So there I was the other night, just got into the studio to do a bit of weaving and there is this scritchy scratchy sound from above. My studio is not square, there is a lump taken out of it for another room which leaves a flat roof space in my studio (which has a pitched roof) and I store all my tapestries up there, rolled up and laid on their sides, it was from this area that the scritchy scratchy sound came. You can imagine my panic, I have obssessed over moth and all my tapestries are tightly sealed against them but mice? They will nibble through anything if they think it will make a good bed and I know from bitter experience that they do not distinguish between natural or synthetic fibres so the fact my tapestries are all now wrapped in tyvek was no comfort.

So I leapt up and got the steps out and pulled all my tapestries down. Absolutely nothing. Maybe it was a bird on the roof but it didn’t sound like it. To get to my studio you have to walk through the utility room and the other day I opened the door to the utility room to find a wren in there. I opened the external door to let him or her out but never saw it’s going so maybe there is a wren lurking somewhere making a nest?

We are not usually prone to such wildlife visiting us. I like wrens and I do not have a problem with mice as such but they can do so much damage.

On top of this I was getting everything ready for the course I taught a few weeks ago on finishing a tapestry and couldn’t find the brass nails for blocking out. So that resulted in the whole house being turned upside down. I eventually found them in the studio in a box tucked behind the scaffold frame. That was squeeze to get to and now half the house is in total disarray and needs putting back together in an organised manner.

Anyway the course seemed to go well:

Finshing a Tapestry Course 07.03.2020 aThere was much banging in of brass pins and sewing up of ends. We all decided that hammering is good for the soul, like beating a tapestry down, it helps get out any pent up aggression.

Sorting out the course materials did hold me up a bit on the big tapestry and in the meantime I wove a smaller one for the ATA unjuried small format exhibition as they have to be in by the end of March.

I had hoped to finish it to use as a demo on the blocking out course but didn’t quite manage it (too much time hunting for brass pins).

The exhibition isn’t until July so I am hoping it will not be postponed by Coronavirus as I have the airline tickets to go the Knoxville and attend the retreat, see the exhibition and then go down to Alabama to see my brother. My trip to France has just been postponed until September and we had tickets for the Photography Show in Birmingham last week and that was cancelled, at the time I could not decide if this is an overreaction by the organisers or not but since then it seems it was absolutely the right thing to be doing.

So not going to France means more chance to get big weavings done for the Artapestry6 deadline in July – hurrah. Oh and the big 3D piece for the Cordis in January.

This is how that latest big tapestry looks:

Cecil - 23.02.20

Excuse the blue square, one of the labels flipped over in the breeze from the window and I didn’t notice.

I am going to try to blog more often this year, I realised I only posted 4 times last year but can only plead extentuating circumstances which with PJ being ill and Heallreaf 3, and life getting in the way.

My next day course at Weavers Bazaar was on ‘Weaving Eyes’ on Saturday 27th June but it looks like it will be delayed. I have some amazing eyes to weave between now and then.


Still weaving – just

Since November I have done quite a bit of recovering from Heallreaf 3 – it really was a task too far. Next time I have to build a team to take on some of the work. I spoke to the NCCD at Sleaford last year and they were interested but I haven’t heard back from the message I left a week or so ago, I am hoping to go up and talk to them about Heallreaf 4. It may slip to 2022 in order to be the other year to The Cordis but then I am not sure the Cordis is going to happen in 2021, they don’t seem to be regular in a bi annual cycle, just when they decide to do one.

In case you remember and are wondering, I didn’t get the Lady and the Unicorn tapestry started. The backgound is all wrong, it just looked like images stuck on in the sketches I did and I didn’t want to weave such a large tapestry without being totally sure of myself so I have gone back to another project whilst the Lady and the Unicorn sit around waiting for me to make some decisions. Sometimes things just need to compost in my brain for a bit.

Since my last post I have taught two pod courses at Weavers Bazaar, just the one day each and they both went well, well, the students all gave positive feedback which is nice.

I did weave a smaller tapestry in December, more than anything to just keep weaving, I have this fear that is I don’t keep some weaving on the go I will stop and all that time at College etc will be for nothing.


Whilst not the most amazing tapesty in the world I quite enjoyed doing it. The image comes from a photo PJ took of a dahlia and then seriously photoshopped, hence the odd colouring. I think it proved to me that I am not good at following cartoons when I don’t really HAVE to and the colour blending is not as good as it could be but I refused to buy/dye more yarn. And as usual it was a bit too small for me to get exactly the right colour blending even where I did have the right colours. Blending the burgundy into the blue was an interesting exercise. It still has to be finished, I am rubbish as getting around to finishing my work, it is usually done at the last minute before the piece goes off to an exhibition.

