Valley Grove Tapestries: What Was I Thinking, Part Two

I wrote recently about the challenge I hadn’t fully appreciated in planning this project: weaving four tapestries is not the hard part; designing four separate tapestries is a giant hurdle. Hence, what was I thinking? Every day, I get a bit further. And of course, many of my initial design thoughts during the time we were writing the grant last fall are changing. For example, I initially thought that the two churches themselves did not need to be represented in the tapestries, because they would hang in the church–it would be almost redundant. But they will also be available for display outside the church during winter months, and then the images would make sense, to show viewers the structures. So now one tapestry will include the stone church from the 1860s, and another will show the white wooden church that came later.

The stone church, begun in 1862, served the parish until a larger structure was needed. After the wooden church of 1894 was built, it was members of the Ladies Aid who saved the first church and arranged for remodeling it to add a kitchen in the community gathering space. These stalwart ladies need celebration, so I looked through Valley Grove church photos posted by the Norwegian-American Historical Association to find a Ladies Aid member who might work well in an abstracted way. I liked the lady to the left on this image, friendly, yet also strong with her crossed arms. This group was meeting at the Haldor Hope home, and knitting for World War I soldiers.

Here’s the start of my Ladies Aid lady sketch.

Up near the pulpit in the old stone church a filigree wood arch spanned the center area. I enlarged the photo below and drew a portion of the arch, reconstructing the area hidden behind the light fixture.

Men on one side, women on the other! All the women are wearing hats. Are those men’s hats hanging on the wooden column?

I think this arch will grace the top of the tapestry that includes the stone church and the Ladies Aid lady as central motifs. I’m working on that one today. Scale and proportion are everything right now, until the next stage, when color and value will be everything.

There is another aspect of creating the cartoons I had not fully realized. In another tapestry, I want to include a star border similar to the one at the top and bottom of this historical tapestry. Creating a border of the right dimensions requires sampling. In order to know how tall the border will be, you need to weave at least one sample star to understand how tall each star will be, and how many stars will march across the border.

So I wove a star sample. Certainly the red and green I chose quite randomly are too close in value.) It’s a bit too large for the scale of my piece. Sampling is so instructive.

I like the star better in the last piece I wove.

Think. Sketch. Sample. Repeat, repeat, repeat. This will happen.


  1. It will all be wonderful, Robbie! I love the photos! Didn’t know Norwegian Lutherans segregated men from women!! What was that about? Couldn’t the men keep their hands to themselves? !

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