Intro to Tapestry Class: The Circle

I’ve finally reached the upper section of my Introduction to Tapestry class sampler. This is the section that contains the big, colorful circle.

We start by using a template and permanent marker to mark the outline of the circle on the warps. I didn’t cut out my template like Claudia did in the instructions. In the first photo below, I’ve taped the template to the warps of the closed shed and already marked the circle on the warps with a permanent marker. You can see that the very sides of my circle are straight lines. I’ve learned that if those lines are too short, you’ll end up with “ears” on your circle.


Optionally, after removing the template, you can go back to each mark on the warps and extend it all the way around each warp. This makes it easier to see the marks if your warps spin around while you’re weaving.

We begin weaving the background of the circle with several passes of solid magenta weft. There are two separate wefts of magenta here, going in opposite directions. We weft dance them to hide where they come together.


Technically, the magenta yarn is supposed to reach all the way up into the beginning of the circle, but I ran out of magenta and needed to switch to dark orange sooner.


Here, Claudia points out that the bottom of the circle will start out covering quite a few warps, rather than starting with just one or two warps and then gradually getting larger. This is important for creating the correct shape. That said, keep in mind that no two weavers’ circles ever look exactly alike.

Because the bottom half of the circle increases in size as you weave, the negative spaces around it will decrease in size at first. This means we can continue with our background color around the empty space that will be the bottom half of the circle.


(What is it with cats and Mirrix looms?)

Now we continue weaving until we reach the point that is exactly halfway up the circle. This is the point where the circle will begin to decrease in size, and so we’ll need to weave the circle itself before completing the background.

Claudia shows you how to use the cut-out circle template to locate the middle of the circle. I just stopped weaving the background when I reached a point within the outermost vertical lines on the sides of my circle (because the circle doesn’t get any larger after that).


Next we begin filling in the circle with bright yellow weft. Again we’re using two separate wefts, laid-in in opposite directions. The two wefts come together with warp interlock.

You need to be careful here to make sure you follow the steps that you made on the warps when weaving the background color. That requires taking a close look at how many times you wrapped around each warp.


The yellow wefts are now separated and used to climb up the sides of the circle, covering a thickness of 5 warps each.

At this point, you can see that my weaving is a little shorter on the left than on the right. That’s just because I ran out of dark orange on the left.

Moving back to the bottom of the circle, we now introduce two more wefts: one for the lighter yellow background color and one for the green accents.  For the green I just wrapped the weft around the warps, only doing actual weaving (and changing the shed) when I moved to the right. The light yellow fills in the adjacent empty space. I love how this looks — it’s like you’re painting with yarn.


Next, we started a new color to create some dots. Dots are strange in that they don’t follow the general rules of tapestry. Case in point, you begin by laying in a color in the same shed as the previous row.


Dots are really just little accents that swim along in your wefts. They’d be a good use of short yarn scraps.


In this next photo, you can see that I’ve started to vary the width of green, actually weaving it rather than just wrapping once around the warp.


I should point out that I’m not just eyeballing it when I fill in the circle. There’s a lot of counting involved, as I continue to check how many wefts of the dark yellow cover each warp, and making sure I match that number with the light and green wefts beside them.

When you hit the center point of the circle, you need to keep building up the inside of the circle (which decreases in size from this point on) before filling in the background.


I decided to complete my circle before going back and finishing any of the remaining background colors.


Looking back at the photo above, I guess I didn’t weave all the way to my upper black outline. Instead I focused on making the top of the circle look similar to the bottom. However, I still used the sides of the outlines as guides.

Now it was a simple task of filling in. I had some color challenges with the background at the top of the sun because I’d run out of magenta and, eventually, green. I substituted some chartreuse green wool yarn from my stash. I hope it’s not too distracting.


Next it was finally time for the top header. This was actually tricky for me because I was running out of space on my loom, and I’d already advanced as far as I could without my warping bar coming forward over the top of the loom. But I persevered. This header was just like the one we made at the beginning of the sampler.

After the header, I couldn’t believe I’d finally finished weaving! How exciting! It was time to cut the tapestry off of the loom, which I must say was a bit nerve-wracking. It’s not difficult, it’s just that after spending hours on a project, it’s alarming to watch it slump down.


In my next — and final — blog post in this series I’ll finish my sampler and get it hung up proudly on the wall. Stay tuned…

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


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