You are new to this weft-faced weaving/tapestry/whatever it is called and you are rolling on that high that accompanies any new found love. You have gone through all the scraps of yarn you can find from various other pursuits from embroidery to needlepoint to those twelve scarves you knit that one holiday and the rather funky crocheted baby blanket that your daughter insists is just perfect for keeping little Emma cozy. You've made a pile of it all. Some look interesting. Some look downright sad. The colors are all over the place. You are trying to make sense of all this stuff because there is that loom you just purchased and it is begging to be dressed and used. Do you start with what you have and then once you've learned move on to better materials or do you jump right in and try to buy the best? Good question. Let me see if I can shed some light on this issue.
When I first discovered tapestry weaving I really had no materials with which to work. I had done some weaving in the past. But everything I had was gone and it wasn't much anyway. I had spent my youth scrounging materials to make my weird fiber creations but there was never a lot and now none was left. I was on my own here.
As per the instructions of my brand new tapestry teacher (I attended exactly two classes because it was more like a club and everyone had been going to it for years!) I bought a rigid heddle loom. And while I was buying that I also picked up some lovely baby alpaca yarn in several natural colors. Yes, I was going for tapestry, but this yarn was not. It was opening the scarf door. So my first attempts at tapestry were not. They became about twelve scarves for twelve friends. I did experiment with one where I made the sett really wide and ended up with an alpaca brick, or so it seemed. I wasn't serious about any of this yet. It would take another move before I would finally jump into the tapestry waters.
Ah but then I landed. Think back to the days before the internet and if you did not happen to have a local and lovely yarn store you were kind of out of luck. Those days. I was living in Northern NH at the time which wasn't exactly a hotbed of fiber stores. I believe there was, briefly, a knitting store. I don't recall buying anything there and then it went puff. There was also a very distant yarn shop at a weird Inn up in the Mountains. I remember buying two different colorways of a silk/rayon/nubby blend. I turned it into more scarves because it just was not tapestry material. I knew that instinctively but I did not know what I needed.
I don't know how I got the samples. I vaguely remember meeting a weaver. She wove on a large floor loom. It has been in a half-warped condition for ten years at least. The warp was covered in dust and spider webs. But she had a file cabinet full of yarn samples. She didn't offer to pass any of them on even though it was evident she would never weave again. Some folks aren't great at sharing. But I did manage to scribble down the names of places. I assume I placed some phone calls and probably even sent them SASE return envelopes to get samples. One place (be still my beating heart) was somewhere near the four corners area. They dyed Churro yarn! But I get ahead of myself because the first place I found was not the place that dyed the Churro yarn. It was a place that sold rug yarn. They had about twenty colors in their sample card. I poured over it for days. I ordered six colors and so began my tapestry career. Later I would score that amazing Churro yarn. Eventually, sadly, they went out of business. I found a source for natural colored rug yarn of varying quality and I learned how to dye.
Later, I learned how to spin. That lead to dyeing the fleece and then blending it and spinning it into yarn. You cannot get any closer to the source of your inspiration than that.
Over the years I have explored all sorts of yarn options for tapestry (or weft-faced weaving). It's knowledge any new weaver needs to absorb. It takes time to figure it out. Sourcing or creating the best materials for your work is imperative. Your piece is meant to last forever not fall apart or fade to decay. It's meant to proudly stand the test of time.
In part two of this blog, I will discuss the rules for weft making or choosing when you want your weft-faced piece to sing. Stay tuned!
Looking to take up weaving but not sure where to begin? Check out our Get Started Guide here!