Soumak Tapestry: Weaving & Finishing (Part One)

This piece is all about experimentation using a very forgiving technique: soumak, which is considered a knotting technique. There is a huge difference between soumak and weaving. When you weave you take your weft thread over the first warp, under the second warp, over the third warp, under the fourth warp, etc. If you are using a shedding device, which raises and lowers the warp threads creating what is known as a shed (the space between the lowered and raised warp threads) you pass your weft thread through the shed. When weaving you need to be constantly aware of what shed your various wefts are in because this relationship is key. The previous piece was woven. You recall how important it was to be aware of what shed your wefts were in and to make sure they were going in the correct direction relative to each other.

Soumak is very simple. There is no shed since you are actually making knots around each warp. And because there is no shed the relationship between weft threads is very simple. You can add or subtract a weft thread without worrying whether or not the weft threads are going in the correct direction relative to each other. You can start and stop a weft thread wherever you like. All you have to concern yourself with is keeping the knots neat and even. 

You can use soumak with weaving to create a different texture. Soumak can be either single which means you go around every individual thread. Or it can be double, which means you go around two warp threads. It can even be triple. Each of these versions of soumak creates a different pattern. For this piece we will be just be using single soumak.  

In addition to soumak technique you will learn dotting. For dotting you take a very contrasting color and you wrap it around one or two warp threads. You then cover it was the base color. Voilá, you've got a dot. It's a great way to give more interest and slight shading to a piece. 

Although I will be showing the beginning steps and some steps along the way, I will not be showing you the exact color to use in any specific place. I don't want to take all your fun away. Let your color imagination run wild and do not judge yourself. I am pretty sure all your pieces are going to be works of art. And at very least, this will be an excellent learning experience serving as a foundation for your experimentation in soumak. And as I mentioned, soumak can be used in conjunction with tapestry technique so it may have a future in your future weaving adventures.

Let's begin:

You will begin this piece with two colors. I have chosen blue and purple from the brights kit. You can choose whatever color you want. Some of you will be using the pastel kit and will not have the colors I have. I will be using solid strands of color. The yarn in the kit has three strands that are loosely plied. You can undo those plies and combine colors if you'd like.There is an endless variety of colors you can get if you blend two for three different colors.

Thread your yarn onto a needle. Make it a length that you feel comfortable with.  

To begin knotting bring your needle under warp one and pull it out to the front between warp one and two.

 Loop around the top of warp one heading toward the right and the bring your needle under both warps and through to the front of the piece.

Then stick your needle down between warps one and two and take it behind warp two and three and to the front.

Continue with this pattern for a tad more than half the width of the piece. 

Next, we  are going to change direction. In order to do so stick your needle under the second warp thread and bring it to the front.

Take your needle under the second and third warps and through to the front thereby wrapping around the second warp.

This is a trick I use at the selvedge to make sure the yarn stays neatly wrapped around the last warp. Once you've gone behind the last warp, push your needle under the loop and between the two side warps. By sticking your needle in the loop rather than above it, you create a knot around that warp.

To start a new weft on the left, take your needle behind warp one and through to the front.

Then take your needle behind warps one and two and through the front between warps two and three. 

Stick your needle down through warps one and two and to the front through warps thee and four.

Continue with this pattern until the purple weft reaches the blue weft.

Unlike with weaving, with soumak you can go on top of a previous weft without worrying what shed you are in because there are not sheds. You can just start doing soumak above it which is the magic of soumak. 

In order to change directions, take your needle behind the warp to the left of the warp you just went under.

Then, stick your needle behind the weft to the left of the weft you just went under. Bring it to the front. It's that simple!

Keep doing soumak until you reach the left selvedge.

Let's turn to the blue weft. Take your needle under warp two and bring it to the front.

Take your needle under warps two and three and bring it to the front of the piece.

Travel all the way to the left selvedge covering the purple weft. Once you've taken your blue warp behind the left warp leave it alone while you start a new color. Don't cut wefts when you stop using them for a bit. You can reinsert them wherever you want in this piece later on. Let's start a new color.

Click here to continue