The Tantric Bed
A Tantric bed is a sensual haven rather than a prosaic space for sleeping in [...]
The quality of your linens and coverings can be sensuous, with textures and sensations that seduce your skin. Typical Tantric colours are red, yellow and orange.
Cushions are good for comfort while exploring each others' bodies, or taking Tantric postures.
—Cassandra Lorius, Tantric Sex, London: Thorsons
The heart of Tantra is not—in spite of what you may hear—sexual gymnastics: it is a spiritual discipline. The word itself is often translated as (tra) a tool for (tan) expansion, meaning its practice extends the person energetically, psychologically and spiritually. It envisions masculine (Shiva) and feminine (Shakti) energies coming together to complement each other and become whole. Tantra teaches the individual to revere their partner, honouring both body and soul, and the bed is therefore sacred space.
Well, in that case, my bed is anti-Tantra! Elderly cotton sheets which are wearing thin, pillows sporting permanent head-shaped dents, stacks of paperbacks teetering on bedside tables...
Sounds like some weaving is called for.
I set out to create voluptuous pillows and a luxurious blanket to see whether my prosaic bed could indeed be transformed into a haven of sacred sensuality. I used the Tantric colour palette as my starting point, and drew on some basic imagery, but didn’t make any effort to research "authentic" designs. Rather, I consulted my own—and my partner’s—taste for clean lines and bold shapes. A bed is a personal space after all.
Eight-shaft loom with a 22" weaving width
10/2 mercerised cotton from the Lunatic Fringe Yarns in six colours:
- 10 Purple (1 oz)
- 5 Red Purple (1.5 oz)
- 10 Red Purple (2.5 oz)
- 5 Red (2 oz)
- 10 Red (1.5 oz)
- 10 Yellow Red (0.5 oz)
You will need 55 inches of warp for each pillow, plus any needed length for loom waste and sampling. (For example: a four-yard warp will give you two pillows, 18 inches for sampling, and allow for 18 inches of loom waste.)
Wind a warp of 512 ends, as follows:
Following the chart above, you wind three yarns at a time in four different combinations. Reading from the left, the first combination is 10 purple, 5 red purple and 10 red purple. Holding these three yarns, make 24 passes of the warping board and you will have 72 ends.
You can do this by holding three strands together in your hand, using your fingers to separate the strands.
Or by using a paddle.
Note: When you wind the middle section of the warp you will make 27 passes of the warping board which will give you 81 ends – in fact, you only need 80, so when you thread simply drop one end from this section and hang it over the back of the loom.
The front of each pillow is a mandala design woven in Summer and Winter on eight shafts. The plain-weave back is woven in two parts, before and after the front, so that it folds to form a cover.
Each pillow has three weft yarns:
- 1 oz of one of the 10/2 mercerised cottons for the back
- 160 yards of 2/70 silk for the tabby weft on the front
- 160 yards of 9/2 nm silk for the pattern weft on the front
For the dark pillow I used:
- 5 red purple for the back
- Fuchsia 2/70 silk from Uppingham Yarns for the tabby weft
- Shade 5212 9/2 nm silk from Traub for the pattern weft
For the light pillow I used:
- 10 red for the back
- Red 2/70 silk from Uppingham Yarns for the tabby weft
- Shade 5415 9/2 nm silk from Traub for the pattern weft
Tie-up and Treadling
I use a countermarche loom and am indebted to Leigh for sharing this method of making a skeleton tie-up on her blog Leigh’s Fiber Journal.
I ordered the treadles in this way to simplify the footwork, since that is where I am most inclined to make mistakes. I used my left foot for treadles one through four and my right foot for treadles five through twelve.
Editor's Note: If you are weaving on a jack loom with a rising shed, you only need to tie up the x's in the diagram above.
Weaving the Pillows
Weave each pillow in three sections, starting and ending with plain weave with the mandala pattern in the center, as shown in the diagram below. Before and after each pillow you also need to weave four picks of scrap yarn.
