The Heading as Foundation for Well-Woven Tapestry

Two components go into establishing the foundation for well-woven tapestry cloth:  an evenly tensioned warp and equal spacing between each warp thread. Once you tie the warp onto the front beam, next comes the task of adjusting the tension so that each warp thread is equally tight. Then, comes weaving the heading to equalize the spaces between the warps.  Different tapestry traditions have various approaches to weaving the heading. Here is how I do it on my low-warp, basse-lice (or basse-lice), Aubusson loom:

Tools for weaving the heading on the  basse-lice  loom. photo credit: Elizabeth J. Buckley © 2019

Tools for weaving the heading on the basse-lice loom. photo credit: Elizabeth J. Buckley © 2019

On this loom, you will notice that the tie-on rod sits in a groove on the front beam, and the warp threads are in tie-on groups of 4 warp threads.  To spread out the groups of threads, I weave the heading in a process that gradually shifts and equalizes the spacing. The tools I use are:  a flat shuttle, a gratoir, an awl, an Aubusson bobbin, as well as my fingers.  (awls, gratioir and bobbins available here)

In the video, you will see that the first step is to weave four rows (or two full passes) with doubled warp threads,. I am using 12/12 cotton seine twine for my warp. The doubled warp threads start the process of gradually spreading the warps. For a 60” width, I will wrap these doubled warp threads around a flat shuttle, for ease of passing through the shed as I weave. At each edge, I leave about a one-inch loop of extra warp. To place and pack each row, or half-passe,  I use the gratoir.

The second step is to weave four rows, (or two full passes), of single warp, that I have wound onto an Aubusson bobbin (also known as la flute)..  I use my fingers to pack it in. Again, I leave about 1” extra slack in the loop at each selvedge.  Each half-passe, or row, of single warp continues the process of spreading the warps out further. 

The third step involves looking closely at the spaces between the warps. Jean Pierre Larochette calls this “reading the spaces between the warps.”

Warp is now ready for adjusting the spacing with the awl. photo credit: Elizabeth J. Buckley © 2019

Warp is now ready for adjusting the spacing with the awl. photo credit: Elizabeth J. Buckley © 2019

I use the awl to begin shifting the warps, often poking the tip into the double warp woven area below the fell line.  It is best to start in the middle and work your way out to the edges. I push the threads that are further apart closer together, and the threads that are too close, further apart.  As I move and shift the warp threads, I use the tip of the awl to poke the upper area of single-warp weaving down, to hold the revised spacing in place. 

Warp is now evenly spaced. photo credit: Elizabeth J. Buckley © 2019

Warp is now evenly spaced. photo credit: Elizabeth J. Buckley © 2019

I want to make sure that the bottom edge and the side warp thread are square.  I use a very large, clear triangle (available at Dick Blick or any good art supply store) and place it on the warp.  Since it is hard to see the clear triangle in the photo, I added the smaller darker triangle to make it easier to see.

 

Making sure the edge of the warp and the bottom (or fell edge) are perpendicular, or squared. photo credit: Elizabeth J. Buckley © 2019

Making sure the edge of the warp and the bottom (or fell edge) are perpendicular, or squared. photo credit: Elizabeth J. Buckley © 2019

Now I am ready to twine across the warp, to hold the spacing in place, and to prevent unraveling of the completed woven tapestry, once it is cut off of the loom.  I measure a length of warp thread that is 3 times the width of the warp.  Since this warp is  60” wide, I will need a length that is 180” wide. Because the thread is so long, I wind each end onto a bobbin, placing the midpoint around the second warp thread, The warp at the very edge will be my guide thread, which will not be woven.  The guide thread helps me to see to notice, as I weave, when my selvedge is beginning to either draw in or expand.  I can then immediately make any necessary adjustments as I weave.

Twined heading, now ready to weave! 12/12 cotton seine twine sette at 10 epi. photo credit: Elizabeth J. Buckley © 2019

Twined heading, now ready to weave! 12/12 cotton seine twine sette at 10 epi. photo credit: Elizabeth J. Buckley © 2019

Once I have completed one row of twining across the width of the warp, I am ready to begin weaving the hem of the tapestry: a moment so many of us eagerly anticipate!

