You’ve seeing these adorable woven wall-hangings on Instagram and Pinterest and you’re ready to take the plung e to learn how to make your own woven art. Maybe you take a class on a basic frame loom or you make your own loom from a picture frame and follow some instructions you find online. Now, you’re ready to take this craft to the next level. What’s first? A high-quality loom! You’ve heard of Mirrix Looms, but they’re tapestry looms… is tapestry the type of weaving you’re interested in? What exactly IS tapestry?
Imagine a woven scarf or a blanket. It might be one color, stripes or a pattern, but usually it doesn’t depict an image or a varying design. Tapestry, however, does. A tapestry might represent a realistic image, a complex design or even an abstract picture.
Generally tapestry has discontinuous wefts. This mean the weft (again, these are the threads that go across the loom) do not go from selvedge (edge) to selvedge (edge).
So is the type of weaving you want to do tapestry? If it is weft-faced and pictorial, it probably falls somewhere on the tapestry spectrum. What does this mean?
1.) You can use, and benefit from, a dedicated tapestry loom like a Mirrix. Great tension, a shedding device and accessory options are just a few reasons why. Check out this blog post for a few more reasons.
2.) You can weave using tapestry techniques. Stripes and fringe are fun, but there are so many more amazing tapestry techniques. Pick and Pick is a great example. Learn how to create these fun vertical stripes here.
Want to learn more about weaving? Click here to get a FREE weaving consultation!
I remember learning the tapestry technique Pick and Pick. I was trying to follow instructions in a book and found myself constantly making mistakes. The middle of the piece would look great, but my selvedges were riddled with errors. My “aha” moment came when I stopped for a moment and considered how lines in tapestry work and how that creates the Pick and Pick pattern.
The key to understanding Pick and Pick is the same key to understanding how tapestry weaving works at a very basic level. In tapestry, your warp threads are always covered. When you weave one pass through your weft, you have successfully covered HALF of your warp threads because you are weaving over and under warp threads as you go across. When you weave a pass going back the other way, you cover the other half of those warp threads. Therefore, two passes with your weft makes a complete line.
With Pick and Pick you weave one weft in one direction in one color and then another weft in that same direction in another color to make a line instead of weaving in one direction and then back in the other direction.
The picture below shows a pink weft thread woven left to right and a green weft thread woven left to right covering opposite warp threads to make one complete line across. This is the first step to Pick and Pick.
When I isolate those two threads you can see how, combined, these two wefts cover ALL the warp threads across. Because the wefts are different colors, that complete line of covered warp is actually pink and then green and then pink and then green.
For now we are going to forget the confusing part of Pick and Pick, which is dealing with the selvedges (edges). Below you can see I continued weaving my Pick and Pick in the middle of the piece just to show you how it works and how understanding that two passes makes a line is important to understanding this technique. After I wove the first two wefts from left to right, I wove two more from right to left (first pink and then green). Then I wove two more (again, pink and then green) back from left to right. You can see that when I do that you start to see clearly the results of Pick and Pick. Half my warp threads are covered in pink and half are covered in green. To get this effect, all I do is weave one weft tread from left to right and then another one on top of it (covering the other half of the warp threads) in the same direction. Then I do the same thing going the other way. Easy!
The hard part, however, is making sure this pattern works on the selveges of your piece. Because sometimes your selvedge warp thread is covered by one color and sometimes it is covered in another color (how this happens depends on in what shed you started the technique and wheather you have an even or odd number of warp threads) you have to finagle a bit to make sure the edges look correct.
There are two options to make sure your selvedges are done correctly with Pick and Pick.
Here’s the first:
Your lower weft thread is on top of the selvedge thread and your upper weft thread is on the bottom of the selvedge thread. In this case you need to wrap the bottom thread twice around the selvedge thread, ending under the first two warp threads. This builds up that edge and keeps your lower thread showing on the selvedge thread and the upper thread NOT showing on the selvedge.
See how the pattern is correct after I did that? from left to right it is pink, green, pink, green, etc.
Then I just wove my top weft behind the first selvedge thread and continue.
You can see the pink and green pattern starting to clearly emerge.
Now you may wonder why we had to wrap that first pink weft twice. The reason is because you wouldn’t have enough weft to cover the slevedge thread if you didn’t wrap twice. The picture below shows what happens if I just wrap once.
