Orienting your tapestry cartoon
So, here is the bottom half of my tapestry cartoon (haven’t made the top yet). Since it is a vertical mirror image I only traced half of it from the original William Morris image and then scanned it and flipped my image over to make it perfectly symmetrical. Sounds easy right?! Well, that’s only if you have drawn it and scanned perfectly strait! I ended up fiddling with the rotation function on photoshop so much that I wondered if I should have just traced it all after all. No biggy though, it’s done now 🙂
I have few tips to share with you beginner tapestry weavers on how to to orient your tapestry image. Some of you might be wondering why to even consider it, it might just seem intuitive to orient your image right side up. One rather obvious reason you might not do that is to make it the desirable size. Mine is a backwards example since it happens to work best right side up, but on my 16″ Big Sister my finished Strawberry Thief tapestry (which is actually twice the height of the my tracing of it shown – the full color image is here) would be only 13″ inches high if I turned it on it’s side as opposed to 16″ when it’s right side up (for me bigger taps are always better, hehe). The next thing you want to consider is the directions of the lines on you image, you will want to consider not only the areas that are going to be woven shapes but also (and especially) thin lines, like the outline of a shape, say. Do the majority of your lines run a certain way, horizontally or vertically? If so you may want to orient your tapestry in a way which accommodates for ease in weaving those lines, and therefore orient them so that they are running perpendicular to you warp threads. It’s a little hard to tell at first glance since my image is so busy and it’s not clear what will be outlines, but my piece will contain more horizontal lines than vertical ones, especially in the birds. I considered weaving it sideways to accommodate the many lines that run vertically up the center of the image but I had to make a call. In the end that’s what it comes down to, your call as the weaver.
Here’s the thing: It is easier to weave any line or long shape when it is perpendicular to your warp threads as opposed to parallel with them. When you are creating lines that are parallel with your warp threads you will either have slits or need to interlock the adjacent color (By the way, Rebecca Mezoff has a great tutorial on interlocking here). These are not bad things (in fact they very characteristic of tapestry), but are things to consider when planning you project.
Okay, now let me show you some examples. I like to use these principles to test myself when looking at other people’s weavings to determine which way they were woven. I look for two main give-aways, 1) which direction the warp grooves run (if you can see them) and 2) which direction the hatching runs.
Below is a photo I took of one of the Unicorn Tapestries at the Cloisters, NYC. Can you see how the reflection of light is depicted in the hunters’ tights with the use of hatching, particularly in the tight’s of the man at the left? The hatching (the alternation of red and cream lines) is running vertically which tells us that the warp thread must be running horizontally and therefore that this weaving was woven on it’s side.
This next tapestry example is by Ruth Jones it’s titled Ode to Ezra Pound (click here to see it) and I think it illustrates lines well, particularly with the vertical pillars and the foliage shoots. Those might be good indicators that the tapestry was woven on it’s side. I also see hatching that is turned to be vertical too, so it’s pretty much settled.
Like I said, it’s the weaver’s prerogative and there is no wrong way to do it. My hope is that these tips will help you have the best possible tapestry weaving experience.
PS I encourage you to grab that cartoon image and print it for coloring 🙂