I find that this process of weaving the heading to be good practice to do on my other looms—such as the Hagen or Mirrix—as well.

The Tapestry Cartoon as Road Map

A tapestry cartoon becomes a “you are here” guide, a road map for the overall design that helps me to keep track of where I am while weaving.  This is especially helpful when I am working on a large format piece in the traditional manner of Aubusson tapestry, which entails weaving from the back as well as with the design turned sideways.

I use Dura-lar Matte (comes in 25" x 40" sheets, 0.005 weight), a type of opaque velum that is strong enough to withstand sewing without tearing and works well with black permanent markers, in that their lines are clear and do not smear or bleed.  With my drawing flat on a table, I place the Dura-lar on top, and trace an outline of the curves and shapes in my design, using a combination of solid and dashed lines with fine and ultra fine point markers.

To ready the warp for weaving, I first weave a heading out of the warp thread, which is either 12/9 or 12/12 cotton seine twine. I then use my awl to even the spacing in the warps.  It is critical that the spacing between the warp threads is the same all across the width of the warp. This establishes the foundation of a consistently woven, sound cloth.  Next, I put in a row of twining to hold the spacing in place, as well as to insure that the weaving will not unravel when the tapestry is done and removed from the loom.

Now I am ready to weave the hem of about 3/4 - 1 inch for the tapestry itself.  Rather than use one bobbin and weave all the way across, I divide up the width into multiple sections--anywhere from 6 to 8, depending on if I am weaving the full 60-inch width.  This helps to maintain the full weaving width and prevents the hem from drawing in. 

Heading, hem, sewn cartoon on my  basse-lice  loom © 2015 Elizabeth J. Buckley photo

Heading, hem, sewn cartoon on my basse-lice loom © 2015 Elizabeth J. Buckley photo

Now, I am ready to sew on the cartoon.   I use clothes pins to clip and anchor the cartoon square to the warp, and a curved upholstery needle of quilting weight thread to sew large running, or basting, stitches across the entire width of the woven hem.

My basse-lice loom has a built in cartoon tray on which the upper part of the cartoon rests. 

Cartoon tray on  basse-lice  loom, with the already woven area of cartoon rolled up next to front beam. © 2016 Elizabeth J. Buckley photo

Cartoon tray on basse-lice loom, with the already woven area of cartoon rolled up next to front beam. © 2016 Elizabeth J. Buckley photo

For my counter-balance rug loom, I make a support for the cartoon out of lease sticks, tied to the castle of the floor loom, and anchored to the front beam with a heavy chord.  For this, I need a hole in each lease stick at about the width of the front beam. (A power drill comes in handy for creating holes in the right place).  I do not use the loom's beater, as I weave by building shapes, rather than row-at-a-time.

Cartoon support with lease sticks on counter balance rug loom. Note how the cartoon is rolled near the front beam, as well as near the beater. © 2017 Elizabeth J. Buckley photo

Cartoon support with lease sticks on counter balance rug loom. Note how the cartoon is rolled near the front beam, as well as near the beater. © 2017 Elizabeth J. Buckley photo

When advancing the warp, it is important that the cartoon does not roll around the front beam along with the completed weaving, as this will cause it creep and shift.  Before advancing, I stitch the cartoon to the weaving about an inch below the fell line, again using clothes pins to anchor the upper part of the cartoon square to the warp. After the new row of stitching isin place,  I remove the first stitching at the very beginning.   As I advance the woven area around the front beam, the beginning part of the cartoon separates away, which I later roll up and hold with clips.  It looks a bit like a scroll.

There are many sections of the cartoon where I am filling in the details of the design as I weave, without having drawn it out precisely before hand.  Usually I do not yet know all the details until I am weaving each area.  The tapestry talks to me a lot during the weaving process about what needs to happen next, which colors to transition to, which techniques to use for specific effects.  Since I tend to work in layers of images, I also am keeping track of which image layer is in front, and what is receding.  I find that I must engage in clear and attentive listening to what the tapestry is saying, while the cartoon guides me with the overall design. 

