Tuesday, December 16, 2008


tapestry (pulled warp), found object-wool, chenille, linen, rock
24 cm x 14 cm x 14 cm

The rock is four shades of unspun wools in what appear to natural grey colours that I got secondhand somewhere. It usually comes in 3 to 12 ply of pencil rovings, I used 2 plys (plies? they both look wrong!), and it packs down really well at 12 epi, with a thick warp that should probably not be warped at higher than 10 epi, (I like using more epi for 3D pieces as it gives a thicker, sturdier body to the work).

The moss is chenille, left over from a classmate's project. I think Bronwyn, dyed by her too, I believe. The grass is just some of my usual tapestry wool stash, tied in a sehna (pile weave) knot.

The walls inside the figure are scrap beige linen, and the sand is wool sewn around thick cardboard. The wool is scrap too. I think cinnamon-dyed, left over from dye class experiments.

The rocks are from my stash.

I'm a little unhappy with the edges of the cave opening, but I haven't figured out how to change it without changing the appearance of the piece in a major way. I didn't want the edge of the interior fabric or the seam to show, but the whip stitch with a piece of the wool the body is made from causes the edges to curl. I photographed it with interior pins to straighten it, but I can't send it off like that, and don't really like the look of the edge so much either (it's more noticeable in person). Blergh. I'm really happy with this piece otherwise.

I just wish my cat would stop trying to steal it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Memento Mori (Ilex II)

Memento Mori (Ilex II)
14cm x 14cm
Tapestry, collage

"Memento Mori" is a Latin phrase meaning "Remember you are mortal". It's also the name a genre of art covering art created in any artistic technique which serves to remind the viewer of their mortality.

Ilex is the genus Holly.

The holly leaf piece is 9 1/2cm x 5cm, 20 epi, wool and cotton embroidery floss.

The holly branch piece is 5 1/4cm x 4 1/2cm, 24 epi, wool, silk.

The background is a blown up detail of the holly tree in the fifth tapestry in the Hunt Of the Unicorn Tapestries, a portion of which is the basis of the holly branch piece.

The holly leaf skeleton was collected from the yard of my old home in Vancouver. The leaves fall and over the course of a few months the skin dries out and peels away. I love these things, they're so cool. I'd never seen a leaf do that before. The other trees in the yard didn't do that.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Something a little different-embroidery

An embroidered piece I submitted to Stitch Spectacular, for their show in Jan.

"She Tosses Her Soul After Every Passing Feathered Thing"
silk (damaged shirt), silk and cotton thread (salvaged from sweaters and scrap floss)

from "And This Is How She Feels", a loose collection of poetry

And this is how she feels
Tossing her soul after every passing feathered thing

Words were first embroidered in stem stitch, and the thicker parts of the font were then done in satin stitch over the stem stitch line.

Magpie feathers, stem stitched shaft, shadow satin stitch for the barbs.

I really shouldn't have used satin for such long stitches. It's been a long time since I did much embroidery and I had forgotten the messiness it can become. They're pretty neat right now, but I think I may need to couch them to stabilize them.

I'm not as happy with the sleeve holes as I'd hoped. They're done in a deliberately messy satin-like stitch, and were supposed to look a little like wings had been ripped off, but don't really. I'm not sure how I could fix that.

ED. This piece will be appearing in Stitch Spectacular, at Dimensions Gallery.com/, in Savannah, Georgia; Jan 9-Feb 4, 2009.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

For Dea

Dea (Dianne) Heron 1948-2008

Dea appeared to have passed away in her sleep, with a book in her hand, on Aug 11, 2008.

She was a lovely person; intelligent, kind, with a wicked sense of humour, and even though I hadn't had the chance to know her well, I thought of her often. While she wasn't the first to introduce me to the world of textile arts, she was one of the people who first encouraged me to take it up again, which eventually led me into being a textile artist professionally. She was also the one to introduce me to the scaryscary world of fibre and needlework shows. Ten+ years later I still haven't used all the yarn I got that day....

