28 Jul 2013

Framing Tapestries or Lucky to have a Folk Artist Sister

I do love weaving tapestries, although it's awhile since I've indulged in that particular pleasure.  I wanted to share a great framing idea for small pieces -- anything lightweight enough not to sag between the hangers -- as well as my "usual" method for larger hangings.

I'd been experimenting with incorporating only certain warp threads into the weft, and letting others float above the weaving to add colour and texture to the image.

Fish tapestry, 16.5 cm x 11.5 cm (6 1/2" x  4 1/2")
Every second warp thread is left loose to float above.  I used a piece of paper to separate
the warp threads, flipped the loom over and wove the background from the back.
Then I flipped the loom over again to weave the fish into the floating warp threads,
and with a bundle of metallic threads did some free-form weaving to gather
the loose warp threads and give it a wavy, watery look.  The little purple guys were too small 

to hold their shape.  If you get far enough away and squint, they look fish-ish -- now I think of them 
as floating blurbles and have made peace with them.

Dragon tapestry, 18 cm x 10 cm (7" x 4")
I alternated green boucle and blue warp threads, weaving the blue into the bottom half
of the tapestry and letting the green float, and vice versa for the top half, using paper to keep
the threads separate, as for the fish.  The border edges weave in all the warp threads.
The tree is woven into the floating warp threads, and the dragon is embroidered
into the whole piece.

Here's another look at my fishie and dragon:

The dragon is the avatar I use for my Etsy shop

But how to hang these little guys?  I didn't want a permanent frame, because life is too rife with unforeseen circumstances to gamble so flagrantly, so no gluing or anything like that.  They're only small and lightweight, and I didn't want them to disappear on the wall by hanging them the usual way. 

And what's the usual way? you may ask.  Simple but effective: sew the fuzzy side of a length of velcro across the top of your tapestry.  Staple the sharp toothy side onto a length of narrow wood.

Sewing the velcro onto the tapestry can be hard on your fingers - it's tough to make
the needle go through that heavy velcro material.  However, I do not suggest
using stick-on velcro as an alternative.  The glue just isn't strong enough,
unless you have a very light-weight tapestry. And even so, I don't think it lasts long enough.

I guess you could machine-sew it onto the backing fabric before you sew it onto the
tapestry, but you'd have to be pretty exact in your measurements, as well as have the forethought
to do that bit first, which thus far in my life I guess I haven't...

Screw hanging loops into the top edge of the wood, and hey, presto! A perfectly hung tapestry - or at least a tapestry ready to be perfectly hung.

If the hanger is exactly as wide as your tapestry, there won't be any sag

I learned to do this from my tapestry instructor, many, many a year ago now, given away by the year I have stitched onto the back.  And the example I'm showing you is my first ever tapestry, woven in that very class.  Here it is from the front:

Troll in the Moonlight - my first weaving endeavour 46 cm x 43 cm (18" x 17")
I was inspired by Faroese folktales in choosing my subject.

I loved making this; it totally turned me onto weaving. Here he is close up, gazing pensively at the rising moon ...

The entire piece is woven, except I top-stitched on the black outline of the troll.
We learned yarn dyeing in that class as well, and I wove the sky out of yarns we dyed ourselves.

But back to the issue at hand.  My dragon and fish tapestries are much smaller than my troll, and I wanted an actual frame to help them stand out when they were hung.  This would save my fingertips from sewing on velcro, but still, what to do?  

Luckily, I happened to mention this quandary to my sister Kathi, who is a folk artist (Pufferbellies) and good with wood.  She made two great frames that are perfect - although admittedly you have to have some woodworking tools to make them just the way she did.

Each frame measures 29 cm x 24.5 cm (11 1/2" x 9 1/2"),
the centre area where the tapestry is mounted is recessed about 1/2 cm (1/4").

I love the way she painted the frames with layers of colours,
and the contrasting recessed centre that shows up the piece

They're two separate pieces of wood, the 1.5 cm-thick outer frame, and a thin piece of plywood mounted in the centre like a photograph in a frame.  

Aha, a secret glimpse of my high-tech homemade cardboard lightbox...

The tapestries are actually tied onto the recessed centre piece of plywood.  This is why I don't think it would work with heavier tapestries, because you would risk it sagging between the ties, or even being too heavy for the plywood to hold, depending on the size of the piece.

She drilled holes in the plywood to tie on the tapestries, which I did with strong upholstery thread.

Here they are from the back:

The plywood is held in place using those metal tabs used in photo frames.
With no woodworking skills or no access to tools, however, you could do something
simpler, just using the thin painted plywood and tying your piece onto the centre,
and then creating your own outer frame (out of felt, or woven pieces, or paper, or
more painted plywood) and gluing it onto the plywood around the piece.
Something quick and dirty would be to just buy a photo frame, punch holes 

in the cardboard backer, and sew the tapestry onto that.  You've lost
the handmade aspect of the frame, but sometimes you do what you have to, right?

Painting the back of her work is just one of those touches Kathi likes to add, and which I love.
The knot is just a reef knot so it's easy to untie if I ever need to.
And just for fun, here are some other tapestries I made a few years ago.  

This was my first experiment with floating warps, where I incorporated a frame into the picture - taken pre-lightbox, unfortunately, so the colours are all bleached and the picture quality is kind of lousy.  I gave the tapestry away so I can't re-photograph it...

The fish was woven with sari-silk yarn.
As I recollect, the piece measures about 25 cm x 25 cm (10" x 10")

And a couple other weaving experiments, also photographed sans lightbox some time ago ...

Pilot whales frolicking around the Faroe Islands - this was 40 cm x 40 cm (14" x 14")
Again, playing with incorporating the frame into the piece.

Fog creeping to a standing stone - the ground is sari-silk yarn, 40 cm x 15 cm (14" x 6")

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