The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Weaving Tapestry with Handspun
Working on Easy Weaving with Little Looms, I’ve been eyeing my little I-loom and dreaming of weaving tapestry with handspun. I decided to follow advice from handspinner and tapestry weaver Sarah Swett: “If you feel the urge to weave a tapestry, I can only recommend that you try. Start small, but have fun. Use thrums or bits of handspun.”
Sarah and Rebecca Mezoff, another of my favorite handspun tapestry weavers, both create yarns specifically for tapestry weaving: strong, lustrous, and just the right grist. My approach is more haphazard, like the approach to using “happy little orts” that Kate Larson describes.
I’m a complete novice weaver of small tapestries, and mine are definitely more fun than artistic, but here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1. Any scrap of yarn will do.
Even the standard arm’s length of yarn that I use for sewing is too long for a narrow tapestry. If you have difficulty parting with loom waste or the twelve inches of tail left over from seaming, a small tapestry is the perfect use.
2. There’s no need to get fancy.
I played with creating shapes using different weft yarns, but in the end I had the most fun when I kept it simple. Rebecca’s gradient-based tapestries get their beauty from the yarn itself—a lovely idea.
3. Keep the tension on your loom and off your mind.
The one place where I sought perfection in my little weavings was getting a taut, even warp tension, because it made the weaving easier and kept the selvedges straighter. Once that part was done, though, the simple over-under of plain weave was almost (gasp!) as meditative as spinning.
“I don’t feel that I have to explain to spinners why anyone would want to take the time to weave tapestry, and certainly not why they would want to weave one from handspun,” Sarah said in her article “Tapestry Weaving” in Spin Off Spring 1992. “We don’t spin because it’s fast; we spin because it feels good. For me there is little that feels better than picking up my handspun butterflies and putting them, one by one, through a warp to make my woolen pictures.”
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