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Well, THAT didn't work

Remember this?

Not so much with the working. So I stopped halfway through, since I was under a deadline, and needed the other half of the warp for another piece.

I was using silk, single strand for the ghostly face. I think it would have worked if I had been planning on only doing the vague shape of a head, but even looking at it closely in person, you can barely tell the difference between the yellow hair and the flesh coloured skin. I can kind of see where the nose and mouth are, but the eye is completely lost.

I think I'm going to try it again with thicker thread for the face (or doubling-quadrupling the thread).

The various black threads for the raven look really good though. Better in person, the flash exaggerates the differences.

Sing Your Dead to Sleep

“Sing Your Dead To Sleep”
Tapestry (pulled warp) - wool, linen, beads
18 cm x 12 cm x 10 1/2 cm

The War Queen III

are we lost
and widow-damned
...sing the dead to sleep
who no more raise the sun among us
who no more lay the stars to rest

Brenda Gerritsma, 2003

“Sing Your Dead to Sleep” is one of a collection of roughly figural pieces I am working on; a kind of fetish doll, meant to house a strong emotional concept, rather than to impose energy. This piece is one of mourning an overwhelming loss, portraying a personal ritual of farewell.

Linen warp, wool weft. One of my few pieces not made predominantly with recycled/reclaimed/secondhand materials, the linen and wool were purchased, though for another project. The beads are woven in, the white discs coming from an old necklace no one wanted, and the seed beads were also purchased for another project. The green branching plant was embroidered on after shaping, with long and short bullion stitches.

The body was woven with large slits, with the weft on either side being pulled deliberately too tight to cause the slits to gape. It was also woven with curling patterns in the warp, which are really only visible when seeing it closely in person (you can see it a little between the head and the stitching and beads on the first picture).

Friday, August 08, 2008

I Will Give you Only Winter

“I Will Give you Only Winter”
Tapestry - various fibre (recycled), beads
15 cm x 11 cm

I walk in a shadow wood
where you will not find me
I turn to shadow
to pass there within
do not love me
for I will give you only winter
to turn your tears to ice

Brenda Gerritsma, 2006

This piece is almost entirely recycled, including the warp. I think the white silk in the face and the cream silk used for the lips were the only thing threads I purchased new. Crochet cotton, rayon embroidery floss, cotton twine (same as warp), multi-strand silver (flat strands twined with thread) were used for the background, and the small iridescent beads were woven in on white sewing thread. The body was done with white and black silk floss, cream silk embroidery thread, thrums of unknown fibre and off-white cotton floss. The hair is boucle of unknown fibre, with pearl seed beads woven in. The pearls were definitely second hand. I can't remember if I bought the iridescent beads or not. I've have them lying around a long time.

The warp was some kind of cotton twine-like thread I had lying around. Bad for warp, I lost two warp strands and a couple looked in danger of fraying apart when I had to stop because I was getting too close to the top of the loom a touch shy of the original design. I think I may just stick to linen warp in the future for anything over a couple inches wide. It's the only thing I haven't had grief with.

It was originally supposed to be 15 cm x 15 cm, but after a slight design change in the hair, I think it actually looks better this way. It would have been nice to get the entire piece in stark white and silver, but even the white silk isn't truly white, and all of my linen, silk and wool threads are actually off-white through cream coloured. Looked very 70's.

Also, this piece sucked to weave. I think I took out at least 90% of it at least once, as one thing after another just didn't work right.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Unusual wefts

A few days ago, I asked the Tapestry list I'm on what unusual wefts they've tried. I thought I should post the ones I've tried.

1/ Cotton chenille: nice to work with, nice furry visual, kept together perfectly. I really want to try silk chenille.

