Tapestry Unlimited Blog Tour- Weaving Slits to Create Vertical LInes

Welcome to week 3 of the American Tapestry Alliance “Tapestry Unlimited Blog Tour”.

Terry Olson. Weaving in the Desert
Terry Olson. Weaving in the Desert

I am Terry Olson. I have been weaving tapestry for about 25 years and teach at the Damascus Fiber Arts School in Oregon.  Audrey Moore taught me to weave and I learned most of my tapestry-specific skills from attending workshops with Archie Brennan and Susan Martin Maffei.

I hope that many of  you will join the American Tapestry Alliance and weave something for Tapestry Unlimited: 11th International Unjuried Small Format exhibition that will hang in the Milwaukee Public Library in Wisconsin, July 26 to August 11, 2016. The variety of skills and ideas presented will be a wonder and inspiration to behold.

My post will be about using slits to create vertical lines. I will start with a bit of background information.

In tapestry, when two colors are side by side, they are either joined with a weft lock or not.  Two colors of weft joined in a weft lock give a slightly jagged appearance.

Weft Lock start
Weft Lock start
Weft Lock stack
Weft Lock stack

Not using a join creates a slit.  One pass each of two colors side by side forms a teensy little hole, but several passes stacked on top of each other form a slit. (Pass: weaving back and forth one time.) A slit results in the appearance of a smooth vertical line.

Smooth vertical slit and teensy holes.
Smooth vertical slit and teensy holes.

Anatolian kilims are also known as slit weavings because they are commonly made with the slit technique, although the slits are mostly less than one-half inch high. These slits are not usually sewn up.

Kilim with slits-detail
Kilim with slits-detail

In many tapestries the slits are sewn shut as they are woven, or afterward when the tapestry is taken off the loom. If the tapestry is woven sideways and turned 90 degrees when hung, it is very important to sew the slits shut so that they do not droop over time and create holes.

Brennan and Maffei wrote a brief article describing three methods of sewing slits both on their website and in the educational page of the American Tapestry Alliance website-slits. Mastering the techniques of sewing slits as you weave is worth the time they take to learn.

Now, onto our current lesson, using slits as vertical lines.

Use the shadow created by the slit between two colors to create drama and dimensionality.

In this tapestry, Sunburn, artist Ruth Manning uses the slight shadow created by the vertical slit.  She uses it in the neck to help pull it out from the background, which has similar value.  She uses it to help differentiate one pant leg from the other, even though they are not exactly the same white.  It even helps put the straps of the green shirt on top of the girl’s skin.

Sunburn. Detail. Ruth Manning
Sunburn. Detail. Ruth Manning

The shadow created by the slit can also be used between two areas of the same color yarn.  Sometimes a weaver will use a single warp wrapped with a contrasting color to outline or to separate two areas woven in the same color, but it is often difficult, or too bold, and can be structurally unsound. A double weft lock can be used to structurally integrate a single warp outline, but that is a separate subject.

To create a separation or the illusion of an outline, the vertical slit can be used. I use it in the tapestry The Milk Maid and the Boss to create separate fingers in the milk maid’s hand.

The Milk Maid and the Boss. Detail. Terry Olson
The Milk Maid and the Boss. Detail. Terry Olson

This technique is also used to great effect in the tapestry, Scenario Unknown, by Cecilia Blomberg, to separate the planks in the stage floor from one another.  She uses it both between areas of the same color and between areas of similar color.

Scenario Unknown. Cecilia Blomberg
Scenario Unknown. Cecilia Blomberg
Closeup of Stage with Vertical Slits
Closeup of Stage with Vertical Slits

She and her partners in Pacific Rim Tapestries also used this technique to separate the planks in the bottom of a rowboat in this tapestry woven for a Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, WA.