Talking of finishing, I am running a one day workshop at Weavers Bazaar on finishing your tapestries, details are here:


It came about because when I posted and image of the Dahlia tapestry on Instagram I said it needed blocking out and several people asked me what ‘blocking out’ was so I talked to Weavers Bazaar and lo we have a one day course. It is going to be a bit of talking and some practical, obviously we won’t have the time or space to block out large tapestries but we can get through the basics.

So the Lady and the Unicorn are consigned to the compost, not literally, maybe marinade would be a better word, the whole thing needs to mull around in my mind for a bit longer, the answer to the background problem will come in time. I have gone back to a previous design which was going to be another diptych but I have decided it will be a triptych, quite ambitous as each piece will be 1.5 metres x 1.5 metres, well, that’s ambitous for me. It was an image I had knocking around for some time and then after PJ being ill last year I had some copies of his CT scans so that got overlaid onto the original images, along with some other drawing and hey presto.

Cecil 1

This is it so far, about 35cm of the design woven in about 40 hours. I don’t normally quote the hours – it can be so irritating when people ask how long it took to weave something – but I thought that was pretty good and it is at 2 warps to the centimetre which is much coarser than I usually work. Whilst it is interesting to see how quickly it grows I don’t think I will rush to weave anything of my own at that sett again, the curves are not smooth enough as it makes the tapestry look quite pixelly.

It looks a bit wonky in the picture as I was winding it down when I realised that I hadn’t taken a photo and once that bit at the bottom is gone it won’t be seen again until it is finished so I had to wind it back up a bit. It looks very pale and subtle at the moment but there is a red square on it’s way. It is being woven on the side so the right hand side is the bottom.

Other news is that on the 19th February I am speaking briefly at a conference on ‘Medium’ at the London School of Mosaic. So here’s another link for you if you are interested:


I think that is about it for today. I don’t post for ages and then you get lots to wade through all in one go. In the next post I will let you know how my learning French is going. I am off on an orgainsed Tapestry Tour of France at the end of May and thought I should brush up on my school girl French. No, lets be honest I have virtually no school girl French so it will be more than brushing up and my brain is already full.




Once again it has been a while

So here I am again apologising for not posting in an age. Well, organising Healleaf 3 sort of got in the way of everything. It finished in London last Saturday, we took down on Sunday and slowly all the work is disappearing back to the artists. I am currently waiting for FedEx to arrive to collect two tapestries but as they were supposed to come yesterday I am at a bit of a loss to know when they might appear. Fortunately I am in all day, packaging more tapestries and recovering from a really nasty virus that hit me just before Heallreaf 3 went up in London. Under normal circumstances it would probably have gone by now but daily trekking backwards and forwards to Shoreditch High Street on the train didn’t aid recovery, although my coughing fits kept my fellow travellers at a distance so I got plenty of space to travel in.

So here is the final image of the diptych I wove for Heallreaf 3:

Espacio Private View 191017-27

The poetry that goes with it is:

He dances alone on the pin

it’s metal hot



his mythical wings burn

oh the folly

from fire

to ice

falling through eternity

the vestigial stumps

just a memory of flight

it is cold

as the ice rises

to burn him


It is interesting that on reading this a lot of people immediately think of Icarus but of course he fell into fire, not ice. Someone else also asked if the reference to the pin was related to the idea of butterflies being pinned to a board. Wow! I didn’t think of that.

To be honest it all started with the question ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?’ (For an answer see Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.)

A guy came into the gallery and we were talking about the work, he said the dark side was too dark and the light side too light, but that didn’t bother me, I spent 3 years at West Dean with few positive comments about my work so it isn’t so much that I have a thick skin in that respect it’s just that I have a certain amount of confidence in my work, and everyone else is entitled to their opinion too. However after I had talked this gentleman through the poem and we discussed the work for a bit he looked at me and said ‘so it’s all about balance’. And I thought, amazing, you are just about the only person to have got it. From falling from the pin to the dark and light of the tapestry to the fire and ice of the poetry, it is all about balance and I am not sure who else really understood it in that way. Having said that I don’t worry too much about people ‘getting’ my work. As Francis Bacon said, ‘the job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery’ I want people to see what they see not what I impose on them even if it is about entymology pins rather than dancing angels.

So that’s Heallreaf 3 over and done with, although the good news is that I was joint winner of the People’s Prize. Hurrah! The People’s Prize is sponsored by Weavers Bazaar, those nice people who sell amazing yarns for tapestry weaving. Everyone who comes to the shows is asked to vote for their favourite work. Last time we had a tie and this time we have a tie as well, the winners were me and Joan Baxter. WoooHooo I won a joint prize with Joan Baxter. For anyone not a tapestry weaver reading this, Joan is a renowned weaver who lives in Brora, she teaches and does lots of commissions and worked at West Dean Tapestry Studio for many years.