When the weaving gets sluggish, or I cannot figure out exactly what I need to do next, I know it is time to take a break, step away from the loom, so that I can return later and look with fresh eyes.  Then I can see what needs to happen next, and the weaving proceeds more smoothly once again.

 

Color Blending Using Multiple Wefts

Four sequential color blends on Aubusson bobbins

Four sequential color blends on Aubusson bobbins

I love blending colors by using multiple strands of thinner yarn in a weft bundle. Instead of having only a few colors, the palette opens up to a broader spectrum of possibilities. The French tapestry tradition has been using this approach to color blending for over 900 years. In the Gothic era, typically only 15 – 20 colors were used in one mural-sized tapestry or series of tapestries. The additional shades and blended colors were made through the use of up to 5 strands in a weft bundle.

My warp is 12/9 cotton seine twine sett at 10 ends per inch.  For weft, I am using 3 strands of a crewel weight, worsted needlepoint wool.

Blend A (top): 1 white, 1 light gray, 1 light mauve with 3 bobbins of each of these colors

Blend A (top): 1 white, 1 light gray, 1 light mauve with 3 bobbins of each of these colors

First, let’s look at using strands of similar values, (value meaning the degree of lightness and darkness. More about this in week 6 of the Blog Tour).  I have picked a light gray, a light mauve, and a white (Blend A).

Bottom stripe of Blend A. Weaving the low hill out of solid gray. Note parallel wefts of solid gray in shed.

Bottom stripe of Blend A. Weaving the low hill out of solid gray. Note parallel wefts of solid gray in shed.

I have woven the base stripe—about half an inch-- of Blend A, and now am weaving the shape of a low hill with the solid light gray on the right.  (More about weaving shapes, in week 4 of the blog tour).  When weaving any solid color with three strands, in order to have a smooth woven surface, the strands need to lie parallel in the shed, as any twists in the strands will result in a bumpier looking surface.

Two hills of solid light gray and light mauve on each side of the warp, before weaving the center.

Two hills of solid light gray and light mauve on each side of the warp, before weaving the center.

Next, I weave a steeper hill with the light mauve on the right. 

The center will begin as solid white. 

 

In the solid white area, I am next going to add in some of Blend A, by doing some irregular hatching (from week 2 of the blog tour).  Irregular hatching can be woven row-by-row, or it can be woven by creating a series of steps with one bobbin of color and then filling in those steps with a bobbin of a second color.  Here, I weave a sequence of short and long steps with the solid white area, and then fill them in with Blend A

With solid white, creating the first steps for hatching, going from left to right. Note first step is small--6 warps wide--and the second step is longer--14 warps wide.

With solid white, creating the first steps for hatching, going from left to right. Note first step is small--6 warps wide--and the second step is longer--14 warps wide.

Weaving with Blend A, filling in the short and longer steps created with the solid white. This is another way to weave irregular hatching.

Weaving with Blend A, filling in the short and longer steps created with the solid white. This is another way to weave irregular hatching.

Notice how the lines of the irregular hatching are creating a slight angled area of transition between the woven areas of solid white and Blend A. Gradually, I will weave smaller lines of the solid white as I work my way over to the right edge. I end the solid white, and weave a row or two with Blend A.

Blend B: 1 light mauve, 1 white, 1 bright yellow

Blend B: 1 light mauve, 1 white, 1 bright yellow

Adding Blend B, filling in the short and long steps created with Blend A.

Adding Blend B, filling in the short and long steps created with Blend A.

Next, I make a new weft bundle mixture, adding in a bright yellow, and dropping out the gray for Blend B.  Again, I use irregular hatching,  first by creating a short and long step with Blend A.  Then I weave with Blend B, the short step--over 11 warps--and the longer step over 25 warps.  Because these are mixtures of different colors, I allow the separate strands to randomly twist as I place the weft bundle in the shed.  It helps to create the slightly stippled look.

Blend C: 2 bright yellow, 1 white

Blend C: 2 bright yellow, 1 white

Beginning the hatching of Blend C on left with Blend B on the right.

Beginning the hatching of Blend C on left with Blend B on the right.

