Thursday, June 28, 2012

Add a stand

Ann Doherty has a copper pipe loom that had warp on it but no stand so she could sit it on a table and weave. She also has a pvc loom that she couldn't get comfortable weaving on.  The other limitation was trying to make a stand without using a saw or other tool to cut the pvc pipe.  Solution:  The pvc pipe loom was disassembled.  The tension on the copper pipe loom was loosened and the top of the loom removed after partially removing the warp from the top of the loom.  The pvc pieces were mixed and matched until the pieces were arranged into a stand for the copper pipe loom.  The top of the copper loom was replaced with the warp repositioned for weaving.  Now the  copper loom can be placed on the table for comfortable weaving.  The stand could also be removed and made back into a pvc loom if needed.  The other lesson learned is that the copper pipe loom can be compressed by removing the warp and rolling it up if need be for traveling or other purpose.  The stand also has the approval of Ann's cat.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Kathe Todd-Hooker Workshop, Atlanta, GA

Hi everyone,
I want to share that Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild is sponsoring a tapestry workshop featuring Kathe Todd-Hooker as the workshop leader October 20, 21, 22, 2012.
The workshop will be held in Room 4
North Dekalb Cultural Center
5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road
Dunwoody, GA 30338 (This is in the northeast metro Atlanta Area)
Registration is now open to all who are interested.
Additional information can be found in the workshops section of the Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild website.  Registration is online only.  The website is:

Friday, June 22, 2012

Other questions to be addressed soon...

  1. These questions are still to be answered and we'll get to them soon!  Pat was just teaching last weekend and I'll be leaving tomorrow to teach for a week.  We haven't forgotten!  And if there's anything else that anyone's curious about, please ask.  We'll see if we can help out.

    TonyaJune 12, 2012 7:02 AMI'd like to know about different syles of looms. I'm working on a 1X1 pvc frame loom and was looking to buy one later on. So many different companies, styles, makes, and models!. What are the pros and cons of the ones you all have used?

    Tommye McClure ScanlinJune 12, 2012 7:43 AMTonya,
    Good question and that will be added to the list of postings Pat & I will be making. She's working on one about weft options & opinions right now. We'll also tackle the methods for finishes--hems, etc. Adding loom options makes sens. Thanks for the suggestion.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Weft: a wittle fing you weave frew da warp. (Elmer Fudd)

Wefts can be tricky business. When I first began to learn to weave tapestry, it was all about aiming for the flat surface, no ridging, no pulling in of the selvedges--just flat and plum bob square. That goal took a long time for me to try to achieve, and my work never has been consistent that way. One time, I was weaving a rooster eating a bug, and in the background was a napkin & fork, a pasture, and other chicken associations. Right around the the comb of the rooster, I had inadvertently woven an eccentric weft in order to get the image like I wanted it. [see image provided] It was more important to me to get the image right than the surface to be flat. The heck with flat, I thought. I cut the tapestry off the loom and laid it out. Steamed it. And hey, it stayed flat enough. Sewing it onto a frame for presentation helped keep it flat.
Here is the chicken tapestry, "Hungry Rooster, (c) 1999; 14" x 14". Tommye and I go waaay back and I showed this tapestry to her and she said she rather liked the eccentric movement in it. I did too. So I began to include more and more eccentric weft, which became a gateway into playing with yarns other than wool. I’d gone to The Cloisters [] in upper Manhattan and observed a medieval tapestry of Soloman and Sheba. Sheba’s gown was silk velvet!!  amongst the rest of the tapestry which was more traditional yarn weaving. Ahoy! I thought. Anything can be done if it suits the image and makes sense in the context of the tapestry.

I began to use perle cotton, which I prefer over silk--both because of the price and because I think modern cotton may have a longer life than silk, but don't quote me. I’ve had a few bad events with silk. Perle cotton is also more readily available with a marvelous selection of colors. One source is Herrschners online store: I found their prices to be pretty good, and they ship quickly and are easy to work with. So far.

One of my early-on favorites was a boucle yarn I got at an outlet yarn barn place. I had a couple of large cones of it. Because I’d used a great deal of it in yardage floor loom weaving, I knew it had a significant shrinkage. So I wound all of it off into skeins, washed it, dried it and put it back into balls. (You can see some of that yarn in the white feathers of the rooster above.) It’s all gone now. Which led me to the pleasurable act of going into yarn shops and looking for non-stretchy yarns of the size that would weave well on 8 or 6 ends per inch tapestries. I like to get yarns that are thin enough to mix with my wools in order to obtain chine, or gradations of colors.

These are a few novelty yarns I keep on hand--less than an ounce each, but a little goes a long way. 