Talking of West Dean Tapestry Studio, the piece I helped weave is now at The Blue Mountain School, 9 Chance Lane, which is just opposite Shoreditch High Street Station so one day I played truant from the gallery to go and see the tapestry.

Modern Art Eva Rothschild’s ‘Furniture, Tapestry, and Ceramics’ continues at Blue Mountain School, London until 23 November 2019. Presented by Blue Projects. Image: Rings of Saturn, 2019, dyed wool, 286 x 175 x 1 cm, 112 5/8 x 68 7/8 x 3/8 ins #evarothschild @bp.bluemountainschool #stuartshavemodernart

I am not sure about the copywright of the images of this work – sorry if anyone objects  let me know and I will remove it but there are images all over the internet now. So the original artwork was by Eva Rothschild and then the tapestry was woven at West Dean by me, Ellie and Philip. It is on view until the 23rd November in Chance Lane and worth a look. I was a bit worried about weaving something so unlike my own work but actually as it was blocks of colour it wasn’t too bad. I basically wove the right hand side and that long thin strip of green was terrifying, it was only across about eight warps and at 1.8 metres high, maintaining the right tension was scary but we did it.

So I am going to finish with an image of my latest tapestry. Yes I did manage to get some weaving done too. This is a portrait of my Great Uncle Antonio.

A Mazzalini - Drunkard (2)


And following the dual portrait of my neice and my Great Grandmother I thought I would do one of him, so here it is:

Great Uncle Antonio

I have included the original photo this time as I am pleased with the likeness. It is one thing to be able to weave a face but it is completely different  to weave a portrait that looks like the person, I think I have it here, although I cannot decide whether it does look like he has a moustache or a hair lip. I think I have the sad eyes, eyes are such tricksy things for weavers, in fact for any artist, at least with the shadow and the tilt of the head there was not a requirement to get them looking almost identical which it the worst bit.

So what’s next? A bit of a rest. Package up all the Heallreaf 3 tapestries and send them back to their artists, clear the studio up a bit. Then I have to do some pod samples as I am teaching a ‘pod weaving’ day at Weavers Bazaar in November. Then there is a smallish flower tapestry I want to do and maybe a couple more family portraits and then of course there is my Lady and The Unicorn Tapestry, I hope to get the artwork for that and the frame warped up by the end of November – okay end of December.


So, I have been working at the Professional Tapestry Studio at West Dean for five weeks now and as of yesterday we have woven 40cm of 180cm. The first two weeks were taken up with stuff like dyeing and weaving 15cm of selvedge – 15cm that’s 6 inches in old money. It isn’t usually quite that much but the artist decided she might like an inch of the black at the top of the tapestry so we had to weave it just in case. Yes we are starting at the top, so weaving the work upside down as there is going to be a fringe on the bottom, so that is all the left over warps which will be at the top of the weaving – does that make sense?

Last Saturday I went up to Nottingham to Surface Gallery where Heallreaf 3 is showing in September. They are very proactive and really want the exhibition to be a success which is good. I am currently wondering about the logistics of a Heallreaf 4. No sure I really want to do it but will see it as a failure if I don’t, although it will have to stop sometime. Having both the exhibitions out of the area has created alot of travelling. Also less than half the work that was submitted was submitted correctly, I really got fed up with resizing several hundred images in photoshop. I think my resident techie elf could have written a little macro to do it almost automatically but I didn’t think of it til I had nearly finished them and he has been poorly since last year so don’t like to ask too much. Although he is going to have to do the photographs for the show ill or not!

So what weaving have I been doing? Well, some. I finished the Heallreaf piece and will post an image when it is all blocked and hung properly. It is still on the frame at the moment but I must get it sorted as I will need images of the two pieces for the Heallreaf catalogue. I finished the small tapestry I started on Joan Baxter’s short course and am trying to finish the one I started on Lynne Curran’s course. I am struggling with that a bit as I think the gap was too long between the course ending and re starting the weaving and in following the course criteria it hasn’t really done what I want it to do so I have lost interest a bit.

This is the piece from the Joan Baxter course. The course was about weaving work inspired by words and the words from the came from this Persian Epigram:

Look at this parti-coloured flower,

An agate streak, a pearl pale streak –

Two lovers who have crept away

And lie together, cheek to cheek.

This just shows the curled petals of a flower but I had considered doing it larger and doing a lot more work on the image so they could be flower petals or they could be bodies but I am not sure. This is about 30cm or 12 inches high, although I am not sure whether it should be hung vertical or horizontal. if there is anyone out there reading and you have an opinion please comment. The colours aren’t quite right either, I wanted to use the Weavers Bazaar Teal collection with a sort of ochrey, browny, orangey colour but they don’t have that colour and I didn’t have the time to dye it. A bigger one would probably have different colours. The poem mentions agate but agates can be any colour you like.


