Category Archives: Loomwork

Photo to Pattern: Sneak Peek

I’ve now finished two small portraits of Squib, one for  the WeaveWith project and one which was inspired by a poem I wrote myself. I’m planning on doing them both again — along with the larger “Feline Masterpiece” — after Christmas. I’ve got the makings of a “substitute for black” list of Delica colors, which I’m hoping will simplify the photo to design conversion process.

I don’t have time to write it all up right now, but I have a sequence of images that illustrates how the tapestry looks at different stages of the editing.

Here’s the original photo:

Squib SleepingI used Photoshop to enhance the color of the picture. As black cat pictures go, this one has a lot of visible detail that will ease the pain of converting to a pattern.  [There’s so much artistic and intellectual pain involved that every little bit of ease helps a lot, ugh.] The adjustment I made in Photoshop makes the photo’s colors look more like they would if you were looking at the subject outdoors, in sunlight. This improves the level of detail in the image.

Next, I imported the picture into Bead Creator Pro (BCP). My custom palette includes transparent Delicas with no coatings except glazed; matte Delicas including most of the special finishes; and metallic Delicas that exist in nature. It’s about a third of the complete Delica range, and I much prefer how my photos convert when I’m using this set. [One entry in the “photo to pattern” posts will show how I came to this conclusion. Stay tuned.] Here’s what BCP did as it imported my image:

SquibSleeping-BCP-rawIt used 95 colors, most of which are in the background of the picture (our bedspread). I used BCP’s “Use Only XX Colors” function to reduce the number of colors to 40:

SquibSleeping-40colorsThere have been relatively small changes in Squib herself; most of the colors that were eliminated were in the background, which is exactly what I want.

This was as much processing as I could  let BCP do. When I tried to go from 40 to 35 colors, I started losing significant details in Squib’s fur. So the rest of the processing is manual.

I gleefully threw out all the background and replaced it with stripes of green and lavender, mostly because I’d just gotten my hands on the gorgeous DB-1053, matte lavender/olive, yum. The only thing I did to Squib’s image was to clean things up around her left ear (she often had mucky ears, and has apparently carried that with her into her afterlife). The final-for-now pattern uses 28 colors.

SquibSleeping-FinalForNowAnd here is the woven beaded tapestry, taken off my loom about an hour ago:

Hot Off the LoomThe large black areas are woven with DBC-0010 — the hex cut version of DB-0010, for non-Delica geeks. It’s got a bit more sparkle thanks to the cut, and I think it’s sufficiently different that I’ll be able to use it for highlights on areas filled with DB-0010.

The grey shades look a lot lighter in beads than they did on the chart. I completely missed that Squib’s whiskers are visible in the raw version of the chart. They got smoothed out during the color reduction and I should have edited them back in manually. I’m going to revise the pattern by using darker beads than the original greys; using hex cut black Delicas as a highlight color (that gets rid of at least one metal, which will help naturalize things); and fiddling with the background some more.

Two new bead tapestries in progress

I am so fixated on writing helpful posts that I forget one other use of a blog: to keep track of what I’m working on. Duh. Here goes:

A couple of weeks ago I started working on one of the Christmas presents I’m weaving. The pattern is based on an old black-and-white portrait of ******** (in the unlikely event that he/she/they read this before Christmas 2014). The process of getting from an old photo to a new pattern was trickier than I expected, and I will post a separate article about what I did. Soon.

The second piece is for the “WeaveWith” event hosted by Mirrix Looms. It’s a riff on an Internet favorite, the *-along, where * could be knitting, crochet, weaving, etc. In their traditional form, the *-alongs involve a group of people all working on the same design at the same time. I have a great time with them because there’s always someone to talk to about what I’m doing (or where I’m at, or what I can’t figure out), and because there’s so many ways to interpret any given design.

Mirrix has sponsored a number of weave-alongs but I’ve never participated in one, mostly because I’m completely focused on whatever design I’m doing (which hasn’t been and isn’t likely to be what the group is working on). But a couple of weeks ago, Sara Figal (a member of the Mirrix Facebook group) posted pictures of her in-progress tapestry, which was inspired by a Robert Frost poem. The tapestry is gorgeous, and the combination of the two art forms works really really well.

The odds of getting a group of weavers to agree on a single poem didn’t seem very good. This led to the WeaveWith concept, in which the organizer picks a general theme, and participants then pick their own design to play along.

[As it turns out, a couple of participants are using the same poem — Joyce Kilmer’s Trees, and there’s a lot of Emily Dickinson.]

Overkill being my middle name, I have patterns for three different poems now, but I’m guessing I’ll only get one or two of them done (see “Christmas Present” above). First up on the list is another portrait of Squib, set to a poem called “The Cat,” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, from The Great Cat: poems about cats, edited by Emily Fragos for Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets.