I make a new weft bundle mix, dropping out the light mauve and adding a second strand of bright yellow, so that I have 2 strands bright yellow and one strand white for Blend C

Blend D: 1 yellow-orange, 1 pale yellow, 1 bright yellow

Blend D: 1 yellow-orange, 1 pale yellow, 1 bright yellow

On left, Blend D hatching with Blend C

On left, Blend D hatching with Blend C

For Blend D, I drop out the white and combine one yellow-orange, one bright yellow, and one pale yellow.  Notice how vibrant this makes the color, by having three different, but closely related colors mixed together.

Blend E: 1 light blue, 1 yellow-orange, 1 bright yellow

Blend E: 1 light blue, 1 yellow-orange, 1 bright yellow

Now, let’s look at creating weft bundles using strands of contrasting values

For Blend E, I am dropping out one strand of bright yellow and adding a light blue to combine with one strand of yellow-orange and one strand of bright yellow.   Notice how the coolness of the blue and its darker value contrast with warmth and the brightness of the other two strands in this bundle. 

Hatching with Blend D on right and Blend E beginning on the left.

Hatching with Blend D on right and Blend E beginning on the left.

Here, I am starting the small hatch line of Blend E on the right edge.  Notice that I am continuing to allow the weft strands to twist, so that they visually appear as small dots and dashes when woven.

Blend F: 1 bright yellow, 1 light blue, 1 bright blue

Blend F: 1 bright yellow, 1 light blue, 1 bright blue

Blend G: 2 bright blue, 1 light blue

Blend G: 2 bright blue, 1 light blue

For Blend F, I keep the strand of bright yellow and blue, and add in a slightly brighter blue strand.  For Blend G, which will be all blue, I have 2 strands of the slightly brighter blue and one strand of the lighter blue.  I find that by mixing the 2 different blues, it gives the color more vibrancy and life.

Thus, I have created a sequential color transition from Blend A to Blend G.  This is one example of how the use of multiple wefts opens up many possibilities for creating new colors, as well as blended areas that transition from one color or value to the next.  

The finished sample with 7 different mixed color blends and 3 solid colors.

The finished sample with 7 different mixed color blends and 3 solid colors.

The type of yarn that is best to use is thin but firm.  Two-ply crewel weight needlepoint or lace weight wool yarns such as Appleton, Anahera, or Mora work well, as do the Norwegian yarns such as Alv and thin Vevgarn.  Hand spun singles weight wool yarn is also good to use.  Some weavers use cotton embroidery floss, which is available at fabric and crafting stores.  Click here for more information on yarn sources, and tapestry weaving tools.

Bobbins and Shuttles for tapestry weaving

Bobbins and Shuttles for tapestry weaving

Now, let’s look at the tools that can help in weaving with weft bundles.  There are an assortment of bobbins, small flat shuttle, netting shuttles, yarn bobs that can be used.  When winding the bobbin or shuttle, it is important for all the strands to evenly wrap onto the bobbin or small shuttle.  If one strand is looser, then it will make for a bumpier woven surface. 

I prefer using the Aubusson bobbin, sometimes called bone or flute bobbins. These can be wound on a Swedish bobbin winder--the one with the smallest shaft will work for these bobbins. 

 

Aubusson bobbin on Swedish bobbin winder

Aubusson bobbin on Swedish bobbin winder


And the winners are....

Ruth J. Rowell for a free entry to the Tapestry Unlimited Exhibition and a one-year membership to the American Tapestry Alliance.

Nina Kennedy for a one-year membership to the American Tapestry Alliance.

congratulations! 


Every week of this blog tour, you have a chance to enter to win one of two prizes: a one-year membership to the American Tapestry Alliance or a one-year membership to the American Tapestry alliance AND a free entry to the Tapestry Unlimited ExhibitionTo qualify to win, just leave a comment on this post. We will randomly choose two winners on Tuesday, January 26, 2016.  Current ATA members are not eligible to win.