Closeup of Rowboat Floor
Closeup of Rowboat Floor

Just a few more details and this blog will end.  Keep in mind that when you create a slit, or any turn, there is twice as much yarn at that point than between any other two warps, so pull each color tight enough to keep loops from forming at the turn.  If you want to accentuate or exaggerate the slit, you can pull even more and separate the warps a bit.  Be careful doing that as you are pulling your warps out of alignment!

Some weavers choose to sew the slits afterward, from the back, instead of using the sew-as-you-go methods described in the article by Brennan and Maffei.  If you choose to do this, just try even harder than usual to maintain a correct warp spacing throughout your weaving.  This can be challenging.

Slits are not always the answer.  Look for good examples of outlining in Archie Brennan’s gallery.

As for the prizes, every week you have a chance to enter to win one of two prizes. The first is a one-year membership to the American Tapestry Alliance.  The second is a one-year membership to ATA AND a free entry to the exhibition this blog tour is all about, Tapestry Unlimited: 11th International Unjuried Small Format.

Current ATA members are not eligible to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Details on how to enter the Unjuried Small Format exhibition can be found on the American Tapestry Alliance website, along with the entry page. Everyone who signs up to participate by January 31, 2016 will be included in the exhibition.  Your tapestry needs to be photographed and mailed before the end of March 2016.  The entry fee for the exhibition is $40US and includes an exhibition catalog and return postage.

If you aren’t too tired, you might check out some of the other blogs on my website, where I show examples of the different group challenges woven by the members and students of the Damascus Fiber Arts School for the past five iterations of the Unjuried Small Format Show sponsored by ATA.

Please check in to the rest of the Tapestry Unlimited Blog Tour.

The Blog Tour Line-Up
December 23rd: Vancouver Yarn
December 30thRebecca Mezoff
January 6thTerry Olson
January 13thMirrix Looms
January 20thElizabeth Buckley
January 27thSarah Swett
The American Tapestry Alliance is a nonprofit organization that provides programming for tapestry weavers around the world, including exhibitions (like Tapestry Unlimited), both juried and unjuried, in museums, art centers and online, along with exhibition catalogues. They offer workshops, lectures, one-on-one mentoring and online educational articles as well as awards, including scholarships, membership grants, an international student award, and the Award of Excellence. They also put out a quarterly newsletter, monthly eNews & eKudos and CODA, an annual digest. Members benefit from personalized artists pages on the ATA website, online exhibitions, educational articles, access to scholarships and more.
The Tapestry Unlimited Blog Tour is in celebration of ATA’s annual unjuried exhibition. Tapestry Unlimited; 11th International, Unjuried Small Format exhibition is open to all weavers. We are expecting upwards of 250 participants who will show their work at the Milwaukee Public Library this upcoming summer. Everyone who signs up to participate by January 31st 2016 will be included in the exhibition, and your tapestry does not need to be mailed to us until March 2016. There is an exhibition fee of $40 which pays for both the return postage for you tapestry as well an exhibition catalogue, which everyone’s tapestry will be featured in. We invite entries which work within more traditional definitions of tapestry as well as ones which expand upon them, including multimedia work.

Thanks and keep weaving!  Terry

31 thoughts on “Tapestry Unlimited Blog Tour- Weaving Slits to Create Vertical LInes”

  1. Hi Terry! I read this before starting my face and I’m really glad you sent a link to this. Thank you.
    So it just ‘binged in’ what the blog tour is and I’m busy checking everyone else’s posts. It’s great to get this kind of educational material from all you experts!

  2. Wonderful information with great visual examples! Thank you. I’ve always liked slits in wravings but didn’t know why. Now I know and will be practicing the “good technique” version on a sampler.

  3. I have been following the blog tour and found it inspirational…I am just starting out learning tapestry weaving and am based in the opposite part of the planet in Perth Western Australia, so being connected in this community online is highly beneficial – many thanks!

  4. I appreciate that you pointed out that single strand outlining can be structurally unsound if you don’t know what you’re doing. I need all the particular possible pitfalls I can get!

