Welcome to week two of Mirrix’s textural tapestry weave-along. This week we will begin weaving!
We will only be teaching a few different basic techniques in this weave-along (some this week and some next). Instead of focusing on different techniques, we want to focus on the basics of weaving a textural tapestry. Here are a few things we’d like you to learn:
1.) Weaving with different textures/weights of fiber (sett):
Sett is the spacing between your warp threads. On a Mirrix this is determined by the warp coil (spring) you use at the top of your loom. Which sett you choose is determined by both the thickness of your warp and your weft threads.
Check out this blog post for more on sett: “Why Warp Spacing Matters“
2.) Line & Shed
When weaving tapestry, it is important to know that two passes of a weft thread make a line (meaning all the warp threads are covered.) Understanding this will help you understand different tapestry techniques.
Knowing when you are in the right shed (remember, shed is the space between your lowered and raised set of warps) is very important when weaving tapestry. When you are weaving simple lines straight across, you know if you are in the right shed by looking at which shed you were in on the pass before. If you are in the incorrect shed, your pass through would unweave the line before, rather than stacking on top of it. When you get into more complex tapestry techniques, it can be more difficult to figure out if you are in the correct shed.
3.) How to Not Pull-In
Pulling-in is when your tapestry starts at one width and gets thinner and thinner as you weave. It is one of the most common problems that beginning tapestry students encounter.
Some tips to not pull in:
-Keep high tension on your loom
-Avoid weaving from edge to edge (selvedge to selvedge)
-Measure the width of your piece every few rows and adjust if it seems you are pulling in
-Bubble! (Click the link below for more on this)
For more on these tips, check out this blog post, “Prevent Pulling In”
Definition of tapestry: Tapestry is a type of fiber weaving. It is weft-faced (ie: the warp does not show at all), the wefts are generally discontinuous (they do not go from selvedge (edge) to selvedge (edge)) and it is generally pictorial (like painting a picture with fiber).
Pigtails & Ending Threads in the Middle: We discussed pigtails briefly last week, but I wanted to go over them again. When weaving tapestry, we want to make sure all of our weft ends are at the back of the piece. Sometimes the shed is such that an end on the edge of your piece might end facing the front of the piece rather than the back. To fix that, you simply need to make what is called a “pigtail”. To do this, bring your weft behind the last two threads and then loop it around the edge thread so it is facing towards the back. Easy!
With this piece, we are going to weave quite a bit from edge to edge. Typically with tapestry we try to avoid this for a few reasons. One is that weaving from selvedge to selvedge (another way to say edge to edge) makes it easier to pull in the edges of your piece, which is a common problem for beginners (and even non-beginners). Another is that starting weft threads in the middle of the piece is easier because you never have to make pigtails and you don’t have to deal with too many weft threads on the edges of your piece when you are working on the finishing of your piece.
Starting and Ending Threads: Your weft yarn can be started at the beginning of a row or in the middle of a row. Starting and ending your weft threads in the middle is always easier. Simply end the yarn behind the weaving and begin a new thread in the same place.
Making a Cartoon & Designing Your Tapestry: For a tapestry that isn’t pictorial, like what we are working on now, it isn’t a bad idea to weave without a plan. You can play with techniques, color and more and make decisions about what you want to do next as you weave. If you’d rather weave with a plan, you can make what is called a cartoon. This is basically just a sketch that you put behind your warp threads (between your front and back layers of warp) to follow as you weave. Here’s a sample cartoon I made (that I will loosely follow… loosely being the key word). Mine is really just a messy sketch. You could get very detailed with your cartoon if you’d like (and for more detailed tapestries, this is a very good idea.)
If you’d like to make a tapestry similar to the one in the Weave-Along 19 picture, feel free to shape your cartoon and design based on that.
Note that my tapestry will be 10″ long. Yours may be different.
Making butterflies: Butterflies area great way to keep your weft yarns contained as you weave with them. Follow these pictures to learn how to make one.
Here’s a little video I made about weaving basic lines, weaving fibers of different weights, soumak and rya:
Here are some diagrams of weaving basic lines, sumac and rya:
Here are some pictures of the progress I’ve made on my piece exploring the skills we’ve discussed today:
I started out just weaving some passes back and forth. When weaving straight across, especially the whole width of the loom, remember not to pull in on the weft yarn too much, as you don’t want to put horizontal tension on your selvedge warp threads. See the blog post “Prevent Pulling In” that we mentioned above for more on how to not pull in. Bubbling, as mentioned in the post, is a good habit to get into!
After I wove a few passes, I put my shedding device in a neutral position and began knotting soumak.
Then, keeping the shedding device in a neutral position, I added some rya knots to the left side of my piece.
After the rya, I decided to weave some roving into my piece. I tore off a bit of roving (about twice the thickness of the weft yarn I had been using) and hand-wove it through pairs of warp threads.
You will notice here that the roving is taking up more space vertically than the rya to the left of it. To even this out, I did one more row of rya and then wove three rows of white wool. Then I came back across with the white weft yarn over the roving. It is important to make sure you are in the correct shed when bringing one weft over the other in a situation like this (you will know if you are in the incorrect shed if when you move your weft over to the other section the new weft is stacking directly on top of the weft below it.) There should be warp threads crossed in between those two layers just like there are when weaving a straight line across. If you find you are in the wrong shed when you try to bring together two sections like this, you will want to end your white yarn in the middle (instead of bringing it over the roving), change your shed and then start a new line across with a different weft yarn.
We will get into how to do this more next week. If you’re feeling confused, just weave straight lines across for now!
Every couple rows or so, use a form or tapestry beater to beat down your weft.
I wove up some using my white weft, then started a line of purple. I then did a line of soumak with the purple and a few more regular lines across. I then started using my Malabrigo, which you may have purchased from Weaving Works. It’s such a fun yarn to weave with, but it is a bit of a challenge because it has some thick and some thin places. I recommend weaving over and under double warp threads like you did with the roving, but if you have a place where it is particularly thin, you may be able to weave it with single warp threads. This is good practice figuring out which sett is correct for the thickness of your weft.
I have an even number of warp threads on my piece. You may not. This could present a problem when weaving over and under double warp threads all the way across (or doing rya all the way across). The solution is to fudge it a little. When you hit your edge warp thread, you might go over on warp thread instead of two, and then do the same thing on the other side. While tapestry has a lot of rules, sometimes you do need to fake it a little bit. As long as your warp threads are covered, you should be fine!
Keep working on weaving different weights of fibers and playing with lines, rya and soumak. Next week we’ll tackle the more complex techniques of slit and hatching and will make a triangle!