Now, because the piece I am working on has an ODD number of warp threads, covering my selvedges for Pick and Pick will be the SAME on both sides. Here’s a pick of me doing the double wrap on the left side.
There’s that beautiful Pick and Pick pattern emerging.
So now I am going to show you how to cover your selvedge threads when your bottom weft is under the selvedge thread and your top weft is on the top. This means your top weft will be the color that covers that selvedge thread (in my case, yellow).
This part always seemed a little tricky to me but it’s actually pretty neat. You bring your bottom weft thread over the top one and then behind the selvedge warp thread. Then, you pull a bit.Doing this brings your pink thread behind the yellow one so you can’t see it on the selvedge.Now, you weave your upper weft from right to left. Make sure your lower weft is not showing on the selvedge warp.The image below shows the same thing on the other side of the piece. As I mentioned above, if you have an odd number of warps you will use the same selvedge warp covering technique on each side. If you have an even number, you will use one of these techniques on one side and one on the other
At this point, it is important to let your dog or cat check your progress.
Weave the top weft the same way you did on the other side and continue doing this. You can see both of my rows of Pick and Pick below.
I hope this helped clear up the mystery behind Pick and Pick for you!
Did this post pique your curiosity about tapestry? Check out one of our Just The Essentials Tapestry Starter Package. It comes with a loom, warp, heddles, a tapestry beater and a great book for beginners. Purchasing the package will save you $15!
I received my Spencer Treadle just a little while ago and was eager to attach it to my personal Mirrix loom. I have the amazing 22″ Zach loom and I love it. Together my husband and I watched the video, attached the treadle and off I went into weaving land.
I put on a small sampling warp, only 3″ wide using the Navajo Wool Warp that Mirrix Looms sells set at 7 ends per inch. I really liked that sett and wool warp when I participated in the Weave A Long Eyeglass Case project, so I decided to use it again, this time for sampling.
I was eager to begin with the treadle, and I must say, first and foremost that it is definitely a game changer. I can continue to weave quickly, just by the touch of the foot pedal. No more putting down my beater, using the handle to switch sheds, it is amazing! I know with time I am going to learn to depend on it so much. We are still getting used to each other right now!
As I was working on my little face, (a new project I want to do) I found that I was having a bit of difficulty with the treadle over extending, and my heddle bars began to cave in. The bars are strong and made from stainless steel. I believe they bend a little because the shedding device rotates more with the treadle than with the handle. Elena and Claudia were ever so generous to advise me along the way! They are so full of knowledge and love for product! Claudia suggested that I might possibly want to tie a string around the bars of the shedding device in the middle to see if that prevents the bars from pulling and bending slightly. Here is a picture of what was happening to my loom: (Please share if you have had this experience, we learn from each other!)
This blog is all about sharing our weaving experiences and the lessons we learn. I found that if I backed off my treadle a bit, there wasn’t as much bending on the heddle bars. I must say, this is taking some getting used to for me, but I will find a rhythm soon. The more I weave, the more comfortable it is becoming with the treadle. I also feel that just having a 3″ warp, placed in the center of the loom, might have been a factor as well.
Tapestry weaving is all about experimenting, asking “what if I do this”, learning what setts go well with particular warps and so on. I am keeping a journal and recording all of my findings for future reference! In the meantime, my little girlie is coming along quite nicely. I have never woven a face before, so I am also learning as I go along. Perhaps adding the Spencer Treadle and trying something totally new, was a bit to chew this go round! I am learning, growing each and every day in my weaving life.
I set aside time every morning to weave, it is that important to me. Before heading off to my day job as an Optician, I find myself centered, calmer and much happier if I can spend a little time weaving before I head out the door to face the day. If I wait to weave whenever I can fit it in, then I know it will never get done for sure! There will always be something in the way, so I make my Tapestry Weaving a priority. I wonder if you have any particular weaving disciplines. If you do please share with us, we would love to hear. I’ve been working on my little face for over a week now, of course weaving with Lavendar Scones and Coffee doesn’t hurt! She is coming along quite nicely … never did I dream weaving a little person would turn out to be such a learning experience, but it sure did! I can’t wait to begin another, and another! Trying out different warp setts and fibers! Tapestry weaving is always a learning experience, it is so worth the time we put into this artform.
