Welcome to the first post in American Tapestry Alliance's Tapestry Unlimited Blog Tour!
I'm starting you off with the basics of tapestry weaving/weft-faced weaving. There are a few different ways to approach beginner tapestry weaving, so after humming hawing I decided I'd teach you more-or-less the way I was taught in textile art school. I'm even using the kind of loom we worked on, but I made it in PVC instead of the copper ones we used so you would know about the most affordable option. I have posted the DIY PVC Loom video here, and in this post are two videos:
1) The easiest way to warp up this loom (above), to be woven in an open-shed style. To follow along with this project you will need
2) A beginner weaving tutorial (below). To follow along with this video you will need
I hope the videos are clear and easy to follow, and please feel free to comment with any questions orjoin the Vancouver Yarn Ravelry group and participate in the Tapestry Unlimited Blog Tour thread where we can chat about this post as well as the other ladies' tutorials coming up. If you're weaving along with us we'd love to chat there about your weaving adventures. Also, if you're posting pictures or videos you can use the hashtag #tapestryunlimited so we can find each others' posts.
The loom I am using in these videos is a PVC version of Archie Brennan's copper loom, which admittedly is much sexier and more sturdy than PVC. Copper will take as much tension as you want to give it, whereas this PVC might bow a bit if you crank the heck out of your warp tension control. There are other DIY pipe looms that have bells and whistles over at Archie Brennan's website too, as well as a PVC version over at Sarah Swett's blog. There are a number of ways to warp up any given portable tapestry loom; the most frequently used (as far as I know) is the one that Mirrix illustrates in this video which allows you to rotate your tapestry to the back of your loom as you work to allow you to get more length out of your warp, like this. Today I shared a simple method that does not feature that, but you won't need it to have fun trying your hand at weaving, and if you like it you'll have a good foundation to inform the way you understand the looms and methods that offer bells and whistles.
I haven't forgotten about the prizes! Every week you have have a chance to enter to win one of two prizes 1) a one-year membership to American Tapestry Alliance , and 2) a one-year membership to American Tapestry Alliance as well as a free entry to the exhibition this blog tour is celebrating, Tapestry Unlimited:11th International, Unjuried Small Format Exhibition. Today you will have the opportunity to increase your chances of winning by twenty-five times by sharing this post on social media and other methods using the widget below. Current ATA members are not eligible to win.
Scroll down for a glossary and other ramblings that accompany the videos as well as some resources and links, many of which were complied from fellow blog tour instructors' blogs regarding suggestions for warp, weft and EPI considerations.
The Blog Tour Line-Up
December 23rd: Vancouver Yarn: The basics: warping up and weaving open-shed style
December 30th: Rebecca Mezoff: Using irregular hatching to blend color
January 6th: Terry Olson: Weaving slits to create vertical lines
January 13th: Mirrix Looms: Weaving shapes: Triangles, Squares and Circles
January 20th: Elizabeth Buckley: Using multiple wefts to blend color
January 27th: Sarah Swett: The value of Tapestry
Thank you so much for stopping by! I hope you follow the upcoming weekly posts by our amazing lineup of tapestry teachers. Rebecca Mezoff is next week with a technique called irregular hatching, which is a fancy term for one of the ways to approach color blending. Scroll down and press 'read more' for the glossary and resources that accompany this post as well as more about the Tapestry Unlimited exhibition.
American Tapestry Alliance is a nonprofit organization that provides programming for tapestry weavers around the world, including exhibitions (like Tapestry Unlimited), both juried and unjuried, in museums, art centers and online, along with exhibition catalogues. They offer workshops, lectures, one-on-one mentoring and online educational articles as well as awards, including scholarships, membership grants, an international student award, and the Award of Excellence. They also put out a quarterly newsletter, monthly eNews & eKudos and CODA, an annual digest. Members benefit from personalized artists pages on the ATA website, online exhibitions, educational articles, access to scholarships and more.
