“Earth Dragon Wing” tapestry

Last week I wrote a blog post about color and texture as inspiration. I can get really excited about an interesting piece of rusty metal or some gnarly tree bark! My fingers itch to imitate the colors or textures in metal, fiber, or polymer clay. Most often, though, the thing that really calls the Muse to me is a really cool stick. This was one of those sticks.

I like to make things from the very basics. I hand dyed and handspun all the yarns used in this project. I suppose I grew the stick, too, since it fell off the tree in the front yard.

During Colorado summers, the weather is hot and dry. Temperatures are hovering around 100 degrees fahrenheit, and humidity is low. That means that I can dye some roving in the morning, hang it outside to drip dry, and be spinning it within a few hours.

This wool is Shep’s Merino roving, purchased over Amazon. I still buy from local ranchers, and from small fiber companies that I love to support. But getting Merino wool at a good price on Amazon Prime’s two day shipping makes me a happy woman! You would be surprised at how many small fiber companies have discovered that Amazon is a good way to reach a wider audience. I’ve been buying this wool for dyeing, felting, blending, and spinning. It’s really Merino– not like the polyester roving I got once from an “arm knitting” source.

Rit and Dharma dyes

The roving was dyed with Rit dyes in Apple Green, Light Green, and Dark Green. Their Kelly green is more of a turquoise color. The very bright blueish- green in this roving is from just a little bit of Dharma Trading acid dye in Kelly Green. It’s not as blue as the Rit version, but definitely heading toward a turquoise color. I sprinked some Rit Golden Yellow over areas I thought were too blue for this project.

Art Yarn

I spun a thin singles yarn with the roving, and then a slubby thick and thin yarn with more of it. I plied the two together, alternating the tension between the two singles. When one is held taut, the other tends to wrap around it. By switching the tension between the slubby yarn and the thin yarn, you “lock” the wrapped slubs in place so they don’t just slide into one big messy lump.

Weaving with the thick and thin art yarn

I zig-zagged a tightly spun alpaca singles as warp between the branches. Next time, I’ll use at least a two-ply. I worried the whole time that it would break, even though it never did. It was a coarse alpaca fleece, to the point that I suspected it was actually llama. Lovely reddish-brown color, though!

Starting the tapestry

Weaving with this really lumpy yarn presented a couple of challenges. First, the lumps hung up on the warp threads, so it couldn’t be woven with a needle and pulled through smoothly. I had to use an embroidery-style stabbing motion, front to back, between each warp thread for most of this part. That made it very time consuming, but it sure does look cool! I was aiming for moss texture, and I think I got it.

The other challenge with this is that the really interesting branch I chose for this project was really flexible, so the tension on the warp threads was never the same. You can see a few places where the warp is slack in the photo, but it would change every time I shifted how I held onto the stick!

If you try this branch weaving technique, I’d really recommend using a stiffer branch. This flexible one caused several challenges that may be really frustrating for anyone less stubborn than I am.

Detail of finished tapestry

You can see that I added a few other handspun yarns to the weaving. The olive green yarn that has a lot of roving that has very little twist was dyed from the mixed-together leftover dye after I pulled out the variegated roving. Spun into a thick and thin slubby yarn, I plied it loosely with more of the alpaca that made up the warp.

The red yarn is long-draw two ply Corriedale, from my own sheep.

The gray-brown wool that matches the color of the stick is Shetland roving blended with a little more red alpaca. I know it’s weird, but I got so happy I giggled when I realized I’d made a yarn that so closely matched the stick!

Detail of “Earth Dragon Wing” tapestry

The loose warp created a few problems. You can see the three threads in the middle where the barely twisted green yarn had to stretch between warp threads. If this were a garment, or a rug that was going to have any wear on it, this wouldn’t be acceptable. With this piece, though, it’s just another interesting bit of texture.

Completed “Earth Dragon Wing” tapestry

This piece of weaving completely absorbed me for several days. I was immersed in finding out what would happen next, like a good story. The last stretch, I wove for about fourteen hours straight. I had to know how the story would end.


Copyright © 2019-2020 Kelley Adams.  All rights reserved.

All text, photos, and graphics are the property of Kelley Adams.


2 Comments

Kelly Calkins · August 20, 2019 at 2:54 pm

I hope that you will be inspired to create more “stick weavings.” They’re so beautiful!

    Kelley · August 22, 2019 at 8:32 pm

    Thank you, Kelly! I’m already working on a second one, using the same color scheme. (I had leftover lumpy green yarn!) I have learned to look for a strong stick. Guess how I learned that lesson?
    –Kelley

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