This piece is the one from the Lynne Curran course. Although it was before the other course I was thinking about using poetry as inspiration as I often get stuck on what to weave for small pieces so this came from a poem by Spike Milligan. Spike wrote amazingly funny stuff as in his book ‘Silly Verse for Kids’ but he also wrote some very serious work and this one called ‘Omen of Emptiness’ was about his depression. Spike suffered from Bipolar Disorder or manic depression as it was called then.

The clock has turned enough

To reach a planet

Life is endless night

I hear wings beating in the dark of my room

A giant raven is waiting

for me to fall asleep


The idea was to have an image of the clock face but it should follow the contours of a landscape. The black is very shiny rayon as a nod to the raven’s plumage but it didn’t really work that well. It was supposed to be square but you can see marked on the warps a second curve and I think I will stop at that curve at the top edge. Oh and the marks that look a beigey colour are actually shiny gold lurex, it just made me think if how the alarm clock seems to shine in the night, mocking you with the time when you can’t sleep.

So I am not sure what is next. I have two big diptychs in mind but they have slightly got pushed out of the way by a thought of weaving a Lady and the Unicorn tapestry. A very experienced weaver has kindly agreed to talk to me about my work as I worry that there is no cohesion, no sign of a path evolving in my work or a definite ‘artists voice’ there. But we are not going to be able to get together probably until November and a bit of me is reticent to start another large tapestry until after that, although the Lady and the Unicorn is calling to me but new ideas always do (No medieval maidens or unicorns will be in sight, I haven’t lost it totally.) I think I may take the time to build a body of small works, either portraits as I liked doing me and The Mazzalini Girls and have some more family portraits I might like to do. Or I could carry on with the work inspired by poetry, I have a whole book of the Persian Epigrams and could happily sort images for many of them. I am struggling a bit weaving all day at West Dean and then coming home to try to weave but I think if I had a big piece on the go it wouldn’t so difficult. There is always a bit of an hiatus after finishing a big piece. Mainly because I don’t like the blocking out, sewing on the tape and all that stuff.


The studio is quite tidy!

Having ended the last post saying that I was going to tidy the studio it is quite tidy at the moment, although a bit tricky to get into as you have negotiate the obstacle course that is the utility room to get there. I have just turned the whole studio around in order to get a small table in to use as a desk. Part of me would rather not have a laptop in the studio because it is very distracting but otherwise it lives on the dining room table which isn’t good either.

So what has happened since the last post? I will remind you of the image of the last tapestry – The Mazzalini Girls. I was quite pleased with it until my brother made the comment that one face was white and the other black.

Well, this is art and the original image of my great grandma was very dark, and in some ways she is a shadowy figure from our past so I am not going to rush around and reweave the work but it has somewhat taken the gloss off for me. Sorry Bro, your fault but then I do not always say the right things about the short stories you write so maybe we are quits. Let’s call it artistic licence.

I have not rushed off to do lots more of these portraits, although a series of family portraits is a possibility but I have done a self portrait which I am in two minds about.

I started this blog in May and got somewhat sidetracked due to the deadline for Heallreaf 3 looming. The aforementioned self portrait was for a self portrait competition which I never got around to entering. However, all was not lost as it was the right size for the bi annual Kate Derum Awards in Australia, so I entered it for that and heard a day or so ago that it has been accepted. This is what it looks like:

I think it looks vaguely like me. There is a reason behind this particular composition. I have for some time been interested in the idea of weaving what I believe they call optic black, that is, black made up of all the colours, so each strand of weft yarn has three colours in it, one red, one green and one blue. Like the computer uses and calls it RGB. I did try using the main primary colours, red, blue and yellow but there is no way you can get a yellow dark enough to blend with the red and blue. You can see as the blends got lighter the red, or pink shows through much more than the blue and green. Interesting. The lighting effect, or Rembrandt lighting is one of my favourite lighting effects, I think it came from a photo PJ took ages ago.

So on top of all this I am trying to finish my diptych for Heallreaf 3. All the entries are in now and I had to photoshop the images of my two pieces together although the latest one isn’t quite finished, so here goes with that:

You can see the one on the left isn’t quite finished yet but it gives a good idea. It will be around a metre and a half square when they are both hung side by side. I hope it is enough for the jurors to select it for the show.

The Heallreaf 3 entries went well, I had 73 artists submit 141 pieces of work so now it is over to the jurors to decide what gets selected for the exhibition.