I keep a small frame loom warped so I can weave the really odd, questionable yarns I find in order to see how they look when woven.  

Tips and Hints: A few keys to successful weaving with novelty yarns are 1) use yarns with a minimum of stretch; 2) ideally, the yarn will be thin enough to mix with your base yarn (the yarn used in the majority of space in the tapestry--mine is usually a wool). When it can mix with your base yarn, you’ll have more flexibility for gradations, etc. 3) When actually putting the novelty yarn into the warp, play with how much bubble you should give before packing it down. This is where sampling comes in handy. Often, you just can’t know how it will look or how it will pack until one or two square inches of it are woven. 4) As always, weave often, play a lot.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thank you for this discussion of warp.  You mentioned that the classic rule to determine sett does not apply as accurately for wool warp.  When you are using a mix of weft materials is there any good way to determine sett or do you recommend sampling?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Warp Sett--a few options and opinions

UPDATE with some changes in sources noted at the bottom of the post.

A question was asked about warp and weft.  I'll address warp in this post.  My answers here are based on what I've been taught, on my own experiences and preferences based on those lessons.   My studies have been with several teachers, especially with Archie Brennan and Susan Martin Maffei, and their combined years of experience in tapestry making count in the decades and they are both experts.  That said, I recognize that other people will, of course, have their own opinions and suggestions. 

First, let's take a look at Archie Brennan's excellent article called "The Space Between the Warps" that's posted at the American Tapestry Alliance website.

The article describes a way to determine a classic ratio of a selected warp to weft.  Brennan suggests that one can find a starting point for the number of ends per inch for any warp by wrapping the warp in a centimeter space, placing the warp wraps closely together, and then using that number of wraps as the number of ends per inch.

He also discusses why one might want to vary that sett... opening up the warp spacing more or making it even closer together.  For instance, the number of wefts that might be included in a weft bundle might be one of the factors in the choice of sett.  In the two examples below, there's a sett of 8 epi with a 12/12 cotton seine twine as warp.  In the top example, 3 strands of weft of Vevgarn are being used; in the bottom example, same warp sett and size, there are 5 strands of 20/2 worsted wool being used.  Using a smaller wool (the 20/2), more color blending options were available in each weft.  

8 epi, 12/12 cotton seine warp, three strands of 2-ply wool combined for weft

8 epi, 12/12 cotton seine warp, five strands of 18/2 worsted wool weft
One of the things that you'll find when choosing warp sett is that the smaller and closer together the warps, the more detailed the image may be.  The scale of the warp/weft relationship is smaller.  So if you're wanting more detail in your design, smaller warp and closer sett might be the way you should go.  In the edge detail of the two samples below, the difference in coarseness of the weave is pretty evident.  The left piece has a sett of 8 epi of 12/9 seine twine, and the right piece has 6 epi of 12/18 seine twine.  Left is finer in effect, right is bulkier.

Here's the difference in effect of warp sett with pick and pick:

6 epi

10 epi

Some tapestry artists like to work at a scale very much smaller than those shown above.  Kathe Todd-Hooker, for instance, does absolutely amazing work.  This is a detail of one of her tapestries that I own.  Best I can determine, it's about 24 epi.  You can read more about Kathe's work at her blog.  Kathe's written several tapestry books that I recommend.  Tapestry 101 is one that is quite thorough; she sells her books, as well as tapestry supplies and yarns at Between & Etc.

Detail of Kathe Todd-Hooker tapestry
Now... a few thought about warp.  One of the critical features of a warp is that is should be strong and hold up to the tight tension needed for tapestry making.  

I've found that some things that seem very strong in that they're almost impossible to break by pulling them (like cotton carpet warp and also 3/2 mercerized cotton) don't hold up well for use in tapestry warp.  You might be saying, "But I use the cotton carpet warp for rag rugs and it holds up just fine!" Yes, it will do just fine in that application.  And it will work out OK for smaller tapestries, ones that you'll be warping and weaving pretty quickly.  Same for the 3/2 mercerized cotton.  But for larger tapestries and ones that you'll probably have on a loom for months, those types of warps might give some problems... like breaking.  And the stereotype, "Ask me how I know..." comment applies here.  

I know because I've used both and had warps breaking.  In one instance, I was using 3/2 mercerized cotton for a 45" wide warp, sett at 8 epi.  After three breakages, one so bad that I had to totally restart the tapestry, I determined that if I got through with that piece I'd never, ever use 3/2 mercerized as tapestry warp again.  And, twenty-something years later... I haven't!  