The Blog Tour: 

Week 1:  Vancouver Yarn The Basics of Tapestry Weaving

Week 2:  Rebecca Mezoff Color Blending with Irregular Hatching

Week 3:  Terry Olson Weaving Slits to Create Vertical Lines

Week 4:  Mirrix Looms Weaving Shapes

Week 5:  Elizabeth Buckley Color Blending Using Multiple Wefts 

Week 6:  Sarah Swett The Value of Tapestry

This blog tour is in celebration of ATA's annual unjuried exhibtion. Tapestry Unlimited; 11th International, Unjuried Small Format exhibition is open to all weavers. We are expecting upwards of 250 participants who will show their work at the Milwaukee Public Library this upcoming summer. Everyone who signs up to participate by January 31st, 2016 will be included in the exhibition, and your tapestry does not need to be mailed to us until March 2016. There is an exhibition fee of $40 which pays for both the return postage for you tapestry, as well an exhibition catalog, in which everyone’s tapestry will be featured.  We invite entries woven within more traditional definitions of tapestry, as well as ones which expand upon them, including multimedia work.

The American Tapestry Alliance (ATA) is a nonprofit organization that provides programming for tapestry weavers around the world, including exhibitions, both juried and unjuried, in museums, art centers and online, along with exhibition catalogs. They offer workshops, lectures, one-on-one mentoring and online educational articles as well as awards, including scholarships, membership grants, an international student award, and the Award of Excellence. They also put out quarterly newsletter, monthly eNews & eKudos and CODA, an annual digest.
 

Sett Considerations in French Tapestry

Recently, I was asked to write about sett in French tapestry, based on my observations and experience of working in the Aubusson and Flemish traditions.

Sett in tapestry is about more than covering the warp with the weft.  Sett is also about the shape and size of the grain, or the bead, created in the weave and how it impacts the visual texture of a tapestry. The grain, or the bead, of the weave is always in relationship to the scale of the tapestry and the complexity of the design. 

In general, the French use of sett is characterized by the bead being rounded and smooth to produce a flat surface, so that light can reflect evenly off of the weaving.  Light also affects the visual impact of sett and grain in how it reflects differently off of the ribs of the warp when a tapestry is hung with the warp running horizontally than when hung with the warps running vertically.  This is especially noticeable in the use of techniques like hachures, which read differently when viewed vertically, than when viewed horizontally.  This is one of several reasons why Aubusson tapestries are designed and woven to be hung sideways, by the weft, with the warp running horizontally.

Pelican  study detail

Pelican study detail

Pelican  study detail, rotated with warps running vertically

Pelican study detail, rotated with warps running vertically

A smooth, rounded bead in sett can be achieved by several means.  First, is by the classic ratio used in French, Flemish, and many European tapestry traditions, where the diameter of the warp = diameter of the weft bundle = the space between warps.  Second, is by the type of wool yarn used in the weft bundle.   Firmer yarns will yield a rounder grain. Softer, loftier yarns will produce a more flattened, or oval grain.  For a more squashed and linear grain, either increase the space between the warps, or reduce the size, or diameter, of the weft bundle.

In historic mural tapestries of the Medieval and Renaissance eras, (such as those recently on exhibition at the Met) the sett is quite fine, averaging around 22 – 24 epi.  These works usually depicted scenes from history, Christianity, or mythology in highly detailed epic narrations. Weft bundles were of firm, thin wools, and sometimes silks or even gold strands.  Often the depicted garments worn by human figures included the drape of fabric reflecting the woven structure of the cloth (twills, brocades, etc.). In order to have enough warps in an inch to weave all of this detail, the sett had to be quite fine. 

Pelican  Elizabeth Buckley's study woven in Aubusson

Pelican Elizabeth Buckley's study woven in Aubusson

When I was weaving in Aubusson, Gisèle Brivet warped the loom with cotton at around 11 epi, and we used fine, firm wool yarns (similar to the now discontinued DMC Medici wools or about the size of the 18/2 weight of worsted wool yarn currently available through Weavers Bazaar in the UK.) in weft bundles of 5 strands. I marveled at the range of possibilities in the palette for blending and mixing five-strand weft bundles.

