By weaving like a madwoman, I finished weaving “Ode to Joy” in time for my friend Joy’s memorial service. It came out beautifully!
The six motifs around the edges of the red-and-gold eternity knot represent things that were important to Joy:
- rainbow heart for gay rights
- triquetra knot for spirituality and her magical work
- Spinning wheel to represent her love for spinning and knitting
- High Priestess Tarot card – she was a gifted Tarot reader and often associated with the High Priestess
- scorpion for her astrological work (she was a Scorpio)
- Time Lord symbol (Gallifreyan) – because she was a fervent Dr. Who fan.
The four animals in white and gold in the center of the knot are Joy’s spirit animal (bear), the spirit animals of her two partners (African wild dog and Chinese dragon), and her spirit mentor (white owl).
And of course the four photos in the corners were all of Joy, at various stages in her life.
I ran into a ton of technical challenges while weaving this piece…mostly having to do with the density of the weft (crosswise) threads. After weaving about half of the first picture, I realized that the images were badly stretched, winding up about 20% longer than they should have been. This was probably due to the red design in the center, which had a lot of interchanges between the blue and the red layers of fabric. The more changes between layers, the more difficult it is to pack the weft in – so a section with a lot of color changes will naturally come out more loosely woven than a section with fewer changes.
I thought a bit about how to correct this. I could have squished the remaining piece by 20%, but then the difference between the early portion and the later portions would be obvious. I couldn’t start over without wasting a lot of precious and irreplaceable thread. (The gold thread, remember, was made with real gold – I had bought it from a yarn shop liquidator and had no way of buying more.) I finally realized that the eternity knot that framed everything could be stretched without problems – so I could proceed by simply adjusting the motifs in each section to be 20% shorter.
Here are the motifs as they were fed to the loom:
And here’s how they looked after they were woven:
As you can see, they actually stretched a bit more than expected – the circle is slightly out of true – but on the whole, it came out very well. And the animals – bear, Chinese dragon, white owl, and African wild dog are wonderful and vivid. (The piece is even prettier in person…the camera doesn’t capture the glitter of the gold thread, or the richness and depth of the blue background.)
I’m very happy with the end result – I think it’s one of the best pieces I’ve created, and I think Joy would be proud. (And I can’t believe I went from initial sketch to finished work in just nine days!)