This is the photo I chose:

The Sphinx….from which this pattern was designed:

Sphinx Pattern…to illustrate this poem:


The Cat

The cat
licks its paw and
lies down in
the bookshelf nook
can lie in a
sphinx position
without moving for so
many hours
and then turn her head
to me and
rise and stretch
and turn
her back to me and
lick her paw again as if
no real time had passed
It hasn’t
and she is the sphinx with
all the time in the world
in the desert of her time
The cat
knows where flies die
sees ghosts in motes of air
and shadows in sunbeams
She hears
the music of the spheres and
the hum in the wires of houses
and the hum of the universe
in interstellar spaces
prefers domestic places
and the hum of the heater.


The tapestry will be 4-ish inches by 6-ish inches. I passed the 25% mark last night — here’s where it’s at now:

The first quarter of the Sphinx bead tapestryI’ve got two additional poems and patterns worked up, but as this post is now ridiculously long, I will introduce them when I start working on them.

Feline Masterpiece: What I learned (and why it hurts)

I have not been able to bring myself to write recently. After I got Squib’s portrait off the loom, and wove in the ends, I discovered a major problem. So major that I will be weaving her all over again once I’ve got my holiday gifts done.

[I  should point out that I re-do a lot of the things I create. Although I immensely enjoy my finished objects, I’m really all about the process of creation. So starting all over doesn’t usually bother me much, because it means I’ve learned something.]

What happened is hard to photograph, but oh so obvious in person. David (my husband) and I took the beadwork to a local framing shop to get an estimate, and to my horror I discovered that there was no way to get the entire piece to lie flat. I haven’t noticed at home because duh I hadn’t tried laying it on a large table to see how it looked.

Ripples of DoomThis photo shows one of 18 sections. The severe rippling affects about half of the piece.

[Lesson #1: Look at woven beadwork on large flat surface area after it’s taken off the loom and rested for a couple of days, before showing it to a complete stranger or several.]

I think there are two major culprits in the disaster: the size of the sections I used to split the piece up, and the tension I used while weaving.

Sections: My sections were only 31 beads across (pretty minimal even for a novice loom-weaver). the entire piece being 6 sections across. The tension on each of those sections is essentially independent from the sections surrounding it, *especially* when you weave through the edge beads many times (as I did, to make the seams less visible). What this means for the current bead portrait is that if you try to get all the sections laid out flat, you discover evil little Pringles potato chip-like peaks and valleys in the middles of the sections.

There’s no good fix for this. I tried re-weaving the entire piece from edge to edge, to see if I could even the tension out by (basically) pulling the edges in with a single weft that ran side-to-side. This helped — at least the edges were mostly straight — but I can still see the bubbles within the individual sections.

Salvage attemptYou can see the edges pulling in where I’ve woven all the way from edge to edge and the spots with the worst ripples, ugh.]

[Lesson #2: (not yet tested): if you are going to weave in sections, don’t use any more than you absolutely have to.]

My other problem is that I think I wove with too little tension throughout the entire tapestry. The wefts are very visible; ideally the wefts should be inconspicuous, if not entirely hidden by the beads. When I weave off loom I tend to weave much too tightly, so when I started on the loom weaving I went too far in the other direction. If I’d concentrated on minimizing the visibility of the warp threads as I worked in each section, the entire piece would look better — and if I was really lucky, the problem with inconsistent tension across the piece would have also have been less visible.

In the first picture, above, you can see how exposed the warp threads are.

More tension, better resultsIn this (much narrower) piece, there are no obvious warp threads.

[Lesson #3: weave with enough weft tension to hide the warp threads. This takes a lot more effort on a 9″ wide tapestry than a 2″ cuff bracelet, duh…]

The Mirrix WeaveWith for October, along with loom-woven Christmas presents, are now my main priority. The largest piece so far is 125 beads across, and I’m weaving it in one piece, without breaking it into sections. I’m hoping that the additional practice will give me the confidence to weave wider pieces with no sections (or the smallest number of sections I can manage); and more consistent tension.

Once the presents are done, I’m going to re-do Squib’s portrait. No, I’m not happy about it. But I will be able to incorporate what I’ve learned the first time around, and my technique — especially the consistency of tension — should have improved thanks to the other tapestries.

Even if no one other than David and I ever see the piece in real life, I want them focusing on Squib, not on trying to figure out why it’s so rippled. And in my soul, I don’t really mind doing it over, because every bead that creates Squib’s image is a little voice that says how much I love her and how much I miss her.

[I am updating my earlier post, on weaving in sections, to reflect what I’ve learned and how the technique might be improved.]