So here is my little “Ruthie” … from the time I warped the loom to the finished piece it took me about two weeks of steady weaving time. By the way, I totally adjusted to my foot power with my Spencer Treadle … we just had to take some time to adjust to each other! My woven girlie is not perfect in any way, but that is what I love about her! (None of us are right?) I think I will start a collections of these small weavings and my Mirrix is perfect for it.
I discovered some new findings. The light bulb appeared. I could use them to make bracelets out of woven silk tapestry. I patiently waited while they winged their way to me and was thrilled once they arrived to find out my light bulb was shinning on something very possible indeed.
I quickly wove a strip of silk tapestry and attached a finding. It was perfect.
We started selling the kit for this a couple of weeks ago and they have been flying off the shelf. The kit allows you to make two bracelets: one half an inch wide and one three-quarters of an inch wide. I thought it was time to write an instructional blog about it in case some of you need some operating instructions to get started (and to finish it).
Tapestry (or weft -faced weaving) has been with us for a very, very long time. The richness and diversity of tapestry is a fascinating history of both ancient and not so ancient cultures. The oldest fragments of tapestry that have been discovered came from Egypt and date back to 1500 B.C. I found these photos of such fragments here.
The Coptic tapestries were made in Egypt from the 4th to 8th century. I found this Coptic Curtain Fragment made of wool and linen for sale that was made in that time period.
The Incas of Peru also produced tapestries, a few of which have survived.
Almost any culture that practiced weaving had tapestry as one of its techniques. Tapestry is decorative, strong and versatile. It can be used as a saddle blanket, a bag, a wall hanging, a rug . . . the list goes on. It can withstand the ravages of time like no other woven material and hence fragments of it have survived thousands of years.
Tapestries have graced the walls of castles and the interior of tents as well as the hallways of modern buildings. No other art form is as noble and awe-inspiring. The richness of dyed fiber seems to reach out with its depth and beauty, pulling the viewer in with its amazing magnetism.
I was looking through my favorite book on tapestry: “Tapestry” by Barty Phillips and found my all time favorite fragment of a fish woven in Egypt sometime between the third and sixth centuries. This fish looks like it could have come straight from a modern tapestry. The techniques included: eccentric wefts, hatching, slit tapestry, outlining, weft and warp interlock. The colors were a rich blend of oranges and yellows and browns that seemed to have not faded over time. When I look at that fish I feel like time has not moved on at all, that I could see in my mind the person weaving that fish in the same manner that I could have woven that fish. In fact, I am so in awe of that fish that it has taken great restraint not to try to copy it!
I could pepper this blog with examples of all the cultures that have embraced tapestry over thousands of years, but I suggest that you take your own journey and explore both on the internet and through books such as the one I mentioned the varied and expansive journey tapestry has taken throughout history. It’s mind-boggling. If you are a tapestry weaver it will serve to connect you to the past as if an unbroken thread has spun its way through the centuries to reach you. It gives me chills to think of it.
If you are looking to explore modern tapestry I suggest you start with the American Tapestry Alliance website: http://americantapestryalliance.org. I could spend days and days (and have done so) just exploring the artist pages. The diversity of style and subject matter all contained within the rather rigid restraints of tapestry technique will give you a greater and global understanding of what tapestry really is: a very serious, very controlled and difficult art form that can be as diverse in style and subject matter as, let’s say, oil painting. In fact, during the middle ages oil painting was seen as the poor man’s tapestry (I love that!).
I have to admit, I am very prejudice when it comes to tapestry. I consider it the highest form of art and one of the most difficult. It is no easy task to create a tapestry that is both technically and aesthetically correct and pleasing. In fact, it’s difficult at best. It is no wonder that there are very few dedicated tapestry weavers wandering this earth. The number is actually tiny compared to other art forms.
But don’t be intimidated by this art form. After all our ancestors were not. It’s not something you will master over night. It is a slow and beautiful journey that can engage you for a life time.
May yours begin here.
Are you in the Seattle area? Mirrix CMO Elena Zuyok (that’s me!) will be teaching a basic textural class at Weaving Works in Seattle, WA on August 15th, 21015.
The class is will be a very basic beginner class. We will go over warping a Mirrix Loom with a shedding device, the basic concepts of tapestry (sett, shed, line), a few techniques and how to finish a tapestry as a wall-hanging.