2/ Metal thread: don't know what kind, ok to work with. The metal strip seems to be twined with thin filaments of some sort, then plied. Nice, because you can be a bit rougher beating it in than I would be with metal wrapped around a silk or rayon core.

3/ Rayon chenille: it was multicoloured and came out a nice speckly furry look, but either it didn't pack down well, or the core thread is showing because I have 'lice'. Lots of tufts pulled out. Could be a function of rayon chenille in general, or of this brand in particular.

4/ Moda Dea 'Dream': scraps from another project, long tufts sticking out all over.

5/ Handspun: (by someone clearing not practiced at it-possibly me!), wouldn't pack down at all, though it would probably be fine if it were evenly done.

6/ Boucle:weaves well, would make a great tapestry sheep!

7/ Mohair: weaves well, very 'hairy' looking

8/ I don't even know what this is: looks like a strand of unspun/soft-spun cotton that alternates between thick and thin, and it's stitched into a squiggle with a couple of fine strands of thread (in this case, popcorn-butter yellow -the class referred to it as the "popcorn yarn" which it does look like when woven.

9/Long eyelash yarn. A nuisance to weave, as you have to pull the tufts out as you weave if you want them loose, but it packs down well. Tufts are kind of long though. Not sure what it would be useful for.

10/ Beldings Artsyl for Crochet and Knitting. Apparently vintage thread. I'm having trouble finding out much about it. The Company was well known for silk production, and was founded some time in the later 19th century. They had mills in various locations in the US and in Montreal Canada (which is where this thread was apparently made). I can't find any info on this particular thread itself, though. "Artsyl" suggests artificial silk to me. Feels like it as well.

I HATE this thread with a burning passion. A few of the spools still had their paper strips on, but any one that the strip is off, the thread practically springs off the spool, like wire. Doesn't help that I only have it in pastel pink, pastel green and pastel purple. Bleh. Beats down without any fuzziness, with almost creepy perfection.

11/ Metallic plastic strip from a child's cheerleading pom-pom. Lots of lice. Can only be beaten down in a closed shed (it just springs back up if you beat it in the natural shed).

12/ Short eyelash yarn. I like this one a lot. Looks like funfur.

13/ Very odd yarn. A thick strand of unspun fibres (feels like acrylic), with a thin strand of tightly spun (single) of same, wrapped with a very fine strand, that spirals around the other two. My camera died before I could get a good picture, but some ares look like slightly fuzzy regular tapestry weaving, with scattered areas of fluffiness. Kind of like clouds, if clouds were woven. :)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Not much progress

Not much progress on this piece. I realized after the last post on it that the needle I was using was one of my sharp large needles and I was stabbing myself with it too often. I wasn't stabbing myself hard or anything, so not a big deal, really...except for being allergic to my needles! And since I'm not willing to destroy one of my lovely, expensive, gold-plated, I'm-not-allergic-to-these-at-least needles by using it to weave through wire, I had to switch to one of my blunt tapestry needles which I had thought I HAD been using.

Only, the tips are too thick to fit between the warps without pushing them aside far enough they don't spring back, so I had to pack down with my fingertips, which doesn't work very well when the warps are too close, and I'm not very good at doing that without pulling my wefts too tight. So now I have some warp-drift going on where the background meets the raven's head.

Also, several wires are crooked just above where I'm working and I can't straighten them out without making the ones beside them crooked in the process.

I really want to at least do one sample with an all-wire warp, just to see, even though I think in the end I'd be better off just inserting a single wire warp every so many warp threads. But I think, regretfully, I will have to write this one off, and try again with a lower warp sett. Especially since I keep procrastinating working on it, and designing other tapestries instead. Anything not to work on it really.

