Weaving a Landscape: Pittencrieff House, Dunfermline

Last year I got a gorgeous little wooden loom, and since then I’ve only played a little with it, not really finding the time to start any actual projects. I recently decided to start one of the ideas I’ve had for a while, of creating a series of local landscapes using the weaving loom. I wasn’t sure it would be possible, but I thought if I don’t try, I’ll never know – and if it doesn’t work, I can learn from my mistakes. I’m all for rushing in and trying things out, and learning along the way.

I have a store of local images in my mind that inspire me, and I wanted to create something that celebrates the special places and buildings in Dunfermline, Fife, where I live. One of these is the gloriously orange Pittencrieff House, in Pittencrieff Park (also known locally as ‘The Glen’).

I knew that I didn’t want to faithfully recreate a photo, so I started from a little design idea (not even a sketch, really), which I jotted down with a quick wash of watercolour. This was only really to work out a composition, and to see if the simple mental image I had would work in practice.

The simple idea I began with when I sat down to create a local image.

With a satisfactory composition in mind, I warped up my loom and made a start using the small collections of yarns and embroidery threads that I already had, laying them around me in loose groupings of colour, and putting aside any that I was unlikely to use. I folded up a piece of card and slotted it into my loom so that the weaving wouldn’t go right down to the bottom edge of the warp, and so that I could tie the loose edges and leave my options open with how to finish it – if I got that far!

Step-by-step images:

1. I tentatively made start using natural colours, adding a few lines right across the bottom, with the thought that I would probably remove them later if they didn’t work.
2. I gathered my things around me, with natural hand-dyed yarns mixed with cheap acrylic wools from bargain shops, random embroidery threads and needles from my sewing, and, using the sketch as a very loose reference, worked my way up the image.
3. Organised chaos takes over the dining room table! You can see the strong tapestry string I used to warp the loom (top left), my favourite children’s pink sewing needle, which is perfect for wool, a crochet hook (too fiddly for me, but had been recommended as a useful tool!), and a couple of very long weaving needles, which I found incredibly useful.
4. I worked up from the bottom using the sketch as a loose reference, but being mainly guided by the choices of materials I had lying around me – trying to break up larger areas with different weights and textures, colours and contrasts. I added twinkles of sparkling metallic threads here and there to catch the light, and worked in a fairly abstract and free way within the overall plan.
5. I deliberately kept the grey-blue area ambiguous – it could look like a path, or water. The Glen is all about both for me – a watery stream winding through the glen of the park, and paths that curve up hills towards the house cresting the highest part of the park. Time to add in the vibrant greens that I always think of when I go there – the vast lawns that contrast against the orange of the house and the blue of the sky (which is often grey, in reality) – and the darker, majestic trees that are all around. Again, I varied the textures and colours, and had fun adding the layers.
6. The colours had been fairly natural up until this point. Now for the fun part: adding the house! It was quite intimidating to begin this part for two reasons – it would draw the eye as the bright colours would be the focal point, and it had to be semi-realistic and I couldn’t rely on abstraction. How to depict a large house with many windows and not have it looking cartoonish or just plain rubbish?! I had a variegated thread to try out and I thought it would work out perfectly, giving the flat planes of the building some sparkle and interest.
7. At this point I got very absorbed in the process; so much so that I forgot to take any more progress photos. I had a vague notion in my mind of a bank of trees along the back of the house, and although this doesn’t perfectly reflect the reality of the setting, it makes sense in my thoughts about this place and it is something I wanted to capture. There could be so many ways to depict just one small place – different aspects you could concentrate on.
8. The reverse side! Needs no explanation. I had to chooses whether to try to weave these in (nope – too complicated in this case!) or tie them off, so I opted for the latter. I would have to accept that the back might end up being a bit bumpy.
9. The front! Still small niggly things to tidy up but I was fairly happy at this stage.

10. I cut the weaving off the loom along the bottom edge, and tied the loose ends to secure them.
11. I unhooked the top edge, leaving the loops of the warp intact. I wasn’t sure at this stage how I wanted to finish them off but I decided to tie them as they were, close to the top edge of the weft. Then I could retain the warp loops for hanging on a bar, if I wanted to go that way with the presentation. Tying it also secures the top row of yarn.
12. Looking fairly messy while tying is underway! Just after this stage I also used thread to sew some securing stitches around the heavier yarn at the bottom of the image.
13. The finished weaving. I’m not sure how I’ll present this – I’ll either add another rod at the bottom to keep it simple, or seek out a suitable square box frame with a nice, wide border.

I’m very happy with my first woven picture of a local landscape, and am sure I’ll do more soon – I just need to acquire lots more yarn from my favourite suppliers. It’s a slippery slope!

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