Using the Flying Shuttle Technique to Create Text

By Dorothy Clews

This technique is often found in Coptic tapestries and is used for fine lines in any direction. It looks similar to stem stitch in embroidery, but is done while the tapestry is being woven.

Use as many supplementary threads as you have lines, starting and ending the extra threads as necessary. It is best to use fine yarn, one or possibly two threads depending on the sett of the warp. Manipulate these extra threads as you
weave. They can meet, join, cross over and separate.

Start the flying shuttle thread with a half hitch, leaving a long end at the back of the weaving. Continue weaving as normal with the usual weft then loop the flying shuttle weft over as many warps and wefts as is necessary to get the angle you need.  Do not go over too many warps or wefts or the thread is likely to get caught up, and the integral look of the extra thread is lost. Make sure that you make the half hitch in the right direction, as in the diagram, depending on which way the thread is traveling, or the thread will not lock in place.  It should look like part of the structure of the cloth, not like an added embroidery stitch.

Keying  in 'coptic textiles' in a search engine should turn up manyexamples of the technique used in faces, complex background patterns like 'key' and 'knot' patterns, and to give more detail that cannot be woven conventionally. It can be used for any fine line, vertical, horizontal and any angle in between, scribbly markings, for any design line sitting on top of a changing background of tapestry weave and for script-like writing.
Writing can be done sideways or top to bottom. It is easier to do the writing sideways rather than weave top to bottom. It is possible to have as many individual flying shuttle threads as you need working their way up the tapestry.

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This article first appeared in the Canadian Tapestry Newsletter
half hitch to start
reverse direction
of hitch to make line in opposite direction