Preparing to Weave Tapestry

There are two main advantages of using a Mirrix Loom for tapestry over other portable tapestry looms. First, the tension is fantastic. If you’ve ever woven tapestry before, you know how important this is. The second is the Mirrix shedding device. This device allows you to move your weft (the thread that you weave up horizontally) through your warp (the threads that go around the loom) without having to go over and under the warp threads. Watch the video below to learn more:


We definitely recommend using the shedding device for weaving tapestry, but you don’t need to use it.

CHOOSING YOUR SUPPLIES

If you are weaving fiber you’ll need to choose warp, weft and a warp coil that will all work well together. Figuring this out can take some time and experimentation, and we definitely suggest you begin with some instruction in the form of a book or class:

Books: Tapestry 101 by Kathe Todd-Hooker, The Tapestry Handbook by Carol Russell, Tapestry Weaving by Kirsten Glasbrook, Tapestry Weaving: A Comprehensive Study Guide by Nancy Harvey

Online class: Rebecca Mezoff’s wonderful in-depth online tapestry class.

There are also many great in-person tapestry classes out there. The American Tapestry Alliances (ATA) has a good list of instructors here.

What do you need to get started weaving tapestry (besides a loom)? 

Heddles
You can buy these or you can make your own. 
You do not need heddles if you are not using a shedding device.

Warp
Warp can come in a variety of different fibers including cotton, linen or wool. Your warp is going to be under extreme tension and therefore has to be very strong. You should not be able to easily break it just using your hands. We have a few different options of warp for sale on our website.

A Tapestry Beater
Tapestry beaters are available in wood, metal or a combination of the two. We sell two wooden versions. You can also use a fork if you do not have a tapestry beater.

Weft
The most important quality in a tapestry yarn (which is the weft) is beauty. It doesn’t have to be warm or soft or have any of the yarn qualities you would want for making a sweater. It just has to be beautiful and available in whatever colors you want. If you were to spin your own tapestry yarn you would use the fleece from a sheep with long, lustrous locks. You would not use the fiber from something like a Marino Sheep which has short fuzzy fleece. Short fuzzy fleece is warm, but it does not make for pretty tapestry yarn.

We love Paternayan and Faro yarns for tapestry and sell some color kits on our website.

You’ll also want some basic supplies like a good pair of scissors, a tapestry beater or fork, a tapestry needle and a measuring tape. You may also want some bobbins.

CHOOSING YOUR WARP COIL

To choose the right warp coil (and therefore the spacing of your warp) for the warp and weft you want to use is something you may have to play around with a bit before you get the perfect combination. For finer weft, you will want to use a warp coil with more dents per inch. For thicker weft, you will want to use a warp coil with fewer dents per inch or even warp every other dent. (For example, an 18 dent warp coil every other dent is equal to a 9 dent warp coil.)

The basic thing to remember is to make sure your warps threads aren’t showing and you must consider the warp set (how far apart your warp threads are, or what warp coil you are using), how thick your weft is and how thick your warp is. One way to determine your weft size is to put your weft in between your warp threads vertically when your loom is warped. If your weft threads are much thicker than the space between the two warp threads, then your weft is probably too thick and if your weft threads are much thinner than you know your weft is too thin. Learn more about why warp spacing matters here.

Want to see what sett others weave at with different types of yarn? Check out our crowd-sourced yarn/sett list.