Tapestry refuses to be easily and clearly defined. About the only thing that can be said with absolute certainty is that what we know as tapestry weaving is one of the oldest forms of weaving, and remains popular today.

Tapestry is usually weft-faced, made by weaving weft threads, often coloured, through warp threads, often plain, in such way that the weft completely covers the warp. The weft is discontinuous: most weft threads do not run across the entire warp, instead wefts of different colours are woven back and forth to create the areas of colour required by the design. The tapestry warp is held on a frame of some sort; some tapestry weavers work on floor looms designed to weave cloth.

Linda’s weaving in progress on a large tapestry loom. Magnets hold the hand-drawn cartoon (the design to be woven) in place behind the warp.

In this workshop Linda will introduce you to the fundamentals of tapestry weaving. With a prepared warp on a wooden frame we will talk about warp tensioning and sett. You’ll learn one of the many ways to start (and finish) your woven work, and the importance of weft tension as you pass the weft thread and beat it into place on the weft. From this foundation you can begin to explore the vast world that is tapestry weaving.

A fragment of tapestry from the Coptic period in Egypt, c. AD600.

The weft threads can be passed back and forth through the tapestry warp in different ways. Soumak weave may be used to define the spaces between tapestry warp threads and/or create lines or areas of texture. Soumak may also be used for an entire piece, creating a thicker fabric traditionally used for bags.

A panel of late 19th century soumak tapestry worked in Georgia.
Photo credit: Marla Mallet.

An image of caribou worked in hand-dyed wools by Linda Porte.