How to Weave Tapestry: A Basic Guide
Tapestry by Mirrix President Claudia Chase
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).
-A dedicated tapestry loom with a shedding device (Mirrix for our purposes)
-Heddles (you can buy these or make your own)
You do not need heddles if you are not using a shedding device.
Warp can come in a variety of different fibers including cotton, linen or wool. Your warp is going to be under extreme tension and therefore has to be very strong. You should not be able to easily break it just using your hands.
-A tapestry beater
Tapestry beaters are available in wood, metal or a combination of the two. We sell a wooden version; one is weighted and one is not. You can also use a fork if you do not have a tapestry beater.
The most important quality in a tapestry yarn (which is the weft) is beauty. It doesn't have to be warm or soft or have any of the yarn qualities you would want for making a sweater. It just has to be beautiful and available in whatever colors you want. If you were to spin your own tapestry yarn you would use the fleece from a sheep with long, lustrous locks. You would not use the fiber from something like a Marino Sheep which has short fuzzy fleece. Short fuzzy fleece is warm, but it does not make for pretty tapestry yarn. For our kits we use Brown Sheep Yarn because it comes in a large variety of gorgeous colors and is a singles yarn. The final product also withstands wear very well. We also use hand-painted Mulberry silk yarn in some of our kits.
-The Mirrix Treadle
To make tapestry weaving even faster on a Mirrix Loom, you can add the treadle which allows you to change the shed with your feet, making the process faster.
-The Mirrix Stand
Although the stand is not necessary to use with the treadle, combined the stand and treadle can turn your Mirrix Loom into a tapestry floor loom. And, of course, the Mirrix stand can just be used with a loom and no treadle.
-A Bottom Spring Kit
A bottom spring kit is most useful for small-scale tapestry, ie: tapestry where you're using more than 20 ends per inch. It functions to organize your warp on the bottom beam while you're warping.
The Tapestry/Bead Cuff Bracelet is the perfect beginner's project because you can use very simple techniques or more complicated techniques, you can or don't have to incorporate beads and it's small enough that you can finish it in a relatively short period of time. This project teaches you many of the skills you need to weave tapestry, but on a smaller and easier scale.
Warping for tapestry is pretty straight forward and tends to be easier than warping for bead weaving because the warp is often thicker and you only use one warp per dent. Before you watch the following video (near the bottom of this post), please take a moment to look at our warping .pdf for warping for tapestry with the shedding device. If you would rather needle-weave and do not want to use the shedding device for tapestry weaving, simply do not put the shedding device on. The rest of the warping procedure is the same. That said, using the shedding device for tapestry is suggested as it makes weaving much faster and easier.
This is something you have to experiment with as a tapestry weaver. For finer weft, you will want to use a warp coil with more dents per inch. For 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.)
The basic thing to remember is to make sure your warps threads aren't showing and you must consider the warp set (how far apart your warp threads are, or what warp coil you are using), how thick your weft is and how thick your warp is. One way to determine your weft size 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.
The Mirrix add-on treadle replaces the shedding device handle. It can be placed anywhere beneath the loom since it is attached by a cable system. Perfect for weaving tapestry.
Watch this video of how the Mirrix treadle is installed and used!
Views of the treadle mechanism attached to a loom. Pictures by Kathe Todd-Hooker.