I've even done DISHES to avoid it! Blech!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Madder Dyeing

Madder dyeing experiments. Mostly for Viking Age Re-enactment (my hobby on weekends). These were just sample bits tossed in with a friend's very very organized dye sampling to achieve a specific shade of red made by the Dutch and/or Flemish people in the Late Medieval period. A couple of the dyes/mordant combinations can't be traced back far enough for me to use for Viking Age clothing and textiles, but I'm completely in love with the Brazilwood/Madder combination, especially on the wool. Sadly, I'm a little leery of using it over-much as Brazilwood is an endangered species of tree, even though Maiwa, my main source for dyes, uses only reclaimed wood for their brazilwood dye.

I think I need to try cochineal/madder, see what that does.

Unfortunately, I hadn't really thought through how things were going to be dyed. Normally, at home when sampling, I use a large canning pot with the rack in upside down, and put each of the dye liquors in separate mason jars* with all the wee pieces of sample fabric floating freely inside, and fill the pot until it covers the jars up to about 2/3. I can do 6 sample lots at a time, 9 if I don't mind putting 3 in the centre where they could get hotter than the other 6.

*Leave the lids off.

But since the dyeing was being done in large pots (which was kind of the point, seeing as how we were sampling how a couple different pots affect the dyes) I couldn't really do that. Some of the samples were only about 2 inches square and gauzy, and I was afraid they'd get lost, so they got stuffed in stockings my friend was kind enough to give me, which really isn't the best idea. My samples are kinda spotty. Next time, I sew a cord through the corners and spread them out like charms on a bracelet, if I'm sampling in larger pots.

Most of the samples are still useful. There's only one I didn't bother putting in; it had gotten rolled up inside a couple other samples and didn't really get any dye at all. And one skein of silk was also rolled in with it and only got dye in patches. Oh well.

I learned a bunch and got some cool samples, so I'm happy. My handwoven wool came out beautifully. The silk is definitely more finicky about being free-floating than the wool. Brazilwood seems to discharge indigo. Seriously! When I untied the knot holding the wool thread samples together, the only reason I knew which was which was from the way I'd tied them in. If I'd had to guess, I would have guessed wrong, the straight madder/brazilwood was DARKER than the overdyed thread, and the pale bit where the overdyed piece had been tied in showed no sign of blue!

Cottons. Yes I know, if I want reds on cellulose fibres I need to use tannins. I have, though, in the past, and still got pinks. I'm trying to find out what tannin sources (that don't dye the fibres themselves) were used in the Viking Age, but haven't stumbled across that info yet. Not that I've been looking hard either!

Linen. I love the pinks from the Madder/Brazilwood. Tin makes the linen too orange for my tastes, though my friend thinks the tinning in the pot dissolved and the orange may be a reaction from the metal the pot is made of, possibly cheap aluminium. The Madder and Madder in Copper are both quite pretty.

Silk is spotty. Madder and madder-in-copper are actually pretty much the same colour. The madder-in-tin is definitively orange. The madder/brazilwood is strangely weak on the silk.

The madder-in-tin was less orange on the wool than the silk, though still definitely orange leaning red. The madder and madder-in-copper were similar again. On the fabrics the madder-in-copper was slightly bluer-tinged, but the madder dyed the threads darker than madder-in-copper.I'm tempted to try some of my left-over sample packets in a cool madder vat, and one with pieces of copper in it, see if it turns out any redder.

The madder/brazilwood is just gorgeous. The picture doesn't do it justice.

The Madder/Indigo overdyes. The threads were dyed with indigo first, mostly because it's leftovers from another project, but dyeing first with indigo is apparently recommended anyway, especially with a chemical vat, since at least one of the chemicals is a bleaching agent.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Next in queue- "Notwithstanding, my heart to eat"

Next flat, square-ish miniature tapestry in queue. The Cartoon process (for my non-tapestry weaving friends being directed here from elsewhere in the web).

This is a fairly typical process for me, as I currently have no light-table or any better image manipulation program than MSPaint (we're working on that too).

The original rough sketch in my "Inspiration book", roughly done, just enough to remember the image I had in my head.

