Gryphon Tapestry: Threading up the Loom

Three years ago, Elisabeth and I decided that it would be a great idea to make a tapestry.  There should be upcoming posts from us or the others recruited to the cause; it took two and a half years and had many contributors.  It is purple, and features a dragon.  In any event, since she and I are living in the same place this year we have decided to make a smaller tapestry together.  This time, it will be green, with gryphons!  Or griffins, if you must.  We spent much of today making the frame and threading it.

Here are some differences between this tapestry and the last one: The frame is about 2 feet on a side, coming out slightly wider than it is tall–instead of almost 3 feet wide and a full 6 feet tall.  There are just as many (actually a few more) warp threads as last time, however, since they are spaced at 6 to an inch instead of 4 to an inch.  Since the weft threads aren’t thinner (Elisabeth thinks they’re thicker), this should make the pixellation of the tapestry closer to square.

The most interesting and possibly painful thing about this tapestry is that it will be divided into two parts, each featuring a gryphon to mirror the other.  We’re thinking that we may make a jagged or curved border (depending on how you look at it) to show that the two pieces should fit together.  This will allow each of us to take one gryphon with us when we part ways in the spring, perhaps for help with traveling (or in my opinion, lie detecting.  There are lots of myths about gryphons but one is that it is impossible to tell lies in front of them).

To make the frame, we took a piece of wood 1/2-3/4” thick, 2.5” wide, and 8 feet long.  We cut it into two 26” pieces for the top and bottom, and two 22” pieces for the sides.  We also bought two (we thought only one, but apparently two) metal corner-braces from the hardware store where we got the wood, and used them on diagonally opposite corners.  (We learned the hard way that it’s a good idea to brace at least one corner when we made the dragon tapestry.) It might be more stable to brace opposite corners, but this way we could pick our right angles more carefully.  The side pieces were inset and the top and bottom nailed over them, because the warp threads will pull the top and bottom inward so we wanted them braced against the side pieces.

We made a two-inch-long mini-ruler of 1/6” by marking down to the 1/2” and then estimating.  Using a tape measure along the middle of each piece, we made marks for 24 inches on the top and bottom, leaving about 1/4” margin inside of the side pieces.  We drilled with a 3/32” bit that broke after completing its task. 😦  Since 1/6″ is so small, we wanted to pick the smallest size we had that would allow the warp threads to pass through. Even so, we had enough trouble drilling the holes so close together that we ended up staggering them above and below the center line in order to keep them farther apart. We’re hoping that the resulting 3-D effect will flatten out fairly quickly once we start weaving.

The warp threads are twisted cotton twine, just like last time.  On the one hand, we couldn’t have got the thread through the holes without tapestry needles (we got them through on the last tapestry, and did much of our weaving, before Silkspinner brilliantly bought large tapestry needles, but those holes were bigger); on the other, since the only tapestry needles I have are size medium (too small), getting the needles threaded was a production in itself.  So each thread did double duty, with a knot at one end, going from one side to the other, knotting in the middle to preserve tension (and in case one half breaks) and going back and finally knotting at the side where it started.  That way we only had to do half as much threading and 3/4 as much knotting as otherwise.

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We’ll update you with more pictures!  Especially when we have a real camera to work with.  Here’s the nailed-together and threaded frame, with Elisabeth hiding behind it, courtesy of my cell phone camera.  The next step is to test out the thread we bought for the background weft, as it’s a unique variegated yarn and if there isn’t enough of it we can’t get more. :/

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