Tapestry Diary: Getting the cartoon onto the warp.

Last week I blogged about creating my tapestry cartoon, the next step was getting the cartoon onto the warp. It took all day, with three #spoonie naps during the process, but I’m sure a healthier person would get it done much faster! 

The first step was to attach the cartoon to the back of the warp on my loom. This was the main reason I traced the printed cartoon onto the tracing fabric I use for making sewing patterns, rather than just using the patched together pieces of A4 I’d printed the pdf on to. Because it was on fabric, I was able to pin the cartoon securely to the warp by weaving long knitters pins between warp threads and through the tracing fabric. It was essential to attach it so that it would not slide as I copied the cartoon onto the warp threads!

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Next step was to draw that outline onto the warp threads, which brought up two questions: what ink, paint etc, to use and what tool to apply it? 

In the short documentary I’d watched about tapestry making at the Gobelin (I’ll find the YouTube link and link it below), my fountain pen ink obsession had leaped forward in the few seconds they showed a tapestry artist copying the cartoon to the warp because she was dipping a flat piece of wood into a very distinctive Waterman ink bottle. I thought it would be fun to also use Waterman ink but I only have three bottles of Waterman ink and two are bright colours that wouldn’t stand out enough and the third is a dark purple to which I’ve added a few drops of J. Herbin violette scented ink and I wasn’t sure what the perfume would do to the threads. Also, I wanted it to be dark enough to see but not so dark that it might show through under pale weft threads. After some experimenting, I found my newest ink, from Australian ink maker Robert Oster Inks, was just right. The colour is ‘Summer Storm’ and the genius of it was that when wet it’s a dark blue but it dries to a lovely blue-ish grey, so it’s easy to see while you’re working with it but dries to a colour that can be seen but won’t show through. 

The tool was the next problem. On the Gobelin video, it looked as though they were using the end of a wooden ruler, which I didn’t have but also would be too wide for my lines. I tried some brushes but they tended to only paint a half or sometimes the back of the, obviously round, warp threads. So I cracked out my pan pastel tools, which are sponges in various shapes, and found that the chisel-shaped tool you can see in the pic below was perfect. The sponge that slips over the tool is about a centimetre wide and the plastic chisel under the sponge is, obviously, a little smaller and was just the right width to push the ink onto the front of the warp thread. 

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Too apply the ink, I put the fingers of my non-painting hand together and used the back of them to gently press the back and front warp threads together and used the tip of the chisel sponge to press the ink onto the warp. I found that holding the inked tool to the threads for a second or so allowed the warp to absorb the ink.

After probably an hour of actual working time (punctuated with said naps) I had stained the warp threads with my cartoon!  

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Here is the video of the tapestry artists at the Gobelin in Paris, produced by The Getty Museum. Enjoy!