On top of all this I have been asked to work at West Dean in the Professional Tapestry Studio which is an excellent opportunity. I am there three days a week until the end of August which means I will stop just in time to dash off to Nottingham and set up Heallreaf. So far I have done two days at West Dean, today in the dye room dyeing yarns ready to start weaving next week and last Tuesday I spent doing samples which is a huge joke as I rarely do samples, I make decisions as I go which sometimes means undoing a few hours work but if I sample I am going to get so bored. Anyway this piece at West Dean is another commission for Eva Rothschild it is big blocks of colour on quite a chunky warp so it should grow quickly, it has to be finished by the end of August, so the timing was pretty good for me. It is odd having a proper job and having to get in at 9am and leave at 5pm, it’s years since I’ve had to do anything like that. Well, apart from college but that was a bit different and they were very laid back about timekeeping.

Finally I got around to it.

I am not sure what has happened to wordpress,  they are the people who host this blog but when I went in to start this one is has all gone odd. So if the posts completely cease after this have a look at the web site http://www.margaretjonesartistweaver.com as I might have had to change the hosting of this blog. It probably doesn’t help that I started writing it in the middle of making a lasagne and the cheese sauce has gone lumpy. Fortunately I own a silicone balloon whisk which gets rid of lumps in all sauces.

So, what has happened since the last post. The bungee cord weaving got thrown out, well, I took it to pieces as you can’t waste good material can you?

The latest tapestry I mentioned, the one with strips of four faces just didn’t work either. The idea was that the faces I used were those of my niece, my face, my Mum’s face and because there are no half decent images of her mother the final face was to be my great grandmother. Unfortunately neither the photo’s of me or Mum worked in the making of the cartoon, unlike Natasha (my niece) or Susannah (my great grandma) neither Mum nor I were looking at the camera in quite the right way to work with the other two  images. It also meant that the two outside faces where barely visible as all you got was the cheeks, so no real identification of the person.

So I ended up just doing the two faces, of Natasha and Susannah, the youngest and the oldest. Below is an image of the joined photo’s, which took a bit of jiggery pokery in photoshop to get the features all at the same height. I didn’t intend to do all the colours on this image but I had the original four faces in my mind with all their colours so I was a bit stuck for a while on what colours to use on this, hence I put the backgrounds in.


The faces were to be a dark greeny grey on the right hand side and a pale bluey grey on the left hand side. Unfortunately the greeny colour made the bluey colour look bright blue so I have used a grey which just happens to be slightly blue. Does that make sense? So the background colours are sort of the complementary colour to the face.

So here is the tapestry, it is just 10 inches square, I am not sure how much they look like Natasha and Susannah. This is the first time I have put the photo and the tapestry together. Susannah’s eye is too bright but I liked that so left it. Not being able to do eyelashes also has an impact and I just don’t have enough space to get rid of the dark line across Natasha’s cheek.


Apart form this, since the last blog I put in my third Arts Council funding application for Heallreaf 3 and yes, I heard a few days ago that we have got the funding. I went into a bit of a flat spin at that so now all the arrangements are being made. I have two entries so far and am just starting to weave my own entry, the second half of a diptych, the first half of which was finished some time ago.

I have also got into a bit of a thing about faces and thought I might start doing some more family faces. Part of this I guess is going through my Mum’s photo’s. Mum died last September (hence the big gap in posts) and I have been going through all the stuff in the house, including photo albums. Many of the photo’s haven’t much definition in them but I am not sure that is such a problem. If you look at Pat Taylor’s website http://pat-taylor.com/liv.php her portraits don’t have a lot of detail in them. I had thought of doing the above tapestry in the that style but I am not sure it’s me. By the way the tapestry is called ‘The Mazzalini Girls’. This is because my great grandma’s married name was Mazzalini and we all have the genes from there downwards. The family came to the UK in the early 1800’s as economic migrants, if you look at the history of the time they were treated very badly, especially as they were catholic. Many of the family changed the name to Mack because they thought it was less foreign and of course once World War Two came it does sound a bit like Mussolini. And you know how people can be, like those who attacked paediatricians because they thought they were the same as paedophiles in Bristol some years ago. I think it was Bristol, but please correct me if I’m wrong.

I had wondered about doing a similar tapestry with the boys of the family, they of course would be ‘The Freeborn Boys’ as that is my maiden name. Maybe I could get four of them in a shot. I am currently, as well as the second half of the diptych, starting a 12 inch square self portrait in a very different style. I am not sure weaving two pieces at once is such a good idea but the warp was there on the scaffold frame and it was a shame to waste it, warp is really expensive.

Oh, I have just realised I haven’t posted my photo, the one that was in the Qest book, so here it is:

Qest Portrait

I thought they wouldn’t let me use it, copyright and everything but they sent us all the images, brilliant, although there is more studio than me in the shot. It is a great big book, the type you need to reinforce the coffee table legs to take the weight.