Since I kind of suck at sketching, and really, realistic birds are beyond my limited abilities, I went searching on-line for images of ravens in more or less the pose I wanted. I'm not going to post the original photo here, as it is someone's copyrighted image.

This what it looked like after I spent a few days "cartoon-izing" it. Colour gradations were simplified, colours in each section of the cartoon are all one of the colours that pixels in that section really were. Some manipulations of lines were also done, in places where I could see following the actual lines would cause problems in weaving the piece.

The hand is the same one I used in "The Marriage of Sir Gawaine". It was cartoon-ized from the hand in panel 5 of The Hunt of the Unicorn series of tapestries (c 1500 CE), "The Unicorn is Tamed by the Maiden".

This is the cartoon with colour, as I had originally conceived the piece. I was never able to get the blood drops in the rough sketch to look right.

This is the working cartoon.

However, after looking at it a couple days, I decided first, it was kind of boring, and second, the raven might be a bit too complicated and finicky for a miniature, at my current skill and patience level.

Then I was inspired, primarily by a number of contacts in Flickr who do beautiful image layering in their photographs (McNeney, Daniel Colvin, Teodoratan, Anke Merzbach), with an idea. So I simplified the cartoon...

took the head from "A mon seul désir", in The Lady and the Unicorn series of tapestries (c. 1500 CE)...

cartoonized it...

simplified it...

and layered it under the image of the raven.

Sadly, MSPaint doesn't have a function that would allow me to colour it to show what the final piece is supposed to look like. The raven and hand will be solid images, as in the above colour cartoon, though simplified. The face will be done using the transparency technique I used with the ghost images in As Demented Spectres Dance.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

This...this is a PIA.

Sample piece for an idea I'm working on. Copper wire warp, 16 epi. Weft, randomly selected from my stash of thread bits, cotton I think. First attempt at using wire as warp.

I've used wire as weft before, in pattern weaving, but due to the nature of metal wire, I haven't had much success with it in tapestry. In order to get the wire to bend around the warp, instead of the warp bending around the wire I needed to pass it under only one warp at a time and I ended up using wire so fine it takes forever. And it still didn't cover the warp.

Not really what I was going for. Sigh. But I need something to create solid structure in a 3D piece, without using something chemical.

Not surprisingly, it's a pain in the butt weaving with a wire warp. Surprisingly, not as big a pain as I feared.

I always use needles for weaving in the weft with my miniature tapestry pieces, at least so far, so I'm already used to it. And my warp is usually under the highest tension I can manage, so I'm not used to a flexible warp anyway. The biggest difference is that I don't want to bend the wires as I pass the weft under, so I have to go a lot slower and pass it under fewer warps at a time. Still, less of a pain than using it as weft!

The biggest two annoyances are the fact that the warps are shiny, and not very straight. No matter what I do, I can't get them straight, and with the light glinting off the wires, it's often difficult to see when two have gotten crossed or to get them uncrossed, sometimes until after I've pulled the weft through.

Since it is only a 2" x 2" sample, I'm doing it precisely the way I was told not to, by people with better knowledge of the properies of metal than I. Fixed at both ends, I have to bend the warps a little to get the needle between.
But if you warp up the wire with a little give (which actually makes it easier to weave anyway, I've noticed [one side is tighter than the other]), and you're careful to keep the needle as perpendicular to the warp as possible, it shouldn't be a problem for a smaller piece. Copper, at least, has just enough elasticity to when not pulled tight to bounce back from the amount of bending needed for the needle to go under it. On a larger piece I can see how what I was told about bending them too often and risking snapping the wire might be a problem. Though really, I think a lot of the problem there would be a problem of impatience and not wanting to take that much time when the piece was larger.

The other option would be to pass the needle from front to back, and back to front between each warp pair, which really would take forever.

I wonder if leaving the top of the warp loose would work?

Also, 16 epi was too high. I need to try this again at 12.

This....this is not helping either.