Last year I was headed to an important workshop in Washington. Due to a serious miscalculation in suitcase size along with a good dose of procrastination, I needed a loom in a matter of days in Seattle. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t marry my 22-inch Mirrix with the raggedy bunch of suitcases living in my garage in a way that would get me on a plane without strip searches by TSA. Claudia and Elena pulled me through that with so much grace (it was Gay Pride weekend on Capitol Hill and I can’t even begin to tell you the crazy of that). I had a 16-inch Mirrix ready to go for the workshop and none of my colleagues were any the wiser. That was the start of my fleet of Mirrix looms. My students ask for them when they come to take workshops in my studio and I use them constantly for small format work and teaching tapestry online.
Tapestry weaving is something I love passionately. I am also a natural teacher. And when the two meet, great things happen! I have just released my first beginning online tapestry class. I am so excited about this new adventure. And the demonstrations are woven almost entirely on Mirrix looms.
The class is called Warp and Weft: Learning the Structure of Tapestry. I started working on it over a year ago when I realized how many requests I was getting for online classes. Taking workshops in person is great fun and an excellent way to learn, but the potential for a longer-term focused learning situation in a format you can access from home is the way to go for some people.
I learned to weave fabric from that old standard, Learning to Weave by Deborah Chandler. I am from the American Southwest and a lot of the inspiration for my work comes from the feelings I get wandering around this area of the country. I wanted to capture that in my fiber art and with regret and thanks to Deborah, I quickly moved from fabric weaving to tapestry. I was an apprentice for James Koehler for several years before his death and now I run my own studio in Santa Fe, NM where I do a lot of dreaming and playing with yarn, teach workshops, and meet students online.
My online class is kind of like hanging around my studio for a month, but you get to wear your pajamas if you want to and no one will ever know. The class is highly video-based and contains many handouts and practice exercises. The best part is that you get to learn from me and your fellow students in a format that is flexible to your schedule. The class has three parts and you can sign up for one at a time or all three at once. There are many more details on my website at www.rebeccamezoff.com/online-learning/.
If you’ve read my blog (http://rebeccamezoff.blogspot.com) for any amount of time, you’ll know I’m a big Mirrix fan. Claudia and Elena don’t even pay me to stay this stuff! I think their looms are excellent pieces of equipment and I believe that beautiful tapestry starts with good craftsmanship which starts with good equipment. So another big thanks to Mirrix for designing and selling these looms and for your awesome customer service. I promise that next time I am in Seattle, I will have a Mirrix that fits in my suitcase.
For this post I tackle two techniques in the CraftArtEdu Introduction to Tapestry Class: pick and pick and soumak knots.
Pick and Pick
Pick and pick is a method you’ll hear about a lot. It creates beautiful, narrow vertical stripes in your tapestry. Up until now, I’ve been a bit confused about how to handle the edges, but this part of the class cleared it up for me. The key is to remember that there are two different scenarios for the edges. In one, the first weft yarn goes under a raised warp, and in the second, it goes under a lowered warp. In the first situation, you simply weave the yarn back, allowing it to hook around the previous weft. In the second situation, you need to wrap the weft around the outermost warp twice before weaving. Whichever scenario you begin with, you’ll end up switching back and forth between the two as you go along.
Here’s what my first completed turn looked like, at the beginning of the third row.
I was in a different shed when I started than Claudia is in the class, so I needed to use the second scenario, where you wrap the weft around the warp twice (she uses the first scenario). You make these wraps from the outside in. Another way to think of it is that you wrap around the warp once, and then pass behind the two warps at the edge before you begin weaving the row.
You need to watch your tension with these wraps to keep the edge of the tapestry as neat as possible. I find it easier to maintain an even edge if I hold onto the first wrap with my fingers while weaving across.
This next photo shows what the edge looks like after completing that turn and lightly beating the yarn.
The next row gets woven from the same side, in the same direction, as the previous row. But this one uses the other scenario. That means that the magenta yarn hooks around the orange yarn to make its turn before being woven back. It seems strange that this weft doesn’t wrap around the edge warp, but that allows you to keep the stripes aligned properly.
At this point, things are coming along nicely, and you can start to see the vertical stripes forming.
For the class sampler you need to complete four rows of each color. Here’s what my tapestry looked like at that stage.
Next, we switch to a different shade of orange. It looks like I grabbed the wrong orange for my first four rows, so I’ll have the darker orange above the lighter, rather than the other way around.
And that completes the pick and pick.
Next up is soumak knotting, which will be used to divide sections of the sampler. For this technique you use a closed shed, just like we did with twining in the header.
Before closing my shed, I wove one row of black weft, left to right.
Notice that I made sure the yarn in this first woven row passed behind the last two warps, because those are the first two warps you need to wrap around to begin the soumak knots. Once again, because I was in a different shed than Claudia (whom I’m probably driving nuts with this behavior), this is somewhat different from what you’ll see in the class.
To make the soumak knots, you go over two warps and then come back around the second warp. Here’s what the knots look like before you beat them down. (I usually slide mine down as I go along.)
My first completed row of soumak knots, all slid down, looked like this:
When you go back in the opposite direction for a second row, you go behind two warps and come around one – the opposite of the first row. The lines in this row will be a little shorter than the lines in the first row. They’ll also have a contrasting angle, which creates a chevron pattern.
Here are both rows of soumak, completed.
The soumak makes a contrasty textural border against the bright colors below it.
Stay tuned for my next post, when I’ll give the slit tapestry technique a spin.
Chris Franchetti Michaels is a bestselling craft book author and designer. Visit her blog at http://www.beadjewelry.net.