We have chosen some beautiful textured neutral yarn and roving and will also have a few colored accent yarns available to choose from.
You will go home with a completed tapestry!
Lately there has been a huge resurgence of interest in tapestry weaving, especially tapestry of a certain aesthetic (a tendency to use neutrals, roving, textured yarns). It is my hope to capture those interested in this type of tapestry and teach them some of the basic building blocks of the art form.
I think this is going to be a really fun class, and it’s offered at a great price. Join us!
Have a question? Feel free to email me directly firstname.lastname@example.org!
This blog post is part of a series on the basics of weaving tapestry
Tapestry is by definition weft-faced weaving. This means that you can see the weft (the fiber that you weave back and forth) and cannot see the warp (the fiber you wrap around your loom). To achieve this, a weaver must figure out the correct combination of warp spacing (this is called “sett”), warp size and weft size.
On a Mirrix, warp spacing is determined by the warp coil (or spring) at the top of the loom. We identify different warp coils by how many dents (the spaces between the coils) are in an inch. This is called DPI (dents per inch) or EPI (ends per inch). Choosing the correct warp coil for the warp and weft you are using is very important when planning your tapestry.
Generally speaking, if you are using a finer weft you will want to use a warp coil with more dents per inch and if you are a using a thicker weft, you will want to use a warp coil with fewer dents per inch or even warp every other dent (For example, an 18 dent warp coil every other dent is equal to a 9 dent warp coil.)
How do you determine the correct sett?
Unfortunately, there is not a simple trick for figuring out your warp spacing. Every weft and warp combination is different and it might take some time to begin to get a sense of what warp coil should be used each time you weave a new piece.
A good way to determine if your sett is correct is to put your weft in between your warp threads vertically when your loom is warped. If your weft threads are much thicker than the space between the two warp threads, then your weft is probably too thick and if your weft threads are much thinner than you know your weft is too thin.
One way to choose your warp sett is to look at what sett others have used with the same warp and weft you are using. Check out some of our free projects and weave-alongs and look at the warp and weft and sett that we are using. Imitation is a good way to get started!
We also have a handy crowd-sourced list of different tapestry yarns people have used and the EPI/DPI they set their loom at.
Following are some examples of what correct and incorrect warp setts look like.
Here is some yarn I have woven on warp with a sett that is too close together. You can see how the warp shows.
Below I’ve woven the same weft on the same warp, but this time I wove through two warp threads at a time instead of one (so instead of 8 EPI I wove it at 4 EPI). This is the correct warp sett for this yarn.
Here is a thinner yarn on the same warp. This first picture is the yarn in the correct warp sett.
Below is the same yarn woven over two warp threads at a time (4 EPI instead of 8 EPI). This doesn’t look terrible, but the final product will be flimsy, it will take a long time to weave (because the yarn will get packed down a lot) and you won’t be able to get the kind of detail that you typically want to get from a thinner yarn.
Remember to consider your warp sett when planning your tapestry, and get a loom where you have the option to set your warp spacing!
Don’t have a Mirrix yet? Click here to get a free loom recommendation!
Tapestry and cloth weaving have less in common than their sharing of the word “weaving” would indicate. Both are indeed weaving and share the following characteristics: They rely on the interlacement of warp and weft; the warps (the threads that are attached to the loom) run parallel to each other; the weft (the threads that are woven into the warp run at right angles to the warp and inter-cross. But that is the extent of their relationship since the balance of these two very different weaves produces final products that are radically different from one another.
Cloth weaving can be either simple or complex but the resulting fabric is always somewhat balanced. By this I mean that the ratio of warp to weft is fairly even so that both show, possibly one more than the other, but still creating enough of a balance that the warp and weft are visible. Tapestry, on the other hand, is completely weft-faced. This means that the warp does not show at all. Just this difference alone is enough to set these weaves completely apart. A fabric that is completely weft-faced will be much stiffer than a balanced weave and, because the warp does not show and hence does not affect the appearance of the fabric, the application of the weft is all that counts in creating a design. The difference does not end here. Tapestry involves the use of discontinuous wefts. No given weft ever travels across the entire weaving (generally speaking), whereas in cloth weaving wefts generally do travel across the entire weaving.
