Intro to Tapestry Class: Header and Wavy Lines

In my last post I shared my progress warping my Mirrix loom for the Introduction to Tapestry Class on CraftArtEdu. This week I completed the header and the first rows of actual color weaving.

The header is the initial band of weaving that you create using the same yarn you used for the warps. I’m using the class kit, and so my warp and header material is the Navaho wool warp.

Before you start the header, you need to weave two strands that serve as a base for your tapestry to rest on. The base yarn is wrapped around both sides of the loom and tied to hold it in place. You weave it like you do anything else, passing the yarn through one open shed, then changing sheds and passing back through.

Here’s my base.


I used my weighted tapestry beater to beat those strands down.

To begin the header for this project, we’re weaving a row of twining. This was my first time doing twining, and it wasn’t difficult at all.

Twining is performed with the shed closed, meaning that there is no space between sets of warps for passing the yarn through; all the warps are on the same plane. I mentioned last time that I’m using a treadle to change sheds on my loom, instead of the standard handle. Before I show you how the twining turned out, here’s what the treadle setup looks like.

This is where the treadle device hooks up to the loom.


The two cords are cables that run all the way to the floor and connect with the foot treadle itself.

Here’s the treadle on the floor.


I have it sitting on a stair runner carpet to keep it from sliding. The big flat silver portion is the pedal. It rotates like a seesaw. You press it forward and down to open one shed and backward and down to open the other. If you’d like to see how to install the treadle, check out this free video by Claudia.

To close the shed for twining, you position the pedal so it’s flat, which is halfway between one shed and the other shed.

Twining uses two bundles of yarn that cross one another between warps. Here are my first several “twines.”


They almost look like a rope running along the warps.

Here’s my completed row of twining.


It probably could have been a little neater toward the end. I think I allowed the strands to twist too much.

Next up is the main portion of the header, which simply involves weaving a bunch of rows that reach from one side all the way to the other. When you do this, you need to create a hill, or bubble, with the weft yarn, rather than pulling it straight across in the shed. This ensures that the weft is long enough to zig zig between the warps when you close the shed without pulling in the sides of the tapestry. Claudia explains this in more detail during the class.

Here’s my first header weft making a bubble.


And here I am beating down the wefts after making a few rows of bubbles.


To use the weighted beater, I used a sort of loose tapping motion, letting the beater do the work. Here’s a look at those first few rows completely beaten down.


The next step is to just keep weaving for a while. The biggest challenge at this point is learning how to keep the sides of the tapestry straight and even, and keep them from pulling inward. Which reminds me, I need to correct something I mentioned in my previous post. I had stated that my tapestry would probably end up pulling in a little on the sides — but that’s not correct! In the class, Claudia shows you how to measure as you go along to make sure your sides don’t pull in.

Looking closely at this next photo, I see that I could have done a better job keeping my edges even.


With the header complete, it’s time to start some real weaving using the beautiful wool/mohair yarn from the kit. We begin with several regular rows of black. You usually start a color by cutting a workable length and then deciding how to manage it. Claudia shows you how to make and use butterflies for the class, where the only tool you need is your hand. Another option is to use tapestry bobbins. I recently got a great deal on a bunch of bobbins on Ebay, and I decided to practice with them for this project instead of using butterflies.

This is what a bobbin looks like with some black yarn loaded on.


And here I am using the bobbin to pass the yarn through a shed.


One of the nice things about using a bobbin is that you can use it to push down bubbles between beatings. (I know…that sounds a little strange! Weaving has some interesting terminology.)


If you’d like to learn how to use bobbins, check out Kathe Todd-Hooker’s book Tapestry 101.

Here are the first few rows of black yarn completed.


The wool/mohair yarn is a little puffier than the Navaho warp yarn, which means that you need to experiment to determine the right size of bubbles to make. I found that my edges tended to be too loose if I wasn’t careful.

Next we switched to a few rows of magenta.


At this point it was time to try the first special technique: wavy lines. They’re super easy. We were supposed to use orange yarn for the first one, but for some reason I grabbed yellow. So, my wavy lines are going to be yellow.

Here’s a close look at a pig tail which is used to secure the new color of yarn to a warp.


After making some wavy lines, I actually decided that my edges were unacceptably loose.


I wanted to redo them, so I un-wove several rows of weaving. The downside I’ve found with un-weaving is that wool yarn tends to get fuzzy from pulling it through the warps multiple times. I always end up trying to snip off the extra fuzz with my embroidery scissors. Maybe one of those little sweater fuzz eater machines would work better.

Here’s my initial weaving after re-weaving to tighten up the edges a little.


The left hand side looks a little bulky because I used that side to carry up each color when the opposite color was in use (for the wavy lines), but I think the right hand side looks much better.

Next, we’ll make some blocks of color, starting with the weft interlock technique. Stay tuned for my next post to find out how it goes!

Chris Franchetti Michaels is a bestselling craft book author and designer. Visit her blog at

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