Well, that was a long post, just to make up for the gaps of late. As always I need to go and tidy the studio.





Thought I’d better….

get around to doing another post.

Life has been pretty tricky since the last post but I guess that’s life.

I have AGAIN done the Arts Council Funding form for Heallreaf 3, spending some considerable time on ‘Public Engagement Criteria’ I mean I know what it means, but……….  My Uncle recently suggested it sounded like ‘a standard meaningless phrase, designed to knock you back and test your determination’ and I guess it feels like it sometimes. I should hear whether I am successful this time around Christmas, I will do it again if I don’t get the money.

And yes I have been weaving and this is the big round one for Canada:

It was still on the frame when photographed and is a bit tricky because the left hand side is paler than this and the camera got confused. I think it is going to Canada but I have sent a photo and not heard anything, I might nudge them again but I don’t like to. So it is a whopping 1.5 metres in diameter, which isn’t whopping in tapestry circles but it is the biggest tapestry I have woven so far. It felt incredibly complicated when I was weaving it but doesn’t look it does it?

I did promise to post all my workings on this piece from start to finish on this, here goes.

This was how it started. As you can see, a simple image almost on the back of an envelope, but it would have been silly to weave something that simple so big as there would have been great big spaces of colour and anyway that was never my intention, this was just a starting point. You can see the dots which denote that slight changes in coloured areas as it goes from light to dark. This image is on it’s side as I wasn’t quite sure about how I was going to weave it yet.

The next stage was to make the background a more balanced image. I knew the part circles should be in red but wanted the background to be more complicated. I turned to a painting that I had done sometime ago. I may have blogged about it, you use silicon and acrylic paint and PVA glue stir them round and turn it out onto a board. I took a circular area of one of those paintings and here it is:

Of course it is far too complex to weave, even at 1.5 metres across so it was always going to be simplified.

Then I had to address the shading, I always knew the left hand side would be paler than the right and I wanted it to get darker in waves rather than a slow delicate blend. I needed to know how many blends of the background colour I would have so I did some sampling. (Yes me again sampling, it is becoming a habit.) I knew the darkest colour I wanted was a Weavers Bazaar colour called ‘Midnight Green’ so I asked them to dye four more colours, each a shade paler than the last and these where the five yarns I ended up with.

They are very grey, in fact probably greyer than I anticipated but it is always difficult with weaving isn’t it? You have to tread that line between subtle and garish. The samples I did are these:

I worked it all out vaguely mathematically on a piece of paper. The blend number is down the left hand side and the yarn numbers are across the top.

You can see at the bottom that when it came to it I needed another colour and added black linen in instead of using all the darkest colour. I used 8 strands of yarn in each weft bundle and at no point have I used just the one colour, it is always a blend of two or three colours, to move from that to just one colour makes a very blocky colour with no subtlety. Hence the change of mind in blend number 20.

So this next image is the curves that will go across the image to note where the colour changes come:

It has got a bit creased and I changed it a bit as I went.

Finally this was the cartoon which I might have posted earlier:

The tapestry was woven through 90 degrees so the straight line which goes from the bottom upwards was coming in from the left hand side. I wanted that line to be very thin and very straight.

And so here we are back at this:

So that’s the tapestry start to finish in a nutshell. A very small nutshell. It took about 350 hours to weave and around 2 kg of weft yarn.


So, as my brother said – what’s next?

I am trying some weaving with bungee cord in the hope I can put pressure on an area and pull it out of shape. Unfortunately once used in the weft bungee cord seems incredibly stable so it isn’t playing the right game. I might give up, but you have to try these things. I just begrudge what I see as ‘wasted time’. It was an experiment for The Cordis exhibition next year but I don’t think it will be entered. One interesting fact seems to be that although the bungee cord won’t pull sideways as I wanted it does have a certain amount of movement backwards and forwards, so the weaving will push into bumps towards you and away from you. I am not quite sure how that can be utilised but I am keeping it locked away in the back of my mind maybe for future use.

The next piece is a small 10 inch square piece which will be a composite of four faces. This is proving a bit tricky but it is early days yet, the design isn’t playing the same game as me, maybe it has been talking to that bungee cord! It will be woven quite finely – maybe 10 warps to the centimetre, maybe even 12. So when you next see me I might be wearing very strong glasses. I wouldn’t normally weave at such a fine sett but finished size is decided for me and I don’t think I can get the detail in at anything less than 10, I may have to do more sampling. At least the deadline isn’t until May.

