Driving back into Livermore from the Yosemite trips involved going over the Altamont Pass. After 38 years, and probably hundreds of trips over this pass, the view is still awesome.
Livermore is surrounded by golden hills. The windmills had not yet been erected. Once they started to appear, I wanted to show the hills as I remembered them in their pristine state. An image of the gold hills against the blue sky with freshly cut fire-breaks became a large tapestry.
The tapestry technique I use was developed by Theo Moorman, a weaver from England. It is a faster way to weave a pictorial image than traditional French tapestry. In traditional tapestry, wool yarn is woven in small sections on a thick warp and packed down tightly to make a heavy wall hanging.
Moorman tapestry can be done on almost any kind of warp. When the warp is wound, a fine, almost invisible, polyester thread is wound with it. The main warp is threaded alternately on harnesses one and two. The fine threads are threaded alternately on harnesses three and four. The background, which will be under the image, is woven as plain weave with harnesses one and three vs. harnesses two and four.
The colored yarns that make the image are laid across the background, while the fine thread on harness three is raised above them. When harness three is lowered, it holds down the colored yarn as the next background yarn is woven with harnesses two and four raised. Then harness four is raised, the colored thread laid in and harness four is lowered. The image is held in place by the fine threads.
This is a way of painting with yarn. All kinds of specialty yarns can be used to create abstract or realistic scenes.
In 1980, my boys were old enough to get up and make their own breakfast. My looms were in an upstairs room that by 10 a.m. became too hot to work in during the summer. I’d get up with Ray, pack his lunch, eat my breakfast, and then go upstairs and weave between 8:00 and 10:00 every day. Having two hours daily for weaving was wonderful, and resulted in many tapestries over the next four summers.
In June of 1979, my husband, our two sons, and I, had been in California for ten months and we were ready to explore the surrounding area. As soon as school let out for the summer, we took a weekend trip to see Yosemite National Park.
The waterfalls were full and spectacular as we wandered around on the valley floor. We went to Glacier Point. Saw climbers on Half-Dome. We toured the lobby of the Ahwahnee Hotel and watched a group of artists sketching the falls. We ate at Wawona, the lodge at the south entrance to the park.
The trek to Yosemite became an annual get-away as soon as school was out—a reward for making it through another year.
Having grown up in Ohio, with nice straight roads and few hills, I discovered that in California the winding mountain roads easily made me nauseous. The solution was for me to drive those roads. Holding the wheel and keeping my eyes on the road ahead calmed my stomach.
One year, on the drive back to Livermore on Route 120, I watched the snow-covered mountains recede in the rear view mirror as I drove across the valley.
The next week, I put a blue cotton warp on my loom and threaded it for Moorman Tapestry weave. The yarn was a perfect sky color, so I wove the image I’d seen on the drive home.
Weaving on a loom, by definition, is about threads crossing at right angles most of the time. When I learned to set up and use a floor loom in 1966, I also learned how to design patterns using graph paper and develop the thread sequence for the harnesses to weave the design. For most woven pieces a repeating pattern, either simple or complex, is usually used.
To make this more interesting, plain weave alternating with pattern weave can be used, as in a set of place-mats I made.
These have a lace weave around four sides with plain weave in the center. I also added some twill with colored floss.
This was fun to design but tedious to weave. At the time, I had little else to do except have dinner on the table each evening.
I soon learned to simplify what I did on each project, and to use thicker thread as in these aprons I made for Christmas gifts.
I wanted to weave an afghan, but I didn’t want it to just be blocks of color. I was able to achieve a less rigid look by making petals on the flowers different sizes.
When I’m working in mediums like paint that are not controlled by a mechanical devise, I usually make asymmetrical compositions. I wonder why I prefer that look?
I am always trying to escape the grid, the ridged look, the even on each side balance. What is your preference?