How to Create a Wonderful Spiral Design with the Tapestry Technique

By Anna-Mária Orbán, textile artist and PhD Lecturer at National University of Arts Bucharest, Romania

In my work, I have long admired ancient textiles from Ancient Egypt. I have wondered how I could weave such wonderful patterns at a small scale. That’s why I choose to work my spiral project using the tapestry technique. My goal was not to create another pattern with a spiral, but to reproduce this ancient pattern and create a woven surface without a loom or a frame. In this way, my spiral project became a big challenge.

As we know, John Gillow classifies traditional textile techniques according to production technique and loom type. My spiral sample is a tapestry, but was not woven on a loom.

With some effort, I found linen thread for my warp. I realized that this material would allow me to create a very dense surface. I have made many tapestries in my life, but never a tapestry at such a small scale: 7 yarns per cm and only 2 threads for the weft. Today, tapestries usually have 4-5 threads/cm and the weft is formed with 4 threads when the color combination is possible.

This is how I established the steps of my project:

Step 1

  • chose the image for the tapestry
  • find appropriate materials and establish the size of the project
  • select the wrapping method as a kind of personalized basse-lisse technique

Step 2 

  • adapt iron nails as my tool for creating the tapestry
  • experiment with the density of the linen warp with 7 threads/cm

Step 3

  • prepare the warp system

Step 4

  • start weaving by separating the warp system with a small rope as a base line using the wool and rope
  •  introduce the same linen used for warp as the first weft

Step 5

  • finalize the separation of the warp system using wool and a wood stick in the upper side

Step 6

  • weave 4 rows with a linen base, followed by a line of simple sumac knots 
  • adapt the thickness of the weft with 2 threads for the Australian wool and 6 threads for the golden thread
  • follow the shapes on the background image using 4 different tonalities for the color palette
  • create extra effects using gold thread, natural white wool, ocher dyed wool, and mixed thread (one white one ocher)

Step 7 

  • use additional tools such as a magnifying glass and a paper spool to find the easiest way to introduce the weft in the warp; the warp is very thick and breaks easily

Step 8

  • follow the shape of the spirals with simple sumac knots for greater accuracy using the gold thread mixed with wool

Step 9

  • finish the weaving by establishing the final shape of this small tapestry using gold thread with wool to emphasize the essence of the spiral shape to play on contrast: glossy and matte; perfect and imperfect shapes
  • use simple sumac knot in two or three rows to finalize and fix the tapestry instead of sewing

Step 10

  • mount the tapestry by removing the iron nails
  • place the tapestry on hard paper for display
  • make a large knot on the remained warp to leave the sensation that it could be continued sometime

By creating this small piece of tapestry, I used all of my skills, including my mind and heart. It was a challenging but a wonderful experience. I am very happy to be a part of this project!

Final remarks

What would our world look like if man had not discovered the fiber, its characteristics, how to spin them or explore their qualities? In this context, many researchers have developed ideas about the origin of textile techniques which existed from the very beginning of civilizations.

In Romania, the first traces of weaving go back to the Neolithic (6000 B.C), during the Danube civilization, but also during the Cucuteni culture (ca. 5500 B.C. – 2750 B.C.) where different types of knit and woven textiles were discovered on the bottom of ceramics vessels. We do not have any remains of textiles, but we have the ceramics as a proof. The variety and the type of structures show that textile techniques were already diverse in the Neolithic era.

The power to create, to transform and to build represent skills of mankind which have developed under the influence of immaterial concepts, expressed by faith, philosophy, literature and science, as the essence of certain cultural values with which it has identified. I think such a power lies in textiles, in tapestry.