Cloth weaving can produce stunning works of art intended for both decoration and clothing, but in general its purpose is to produce functional material. Tapestry has been used to create functional items such as rugs, saddle bags, and other items intended to be sturdy and withstand wear. But tapestry is most famous for the wall hangings created to decorate and insulate the walls of castles. Many different cultures have created tapestries and within those cultures certain techniques dominate, creating some confusion as to the difference, for example, among a Navajo rug and a European tapestry or a Coptic tapestry. The basis of all these tapestries is essentially the same since the warp is covered and the resulting fabric is pictorial and that design is based on the placement of the weft alone.
Although both cloth weaving and tapestry can theoretically be created on the same kind of loom, there are dedicated cloth and tapestry looms that provide certain elements to facilitate the proper weaving of each. A cloth loom does not require the same kind of tension that a tapestry loom does. However, more than two shafts (the movable parts of the loom that hold the heddles and allow for the raising and lowering of the warps in order to create a shed, which is simply a word to describe the space between these two sets of threads) is preferred for a cloth loom in order to produce the stunning possible number of weaving structures. Tapestry, on the other hand, requires a lot of tension but only two shafts (although some tapestry looms, such as Navajo looms, do not have any shafts but rather employ a more manual method for separating the threads). There are looms that will accomplish both cloth weaving and tapestry, but in general it is best to have looms devoted to one or the other. A cloth loom will generally not provide the necessary tension to weave tapestry and will potentially provide options that are not at all necessary for tapestry. A good analogy would be the mountain bike versus a road bike. You can ride a mountain bike on the road but it’s a lot more efficient and faster to ride a road bike on a road. It’s nearly impossible to ride a road bike on a dirt trail. If you intend to do both with passion you are best off owning both kinds of bikes.
I find that the personality that loves tapestry does not necessarily love cloth weaving. I am of that ilk. The same applies in the opposite direction. Cloth weavers are able to patiently set up their looms over the course of hours and days and then quickly weave yards and yards of cloth. Tapestry looms are relatively quickly set up but the weaving takes a very long time. The relative nature of a cloth weaving is predetermined by the threading of the warp. Certain elements can be modified, of course, by the shedding pattern (which warps are raised) and the choice of weft, but since the warp shows its color and threading cannot be changed during the course of weaving, the major elements of a cloth weaving are set in place when you warp the loom. Since the tapestry warp is completely covered by the weft, it can only effect the tapestry by its set (how close or far apart the warps are spaced) and the size of the warp. The warp has to be in correct relationship to the weft so that the tapestry remains weft-faced.
Tapestry is like painting. The warp creates a canvas on which one paints with fiber. But unlike painting, the final and necessary structure of the “canvas” is only created once the weft is applied. Hence, tapestry becomes a very architectural kind of artwork since the structure is created from the bottom up. What was woven at the beginning cannot be changed after the fact. One does not have the luxury of the whole page to play with since the page only exists in the tapestry as the “paint” is applied. It’s an interesting constraint that can create as many mistakes as accidental successes. But whereas tapestry is like painting, it is also still weaving and hence takes its own unique place in the world of art.
This is a re-post of a 2008 blog post by Mirrix CEO Claudia Chase
If you’ve ever tried to weave tapestry on a loom not intended for weaving tapestry, you understand how frustrating it is to not have the kind of tension necessary to weave a tapestry that will not look like something you imagine might have emerged from weaving day at summer camp. Tapestry is a demanding medium full of must have requirements. If you give her what she wants, she is as lovely as can be. But if you deny her the simple requirement of a dedicated and worthy tapestry loom, she can be quite the adversary. Forget even selvedges unless you are some kind of magician. Forget evenly spaced warps. And if you have an inferior shedding mechanism or none at all, forget your sanity. It’s bound to march off to the wistful world or potholder looms while slashing the warps on your inadequate loom with a sharp and deadly scissor.
Good tapestry looms are necessary for weaving tapestry. Period. Four harness jack looms don’t work. Rigid heddle looms don’t work. Flimsy portable wooden tapestry looms don’t work. Little home-made frames work for about two rows and then you might as well just stop because it goes downhill after that and you won’t be hanging that thing on anyone’s wall.
So what are the exacting requirement of a good or even great portable tapestry loom? (The same requirements apply mostly to a floor loom but since you won’t be hauling a floor loom around the house or to your next workshop which is necessary to be called a portable loom, we will leave them off this list. Okay, here comes the list.) We are talking portable looms here.