Warping a New Tapestry

Erindale Tapestry Studio, partnering with Kathy Bishop Photography, will be hosting a joint art showing title “A Thread Runs Through It” at the Duluth Folk School in early 2021.  The capstone piece is a collaboration where I am interpreting a beautiful photograph by Kathy Bishop of three Sandhill cranes wading in the water as a 40-inch-wide handwoven tapestry.  Actual molted Sandhill crane feathers gathered on our farm will also be interwoven in the work, bringing texture and life to the zen-like birds.

3 cranes photo
“Three Friends” by Kathy Bishop

But before any weaving can begin, the meticulous and detailed process of warping must come first.  This project being my maiden voyage on the restored Varpapuu loom from Christine, many fresh process considerations were needed.  With an upright structure and two massive beams like my Leclerc Gobelin tapestry loom, the main difference is the foot-actuated heddles.  The heddles will speed up the weaving process (compared with using hand leashes), but it was one more step to make sure was flawless in the warping process.

First, I measured out the warp at 10 warp ends per inch, giving myself plenty of extra vertical room as I become familiar with the necessary loom waste for working with the Varpapuu.  The warp is then transferred from the warping board onto the loom, a process better shared as a photo essay:

the cross
Creating “the cross,” a most essential part of warping.


cross on sticks
The cross has now been transferred to long dowels, ready to spread out.


warp over raddle
With the ends of the warp attached to the warp beam, they are spread out using a raddle.


warp strands
Each bundle of warp is drawn evenly towards the floor and weighted with large washers.


Once the bulk of the warp is wound on the warp beam, each strand is threaded through a heddle leash and the reed.


cloth beam
I double check for threading errors, then bring up the apron of the cloth beam for securing warp ends.


attaching warp ends
The secret to happy tapestry weaving is EVEN tension! This process takes time.


spacing warp
Now the warp must be spaced from its clusters into the accurate spacing of the reed, which takes layers of increasingly finer fill.


After the fill (white and cream) comes the selvedge (blue), which will hold the warp ends in place in the finishing process. The very first rows of the tapestry are at the top.


ready to weave
Finally! After days of work, the loom is set for weaving the tapestry.


tapestry yarn
The tapestry yarns all staged and ready for weaving.