Four things a tapestry weaver needs to remember

Every discipline has something that trips people up when they’re learning it. I've been teaching tapestry for a long time and over the years I've noticed that there are four consistent things that cause tapestry weavers the most trouble. These things are more common for new tapestry weavers, but all of us have moments from time to time when we just don't see why the weaving isn't working.

Here are the four things I see tripping people up the most:

  1. Wait for the popped-up warp
  2. Finish your sequence
  3. Use meet and separate
  4. Bubble more than you think

Scan through them here and then watch the short video at the end to see what I'm talking about demonstrated on a loom.

1.  Wait for the popped- up warp

What do I mean by this? If you're using a loom with a shedding device such as a floor loom, a loom with leashes, or a Mirrix loom, the warps you should be worried about are pulled up leaving every other warp down. It doesn't make as much sense if you are using a loom where you are picking the sheds, but a shed stick will show you the same thing that a shedding device does.

Generally when I see this confusion, I find that people have their two colors coming together in the same shed and they are disturbed by the apparently naked warp in between them.

The warp that confuses people is down in this photo--between the red and mauve yarns. My finger is indicating the open shed.

This is normal--both the confusion and the weaving. That warp that looks like you didn’t cover it WILL be covered in the next pick. Just wait. In the next shed, if you have a shedding device, that warp will pop forward and you will wrap it with one of the two weft bundles.

Take a deep breath and wait just a moment.

2.  Finish your sequence

Often students will be weaving with some technique and they suddenly get confused because the color they want to move can’t go where they want it to. Most things in tapestry work best if you do complete sequences (two picks). If you wait another pick, thereby finishing the sequence, you’ll find that the color you want to move can now do so.

In the diagram below, each of the two colors is moving in complete sequences. I'm a Tolkien fan, so I often think "there and back again" over and over again. (And Sam was my favorite hobbit right from the beginning.)

3.  Use meet and separate

Not every tapestry tradition uses meet and separate. Rio Grande traditions don’t. Many Navajo weavers don’t. But European-style traditional tapestry does. Using meet and separate means that your colors can move where you want them to go without putting two wefts in the same shed.

Think of your butterflies moving head to head or tail to tail. Sort of like this.


4.  Bubble more than you think

Imagine you are looking at a cross-section of your weaving. The weft has to travel over and under all those warps, indicated by the black circles in this diagram below.


It takes quite a bit more weft to make that journey than you think it does. The amount depends on how thick your warps are. The weft has to travel even further with thicker warps which creates a more textured bead to the fabric. So especially if you find that sections of your warp are drawing closer together or your piece as a whole is getting narrower, put more weft in.

Demonstration video

I’ve demonstrated these four things in this video.

(If you get the blog via email, you will need to go to the blog online HERE to view it, or visit my YouTube channel HERE.)


I’ve also created a poster for you with these reminders on it. You can download it below. Perhaps hanging it in your workspace will help you remember to check these things when you get stuck the next time. The artwork on the poster is by Molly McNeece, artist and children's book illustrator. You can find more of her work HERE.