In considering sett, it is important to gauge the size of the overall piece in relation to the amount of detail in the design. Often I use 12/9 cotton seine twine warp at between 11 and 12 epi, although my current large format tapestry, which will measure 4’ x 5’, I warped with 12/12 cotton seine twine warp at 10 epi, for just a slightly larger grain in proportion to the scale of the finished piece. My weft bundles of 3 -5 strands combine various weights and firmness of worsted wool yarns:  Appleton crewel, Anahera, plus those from my stash of discontinued yarns-- DMC Medici. Paternayan crewel--and some of my mother’s hand-dyed silks and wools. 

Elizabeth BuckleyDialogues Through the Veil  detail sett is 12 epi, ©2010

Elizabeth BuckleyDialogues Through the Veil detail sett is 12 epi, ©2010

Generally, small format tapestries need a more refined sett, to avoid a lumpy-looking image. Kathe Todd Hooker works at 20 – 22 epi, using Dual duty craft thread, button hole twist for warp.  An example is below, her tapestry:  And He… Her weft bundles are of sewing thread and/or embroidery floss. She divides out the 6 strands of embroidery floss to get at least 6 different color changes.  In areas she wants more refined detail, she will use thinner weft bundles, just as I also do with wool at 10 – 12 epi.

Kathe Todd Hooker  And He...  26.5" x 18.5" sett is 20 - 22 epi

Kathe Todd Hooker And He... 26.5" x 18.5" sett is 20 - 22 epi

Kathe Todd Hooker  And He...  detail

Kathe Todd Hooker And He... detail

Does sett disappear when viewing the tapestry? Or does your eye catch on the patterned texture it creates? 

Barbara Heller  One Way  border sett is 4 epi, interior sett is 8 epi

Barbara Heller One Way border sett is 4 epi, interior sett is 8 epi

Barbara Heller uses two sett sizes in her tapestry, One Way:  4 epi for the border area, and 8 epi for the interior.  Notice the two different textures and how the light reflects differently off of the two surfaces.

Barbara Heller  One Way  detail Note the two sett sizes

Barbara Heller One Way detail Note the two sett sizes

For warp, she uses 8/4 or 8/5 linen at 8 epi because she likes the slightly stiffer hand it gives. For weft, she uses Le Mieux or Briggs & Little 2ply (or equivalent), or three strands of Paternayan crewel (or equivalent) at 8 epi.  At 4 epi her weft bundle can have very different yarns, including her own handspun (or equivalent) for producing the more textured effect. At 8 epi she will sometimes add a thinner strand of another color, as in the water areas in the tapestry, One Way, and is careful about how this thin strand is laid in for every bead so that the yarns do not twist.

Tommye Scanlin often works at 8 epi, using either the 12/12 or 12/15 cotton seine twine, depending on the bead she wants and the wefts she plans to use.  An example is below, her tapestry:  Because of Memory.   At 6 epi, she will use 12/18.  She will do smaller format tapestries at either 10 or 12 epi, using either 12/9 or 12/6 cotton seine twine warp.

The ratio of warp, weft, and spacing that both Barbara Heller and Tommye Scanlin use is based on Archie Brennan’s recommendations of wrapping warp around a cm to determine ends per inch. It is similar in nature to the diameter of the warp=diameter of the weft bundle=space between the warps. (Archie Brennan’s on-line article on the American Tapestry Alliance website: http://americantapestryalliance.org/education/educational-articles/the-space-between-the-warps/ ).

Tommye Scanlin  Because of Memory  63" x 60" 2014 sett is 8 epi

Tommye Scanlin Because of Memory 63" x 60" 2014 sett is 8 epi

The number of strands in Tommye Scanlin’s weft bundle varies from two to five or six, depending on the yarns she is using together as well as the sett.  She uses Vevgarn, a 2-ply wool from Norway, available through Norsk Fjord Fiber, and Alv Norwegian wool that Kathe Todd-Hooker sells through Fine Fiber Studio, that is a 2-ply worsted about 14/2 in size.  (Smaller than the Vevgarn but not as small as the Mora wool from Glimakra.  She will use these together or separately, and sometimes throw in a thin linen, as well.  Tommye states, “I like a ‘whole wheat’ sort of yarn for weft, one that's firm and not flabby. I like to have a pretty defined bead to the weave.”

