Woven Tapestry

Why ?

“You could have painted this,” is a comment I often get. “It’s just a picture made out of wool.” Yes, well, in the same way that a painting is simply a picture made out of paint. Did I choose to weave, or did weaving choose me ? It’s so slow and so uneconomical, who in their right mind would choose to weave an artwork ? Perhaps I am simply contrary. Or perhaps like all the contrary, awkward, obsessive makers throughout history, I simply fell in love with the medium. The rhythm of weaving fits my mind’s flow and keeps my fingers out of mischief. So, yes I would rather weave, but after 35 years, I am pretty good at it.

Will it burn ?

Every professional weaver has at some point been told by a fire officer that a tapestry presents a fire hazard. My tapestries are made of animal fibres, such as wool or silk. I knew a boy at school who accidentally caught his hair in the flame of the bunsen burner. However, this was the 1970s and he had only washed his hair. Boys did not put anything on their hair in those days. So instead of his head lighting up like a torch, his hair simply smoldered slowly until half the chemistry class could smell burnt hair. He came to no harm, and neither would your tapestry. Wool smolders. Animal fibres smolder, unless they happen to be soaked in oils. Your tapestry is not a fire hazard.

Will it get dirty ?

Does anything not get dirty ? Things which hang on the wall gather dust and textiles are prone to insect damage, such as moth larvae. My tapestries are attached to their wooden batten with “hook and loop”, commonly known as Velcro. It is a good idea, once a year, to peel off the tapestry, shake the worst of the dust off, and then run the vacuum hose over it, front and back. If the suction is very powerful, turn it down, or cover the nozzle with a gauze, or net curtain material. Check for any insect attack. If you find eggs, roll up the tapestry, stick it in a sealed plastic bag and either put it in the freezer for a month, or use a vacuum pump to remove all the air, and again leave for a month. This will kill anything living. Once cleaned, stick the tapestry back on its hanger.

Washing is a last resort. I do not use ink on my tapestries and all my own dyed wools should be fast. I cannot guarantee that all purchased wools are also entirely fast. If you absolutely have to, use as little detergent as possible, agitate as little as possible (or you will end up with a much smaller piece of felt) and keep the tapestry flat throughout the process. Better still, get a professional to do it for you.

Is it delicate ?

Don’t forget that the tapestries you see hanging on castle and palace walls are hundreds of years old. They are tough as old boots. They may have faded a little in constant sunlight, but they would have been dyed using natural dyes which are not very consistent or long lasting. Today’s chemical dyes are more reliable and light-fast. Also, I believe I will look a little faded in 500 years time.

 

 

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