of the tapestry group TWiNE (Tapestry Weavers in New England) who hosted this event.  While I still haven’t started the piece inspired by this workshop (I know! I know! I’m getting to it!), I’ve noticed how my design ideas have shifted and finalized in my mind.  I feel ready to at least do some sketching and get the loom warped, and I guess I need to do a few more samples, too!


My favorite weft blend, I love admiring it just on the bobbin…



A postcard of Joan Baxter’s weavings showing her use of dots

If you get the chance I highly recommend taking a workshop or retreat.  It’s a fantastic way to meet and be inspired by other artists, form amazing connections, and learn a new thing or two!

Keep creating!


Pressing Matters

An iron and it’s companion ironing board do you no good when they’re tucked away in a closet.  And in that same vein, keeping your unfinished tiny tapestries confined to a shoebox do you no good as well.  I recently finished my little weaving, Kingdom of the Winter Woods, in 5 days, which is a record for me!  But it wasn’t really finished.  Sure I had cut it off the loom and finished the ends, but could I really bear to throw it in the shoebox with all of the other unfinished weavings?  How would it, or any of the other tiny tapestries, be seen and enjoyed from inside a shoebox?


It seemed so sad, all of my lovely little weavings sitting in a dark little box.  So out came the iron and the ironing board and the old pressing cloth, and everyone got their hems pressed!


The pressing was impressive

And now in the evenings when I have some free time, I carefully stitch down the hems, and ponder how I want to show all of these little pieces, even if their just in my own home…


The fact that they’re all finished and ready to be displayed makes me feel like I can move forward to make more art.


Forest Dreaming, Kingdom of the Winter Woods, and part 1 of my lotus series. I clearly love blue and weaving stars and sparkles!

Making art is a wonderful and fulfilling passion of mine, and I also believe that part of that passion is to share what I create with others and to spread more beauty and happiness and peace in the world.  But I can’t do that from inside of a shoebox.  I also can’t just weave these beautiful images and never really finish them.  So here’s to finally finishing all of these weavings, and who knows, maybe I’ll find a sense of joy and even relaxation in this seemingly mundane process!

How do you complete your projects?  One at a time? When the pile begins to feel overwhelming? An Excel spreadsheet?

Happy creating!


What Four Days Away From “Work” Can do…

I just spent four glorious days away from reality, or at least away from my “real” job.  And what a wonderful time it was.  I saw Finding Dory, which if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s Ah-mazing.  Bring tissues.  I also went to the beach with my friend and we collected seashells and had a picnic under a beautiful old, twisted crab-apple tree.  We were joined by lots of bugs too, since it is summer and they like picnics as well.  But mostly I got a lot of work done on my art, including finishing the weaving for my latest tapestry!  It’s off the loom now and I’m letting it rest for a few days before I do the finishing work.  The fabric needs time to relax after being stretched tightly on the loom for several months, and this resting period makes the weaving so much easier to work with later when I clean up the back, sew up slits, hang it on a wall, etc.


Untitled… for now….

Like most of my pieces, there are things I love about this one and things that I would love to fix.  On this piece in particular, however, I struggled more than any previous weaving, all due to not having a good solid cartoon and notes to follow.  In fact, most of my weaving frustrations are caused by a lack of a good plan, and for the most part my designs depend on careful planning. Usually I’m so excited to start weaving that I just quickly draw out the cartoon, attach it to the bottom hem and take off, sometimes even saying to myself, ‘I’ll figure it out later.’   That clearly hasn’t been working too well!  I also need to take notes on what colors I use, so that when I have to use that same color 7 inches and 2 months later, I don’t have to crawl behind the loom with a flashlight to see what colors were on the bobbin.


Another thing is just simply practice and experience.  By making these mistakes, I’m gaining valuable insights on how to improve my technique for my next piece, and the next, and the next… I lost count of how many times I took hours of work out on this tapestry and rewove it to get the design and shapes and colors just right. Sometimes I had to rework an area several times.  And some of those areas still aren’t right, but I know I gave it my best with the skills that I have.  I can tell you that the moon and the symmetry of the background were the toughest parts.  Although these corrections added extra hours into the piece, my skills and knowledge have increased as a result, and that’s certainly worth it.  So note to self: plan a more detailed cartoon and take good notes!

I also began the finishing work I did for a tapestry from last year.  It feels good to finally get some work done on these weavings, rather than just rolling them up and stuffing them in my closet… like I normally do.


Compass, off the loom February of 2015, but never finished due to a cross-country move.

This piece, Compass, is about trusting my intuition, my inner voice and guiding light in all that I do.  I worked on it during a difficult ending of one chapter of my life, and my hope was that it would serve as a reminder to trust in my own individual journey.  I already have my next weaving planned, a companion piece to this one, a continuation of my story and of trusting the unfolding of my life.  And I think I have the skills and experience now to really make it shine.  Now it’s back to reality.  Until next time, happy creating!