In September 2016 Caron Penney, Master Weaver and textile artist came to the Studio to teach a two day course on understanding tapestry. As textile conservators a good understanding of how tapestries are made and of different weaving techniques can only be beneficial when carrying out conservation treatments. So everyone was very excited to have the opportunity of weaving a tapestry sample for themselves.
After learning how to warp up a simple tapestry weaving frame, we tried out different weaving techniques that are used in both historic and modern tapestries. As historic tapestries are traditionally woven from the reverse side and modern tapestries more commonly woven from the front, we tried out various techniques from both sides.
The first technique we tried out was weaving diagonals. This is often used as a dividing line between two colour blocks in a design.
Other techniques included slits, and single and double interlock. A slit is created by weaving two blocks of colour that meet but do not go over the same warps, so consequently a gap is left between the two colours. The weaver then sews this up. Historically a linen or silk thread was used.
With a single interlock, a line is created by weaving with two colours towards each other and interlocking the two threads. A double interlock is similar but can only be woven from the reverse side. One colour thread is linked around two threads of the adjacent colour, creating a strong bond between the two colour blocks. The linking can be seen from the reverse, but gives the impression of a simple line on the front.
Hachures is a weaving technique used to let two colours run into each other. It is often used with a lighter and darker tone of the same colour to create shading.
Hatching is a technique used more often today to create a shift in colour.
Hachures – as found on a late seventeenth century tapestry
The last technique we tried out was blending. Different colour thread strands were mixed prior to weaving to make up a weaving thread. By regularly changing the strands of coloured thread, you can create a mottled effect.
I very much enjoyed the course and learnt a lot about historic and contemporary weaving. I am sure that all of us will take this knowledge back to the tapestries we are currently working on and have a closer look at the different techniques used.