Illustrations by Shannon Nehiley.

 

Why buy it when you can make it? This time around: Tapestries. They’re i-loom-inating.

Tapestries might be trendy, but weaving dates back to before the written word, when Paleolithic humans were twisting fibers out of plants like hemp and flax. In many ways, weaving’s development traces the course of human history The oldest known textiles, woven baskets found in the Guitarrero Cave in modern-day Peru, date back to 9000 BC.

Tapestries are woven using looms, devices that are usually made of wood. One of the first looms was the horizontal ground loom, a frame which was staked into the ground to keep the vertical, guiding threads taut as the weaver bent over to insert horizontal ones. The backstrap loom, which was tied around the weaver’s back, made the craft portable.

Over time, looms became faster and more cost efficient; with the Industrial Revolution came the creation of mechanized looming. But even as workers began to mass-produce tapestries, hand looming remained a craft.

The loom we’ve shown you below is a simple wooden frame with nails. All you need to make it is a handful of tools, a few colorful rolls of yarn and a free summer’s day. •

MATERIALS

FOR THE LOOM:

• Wooden frame, or a canvas frame from an art supply store. tapestry to be. The size of the frame will determine the size of your tapestry!

• 1-inch wire nails

• Hammer

• Pencil

• Ruler


FOR THE TAPESTRY:

• Colorful yarn

• Scissors

Optional: 
• Tapestry needle to navigate the yarn through the vertical threads. You could also use a toothpick or a plastic fork by tying the yarn to one end and weaving with the other.
• A ruler or a piece of cardboard which, by pushing up the thread you’ve already woven through, makes your tapestry tighter.

 

MAKING THE LOOM

1.   Starting on one side of the frame, about an inch away from a corner edge, mark 1 cm intervals to space out each nail. Repeat on the parallel side of the frame.

2.   At each mark, hammer a nail about a quarter inch deep into the frame. Make sure to leave space between the top of the nail and the frame to thread the yarn around. 

 

MAKING THE TAPESTRY

1.  To create the vertical threads that will form the base of your tapestry, tie a secure knot of cotton yarn around the first nail starting at the top-left end of your loom. Pull the yarn across the loom and loop it around the parallel nail on the other side. Repeat from left to right. This will create a series of vertical lines across your loom. On the last nail, tie the yarn in a secure knot.

A TIP: Make sure the yarn is taut but not too tight. If your strings are pulled too tight, the tapestry will bow in the middle and may become hard to work with.

2.  To create a simple pattern, take a couple arm-length pieces of colored yarn, tie a knot on the leftmost vertical thread and weave it over and under until you reach the other side. Don’t tug the yarn too tight or the tapestry will bow in the middle. When the string reaches the end of the vertical threads, go over and under in the opposite direction until you want to start a new color.

3.   Double check each row to prevent any mishaps. It’s easier to correct mistakes sooner rather than later. 

4.   When you have finished weaving, lift your vertical threads out from the nails. This will create loops at the top and bottom of your tapestry. To secure your tapestry, take two adjacent loops at the bottom and tie them together. Repeat with all the bottom loops. If you would like to make it fringy, cut the end of the bottom loops. You can insert a wooden dowel through the top loops to hang your tapestry. 

To make it your own: Play with texture and color, or try different yarn thickness.