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.


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.


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.


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.