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Mention the word tapestry in the company of weavers and at least one person will proclaim they dislike tapestry (sometimes even stronger and more passionate language arises).  In fact, I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said something disparaging about weaving tapestry.  I could have a pretty good dinner with a nice glass (or two) of wine.

I think I started thinking about tapestry recently when I realized my friend and amazing tapestry weaver, James Koehler, passed away three years ago this week.  He was incredible!  Not only as a tapestry weaver, but also as a teacher and friend.  He once watched me give away awards for a bath towel exhibit at the ANWG 2007 conference in Red Deer, Alberta wearing nothing more than a bath towel.  Nearly every time I saw him after that, he would would say Robyn.  I didn’t recognize you with clothes on.  The chance he would say it increased with the number of people that would hear his comment.  Talk about watching heads whip around.  A former monk saying something like that sounded rather shocking.  One can’t help but love someone with a sense of humor like that!

To learn more about James Koehler, you can watch a short video of him describing how he became a weaver.  The video was produced when James received a New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2007.  http://www.nmartmuseum.org/governors/awards/video.php?select=231

James Koehler

James Koehler

James Koehler tapestry

One of James’ amazing tapestries

Fortunately, James left behind many inspired weavers to share his techniques with other weavers.  In fact, Rebecca Mezoff was kind enough to post a video on YouTube of his tapestry join technique.  You may see her video by clicking on the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TwNVX3nPGc

Koelher tapestry join by Rebecca Mezoff

For years I avoided tapestry.  Why?  It was slow and time-consuming.  Then came my decision to complete HGA’s Certificate of Excellence in weaving (COE-W).  Three of the 40 woven samples required in Level I of the COE-W are tapestries (albeit, small ones).  If I wanted to complete the COE-W, I was going to have to tackle tapestry.  I went forward kicking . . . but, not screaming . . . and guess what?  After developing my skills, I was able to weave a nice little tapestry.  Below is one of them.

Cherries by Robyn Spady

Cherries by Robyn Spady

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I didn’t abdicate from my floor looms in favor of weaving tapestries; however, I developed a new appreciation for tapestry techniques and tapestry weavers.  I also pursued incorporating tapestry techniques into my regular weaving.  For example, I sometimes use a clasped weft technique to create a bi-colored weft effect.  Below is an example of clasped weft in the weft pile picks used while weaving corduroy.


Corduroy weft piles picks woven using clasped weft (uncut)

Corduroy weft piles picks woven using clasped weft  (half the pile weft is cut - notice the shift in color)

Corduroy weft piles picks woven using clasped weft (half the pile weft is cut – notice the shift in color)

Tapestry techniques are just one set of skills I think weavers should develop . . . at least to some degree.  There are even some resources available.

First stop for more information, should be Weaving Today.  They have a free tapestry ebook available for download.  Just click on the link http://www.weavingtoday.com/tapestry-weaving/

Handwoven tapestry PDF cover

When you’re ready to move on, head on over to the American Tapestry Alliance’s website http://americantapestryalliance.org/.  There’s tons of information and inspiration just waiting for you.  There is also a significant collection of tapestry-related articles listed under the Education tab.  Below is an image of the top of the list.

AMA articles images

Interested in more on tapestry???  Cool!  Check out the on-line PDF available from Archie Brennan and Susan Martin Maffei.  http://www.brennan-maffei.com/images/TapestryWeavingTechniques.pdf

Brennan's technique

Also, there’s a wonderful 16 minute video made available by Debbie Herd that introduces the viewer to tapestry techniques that may get you inspired to purchase Archie’s 8-disc DVD set.  http://debbieherd.blogspot.com/2013/07/woven-tapestry-techniques-with-archie.html

If you need a little more to inspire you to learn more about tapestry techniques, I’ve included some images from some of my favorite tapestry artists.

Maximo Laura – http://www.maximolaura.com/about.htm

Maximo Laura

Sarah Swett – http://www.sarah-swett.com/

Red Nuns by Sara Swett

Red Nuns by Sara Swett

Cecilia Blomberg – http://www.ceciliablomberg.com/

Cecilia Blomber - Multnomah Falls

Cecilia Blomberg – Multnomah Falls (1998)

Margo MacDonald – http://www.margomacdonald.com/

Margo MacDonald tapestry

Kathy Todd Hooker – http://kathetoddhooker.blogspot.com/

Kathy Todd Hooker


If you’ve shrugged off or even runway from weaving tapestry, give it a try.  It’s easy to get started.  A piece of heavy cardboard with some notches cut into the top and bottom can made a good little loom to warp up.



Comments on: "These are a few of my favorite things: #36 – Tapestry" (5)

  1. My first ever weaving class was in Navajo weaving. I didn’t even know then that it was tapestry… (I know much better now!). I like highly visible progress, so I don’t do much tapestry at all, but I love them. I’ve always admired Sarah’s work – it’s so inspired and inspiring. I have a Navajo rug that my dad is to send to me to repair, and then it can live at my house – I can’t wait! I’d love to be able to weave a tapestry saddle blanket for my English saddle – I’m still working on the engineering…

  2. Thanks so much Robyn. As I read this I could completely hear James saying “Robyn, I didn’t recognize you with clothes on!” He was something else. I really missed him this week. (Thanks also for the video link.)

    • loomchick said:

      Yes, Rebecca . . . James was something else. I really miss him too. I’m just so grateful he was a thread that crossed in my fabric. He inspired so many of us and his legacy lives on.

  3. Wonderful post! Of course, tapestry is close to my heart. I was fortunate to have had a class with James just in the year before his passing. I treasure that experience.

    • loomchick said:

      Your comment reminds me how important it can be to follow through on our desires instead of waiting for a “more convenient” time to take that class or pursue something new.

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