Saturday, 9 March 2013

Tapestry Weaving - first 2 exercises

I have been lucky enough to find a second hand copy of the recommended book Tapestry Weaving a comprehensive study guide by Nancy Harvey 1991 Interweave Press Colorado ISBN 0 934026 64 5.

It is absolutely what it says it is - a practical guide to everything you need to know to do tapestry weaving, starting by making your own loom. I decided that, since you can make a smaller piece than the loom, but not a larger one, I would make a slightly larger frame than the size given.

Tapestry Weaving Sample 1

The first tapestry weaving sampler I made.
Starting at the bottom, you can see several rows of plain rug wool; then a section of alternate coloured rows giving vertical stripes; then spots. On top of those is a section where I made waves/ mounds of blue and cream. There are 2 ridges of cream using 2 different forms of Soumak, topped with patches of knotting in a variety of different materials. I finished it off with some more plain rug wool weaving, and knotted the weft stands together.   

 I found out from experience that it really does matter if you weave two adjacent strands through in the same direction. You can see the vertical strings showing through in this part of it for that reason.

The knotting above it was made using ropes I had twisted from various different colours of thread, with the intention of having a gradation of colour from left to right. The changes were a bit too subtle to show I think.

I like the way the vertical lines came out both at the bottom and the top of this piece.

 This section again shows some visible verticals, for the same reason. It was most difficult to keep to the correct pattern when I had altered the number of rows along only a part of the width ie where I had made humps.

I thought it was interesting to see the subtle difference between the soumak ridges - one was from behind over 2 wefts, and the other from the front over only one at a time.

You can't really see here, because it is overlapped by other knots, but there is an interesting coral effect from using lacy fabric to do rug knotting.
The pale blue plain cotton just ended up looking like bows.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised that I could produce something so neat and even on the first real try. I can see there is a lot of potential for making visually interesting pieces. I was wondering, however, whether there was going to be enough leeway for me to be really creative using this technique.

Tapestry Weaving Sample 2

This was my opportunity to try out some other types of yarn in the weaving. I could see that I would be using wider yarns so set the wefts twice as far apart for this one.

Even so the first rows for which I used white cotton sheet torn into strips revealed a lot more of the weft strings than I anticipated. It came out knobbly like the wool on a sheep.

The bright orange is thin strips of felt in a soumak weave. The paler orange was the same weave in the opposite direction in a thicker cotton fabric. This thickness and the different colour at the torn edges give it a rougher quality than the sheet strip.

At the top of this section is a grand combination of dark red cotton strips interlacing with yellow polychiffon. Under this, I used bright white vest fabric cut into strips, using a soumak technique to produce columns.

I tried using some yarn made of strips of orange plastic bags. This gave the shiny knobbly appearance in between the two brighter layers.
Beneath it you can see what happened when I tried winding copper wire round itself - of course it only showed on alternate wefts and the shininess of it was overwhelmed by the surrounding white cotton. 

At the top of this section I used string to contrast with first more of the white vest fabric, and then bright red manmade fabric with a lot of elasticity in it. I like the way this changes the final shapes of the spots and lines produced with this technique. 

The next 6 rows were made by alternating strips of milk carton (translucent) and plastic from overshoes. I think this might be a useful way to produce stiff but transparent sheets (eg for insect wings). There needs to be something between the rows of milk carton plastic because the edges don't sit well against each other. And attention needs to be paid to what to use for the weft as it is so visible. 

The lower rows were me experimenting with soumak diagonals in more than one yarn. This leaves nice regular holes in the fabric which could be useful, and again completely covers the weft. 

This section shows the top of the sample, with a return to the lumpy effect of white cotton.

I used a more pleasing way of knotting the weft together for this sample than the last. It's a bit more fiddly but worth it.

Next time I want to try weaving a few rows of plain and folding them over at the end.

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