The way that design was taught at my school meant that I spent 5 years learning ceramics but I also enjoyed making things from cloth and yarn. It seemed natural for me therefore, as a Fine Art undergraduate to make pictures using as many layers of cloth and stitch as layers of paint and canvas. After graduating I returned to the earlier preoccupation of ceramics and spent many years as a studio potter and teaching craft. Ten years followed as a full time mum and so it was 20 years before I came back to textiles. A move to Northumberland and a tour of the Outer Hebrides sparked an interest in the rich heritage of the Harris Tweed industry and soon I was experimenting on a table loom. I drew on my Fine art experience, books and periodicals and any information that was offered to explore what to me was an exciting new way of using yarn. I now weave on an 8-shaft countermarch floor loom using mainly wool with rare breed yarns added for their particular textures and strengths. Finding that I needed many different cones to make up my palette of colour I started dying yarn myself. A growing Interest in Tapestry has taken me full circle back to wanting to see my work hanging on a wall. Still using traditional patterns rather than tapestry I have started producing hand dyed wall hangings inspired by the landscape from home and other remote areas of the British Isles.
Making for the Challenge
I entered the challenge with a strong idea of what I wanted to weave, a wall hanging based around a grid. To make the structure work I would need 750 ends of yarn in the warp, which would only be possible if the yarn wasn’t too thick. Unable to see a sample of the yarn, I would have to take a chance on the yarn working. The yarn turned out to be beautifully soft, strong and just the right thickness.
The first step was to dye all the yarn using acid dyes. Most colours required two or even three different dye baths to give the richness of colour that I wanted and then drying. The design I had planned was a variation on a summer and winter pattern the two sides interchanging, so I had in fact two warps to design. The dark warp was made up of rich earth colours and I added Herdwick to give a heavier texture. The green warp had a few ends of undyed Blue Faced Leicester added as a highlight. My loom has 2 back beams so I was able to wind both warps separately, which helped to keep them from becoming tangled.
Threading was straightforward but the hairy Herdwick had created a very sticky warp, which slowed down the weaving. However the Herdwick added essential texture and the grey/brown mix works well with the richness of the dyed Cambrian. Off the loom, both ends were hemmed to take metal rods, to aid hanging.