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Weaving Circles in Tapestry

Let’s talk about weaving circles in tapestry! When weaving weft-faced circles I always draw my circle right on the warp and follow those dots on the warp precisely. This means covering up the drawing completely. I’m not super picky about my circles being exactly symmetrical so my stepping will not be the exact same on all sides, but I do want to point out a couple of things about stepping (decreasing/increasing) on a circle that might not seem obvious to a beginner tapestry weaver, as well as some other important tips.
When weaving shapes in tapestry you want to always build the shape that is decreasing in size first. For circles, this means weaving some of the background negative space first, as per the photo above. We stop weaving this area before it begins to increase in shape. It is then that we can weave our entire circle, and then proceed with filling in the negative space on either side of the circle.
The reason we weave shapes in this way is to avoid blocking any warps from being able to achieve a shed. If we are unable to create a shed the only way to weave your weft into the warp is to use a tapestry needle which is more time consuming and difficult. The illustration below shows how the warps which the arrows are pointing at would be blocked from achieving a shed if we wove our circle before weaving that part of the background first. While not impossible to weave, those warps are now hard to reach, making your process a lot slower than it needs to be.

Do woven circles have straight lines? Indeed, they do!

Woven circles have four straight lines!
Let me explain: If you are weaving circles with a circumference of three inches on a loom set up at six ends-per-inch like my example above, the top and bottom of your circle will be straight lines consisting of eight warps ends each. The length of your straight line will change depending on how big your circle is and the number of warp ends will change depending on what EPI (ends per inch) your loom is set up at.
Similarly, my circles’ sides have no stepping at all. In the weaving above, my circles go straight up for 11 picks mirroring the width of the top and bottom of my circles.

How to Correctly Draw on Your Warp

When drawing dots on your warp use fabric markers, Rub-a-Dub Sharpies or other permanent markers which you have tested for wash-fastness. Test non-fabric permanent markers by drawing on fabric and then throwing it in the washer with your next load of jeans to see if the pen stays on the fabric.  If the marker stays you are good to go. You never want to risk your marker seeping through your weft when you block it, or on a humid day.
I often trace objects like cups or bowls to achieve a perfect circle.
  1. Place your circular object on the tapestry
  2. Create a distinct dot of fabric marker around the object's perimeter on each warp that it meets.
  3. You can choose to mark the vertical side of the circle or not. In my example I have not. My vertical lines are between the two outmost marks.
  4. When weaving, cover your marker completely with the warp that you're weaving your negative space with.
The above image shows the warp with fabric marker on it. I've placed a white piece of paper behind the warp to make the marks easier to photograph.

Always Beat Consistently

Consistent beating and tension are key!  If you have even and tight warp tension you will be more successful at beating well and evenly, and therefore your shapes will keep their shape and stay proportional to each other. 

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