So... what do I use?  Most of my tapestries are done in cotton seine twine.  I usually select from three options for my own work:  12/6 for 10 to 12 epi; 12/12 or 12/15 for 8 epi; and 12/18 for 6 epi. 

The size of each of those is different, with 12/6 being the smallest and 12/18 the largest, as the sett indicates.  Cotton seine twine has the advantage of having flexibility and so the weaver can have some bit of discrepancy in the warp tension and the warp has a bit of forgiveness to cover that.  It's also firmly twisted and a bit smoother to put one's hands in and out of when weaving.  The cotton seine twine is available in several sizes, both smaller and larger than what I use.  Here's a selection from my collection:

 Left to right:  30/6 Finnish; 12/6; 12/9; 12/12; 12/15; and 12/18

The 12/6 is available in colors, as well as the natural shown above.  I sometimes used the colored seine twine if I'm going to have the edge showing and if I don't want the natural color at the edge.  I frequently use an edge finish that leaves the warp peeking at the ends of the tapestry.  It's called half-Damascus and is shown in the Peter Collingwood book under weft protectors.  I'm partial to these colors so these are what I have on hand:

I also use linen warp, and the size I use most of the time is 10/3 linen.  I usually sett this at 8 epi but it could also be used at closer and wider spaceings, depending on the weft chosen. Linen is a beautiful color and I love to see it at the edge of some of the tapestries I do.  The hand of the cloth is also quite different with linen and I enjoy that, as well.  Linen doesn't have the flexibility of cotton so when warping with it, it's important to be consistent and even with the tension.  There are several sizes of linen warp, as well.  I'd suggest ordering a sample card from a supplier to see the differences, if you're interested.

10/3 linen warp
Wool warp is something I've only used a few times.  Wool as warp has a long tradition in tapestry making and I'm glad I'm learning to use it.  I bought a large spool at a Convergence from Mora Valley Spinning Mill and have enjoyed working with it in the couple of tapestries I've used it in.  One of the things I learned in the first tapestry, however, is that the wrapping of the warp in the centimeter, as Archie's method describes, doesn't give as accurate a sett suggestion.  In fact, I needed to sett it a bit closer than what the wrap per centimeter indicates.  This particular 2-ply Churro warp is best at 8 epi (I'd first used it at 6 epi and that was just a bit too open).
Churro wool warp from Tapetes de Lana

The Churro wool warp was used in this tapestry.

Now... lots more can and should be said about warp for tapestry... this only scratches the surface.  And, as I said, this is from my perspective and based on what I've been taught and what I've experienced.

One more thing I want to mention, though, is that sometimes the examples shown in various books of how to do techniques have a small size warp that's widely spaced.  Possibly that's done for the methods/techniques shown as easier to photograph that way.  I think that beginners see that warp/weft relationship and think that's the way it ought to be.  But, in making tapestry if the sett is too open, the resulting tapestry cloth is sleazy (weft moves around too much).

And finally, here's a selected list of sources for warp as well as weft yarn.  I collect sample cards from the sources I feel will have yarns that I'll want to use for my own work.   When I teach, I also recommend these sources as good options since I've used them enough to feel I know the products.  There are many other yarns available and I say, seek them out and order samples if they have them. 

I'll add and amend this list occasionally.  I have no affiliation with any of these companies and individuals for personal profit and gain.

  • Tynt Kunstvevgarn (and heavier weight Spelsau Norwegian yarns), weft
Each 25 gram ball  (~65 meters / ball) = $4.50 (price quoted Feb. 2017)

Madeleine Darling-Tung
135 Main Street East
Kingsville, Ontario
N9Y 1A5  Canada

  • Frid Vevgarn weft, and warp thread
Vevgarn is 50% Norwegian Spelsau and 50% luster-wool
Warps: 12/12 and 12/6 cotton seine twine, and 10/3 linen

Sidsel Moreb
Norsk Fjord Fiber

  • Alv (Elf) worsted wool, weft and also warp thread
Alv is imported from Norway
Warps: several sizes of seine twine and also cotton buttonhole twist for close setts

Kathe Todd-Hooker
Between & Etc.
604 First Ave. East
Albany, Oregon 97321-2744

  • Mora worsted 2-ply and Faro singles, weft; many warp selections, including seine twine and linen

Glimakra USA
Note: They currently ask that you use their website to find and support local yarn stores for their products, or to find online retailers.  However, Glimakra USA will still make small retail sales if items aren’t available elsewhere.

Friday, June 1, 2012

So... What do you want to know about in tapestry..

... Let's get some questions going and see if some answers can be found! I'll check in once a day to see if anyone's asked anything. I'll answer as best I can. Perhaps a few of the other blog authors will chime in, too. The goal of this blog is sharing.