Tapestry weaving is weft-faced weaving where pictorial or abstract designs are woven with weft threads, completely hiding the warp threads in the process. Tapestry artists use a wide range of techniques to convey their ideas through layers of thread.
If you are looking to try out a new art form, or if you are a multi-shaft or rigid heddle weaver interested in exploring another facet of the weaving world, this blog post introduces the equipment and yarn you'll need to get started.
Tapestries can be woven with wool, cotton, linen, silk, and many other types of yarn. From our selection, we suggest giving Array a try, our 2/12 wool yarn designed especially for tapestry weavers, that comes in a wider range of hues and shades.
Well, to state the obvious, tapestries! Weft-faced wall hangings and rugs can also be woven on tapestry looms. Bead-weaving is also possible on some tapestry looms.
A tapestry loom is designed to hold warp threads at high tension and give you a clean even shed for weft-faced weaving. A tapestry loom is not designed for more balanced weaves, which you would want for weaving shawls, fabric for apparel, or kitchen towels. For those items, we recommend using a rigid heddle loom, table loom, or floor loom.
When considering what to choose for your first tapestry loom, you'll want to consider the size of the projects you are interested in weaving, the space you have available for a tapestry loom, and your budget.
If you just want to dip your toe into tapestry weaving to see if it’s for you, we recommend starting with the Saffron Pocket Loom. This wonderful little handheld loom, made in Wisconsin by Mirrix Looms, allows you to make small tapestry samplers.
Unlike most handheld tapestry looms, the Saffron Pocket Loom has adjustable tension, which will help you get a better shed and keep even tension throughout your piece. Saffron looms are easy to warp and weave on, and you can have your loom built, warped and starting to weave in less than an hour.
And they are super portable - weave a small tapestry in your backyard, at your kid’s soccer game, on your lap on the couch, or on top of a mountain!
Saffron tapestry loom with tapestry woven by Rebecca Mezoff
If you think you’ll be more serious about tapestry weaving, or you know you want to be able to weave wider or longer projects right off the bat, we recommend starting with the Mirrix tapestry looms, or the upright Schacht Arras Tapestry Loom. These are both high quality looms made in the US and designed specifically for tapestry weavers. They each have a shedding device which allows you to quickly and easily pass your weft threads across the width of the loom.
For tapestry weaving, rugs, and other weft-faced weaving projects where you will beat your weft very hard, you will want a very strong wool, linen, or cotton warp designed specifically to be held at high tension.
You can see all of the warp yarn we recommend for tapestry and rug weaving here.
Our most popular warp yarn for tapestry weavers is our Cotton Seine Twine # 12.
That depends on your warp and your weft. The key to making weft-faced tapestries is choosing the right sett and yarn type so that the weft fully covers the warp while the weaving maintains its structure.
Every tapestry loom is different, with a slightly different warping process. The general idea is that weavers want their warp threads to have tight, even tension that can make a clean shed.
Some tapestry looms have a special warping technique that allows you to weave a tapestry longer than the length of the loom. We recommend following the warping instructions that came with your loom.
Rebecca's Mezoff's book The Art of Tapestry Weaving also has great warping instructions.
Download instructions for warping your Saffron Pocket loom here.
Download instructions for warping your Schacht Arras loom here.
Download instructions for warping your Mirrix loom here.
For weft threads in tapestry weaving, you want use a firm, hardy yarn that takes well to being packed down, and comes in the colors you'd like to weave with. There are a wide variety of types of weft yarn that can be used in tapestry weaving, including wool, linen, cotton, and silk. Many tapestry weavers prefer to use a thin tapestry yarn, so that multiple strands of different colors or shades can be bundled together at once for more unique or subtle shading.
In 2021, we launched Array, our new line of 2/12 wool yarn designed especially for tapestry weavers. Array is thin (3,360 yards per lb.), and can be used in bundles of 3 or 4 (or even more!) at 8 epi. It comes in a wide range of both hues and shades, perfect for tapestry weavers who need subtle value gradations.Shop Array
If you are brand new to tapestry weaving, we strongly encourage you to try our Beginner Tapestry Weaving Bundle with Rebecca Mezoff, which includes a handheld Saffron loom, access to Rebecca's online course Introduction to Tapestry Weaving, and all the yarn you need to get started. This introductory course teaches a variety of techniques you'll need to learn to design and weave your own tapestries.
Artist, tapestry weaver and teacher in Colorado
Tapestry and bead looms designed by artist and tapestry weaver Claudia Chase