Friday, November 18, 2011

Mounting/finishing method for small tapestries

I'm preparing for an exhibit soon and have lots of small tapestries that I'm getting ready to hang.  I thought I'd share some of the process here.  There's a good collection of articles about hanging methods for tapestry included at the American Tapestry Alliance website at this link.  The method I was using a few years ago was the one I described at the ATA site and it's just a bit different than what I'm showing here.  But... there you go... always looking for a different way... if not better!  So here are my steps:

For the mounting board I've used 1/2" foam core board.  It works fine for small pieces; the largest one in this group is 41" long x 4" wide.  I measured and cut the mounting board using a fresh blade in the utility knife.  A cutting mat is quite helpful for this process as is a metal yard stick.

Next, I stretched a layer of cotton flannel (prewashed/dried) over the board using 3/8" staples.  I clipped the ends and trimmed excess cloth away.

The mounting fabric in this instance is a natural color of cotton twill canvas.  It was also washed, dried and this fabric was steam pressed (no need to press the flannel since it smooths out when stretching and stapling it.)

Excess fabric was clipped out of the corners, then the edges folded over and stapled at the back.  This step is a bit tricky--you want to pull the corners as tightly and smoothly as possible.  Staple and then you're ready to stitch on the tapestry.

The tapestry is laid onto the mounting board and pinned in place temporarily with t-pins.  The mounting boards are about 1/4" to 1/2" larger than the tapestry so there's a small margin showing around the edges of the weavings.

Before mounting, the ends of the warps are dealt with... for small pieces that aren't four-selvedge woven (which leaves no loose warps to deal with), I usually use a half-Damascus edge that Peter Collingwood describes in his book, The Techniques of Rug Weaving.  It's shown on pages 484-486.  The process is done with the face of the tapestry down and it makes the warp ends lay against the back/body of the tapestry.  Then I whip-stitch the warp ends down, four to six grouped together.  And wefts that are near the edges are also tucked to the back with a whip stitch.

Using a curved needle, the tapestry is stitched to the mounting fabric, moving around the edges.  A color of sewing thread that will blend with the edge colors as well as possible is what was used, although I changed color of stitching thread if the value contrast of the weft at the edges was great.  On the pieces with the warp showing at the edge, the stitching color was changed to the warp color (usually natural color).

The curved needle will slip into the mounting fabric, travel up about 1/4" and then come out between the first and second warp.  Pull the needle out, bury the sewing thread between wefts, then put the needle across to the mounting fabric again where you'll take another stitch under the fabric to the next point of attachment to the tapestry.

This is a curved needle... although looks straight here.
The back of the mounting board was covered with a piece of illustration board (mat board will work also) that was glued down.  To glue it in place, the illustration board was quickly painted with slightly diluted craft glue, brushing it over the entire board and immediately laying the board on the back of the mounting board/tapestry. You need to be prepared to weight the whole thing down immediately--have wax paper torn to sightly larger size than the board (this is a barrier to keep any bits of glue from your weight) and put the wax paper on top of the whole thing.  Weigh it down with something heavy (I use books).  Leave it all alone overnight and when you uncover it the next day, all should be fine.

For hanging, there are several solutions... you can use an adhesive hanging system, sawtooth hangers, or velcro.  I was able to locate enough push pin sawtooth hangers to use for the tapestry diary pieces at the local hardware.  This is an easy method to use and should stay in place just fine.

The mounting board may also be put into a shadowbox-like frame.  That's what I'm going to do with several of the smallest tapestries--frames will have to be built to size by a local craftsman in this case since I haven't been able to find shadowbox frames as small as I need.

And... here are the framed pieces... Jeff just delivered the frames a short while ago.  They're exactly what I wanted for these pieces.


  1. That is seriously the BEST description of how to mount small tapestries that I have seen - thank you so much! Other books have just described the process in words, which doesn't help much ;)

  2. Thanks Michelle!
    There are lots of ways to do it... finding what works for you is a process of trying out things, isn't it. This way is working OK for me right now. Later... maybe something else will make better sense!

    I hope to be able to post photos of the small frames soon. I saw a prototype yesterday and it seems like it will work quite well. Now... if it just doesn't cost an arm and leg to have them all done for the teeny tapestries!

  3. This is a great tutorial Tommye! Thank you! I do have a question though. I'm a little nervous about taking out the heading and putting in the half-Damascus. Is there a row of twining in there ,while the tapestry was on the loom ,that you do the half -Damascus against that helps hold the weft in while you work or are you doing it directly against the woven weft?

  4. I do understand that at the point the half Damascus is done it's off loom.

  5. Hi Cathie... just saw your comment... sorry not to answer sooner!

    About what holds in the weft until the half-Damascus can be done... I use a half hitch at both beginning and end of the tapestry and that secures the weft. Twining won't hold it... will slip.

    The half hitch is shown in the booklet I give out at classes. Did I have those at Camp Mikell? Can't remember!

    Anyway, the half hitch is easy to do and it makes the weft absolutely secured so that you can do anything you want to to the tapestry and the weft won't come unravelled at the ends.

    And, yes... the half-Damascus is done off the loom and with the tapestry turned face down... that way the tails of warp are laying against the back of the tapestry, ready to be whip stitched in place.

  6. OH... and Cathie... if you haven't used half hitches and have only header holding the last good part of the weft in place you can still do the half-Damascus without much of a problem... just lay the piece down, face down, as I said. Pin the tapestry in place onto a piece of foam core board with T-pins if it's small enough in width. It's best to clamp the foam core board to the table so it won't shift around.

    Once you're ready to begin the half-Damascus, take out the header for an inch or less, deal with those warps, then move ahead by pulling out header for another inch, etc. Do that all the way across, bit by bit, and everything will be fine.

  7. One more thing about the ends... here's a posting about the half-hitch to be used at beginning and ending so that the wefts are secure once you're done:

  8. Tommye, your blog is just marvelous for learners like us!
    A big thank you for sharing, from our tapestry school

    from Paris, France

  9. Thank you so much for this contribution to the 'weaving-cloud'. This is very very helpful. I'm a weaver for several years and a teacher as well. I never wove bound rosepath: I never thougt it attractive. However, I'm studying it now, because one of my students would like to learn it... And guess what? I happen to like it now. I searched the net on Damascus edge... ?? And via via, I'm ending up here and learn more and more. I will follow you.
    Kindest weaving regards from the Netherlands,

  10. Wonderful information on mounting. Very clear and precise directions. Thanks for sharing.

  11. I came across your blog when searching for ways of finishing a tapestry. I really like your way of mounting them on fabric covered board and your description and especially the photos accompanying it is perfect. I will try that. Thanks a lot for sharing this. Greetings from Scotland.