Soumak Circles

Apparently, I just can’t get enough of Soumak.

Here’s my latest endeavor: Soumak Circles.

Circles being made with Soumak technique

Circles being made with Soumak technique

I didn’t actually set out to make a circle in Soumak. It just kind of happened. I was working on my postcard for the American Tapestry Alliance Postcard Exchange. The theme for the exchange was Here and T(here). We were randomly paired with another participant and given their email. The plan was to get to know each other and then create a tapestry postcard to send to them through regular mail service. I haven’t learned much about my postcard buddy - so I decided to focus on the Here and There from inside my studio since I couldn’t put it off any longer.

I’m certainly glad I didn’t wait until the last minute because it took me three tries to get it right!

Why Soumak Circles?

I sit at a table in my studio surrounded by yarn balls displayed on either side on my window most of the time as I weave. It’s positioned in such a way that I can see a little tree at the top of a hill perfectly framed in the window view. I call it my Studio Tree and it’s been a source of inspiration for me since I re-discovered tapestry almost 2 years ago. Here: inside my studio and There: outside.

Because the postcard was to be 5 by 7 inches, it didn’t allow for a lot of detail unless I wanted to weave with sewing thread at a fine sett. Which I didn’t.

First Try

My first attempt was very crude. I had an inkling of an idea and a cartoon to go on, but was not at all sure how to pull it off. I also didn’t have the right color for the studio walls, so I used a fairly firm knitting yarn that ended up looking pretty rustic. Well, that’s a polite word for it. Then I tried the little Soumak circles with whatever was in easy reach and just wasn’t happy with the results. I didn’t even try to weave the tree on that one.

postcard1.jpg

Second Try

Second try was better. I changed the sett from 8EPI to 16EPI and split the warp for the background going under and over 2 instead of 1 warp thread. For the yarn balls, I used the Soumak technique and wrapped one strand of Faro yarn. I thought I had the balls worked out, but as I went along, I began to see that the ones in the beginning were looking more squared off than a circle, so I knew I needed to experiment more about the time I got to the window. I went ahead and finished it, feeling pretty confident I’d come up with the right formula for the rounded balls before finishing. I might have even used this one and embellished the tree after, but I didn’t like the high contrast in the joins. I actually cut the joins and told myself that “maybe” I could cover that up somehow and make it work. But in the end, I decided to do one more using slits instead of joins.

postcard2.jpg

Third Try Really Was a Charm!

I’m happy with results. I especially like my studio tree, also done with the Soumak technique. I’m glad to have worked out a “formula” for the circles. Not so sure I’ll use them again any time soon, though.

postcard_3.jpg

The “Formula”?

As a quick explanation, I wrapped the center three warp threads with Soumak left to right for 5 rows, then 5 warp threads 10 rows, then 3 again for 5 more rows. I also ran the background weft behind the circles until even with the circles before going across.

soumak_circles_wrap.jpg





Busy weaving samples...

Recent weavings… These were all woven from March 2nd to March 13th (all from same warp on Mirrix Lani loom warped at 8EPI).

Tree Branches

Tree Branches

I’m calling this Tree Branches. It’s from a quick drawing I did based on a trip to Descanso Gardens I took with my daughter. I was trying out some different yarns. The background is a cotton yarn from Gist Yarns. It’s doubled here at 8EPI. And unfortunately, although I swore I would take good notes, I neglected to write down what the branches weft is - but I know it’s a knitting yarn, probably Tempo. It’s kinda lumpy bumpy but I like the textures.

Color study in Mora

Color study in Mora

This is a color study in Mora. I had just ordered all the luscious greens in one of my recent favorite yarns: Mora from Vavstuga. It’s a sample for a future weaving. Two browns thrown in. 5 strands of Mora. A goal of mine is to weave moss…

Ode to Ancient Plants

Ode to Ancient Plants

This was the first weaving from the shared warp, began on March 2nd. Very quick to weave because I only wove the branches and middle section (with my beloved soumak technique!) and embellished the rest after taking off the loom.

Mirrix shedding device meets soumak

Actually, I have 3 Mirrix looms. And I love them all. But this month I decided to add the shedding device and- wow. I thought I just really loved going over and under with my fingers (of course I do!) but when I switched to 14 and 16 EPI, It became, well, less enjoyable. And what a time saver!

Plus I discovered vertical soumak! Up until this, I had only used soumak to transition between the hem and the actual weaving. I’d struggled with getting fine lines and finer lines and thought increasing the EPI might be the ticket. But really, it all came together with vertical soumak and, then, the shedding device.

I first tried it in Root Study. It’s how I got those vertical lines for the roots. I was so excited!

Next I warped my Lani again - 14EPI - and hooked up the shedding device. Oh my, what a difference. The background could all be woven easily - and more quickly - so that I could focus on all the threads and directions of the leaves- all done in soumak.

Still working on a title for this…

Still working on a title for this…

Note: The above photo may confuse some people familiar with a Mirrix since the lever is visible on the bottom instead of the top. This is because I wound it forward and have started another piece with the remaining warp. It was photographed upside down and from the back.

My S-loom

I also have a loom I repeatedly refer to as my S-loom. Silly name, maybe, but it helps me to keep track of which loom I use. S-loom because my husband (Steve, thus- the “S”) made it for me. It’s a beautiful loom, but not as easy to get a great tension. I continue to weave on it, though, because it feels so good in my hands.

You can’t see it here, but each side serves as a rounded handle so it’s really easy to hold on to it. Isn’t it beautiful?

My “S-loom”

My “S-loom”

My weaving goals for the year

I write goals, evaluate goals, and adjust goals - all year long and have for years. This year, I’ve got some weaving goals in mind.

  • To enter at least one show before the year ends.

  • Work more with color blending, lines, and eccentric wefts.

  • Explore more yarn/sett combinations.

  • Start a series of Tree Companion weavings on the Zeuss loom. I won’t get more than one or two done, most likely, but it’s a good goal for now.

  • Weave moss.

  • To connect with other tapestry weavers. I would love to get a group of Kansas tapestry weavers together. I’m taking first steps on that already. If you’re reading this and love tapestry, beginner or advanced, please reach out and write to me or leave a comment below.

A new beginning

It’s January 12th, 2019 and I’m finally doing something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I’m starting a new website.

I’ve had a website for years. You can visit it at wildflowerknits.com. “Wildflower” because I live on the edge of Kansas prairie and “knits” because that’s what I’ve been doing for the past thirty years. Designing knitwear.

My area of concentration in art school was both textiles and photography. I especially loved weaving and when I broke my wrist in late 2017, I re-discovered just how much I’d missed it. My husband made me a tapestry frame loom and while taking a break from knitting, I wove my first tapestry in years.

The Pond

The Pond

It’s a little crude looking to me now, but I was so excited at the time. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot with every weaving since. It’s my hope to write about my pitfalls (and hopefully some success stories) here.