Are you ready to weave? We are! But before we set off on our weaving adventure, let’s discuss tapestry a bit and provide some definitions and tricks.
Definition of 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). The actual form of weaving is plain weave which means the pattern you weave is under one thread and over the next. Because this is such a thin piece we have dispensed with the notion of not weaving from selvedge to selvedge. Other forms of weaving include warp-faced weaving where only the warp threads show and even weave, where equal amounts of weft and warp show. You can see that if you are entirely covering the warp threads, those threads will have no visible effect on the weaving since they will not show. The warp threads become your canvas but unlike an actual canvas for painting, it will not show at all.
Warp and Weft: These are the foundation of your weaving. The warp is the thread you put on the loom. The weft is the thread you weave into the warp.
Selvedge: The dictionary calls it: “an edge produced on woven fabric during manufacture that prevents it from unraveling.” Basically, it refers to the sides of your piece. It can also refer to the top and bottom of your piece once you’ve removed it from the loom and finished the edges. This is why Navajo style weaving is called four selvedge weaving, since all four sides of the weaving are finished while still on the loom.
Starting and Ending Threads: We will show you three ways to start and end weft threads. The trick here is that the ends of your weft thread need to always be in the back of the piece. If you are starting your weft thread at the selvedge you can start by weaving under the first warp which will necessarily put your weft tail at the back of the piece. If that is not possible because the next row has to go over the side warp, you can employ a pigtail (lots of information about that provided below). The other way to start (and end a thread) is to stick the weft tail behind the weaving somewhere in the middle and then start a new thread at the same place. We will address that in more detail.
Line & Shed
When weaving tapestry it is important to know that two passes of a weft thread make a line (meaning all the warp threads are covered.) Understanding this will help you understand different tapestry techniques.
Shed is the space between your lowered and raised set of warps. It is very important concept to understand when weaving tapestry. For most tapestries, you have two different sheds (when one half of your warp threads are on top of the weft and when the other half are on top). When you are weaving simple lines straight across, you know if you are in the right shed by looking at which shed you were in on the pass before. If you are in the incorrect shed, your pass through will unweave the row above rather than add a row.
How to Not Pull-In
Pulling-in is when your tapestry starts at one width and gets thinner and thinner as you weave. It is one of the most common problems that beginning tapestry students encounter.
Some tips to prevent pulling in for this project:
-Keep high tension on your loom
-Measure the width of your piece every few rows and adjust if it seems you are pulling in
For more information on how to not pull-in at the selvedges, please see the blog post “Prevent Pulling In”.
WEAVING A HEADER
The first thing we are going to do is weave a header. A header, like her brother the footer, consists of rows of warp material. Usually, this little section of weaving is folded under so at the front of the tapestry you see just the actual weft and the header and warp threads are hidden. The footer, a header at the end of the piece, has the same purpose.
Since most of you will not be using the shedding device we are using a little trick to keep one shed open. Take the spring bar (the one that normally gets placed inside the spring on the top of the loom in order to prevent the warp threads from jumping out when advancing the weaving . . . since there are so few warp threads, this isn’t really necessary) and weave it in (under one warp thread and over the next) at the top of the loom. It will stay in place right below the top beam. This open shed will allow you to just weave through it whereas you will have to use a needle to “pick” the other shed.
To weave the header, starting on either side of the loom, weave under the selvedge warp thread, over the next warp, under the warp after that, etc. until you get to the other side. Then reverse direction. As we mentioned before, this will place the tail of your weft thread behind the weaving. Weave five or six rows. End with the weft thread going under the selvedge warp thread.