Monday, January 4, 2010

What is tapestry?

For a brief moment I wondered what the official definition of tapestry was, so to “The Tapestry Handbook” by Carol K Russell came:

Tapestry is the interweaving of discontinuous weft yarns with tensioned warp yarn through two alternate sheds, resulting in a firm, weft-surface textile constructed concurrently with the description of its design. Taken as a whole, this definition identifies tapestry’s distinctive elements.

Uh huh, ok well fine… I knew my first little sample was not tapestry, but I wanted to see what weaving on the little toy loom was like. There are a lot of disadvantages, like hard to tension evenly, no shed to open, it was more like needle weaving, but I still think I can get the techniques down, and convenience factor was high – I could carry it anywhere.

“discontinuous weft yarns” In most hand-weaving techniques, a weft yarn is passed continuously across each row of weaving. Since the direction of the weft is reversed only at a selvedge (an outside edge), weft colors are all interchanged vertically. By contrast, tapestry technique involves several wefts in each row of weaving. Because they can be entered, deleted, or reversed at any point in the row, color can be shifted horizontally.

My little stripe weaving does not meet this criteria.

“two alternate sheds” Tapestry weave is the simplest of all woven structures, universally known as “tabby” or “plain weave” – that is, each weft is woven over and under successive warps, in opposite order to the weft preceding it.

Definitely fits this.

“weft surface textile” Horizontal rows of tightly woven weft completely cover he vertical warps and thus form the surface of the textile.

Ditto on this one.

“constructed concurrently with the description of its design” In most visual arts (painting, for instance), the artist adds an image to an existing surface (in this case, a canvas). In tapestry, however, the artist constructs the image and the surface at the same time. This last criterion helps differentiate tapestry from other types of textiles. Embroidery stitched onto a woven surface may be fiber art, but it cannot correctly be defined as tapestry, it does not form the essential structure of the textile.

Ok, there is not really any image, but it does form the “essential structure.”

My sample is a pretty weak attempt, but others will follow more fitting of the definition of “tapestry.”

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