Tapestry Topics Online
A Quarterly Review of Tapestry Art Today

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Winter 2005, Vol 31 No 4

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Time Prods Technique

by Susan Hart Henegar

– TT p.6

Along with sewing, my mother taught me the basics of weaving when I was seven. . . As a young woman, I was drawn back to weaving when I discovered tapestry. It became the vehicle to visually express images relating to my grandmother’s poetry about the land of the American Southwest. The rhythmic slow pace gave me the structure I needed in my life then. . . Twenty-eight years later, my work and personal needs have evolved. . . My energy is more centered . . . and tapestry is physically demanding. . . Many of us have strayed from traditional tapestry after 25 years as it simply does not move at the speed of our ideas. 

In the last seven years, I have explored quilting with vintage and new fabrics, 3-D fiber art, works on paper and book arts, as well as purchasing and remodeling houses. The increasing demands for customer service in my high-end interior designer sewing business and the exquisite fabrics we are shipped also influenced my work. I enjoy the problem solving that each area presents and find that my creative urges are fully indulged.

This combination of variables led me to develop a new type of tapestry expression in 2003. I was working long distance with a former San Diego designer. . . the piece needed to be custom made to fit the 7'9" x 4'9" niche. We spoke on Labor Day weekend about potential ideas. . . I could only propose the commission if I could have the finished piece in Colorado for installation on the 15th of December – the same year! . . . For speed, texture and a design element, I decided to work in a 4-harness weave on my Aubusson loom. The loom is threaded twice, thru 2 groups of traditional “portee” based headle bars. One group is threaded 1//3-2/4, the second 1/2-3/4. The tie up is changed based on weave prominence with small areas handpicked. . . . I actually had no idea how I was going to get the piece done, while working full time, but knew if I could, it would be part of the down payment for my Loft in Santa Fe [that] I had dreamed of for 25 years.

above: Susan Hart Henegar, Vail Lifts, 7'9" x 4' 9", 2003
below: Susan Hart Henegar, Vail Lifts, detail

Because the piece was large and going on a stone wall, the weave is 2 and 4 epi. My loom is 8’ wide but I decided to weave from the bottom up. I like stability at the hems so that area is mostly 4 epi. In the red area, the ground is 4 epi in 1” bands of bundled yarns with a 1/8” shot of fine metallic copper between for design and added stability. The yellowish “floral” shapes are 2 epi and include wools in various weights, boucle's and eyelash yarns that are brushed up. The “veins” of the flowers are chain stitch, embroidered by hand afterwards in red cotton chenille. The roads on the map are woven in sumac stitch in the same chenille, which swells and steams very well, making integral marks. The additional “map marks” - airports, county lines, etc., were long running stitches in horsehair. Vail was red chenille, other towns along the roads, 1/4” linen squares. To achieve the paper quality of the map, it was woven in several color blends of a rayon raffia product from Japan. It is thinner than the 4 epi wool or the 2 epi as well, so there were several tension issues. My solution was to pad the thinner areas as they went around my roller, a 24” diameter, rather than to weight the warp.

The piece was finished and shipped on time and the clients arrived for their 2 week holiday visit, loving the entire house. I now have my own getaway set up in Santa Fe and am thrilled that weaving tapestry made it possible. “Hart’s Crossing,” a second commission completed at the end of 2003, is 30 percent larger than “Vail Lifts.”

Susan Hart Henegar, Harts Crossing, 10' x 5'6" , 2003
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