Tapestry Weaving Basics

What is 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).

Why choose a Mirrix to weave Tapestry?

If you’ve ever tried to weave tapestry on a loom either not intended for weaving tapestry or not built to provide great tension, you understand how frustrating it is to not have the kind of tension necessary to weave a tapestry that will not look like something you imagine might have emerged from weaving day at summer camp. Tapestry is a demanding medium full of must-have requirements. If you give her what she wants, she is as lovely as can be. But if you deny her the simple requirement of a dedicated and worthy tapestry loom, she can be quite the adversary. Forget even selvedges, forget evenly spaced warps and if you have an inferior shedding mechanism or none at all, forget weaving your piece in a timely fashion. Just like you would purchase fine water-color paper and not newsprint to paint with watercolors, you require a dedicated and highly functioning tapestry loom to weave the best tapestry possible.

What are the exacting requirements of a great portable tapestry loom? 

1) Provides great and even tension. There should be no compromise on this.

2) Provides some kind of shedding device that is easily operated and keeps the shed open.

3) Stands sturdily in place either on a table, in your lap or on some kind of stand.

4) Provides the length you need relative to the width you require.

5) Accommodates the option of a variety of reeds for various warp setts.

6) Has the ability to add a foot treadle.

7) Guarantees a lifetime of use.

8) Is beautiful, which is why we say “Because the loom you weave on should be a work of art”.

Methods

On a basic frame loom or a Mirrix without a shedding device, you weave by bringing your weft (horizontal threads) over and under your warp (vertical threads).

On a Mirrix loom, you also have the option of adding on a shedding device.

The shedding device is used to lift warp threads (these are the threads that go around your loom) in order to pass your weft through them more easily.

When you change the position of the handle of the shedding device, the shedding device shifts position and opposite sets of warps are raised, securing your beads or weft between the warp threads.

The shedding device is connected to the warp threads on your loom by heddles, which are basically just loops that wrap around both your warp threads and the bars of the shedding device

This device makes weaving significantly faster and much easier.

Supplies

What do you need to begin weaving tapestry?

  • A loom.
  • Heddles, if you are using the shedding device. You can buy these or make your own.
  • 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.
  • Tapestry beaters are available in wood, metal or a combination of the two. We sell a wooden version. You can also use a fork if you do not have a tapestry beater.
  • Weft. 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.

Accessories

The Electric Spencer 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 electric treadle is our electrified version.

The Mirrix Sitting/Standing Loom 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.

Warping

Warping for tapestry is pretty straightforward and tends to be easier than warping for bead weaving because the warp is often thicker and you only use one warp per dent.

Both of these show how to warp using 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.

If you are a beginner, you might want to try warping using our Easy Warp method. This is a very simple way to warp a Mirrix Loom! 

Find Mirrix's set-up and warping instructions here

How do I know what warp coil to use for tapestry?
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.

Check out this crowd-sourced list to see what yarn and sett combinations others have used.

You can add to the list here!

Weaving

We recommend buying a book or taking a class if you're interested in tapestry. 

Rebecca Mezoff’s online tapestry class is a great choice or find an in-person class in your area!

Next Steps

GET HELP CHOOSING A LOOM FROM ONE OF OUR EXPERTS HERE.