I’m making a series of family portraits in tapestry in order to experiment with color, yarns and sett. My rusty tapestry skills are improving without the time commitment needed for a large piece (and the likelihood I might be disappointed with the result). So far the small pieces have been enormously instructional. And even though I could point out a hundred flaws in each, the resulting portraits are satisfying.
I recently finished a portrait of my Norwegian immigrant great-grandmother Gunvalda, in which I used color to represent light and shade. The head shot was adapted from one of the few existing photos of her. She is standing with her daughter Val, likely outside a farm building. It would be so interesting to know the occasion for pearls and fancy clothing. It must the the 1920s, as Val is dressed in a flapper-inspired dress. Gunvalda’s attire is still Victorian.
A valuable weaving lesson! It always helps to take a break from your weaving, and it always helps to look at a piece from several vantage points, especially from a distance. While the tapestry was underway I brought it to the Minnesota Weavers Guild to demonstrate during the Fiber Fair. I happily chatted with fellow weavers and visitors to the Guild and made some progress. Following the lines of the cartoon behind the warp threads, I wove the lower nose area and then the top of the nose. In the photo of the incomplete piece, you can see that there is a break in the line of the nose edge. That was how I drew the cartoon, and it seemed like a good choice at the time.
After the Fiber Fair, I brought the loom home and set it up again. Instantly it struck me that the line of the nose was wrong, so much so that it seemed like someone should have pointed it out! Since I had woven quite a bit past that area, I used a needle and wove in some of the darker yarn and made the line complete.
Gunvalda is complete and as usual, the things I would change outnumber those I would keep in a second attempt. But it’s time to move on to a new design challenge and a new relative.