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How to Weave Tapestry on a Vintage Spears Loom

I found this lovely little loom on Ebay. It came in its original box, complete with instructions and weaving sticks. It is a Spears No 3 Weaving Loom made in the 1950’s. Spears looms were designed to be a child’s toy loom, but they are quite sturdy and well made. With the rigid heddle that lifts and lowers alternate warp threads, the looms are designed for weaving plain fabrics.

However I thought that I could also use this loom for weaving small tapestries. Rather than threading the reed using both the holes and slots, I threaded the warp through the holes only as I will not be using the reed to lift and lower the warp or to beat the weft in place. Instead I will lift and lower the warp threads by hand, as in tapestry. I use a fork to beat down the weft into place.
To test this loom I put on a narrow warp (about 4 inches in width)

Yarn

Warp:
For this project I used 3 ply hemp yarn for the warp. 18 ends, 2 yards in length.
If you don’t have hemp, you can substitute with a linen or a strong cotton yarn.
Weft:
I am using single ply handspun wool for the weft that has been dyed with natural fungi and plant dyes.
Boletopsis Grisea – Greens
Cortinarious semisanguineous -Ppinks
Logwood – Blue/grey
I wind small amounts of yarn into butterflies.

Spears loom

The ‘warp beams’ have slots in them for tying the warp threads to. I found it quite fiddly and difficult to hold the warp in place in the grooves, so I used some cello tape to tape them down. Once the ends were secure I wound the warp onto the ‘back beam’ and put the holding pin (brake) into the small holes on the beam to hold it in place.

warp spears loom

Spears weaving loom

At the front end of the loom, I tied the warp ends over the warp beam, similarly to tying them on a floor loom.

In this sample, I am demonstrating a few common tapestry techniques.

Header

I begin the project by weaving in a header using 2 ply wool. Weave a tabby pattern (over/under warp threads) for about 1/2 inch to create a firm edge for the tapestry.

weave header

Slit Technique

In the Slit technique, each colour is woven back and forth, separately. This is generally used in small sections as a slit is created in the rug.

tapestry split technique

Warp Interlock

Two colours can also meet by wrapping around the same warp thread. The Warp Interlock creates a jagged edge and is used in diagonal joins.

tapestry interlock technique

Diagonal

Diagonal (or other) shapes are woven using a combination of interlocking techniques. The steepness of the diagonal determines when to change to the next colour.

tapestry diagonal technique

Weft Interlock

In the Weft Interlock, the two adjoining colours wrap around each other between two warp threads. It is used on long vertical joins.

Spears weaving loom

My Next Tapestry Project

Fish Hut tapestry
Fishing Hut Tapestry
.. work in progress..

Fishing Hut Tapestry

More Spears Looms

Spears No 4 Loom
Spears No 3 Loom
Spears No 2 Loom

Tapestry Weaving Books

Small Loom & Freeform Weaving: Five Ways to Weave
Included are 30 projects, some of which can easily be completed in an evening or weekend. Step-by-step, diagrammed instructions for personal items, such as iPod and cell phone holders, scarves, purses, and jewelry, and home decor projects, such as pillows, table runners, wall hangings, and book covers.

Tapestry Handbook
The weaving process is explained step-by-step and illustrated with over 300 beautiful color photographs and diagrams of tapestry techniques.

Tapestry Weaving
Clear instructions on how to weave tapestry.

Spears Weaving Loom

 

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1 comment to Spears loom

  • Diane Lawton

    Very interesting, thanks for sharing. Am new to weaving and you have given me some ideas to play around with.

This page last edited on August 21, 2016

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