When H visited the other week I helped to set her up with all the stuff she needed to get started with a tapestry project. I realised that perhaps other people would be interested in creating their own tapestries too but don’t know how or where to start so I decided to create some blog posts to help!
I’m going to create a few posts to take you through the whole process of creating a tapestry so you can follow them and end up with a completed project. This first post is going to go through the basic equipment you need and explain it in an easy way!
1. Tapestry Frame
These come in various different sizes and shapes but the basic, and perhaps most useful, is a rectangular scroll frame. The size you choose will depend on how big the projects you want to make are. For example, if you are hoping to make a cushion cover it will need to be at least as wide as you want the cushion to be. The top and bottom of the frame will turn. This allows you to roll up the canvas and move which area of the project you are working on. It also allows you to tighten the canvas as you work, helping to make your stitching even. You can get an ‘easy roll’ style which allows you to simply ‘clip’ the canvas into place, or the more traditional style of frame where you sew the canvas onto a strip of fabric at each end. The easy clip version is much quicker and simpler!
The canvas I use for tapestry is single thread canvas which only uses one thread per hole. You can also get double thread canvas which is used for more intricate, smaller stitch work. The canvas has a number to identify how many holes there are per inch, it’s ‘count’. The larger the number the finer the canvas and finished project will be. An canvas count of 14 or below is normal for tapestry which uses thicker wool. If you are working from a pattern it should specify the canvas count you will need to ensure your finished project is the correct size. The smaller the count, the quicker it will be to cover a larger area. However, don’t use anything lower than about 8 count as the wool isn’t thick enough and you may get gaps in your work. Most patterns will specify a 10, 12 or 14 count canvas. You can buy canvas by the metre or lots of shops sell pieces in about the right size for a normal frame.
3. Tapestry Needle
A tapestry needle has a blunt tip and a large, oval hole. This blunt tip helps the needle to not break through the threads from nearby stitches as you work, helping your tapestry stay even and neat. Needles come in different sizes indicated by a number; the larger the number, the smaller the needle. It doesn’t particularly matter what size needle you use as long as you can fit it through the holes and get your wool into it! I use a size 16 needle for a canvas count 10. There probably is a ‘technical’ way of working out what size you need but I don’t know it and to be honest, it probably really doesn’t matter unless you want to be a tapestry master. A size 16 or 18 needle would be a good place to start.
This is the fun bit! There are a HUGE number of patterns available. If you go searching in charity book shops you will find lots of old books full of them or you can pick them up cheap off the internet. These do have a tendency to be slightly old-fashioned however so you may wish to extend your search or to design your own pattern. I noticed that Liberty have started stocking a few more modern patterns but do expect to spend quite a lot of money on these as they come with the canvas and wool you need too. I prefer to find a pattern I like in a book and perhaps mix up the colours to modernise them slightly. If you’re feeling really creative you could also design your own pattern! Use squared paper in the same size as the holes on your canvas and some colouring pencils to design something completely unique. I am currently transforming a Liberty print I like into a tapestry. This is really simple as the design is all straight lines.
Tapestry wool comes in ‘skeins’ which means a length of loosely coiled wool. The colours and amount of wool you need will be specified on the pattern you are using. Each skein’s colour is specified by a four digit number and they normally come in 8 or 10 metre lengths. There are two main companies that produce tapestry wool, DMC and Anchor. Both are of equal quality and different patterns will use different companies. It doesn’t matter which you use but make sure that if you do make any changes you write the correct colour number on the pattern so you don’t forget!
If you have all of this you should be ready to start! I hope it all makes sense, please do ask any questions and I will try my best to help. I’m no tapestry expert but it’s SO easy once you get started and I encourage every one of you to give it a go.
Next post will be on basic stitching techniques!