Tommye Scanlin  Because of Memory  detail

Tommye Scanlin Because of Memory detail

For additional technical information on sett, visit Tommy Scanlin’s blog post: http://tapestryshare.blogspot.com/2012/06/warp-sett-few-options-and-opinions.html

Thank you to Kathe Todd Hooker, Barbara Heller, and Tommye Scanlin for their permission to use these photos of their work and for their generous sharing of technical information included in this blog post.  Thank you to Rebecca Mezoff for the initial inquiry.

Loom Lineage: Warping the Basse-lice Loom

I have been warping my low warp Aubusson loom to full weaving width capacity of 60 inches. I am using 12/12 cotton seine twine with a sett of 10 ends per inch. 

View from the back of the loom:  chains of warp on the loom's cartoon tray and beginning the spacing on the back beam rod.                    ©2015 Elizabeth J. Buckley     
  
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View from the back of the loom:  chains of warp on the loom's cartoon tray and beginning the spacing on the back beam rod.                   ©2015 Elizabeth J. Buckley

Marc Tehery's book cover

Marc Tehery's book cover

Each time I warp this loom, I do it a little differently, drawing from my experience with the gamut of multi-harness production floor looms, adapting what is helpful for this specific loom. I recently added a reed holder and reed in between the back beam and heddle bar area, to help maintain even spacing of the warp at the back, especially when advancing the warp as well as during the weaving. I still find it helpful to consult Ordissage et Montage de la Chaine:  Tapisserie de Basse-Lice Technique d’Aubusson by Marc Tehery, which I had purchased when I was in Aubusson, weaving in the atelier of Gisèle Brivet on one of her basse-lice looms.

The first rolling of warp onto the back beam  ©2015 Elizabeth J. Buckley     
  
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The first rolling of warp onto the back beam ©2015 Elizabeth J. Buckley

Nearly 20 years ago, I bought my low warp Aubusson loom from Christine Laffer.  It is one of about a dozen such looms built during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s in Berkeley, California by Jean Pierre Larochette and Craig Levite, or “Ganesha” as he was called by many of his friends.  This was during the days of the San Francisco Tapestry Workshop.

In September of 1996, I flew out to California and attended the weekend-long Anatomy of Tapestry Symposium that Jean Pierre organized.  When Jean Pierre learned that I would be driving the loom from San Jose to New Mexico in a cargo van, he sat across from me over lunch and sketched on a napkin how best to pack the parts, with the heavy front and back beams of steel and oak on the bottom, lashed together so that they would not shift and roll.  

He then sketched on another napkin how to assemble it, telling me that I would need two people on each end of the front and back beams inserting them simultaneously exactly perpendicular into the holes in the steel plates on the side supports.  These two napkins and Marc Tehery’s book constituted the “instruction manual” for my new loom. 

As I drove from San Jose, California to Albuquerque, New Mexico, the brew of possibilities unfolded before me.  With this loom, I knew I was about to enter the threshold to exploring large ideas in tapestry; a threshold with tangible links to the long lineage of the métier de basse-lice dating back to 14th century France, to the weaving centers in Aubusson and Felletin.

Threading the back reed.  
  
 
  
    ©2015

Threading the back reed. ©2015

Threading the heddle bars.   
  
 
  
   ©2015

Threading the heddle bars. ©2015

Now, as I prepare the warp across 60 inches of width, I am establishing the weave structure and foundation for sound tapestry cloth. My focus has to be on each detail and each step.  Accuracy is essential.  Mistakes in threading, spacing, or uneven tension will only cause difficulties that magnify during the weaving process.  Not being in a hurry is important, just as is checking and double-checking my work.

 

After 28 hours spread out over a couple of weeks, the loom is now ready. The threshold is open and waiting.

My fully warped basse-lice loom, ready for weaving.         
  
 
  
                                          ©2015 Elizabeth J. Buckley     
  
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My fully warped basse-lice loom, ready for weaving.                                              ©2015 Elizabeth J. Buckley