Weaving away

So it is a bit difficult to remember where I got to but I do remember that just as I published the last blog I remembered that I was going to share the news that I have been accepted as a Member of the Society of Designer Craftsmen. This is good news and as a QEST scholar I bypassed the Licenciate stage and went straight to Member. Having said all that I haven’t heard anything from them so I think I have to be a bit more proactive on investigating their website and stuff.

So, if you are keeping up (I don’t blame you if you aren’t) I was about to start a 1 metre round commission and I did samples. Yes I know I rarely do sampling but when you have a commission and a customer to enagage you have to do something for them to make decisions on. So I did the samples and then the commission. It involved some tufting which I quite liked after the Instabul thing but have lost my love affair with after this one. It takes SO LONG and SO MUCH yarn.

Anyway this is the commission finished, although still on the frame:

I am rather pleased with it, although it is very pale and elegant, going back to some of the work I did at college which is where the person who commissioned it saw my work. The middle is tufted and I did it in very fine wool 32/2 if that means anything to you, not much thicker than sewing thread, but it gave the surface a lovely fine finish. The background is all plain undyed wool with just a hint of gold lurex. I’ll get through those kilo’s of gold lurex I bought at college if it is the last thing I do.

As I started this I got an email inviting me to exhibit next January. The problem is that the minimum size is 1.5 metres square and I have to get it done by the end of September because I have nothing quite that large to hand.

So all hands to the pumps I have gone and bought myself a scaffold frame which is now in my studio, all put together by little me and I have just spent two days – yes two days warping it up, 2.5 ends to the centimeter and double warped.

Here is a photo:

So I feel a really grown up tapestry weaver now I have a scaffold frame, I also have very sore hands from the warping, as well as an extremely short temper because the second lot of warps on the double warping kept getting crossed over, or, just as I have a couple of centimetres to go I dropped the reel of warp thread and consequently it all pinged and went slack and I had to go back quite a way and start again. Grr! Next time I will do about a foot of the first warp then the second warp to the same place and move slowly across like that, hopefully it will be easier.

I have calculated that there will be around 400 hours of work if this was warped at 4 ends to the centimetre but as it is 2.5 I am hoping it will move a little (a lot) faster. If it isn’t all done in time, I am hoping I can send them images of what I have done so far and they will accept it, if not I will put it in for The Cordis in January.

It has occurred to me that instead of me just wittering on these blogs it might be an idea to show this next piece from inception to finish, there is even some talk of PJ doing some photography with little videos all linked together so it won’t exactly be a time lapse but something like that. I shall put my mind to it for the next post.



Been a busy bee

Since Hatfield House a lot has happened.

I had a lovely photographer come to  the studio. Julian Calder came to take my photo for a book Qest are doing about 100 of their scholars and I am included. Coo! He was such a nice man and it was really interesting how he approached composition for a portrait, not something I had really thought about but then I am not a professional portrait photographer so I suppose I wouldn’t. He was recently on ‘Countryfile’ on the TV talking about a portrait he did of the Queen and shared more insights on composition.

I don’t have a copy of the photo and I guess it will be copywrited but even the staff at Qest haven’t been allowed high quality photo’s just in case any get out before the book launch in October. I am hoping to go.

We had a break involving a trip to Scotland and then Northumberland. I love Northumberland and would move there tomorrow if I could. We did a round trip and on the way and went to Hardwick Hall to see the tapestries and I suppose the hall itself but mainly the tapestries. This was the third time I had tried to see the tapestries so third time lucky. I am swiftly coming to the conclusion that once you have seen a couple of National Trust houses you’ve probably seen them all but there was a wonderful room called the Muniment Room which held all the deeds for the properties and all sorts of other papers. I want one:

Harwicke Hall 180527-1

Isn’t it wonderful? Just think how much yarn you could get in there.

I also came across a tapestry which utilises slits as part of the design. Something done a lot but in my very humble opinion (and I mean that) this is the best use of slits I have ever seen.

The darkness in the slits just seems to make the white sparkle in the way water does when the sun is on it.

We must thank PJ for the photo’s.

After Hardwick Hall we went onto Scotland and did Stirling Castle, well we did a few other things too but as this is basically a weaving blog you do not need to know about the long drive up to Queens View at Pitlochry where the Sat Nav told us we had arrived at our destination but then expected us to walk across water to get to the view point.

Stirling Castle was interesting and it was good to see the exhibition of how the tapestries were woven, although there were a couple of things that either I got wrong or they got wrong, I have to check whether the Unicorns were really woven on wool warp and I can’t remember the other query off hand. I had forgotten they were woven 10% smaller than the originals and I am sorry to say I think it showed. Of course I totally understand why but that combined with the coloured walls I felt they lacked presence.

Stirling Castle

It was strange as the young man at the hotel we stayed in dismissed Stirling Castle and said if we wanted real culture we must visit the Wallace Monument. Regretably PJ had everything planned in advance so we didn’t get around to seeing the Wallace Monument so I am not quite sure what he meant. Maybe next time.

