Thursday, September 24, 2009
I am often asked what kind of warp one should use for tapestry. I will try to provide a fairly broad answer to this question with the beginner tapestry weaver in mind. The sett for the yarns I will be recommending can range from 4 epi to 12 epi. I am very ignorant when it comes to warp used for small format tapestry, so you are on your own there.
Inexpensive cotton carpet warp
When I began weaving tapestry I used Maysville cotton carpet warp. It's cheap and comes in a variety of colors. When I became more serious about weaving tapestry, I gave up the cheap product and replaced it was the other three options on the above list. It finally struck me that the integrity of my tapestry would have a direct corollary to the quality of the warp. I also realized that since tapestry is a very hands-on technique and you are constantly rubbing your hands against the warp, the nicer the warp, the nicer the experience. That being said, if you don't want to initially invest a lot in your materials, buy some Maysville cotton carpet warp. Search the web. It's available in a variety of places.
Seine Twine is the best of cotton warps. It was originally used for making fishing nets. It comes in two different weights: 12/6 (which is 2 ply) and 12/9 (which is 3 ply). I think you are better off just sticking with the 12/6 since it is so strong you really won't have much need for the three ply, thicker version. Seine Twine, like any cotton, has some elasticity. Therefore, unlike linen, minor inconsistencies in warp tension (ie., you answered the phone in the middle of warping your Mirrix Loom and messed up on the tension a little bit when you returned to warping) will not be as readily noticed.
Linen. Ah Linen! I would recommend Fine Irish Linen in 8/2 Wetspun Tow Yarn. Linen has almost no elasticity. It is, in my humble opinion, almost impossible to warp most tapestry looms with it since most tapestry looms require that you tie each individual warp. Getting even tension is, well, nearly impossible. Getting even tension with linen on a Mirrix is really easy because it's a continuous warp. Just don't answer the telephone in the middle of warping. Any inconsistency will be noticed. So why use linen? It is beautiful and rich. It provides a certain body to your tapestry not possible with any other warp. You can always tell when a tapestry has been woven on a linen warp. It just has a certain richness to it. That being said, it is harder to weave on a linen warp than on a cotton or wool warp because it is not elastic. It won't move out of the way when you insert your weft. Your fingers might not be very happy after a long day of weaving on linen. But try it at least once. Maybe I should consider selling it from this site?
Wool warp is my favorite. It is quite elastic (more than cotton) but more importantly, since I mainly use wool weft, I find using a wool warp makes more sense. Apparently, the Navajos used wool warp for their rugs because when the wool warp and wool weft rub against each other it provides less wear on the rug than if the warp were cotton. Wool on wool is a good thing. I like it because I find the wool warp and weft bond together much more than cotton or linen warp and wool weft. Keep in mind that wool is covered with scales (which when felted tangle up together making it impossible to untangle) and those scales like to hug each other. So the wool weft hugs the wool warp and I believe creates a more stable tapestry. The weft will not slide down the wool warp as much as if the warp were linen or cotton. We do sell the wool weft on this site and I highly recommend it both for beginner and advanced weavers especially if you are using wool weft. Look for a future blog on what to use for weft.