Tapestry yarns! Which are good and why?

Tapestry yarns! Which are good and why?

If you’re a tapestry weaver, finding just the right yarn might seem like a difficult proposition. Through my students and my own testing of various yarns, I’ve found a few sweet spots in tapestry yarns over the years and I hope these ideas are helpful for you, dear tapestry friend. I’ll briefly tell you what makes a good tapestry yarn and then I’ll tell you which ones are my current favorites and where to get them.

If you’re just starting out, it is helpful to pick one yarn and sett to learn on. I always recommend starting with just one yarn. Learning tapestry is tricky enough without having to learn to manage the way different yarns behave. A teacher can help you with this information but this post should help get you started. Notice as you use that yarn at the sett recommended, what you think about it. How does the yarn serve your design ideas? Does it come in colors you like? Is it easy to work with? I have a few possible combinations at the end of this post, but there are many other possibilities. I also cover this topic in my online course, Warp and Weft: Learning the Structure of Tapestry.

"Can we see all of it?"

"Can we see all of it?"

My tapestry, Displaced: Refugee Blanket has been accepted to the Small Tapestry International 6: Beyond the Edge juried show of the American Tapestry Alliance. I wrote about the piece HERE.

I have so appreciated all the kind words about the work I’ve received thus far. It is a difficult subject. It is never easy to face our humanity and the ways that we are culpable in the displacement of people around the globe.

I’ve had an interesting question crop up repeatedly and I wanted to talk about it. Many people have asked me if they can see the “whole” tapestry. They mean that they would like to see the work unfolded and they want to know if the juror saw it unfolded when she made her decision.

Displaced: Refugee Blanket

Displaced: Refugee Blanket

I’m thrilled to tell you that my tapestry, Displaced: Refugee Blanket was accepted to Small Tapestry International 6: Beyond the Edge. This show is the American Tapestry Alliance’s international small-format juried tapestry show. The juror was Jane Kidd, an artist I greatly admire. Getting into the show was a very sweet victory.

And if that wasn’t thrilling enough, a day later I received another email from the co-chair…

Color palettes: using yarn wraps for color sampling

Color palettes: using yarn wraps for color sampling

I’ve become a fan of yarn wraps. The kind of yarn wrap where you wind some yarn around a stiff card to look at the color combinations, not the kind that might keep you warm during a polar vortex in Chicago.

I’ve been playing with color a lot lately partly because I just taught a retreat about color in tapestry and partly because I’m in the middle of designing a new large-format tapestry. I think there are two basic ways people approach color choice and design in tapestry weaving. They either design the piece including color choices and then dye or purchase the yarns to match those color needs or they spread out all the colors they have and use those choices as they design.

I am a member of the “design first, find yarn later” club.

Color in the Land of Enchantment: Taos 2019

Color in the Land of Enchantment: Taos 2019

Taos 2019: Color in the Land of Enchantment was a lot of fun. This tapestry retreat in Taos, NM wrapped up earlier this week after five days of experimenting with color.

One of my goals for the retreat was to help people lose the fear of color when designing for tapestry. This is a deeply seated fear for many of us—making color mistakes. We believe we are “bad” at color. We remember our elementary school teacher who told us our tree trunks could not be purple. Trees are brown. I am here to tell you that she was wrong. Sometimes tree trunks are purple.

We did talk formally about color theory. But we also messed around with exercises in paper and yarn. Color aid paper plus rubber cement* leads to sticky fingers, but also to revelations about how colors interact. Wrapping yarn combinations around cards can also be surprisingly interesting. And if you start moving those cards around, you can create a palette. Sure, eventually you need to weave a sample especially for a large tapestry, but we need a simple place to start learning how to do this. When designing for a particular piece, it is important to understand what you are trying to communicate. A lot of that communication comes through color and value choices.

Raw Material: Working Wool in the West

Raw Material: Working Wool in the West

Raw Material: Working Wool in the West is a new book by Stephany Wilkes. Stephany is a certified sheep shearer, wool classer, and author. She had another life before this one and you can read about her transition to her sheep-y career in the book. She lives in San Francisco.

I love this book. I had not heard about it before receiving a copy for Christmas from my resident sociologist and I read the entire thing in a few days. The story starts with Stephany’s experience in shearing school, a journey she undertook on something of a lark because she wanted to figure out why her local California yarn store had no California-made yarn. California is the second largest wool-producing state in the US after Texas and it didn’t make sense that there was no local yarn in the shop. California produces a lot of wool, but almost none of it is processed within the state.