Text by Robbie LaFleur
When Rebecca Mezoff, the well-known tapestry teacher and author of The Art of Tapestry Weaving, traveled to Iceland for a residency, I was envious. I followed her posts about sheep and tapestry weaving avidly. My favourite one was, “Myth and Fact: Yarn in the Grocery Store in Iceland.” Here is a taste of her experience.
Icelandic sheep spend winters in the barn and summers in the Highlands. I can only imagine the long dark winters in the barn are quite the communal experience. And a summer unsupervised in the Highlands? That must be a romp in the long light-filled days eating and wandering to their hearts content until fall calls them home. Then the farmers round up the ewes, sort them by farm, and bring them home to be shorn and spend another winter in the barn. That fall Icelandic fleece is what took me to the Icelandic Textile Center in Blonduos for a month of experimentation with spinning. That and a desire to experience the landscape of the north of Iceland.
Tapestry weft is most often wool and Icelandic sheep, being the hardy creatures they are, produce a long-staple dual-coated fleece that can be excellent for tapestry weaving. At the Textile Center I spent the month spinning and weaving this material in many different ways. I found it both frustrating and exhilarating as I struggled with hand spinning the dual coat, creating a variety of colours from the undyed fleeces I was working with, and observing the potential this wool had to produce luminous, though often hairy, yarns.
Image: tapestry woven by Robbie LaFleur at the Icelandic Textile Center.
After spinning and spinning I wove some small tapestries inspired by the landscape using only Icelandic fibre. The horizons of Iceland called to me in the same way the open horizons of my home in the American Southwest do and those feelings found their way from the wandering sheep into the yarn I was making and then finally the tapestries. Maybe the Icelandic sheep and their long horizons will call me back to Iceland again before too long.
Rebecca’s posts are always interesting, whether she is at home or away. Find her at www.tapestryweaving.com.
Images courtesy of Rebecca Mezoff
Text by Robbie LaFleur