  5. Thank you for the wonderful post Terry! I’ve seen slits on Kilim weavings but never appreciated the use of slits to create shadows and boundary separations. I will have to give this a try on some of my work.

  6. Nice presentation on use of slits. I need more practice on the weft lock technique and sewing after weaving. I liked best the unsewn slits and sew-as-you-go.

  7. Dear Terry,
    Thanks for a great post full of such inspiration and helpful information. I am about to embark on weaving my first tapestry in more than 20 years and your techniques have re-kindled my enthusiasm and given me confidence.

    I just happen upon ATA and I’m loving the Blog Tour!

    Thanks again!

  8. This is a fantastic post, Terry. Thank you for opening up the myriad ways in which slits, a uniquely tapestry-esque structure, can enhance design. What a gift to have this information so nicely laid out. Thank you for sharing it.

  9. I learn so much with each of these blog posts. I always thought that slits were just something one has to deal with in tapestry but today I learned they can be used for design purposes as well!

  10. Thank you so much for the post and mostly for the examples. I learned a lot about how to use the slits. I have used them a little, but not much, but it gives me many ideas of how I can use them to effect (hopefully great effect : ) ) in the future.

  11. Your explanation was clear and I am going to give this technique a try. Thank you. As a beginning weaver, these tips on when and how to use the split technique is very helpful.

  12. Thank you for the blog post, and reminding me to pull a bit tighter at slits. I always have a problem with my tapestries growing and getting bubbly, perhaps this could be the solution.

    1. Erica, Too loose weft tension, especially at turns, is probably the culprit if your tapestries are growing and bubbling. Try tightening in those places, but adding a teensy bit more weft in the center of each pass. Terry

  13. Thank you for a terrific post. The expressive use of slits is fascinating. Can you tell me, are the slits in ‘Sunburn’ and ‘The Milkmaid and the Boss’ sewn or left open? Is the weft on either side of the slits deliberately pulled a little bit tight in order to emphasize them?

  14. Thank you, Terry, for your timely and comprehensive overview of the use of slits and for your further references to Archie’s work and teaching … I am planning to weave tapestry with many structural slits so this has encouraged me to get started! The tapestry examples you use are also very interesting and vivid. This is such a useful post about consciously using slits as a design tool- too often it is taken for granted or considered as an afterthought.

  15. Thank you for the wonderful, helpful information. I’ve only been weaving for a month and these lessons from contemporary artists is inspiring and instructional. Such lovely work!

  16. Thank you for your excellent presentation of “slits”. The examples you chose makes it easier to understand that slits can be a friend or foe. Rebecca has taught us very well to sew our slits as we go. I just try to avoid them. This has given me the confidence to look at slits in a much friendlier manner as I continue my journey learning tapeatry techniques.

  17. Thank you. Found the article really clear and informative particularly being clear about the tension of your turns in the slits.

  18. That is a great technique. I have always avoided slits using the weft lock method but I didn’t like the jagged look. I thought sewing the slits was too much work, but leaving the slits open was unsightly. You show that done carefully, it can add to the tapestry. Thanks sooooo much!

    1. Sandy, Thanks for the comments. I encourage you to learn to sew-as-you-go on slits. It really isn’t hard! Terry

  19. This lesson was very useful. I just made a small piece with long vertical slits. I was debating whether to sew them closed but like how they look open. Next time I’ll try a weft lock.

  20. Thank you so much for this extremely informative information. I have never been in love with slits and try to make sure I don’t use them, but now I feel there is definitely a place for them. I will keep that in mind as I continue to learn and use new tapestry techniques.

  21. GREAT post Terry! I love the ideas here. I’m remembering standing in front of Sarah Swett’s tapestry, Hang Up and Draw, in ATB8 and marveling at how she used slits to create forms… just like you’re talking about in this post.

  22. Terry, thanks for tour lesson. I am really liking this as a novice weaver.
    Oh, how to approach the design with so many technique choices . . . . Oh my!

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