This blog tour is in celebration of ATA's annual unjuried exhibtion. Tapestry Unlimited; 11th International, Unjuried Small Format exhibition is open to all weavers. We are expecting upwards of 250 participants who will show their work at the Milwaukee Public Library this upcoming summer. Everyone who signs up to participate by January 31st 2016 will be included in the exhibition, and your tapestry does not need to be mailed to us until March 2016. There is an exhibition fee of $40 which pays for both the return postage for you tapestry as well an exhibition catalogue, which everyone’s tapestry will be featured in. We invite entries which work within more traditional definitions of tapestry as well as ones which expand upon them, including multimedia work.
Tapestry Unlimited hangs at the Milwaukee Public Library from July 26 – August 11, 2016
Glossary & Resources:
Warp: The yarn that is wrapped around the loom under tension
Shed: The space between the front and back working warp yarn.
Weft: The yarn that is passed between the shed to be woven. This yarn completely covers the warp yarn.
Open-shed and open-shed style vs other tapestry weaving styles: Open shed is a bonafide term, but I'm not sure if I heard it else-wear or if I'm making up it up, but I'm calling the style of warping up and weaving 'open shed style' because after you've warped up your loom the resting state of your loom has an open shed. That means there is a space between the front and back portions of your working warp. There are other types of tapestry weaving where you will see the weaver working with only the front warps on the loom. They may create sheds by going over and under the warps using a threaded needle or by finger picking and using a baton for the other shed, and then there are shedding devices which open both sheds using heddles and handles or other devices. I like the method I show as a beginner method for three reasons, 1) Warping up is simple 2) The open shed is easy to understand and use 3) Finger picking is a good skill to have and manipulating the threads manually helps you understand the structure of tapestry.
EPI: Stands for 'ends per inch' and refers to how many warp threads are found in a one inch wide area on your dressed loom.
How to decide on your EPI: In these videos I make it easy by suggesting that beginners warp up at 6 EPI and use worsted weight yarn or the equivalent made up of multiple strands. In her blog post Claudia from Mirrix Looms explains making EPI decisions like this,
"Unfortunately there is not a simple trick for figuring out your warp spacing. Every weft and warp combination is different and it might take some time to begin to get a sense of what warp coil should be used each time you weave a new piece. A good way to determine if your [EPI] is correct 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."
Alternatively, If you know what yarn you want to use for warp and weft but are not sure what EPI to set your loom up with you can hold together the two strands of yarn in one hand (one weft and one warp) and wrap them around a ruler so they are alternating each other and sitting directly next to each other. Wrap them over one inch and then count only the warp threads. The number of warp thread in that inch will be your EPI (see pic below). Rebecca Mezoff recently shared this great post on her blog sharing different results based on varying weft, warp and EPI combinations.
Weft Bundle/Butterfly: in tapestry weaving there are a number of ways to carry your weft thread. Some people use bobbins while others use weft butterfies. Click here to learn how to make a weft butterfly.
Weft yarn options: For this video I am using Custom Woolen Mills' 3ply mule spinner yarn, the blue I've hand-dyed in indigo. Here is a blog post by Rebecca Mezoff about other weft yarn options. Read the comments in her post for others' suggestions, too.
Square Knot: A square knot is that knot that everyone knows how to do, it involves the first move you teach a kid when they are learning to tie their shoes the bunny ears way. Is that a funny explanation? Here's a video (it's hilariously slow, sorry I couldn't find a better one). A double square knot is that same knot repeated for reinforcement.
Double Half Hitch Knot: This knot allows you to tighten or loosen the last warp you wrapped when you've finished warping your loom. Rebecca Mezoff has a great video here illustrating how to make one and how it works.
Demonstrating how to make a simple loom is important to me because I want new weavers to work on a good, affordable loom with tension control. Tension control is key to making a good tapestry because 1) it allows you to warp up your loom with even tension. This means you are not trying to keep your tension both tight and even at the same time while you dress your loom. This way you can just focus on keeping your tension even and then tighten it when you are done. Even tension means your tapestry will be woven evenly, ie your weft won't pack more (or less) densely in some parts compared to others 2) Your warp thread should to be under very tight tension in order to pack your weft easily and densely 3) It is simply easier to weave with tight tension.
