Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Finishing a Small Tapestry

I have been doing some finishing on the Riverside tapestry this week.  It is about postcard size at 5 inches by 7.75 inches and I enjoyed weaving it.  There is an idea cooking, not fully baked yet that it might be fun to create a collage of small tapestries based on the theme " postcards from home".  In the interim  it would be nice to be able to display it individually. Of course there are many ways to finish tapestries but I will take you through my process for this one.

Starting from the beginning I loosen the warp before cutting it from the loom.  Notice the bright yellow orange thread, this will not be part of the finished piece.  I like to use a guide thread to help keep the edges even and parallel as I climb up the warp.  This is nothing new but most of the time the guide threads are an extra warp thread placed next to the actual edges of the piece.  I have been frustrated with this in the past because of my tendency to weave the guide threads into the actual tapestry.  My solution is to use a very contrasting color of cotton rug warp and place the guide threads on separately next to the doubled warp ends that will be the actual edge of the tapestry.  Then I weave a waste header in the same color catching in the guide threads to make them stable.  They are not attached to a heddle either.

Once the tapestry is off the loom i can remove the guide strings and the waste header in one piece and it is even possible to reuse it.  Then I trim the ends to make it easier to handle and let it rest for a couple of days before I proceed.

As you can see the back is a jumble of ends and I was really working on reducing weft ends?  I also try to keep the ends away from the edges but if I have missed a couple  they get needle woven away.  This is a good time to mention that it is important not to split or needle into the warp threads themselves but to carefully weave under the wefts to hold the threads in place.

Next, trim the ends to a reasonable length. Here, a half inch or so.  I like to use appliqué scissors for this.  For an all wool tapestry trimming is all you usually need but this tapestry has many slick threads like cotton, silk and rayon. These threads work themselves out of the weaving much easier and so I tie them loosely into a small knot before trimming.

Then I will give my warp threads a neater trim.  If the piece needs blocking I would do it now.  Also should mention that I had only one small slit that I needed to sew in this piece and it is done by now. This tapestry is responding well to a light steaming on the back so I will leave it at that.  Here are the ends trimmed, knotted and worked toward the center away from the edges.

This piece has hems on two ends so I will reinforce only two edges with twill tape, if I had no hems I would do all four edges taking the warp ends in as I go.

I press the hems under along my Soumak edge using a metal guide and steam, for picture purposes there is no press cloth in this picture .

Then strong thread is used to whip the edges of the hems and the twill tape in place, whipping the warp threads under as I go.  The back is a little neater now.

Then I like to take a piece of cotton fabric and make a backing for the whole tapestry. I often use this backing to add more documentation as I usually just put initials on the front.

Here is a picture of another small tapestry with the backing stitched in place with matching thread.

On Riverside I also attached a small hanging sleeve to the back which can be used to display it right away.  If I decide later to make it part of a larger piece it will be simple to remove the cotton backing with the hanging sleeve without damaging the finishing underneath.


  1. Thank you very much for posting your finishing methods! I'm in my 3rd year of tapetry study, and still find the finishing off bit to be challenging ;)

    1. I am glad you found it helpful Michelle. Let me know if there is something in particular you would like to see as I am always looking for ideas.

  2. Very interesting. Was thinking of making a few Tapestries, In bigger sizes. Your post is very helpful. Thanks you.

  3. Be your own curator of canvas art prints in your home when you decide on whether you would like to decorate with canvas paintings or photography, modern or romanticism, big or small, has it all! nice wall tapestry