And finally of course we got to The Dovecot. I am amazed, they had SO much yarn you would not believe. I nearly bought some in the shop but PJ said ‘I’ll meet you outside’ so I didn’t really get a chance and to be honest I don’t need more yarn at this point in time, I need to get some woven up to give more space in the studio. They were preparing small tapestries, I think about 12 inches square, all based on the ex swimming pool building the studio is housed in as they have a big anniversary coming up. Some of them were tufted (with a gun not by hand like mine) and I have to admit I am starting to warm to tufting, especially as I have just finished a tufted piece. No sheds to get in a pickle. David Cochrane was talking about using leashes which I have tried but gave up. He was enthusiastic that I should try them again and as my next piece is large areas of one colour I will give them a go. Sorry to those of you who do not know what leashes (and come to that sheds) are. This blog will get far too long if I start explaining, ask me next time you see me or email me.

This is image of a tufted ‘thing’ on the wall in the Dovecot tea shop. Yes they have a very good tea shop, nice tea. Did we visit a lot of tea shops or what? It is a bit wonky I know but the best way I could get it all in.


After that we spent a lovely week in Northumberland, the weather both weeks was glorious although Northumberland involved the local midge population eating me alive, almost as bad as when I went to Florida and yes I used the anti midge stuff and I took extra Vitamin B but they had no effect at all, or maybe they did and I would have just been one huge bite by the time we left. As it was the left side of my face and neck looked like I had caught some disfiguring disease.

And finally here is an image of the tufted  ‘rug’ for the Istabul Design Biennial in September.

google weaving stop time finished

And that’s it for now. I expect things will go a bit quiet for a bit as I have a commission to do next and some samples (yes me doing samples) to produce prior to the big piece – a round one, 1 metre in diameter.





Back again

So I thought I would update about Hatfield House and probably have a little rant.

Firstly and most importantly thank you to everyone who came and said hello and allowed me to go and get tea (or got me tea) and also have ‘comfort breaks’. It would have been an exceedingly long four days without you.

I am now in the process of unpacking everything and hanging all the tapestries in the studio t0 make sure they are dry and may have to clean them all as well. Why is it that people have to touch tapestries, even when there are signs saying please do not touch? Would they touch a watercolour or an oil painting? The quilters had A5 size quilts with a hand and a cross through it, I wonder if that would work better than small cards? I mean big signs saying DO NOT TOUCH tend to put people off coming anywhere near you so surely there is happy medium. It was interresting that when you asked someone not to touch they then got very guilty and ran away.

So a lot of the exhibitors were very grumbly saying there weren’t as many visitors as in previous years and most seemed to be seriously financially down on what they have taken in previously and it all got me thinking. Are ‘craft fairs’ (because that is effectively what this was) a thing of the past? After all Collect missed a year and all that is is a very high class craft fair (sorry Mr Saatchi but there it is). Also the feeling amongst visitors was that it is all the same old same old. I was approached to exhibit at the Game Fair and the Textile Fair at Landmark House partly because you don’t see tapestry often. I suspect both will be far too expensive and to be honest I know I would not have gone to Hatfield House if I hadn’t been given a free place. Apparently it is usual that next year I will be offered a half price place. Again it is unlikely that I will do it, after all tapestry is not an impulse buy. There were lots of lovely comments and asking the price but I am not sure it is worth it and four days was a long time, even the regular fair exhibitors said four days was a bit too long. I did sell a small triptych and PJ’s ‘encouraging’ comment was ‘that doesn’t even pay for your hotel’. Bless him, but he was right. I just hope some of the cards I gave out about the course I am teaching in September have an effect and I did talk to several people about commissions, rarely does anything come of those discussions but you just never know.

I really think these sort of craft/country fairs have had their day. We rarely go to a fair of any description now. We avoid the West Dean Chilli Fiesta because it is mainly stalls selling chilli sauces, the only stand worth going to is the Monezuma’s chocolate stand and that is because PJ has a loyalty card and their chocolate is out of this world.

At the weekend most of the visitors wandered around with slightly dazed or glazed faces and not much interest at all. There were a few youngsters who were quite engaged, one was standing discussing abstract art with me for some time, I guess (big guess I am not good at giving children ages) he was about 13 years old. One person rushed up and said ‘oh my god tapestry has come into the twenty first century’ and I thought we might get into a conversation but she didn’t want to talk or really look at the work, having said that she rushed off again with her mates.

So that’s my rant. I will leave you with an image of ‘Blue’ which was there and more than one person came up and said ‘it’s a Manta Ray’. Can you see it because I am not sure I can, well, sort of.