The loom I show you how to build in this video is a PVC version of the basic copper Archie Brennan-style tapestry loom, and the illustrations shown in it are a screenshot from his and Susan Maffei;s website. I used the copper version in school for my first tapestries. Our teacher Anthea Mallinson taught us how to pickup every second warp using our fingers, and with practice we gained finesse. It's a technique I really enjoy and still use in small sections of weaving. For my next DIY post, which will be the first of the ATA Tapestry Unlimited blog tour next Wednesday, I will show you how to warp up and weave on this loom using that finger picking technique. These will be great tools and skills to begin your venture into tapestry weaving.
PS I left in some Sammy sounds and footage because that is the beautiful/challenging reality of making DIY videos as a stay-at-home mom. Blurg.
This year I am honoured to be chairing American Tapestry Alliance's Tapestry Unlimited: International, Unjuried Small Format Exhibition. In anticipation of the exhibition, whose deadline to commit to participate is January 31st, we are launching a blog tour. So, beginning December 23rd here on the Vancouver Yarn blog, once a week for six weeks six artists will share a different weaving technique on their respective blogs. With this educational tour we hope to encourage you to try your hand at the art of tapestry weaving by following along on the tour and trying some of the techniques. We also want to encourage both newbies and established weavers to experience the thrill of showing their work in public at Tapestry Unlimited which is hanging in Milwaukee Wisconsin in the summer of 2016. Each week two readers will win one-year memberships to ATA, plus one of them will also win a free entry to Tapestry Unlimited. That's 12 winners and 18 prizes!
*the small print: current ATA members may not enter to win.
The American Tapestry Alliance is a nonprofit organization that provides programming for tapestry weavers around the world, including exhibitions (like Tapestry Unlimited), both juried and unjuried, in museums, art centers and online, along with exhibition catalogues. They offer workshops, lectures, one-on-one mentoring and online educational articles as well as awards, including scholarships, membership grants, an international student award, and the Award of Excellence. They also put out a quarterly newsletter, monthly eNews & eKudos and CODA, an annual digest. Members benefit from personalized artists pages on the ATA website, online exhibitions, educational articles, access to scholarships and more.
The Blog Tour Line-Up
Stop 1: Vancouver Yarn: The basics: warping up and weaving open-shed style
Stop 2: Rebecca Mezoff: Using irregular hatching to blend color
Stop 3: Terry Olson: Weaving slits to create vertical lines
Stop 4: Mirrix Looms: Weaving shapes: Triangles, Squares and Circles
Stop 5: Elizabeth Buckley: Using multiple wefts to blend color
Stop 6: Sarah Swett: The value of Tapestry
I hope you follow along! The tour ends January 27th 2016. Sign up below for weekly updates on the tour (this is separate from the VY mailing list)
xoJanna M Vallee
I had a realization just now as I was tweeting about the holiday market map I made yesterday - I'm a compulsive sharer, especially when it comes to textile related things. Vancouver Yarn is a prime example; when I made the first page full of yarn shops I couldn't stop there. I remember it was a good two months of designing and tweaking the site every day after work. I was so excited about sharing all this info with you all, and totally engrossed in making it a the best that it could be (with my limited web designing knowledge). Yesterday when I thought of the idea to make holiday market map and dropped everything to do it there and then, I had a little flashback of that initial excitement I had for Vancouver Yarn. I still love it, I'm just not obsessed anymore :)
Here's the map. Enjoy!
Hi, I'm Janna. I'm the owner and natural dyer at Everlea Yarn and the tapestry instructor at The School of SweetGeorgia. I am a tapestry weaver, longtime knitter and 2013 graduate of Concordia University's Fibres and Material Practices program.
I founded Vancouver Yarn in 2008 as a single space to hold as much of the textile awesomeness that I could find in and around Vancouver. Here on the VY blog I mostly share about local events, pattern releases as well as Community Highlights.
Do you have an event, KAL, yarn or pattern release, launch or other thing you want us to post? Just send your press release to me at
janna (at) vancouveryarn.com and specify that you'd like to see it on our blog.