I am going to approach my next subject, Navajo weavings, a little differently. Rather than jump into the history of Navajo weaving, I am going first talk about the weavings themselves and the equipment that was used. In part two of this blog I will talk about the actual history.
I would guess that anyone reading this blog already has some knowledge about Navajo weavings. Whether you’ve read about them, seen pictures of them or, if you’re lucky, have seen the weavings in person, the term Navajo weaving will bring a very specific image to mind. You will remember the stripes and the patterns, the symmetry, the lack of fringe and the density of the fabric. You might also get an image in your head of the vertical looms which are unique to Navajo weaving. Navajo weavings share certain aspects with other weavings, but they also have distinguishing qualities that set them far apart from all other weavings.
Today I continue my journey through the CraftArtEdu Introduction to Tapestry Class with a technique called weft interlock. It’s used for making blocks of color without leaving open slits in the tapestry fabric. This was my first attempt at weft interlock, so I was a little nervous getting started — but I think it turned out beautifully.
The first step is to mark the spaces between warps where your color blocks will begin and end. These markers are crucial for helping you decide where to begin and end weft yarns of adjacent colors. I followed Claudia’s approach and used pieces of black yarn as markers. In our sampler, the color blocks are all of equal size, and so the markers are equally spaced.
Next, a separate length of weft needs to be woven in for each color. This means a total of five lengths of yarn. I used three in green and two in dark yellow. Importantly, they’re all woven in the same direction.
Because the color blocks will be relatively small, the lengths of these weft yarns are all short enough that you don’t need to use butterflies or bobbins.
What’s also different here from when we made wavy lines is that our weft yarns are all woven for short distances across, rather than traveling all the way from one side of the tapestry to the other. This means that you need to use your fingers to select the warps that you want to weave through, before sliding in the yarn. In the next photo, I’ve selected the warps under which I’ll be weaving a green yarn.
(A quick note for anyone else taking the class: You may be selecting either four or five warps, depending on where you are and which shed you’re in when you begin. I think I started in a different shed than Claudia starts with in the class.)
I actually found this very first row of wefts to be the most challenging. Because you’re leaving the end of each yarn on the front side of the loom, you occasionally end up with two side by side warps that both look bare. One of them will not really be bare, because it will be covered when you weave back in the opposite direction. However, I really had to slow down and check each warp to make sure I was creating a pattern of hill, valley, hill, valley, etc., all the way across (a hill is a weft over a warp, and a valley is a weft under a warp).
After weaving that first row of all five weft yarns, it’s time to change sheds and then go back and weave each weft in the opposite direction. To begin the “interlock,” you wrap each weft around the end of the previous weft in the row.
Here’s what my weaving looked like with the second row complete.
When you weave back in the other direction again, the interlocks between wefts are complete.
In this next photo, I’ve completed four rows of weft interlock. I pulled a couple of the weft ends out of the way so you can better see what the interlock join looks like between colors.
Finally, here’s what my completed blocks of color look like.
I love the look of this technique because the borders where the colors come together form vertical lines of tiny zig zags. They have a very Navajo look and appear so much more “woven” than when you make lines with slits (which also often need sewing up).
Next up in the Introduction to Tapestry Techniques class, we’ll try some vertical lines using pick and pick.
Chris Franchetti Michaels is a bestselling craft book author and designer. Visit her blog at http://www.beadjewelry.net.
Time for some weft interlock.
Add two silk wefts and weave for a bit. Then replace with single silk weft.
Add a row of beads.
Weave a the silk weft.
For a bit!
Add another color of single silk weft. Weave for another bit and then add another row of beads.
Continue with some single silk weft.
Add some railroad yarn to the silk weft.
Weave a bunch of it.
Add some single silk weft. The double it up.
Weave some doubled silk weft.
Change it up a bit by replacing one silk weft with a new color. Play!