Wash the fabric at 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees in Fahrenheit, or a hot water cycle of 110 degrees F) and hang to dry. While the fabric is still damp, press with a warm iron. Use the triple zig-zag on your sewing machine to stitch the ends of the fabric just inside the scrap yarn. Pull gently to remove the pick of scrap yarn closest to the stitching, and cut along this line so that you are left with a single piece of fabric for each pillow
Fold the stitched end under and make a half-inch hem at each end. I like to hem by hand (preferably in front of the telly) but you could use a sewing machine if you prefer.
Fold the fabric wrong sides together and press the top and bottom to make a firm crease between the front and the back.
One of the fun aspects of this design is that you can wait until the cloth is woven before you decide which side is ‘wrong’ and which is ‘right’. I chose opposite sides for my two pillows.
Open the fabric up again and re-fold with right sides together. Place the longer part of the back against the front, lining up the selvedges.
Then fold the shorter part over: there should be approx 1-inch overlap. This flap will remain open at the back of the pillow for you to insert the pillow form, and be able to remove it for cleaning.
Pin the layers together at each side of the pillow and machine stitch together.
Turn the pillow right side out and press.
Pin around the outside of the pillow, one design block from the edge and top-stitch on the sewing machine. This will give you a pillow space about 16 inches square, but in order to make it really plump I chose to fill it with an 18-inch pillow form.
When it comes to fastening, there are all sorts of options. I love adorning pillows and cushions with big flamboyant buttons but, given the overstuffing, I reckoned that buttons would be under too much strain and opted to stitch a strip of Velcro into the overlap.
If you wove a longer overlap then you could do without any fastening at all.
This blanket begins with some delicious luxury yarns in a rich berry red. They are both lace weight yarns: one is a silk and the other a silk/wool. How could I use these to their best advantage to create a really sumptuous piece of cloth?
Leigh, whose blog is a mine of wonderful ideas and useful information, wrote a post drawing attention to the Free Barcode Generator and its design potential. I had a vision of these two yarns in silky satin/sateen stripes, so I paid the generator a visit.
Entering ShaktiShiva gave me the following sequence of stripes:
My idea was that the two complementary energies—masculine and feminine—could be represented in the complementary stripes of the two different yarns. It was a great idea! Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough yarn for the sort of generous blanket I had in mind, and I couldn’t afford to buy any more.
I racked my brains over how to get round this problem all through the autumn: scaling the design down, eking it out with cotton, cancelling the plan and starting again, and so on.
Two days before Christmas the perfect solution dropped into my lap: a gift of yarn! There are now four yarns making up the stripes in the design, but they are all beautiful and worthy of the divine energy within.
Four-shaft loom with a 42" weaving width
The blanket is woven in a simple, four-shaft twill. It is threaded in a straight draw on four shafts and woven in a cord weave which can be found in A Handweaver's Pattern Book by Marguerite Davison (page 4).
This is one of my favourite weaves because it shows off a lovely warp, and these yarns are well worth showing off.
[Editor's Note: The WIF file above shows two subtly different weft colors. This is a visual representation of the fact that your weft is two colors wound together and used in a single shuttle. It should not be interpreted as two different wefts.]
- Lace weight Meru (51% silk, 49% merino) in the Ruby Slippers colourway by Curious Creek Fibers (2 x 1.75oz skeins, 495 yards each)
- Silk Lace 20/2 in the Rubies Playing colourway by Claudia & Co (2 x 100g skeins, 1100 yards each)
- Almaza 10/2 Tencel in two colourways, TTT08-041 (multi-coloured in reds, blues and golds) and TTT08-050 (solid gold), by Just Our Yarn (one 1000 yard skein of each)
For a 48-inch throw with a 2-inch hem allowance at each end, you will need 60 inches of warp plus the additional amount taken up by loom waste on your loom. I wound a 92-inch warp which gave me a bit of sampling room to try out different weft yarns.
Winding the warp
Wind a warp of 1248 ends, following the color plan below.
Because these yarns came in skeins, I wound them into centre-pull balls. To keep the yarns under control during warping, I placed each ball of yarn into a shoe box and threaded the end through a hole punched in the lid of the box.
With four such shoe boxes lined up at the warping board I found it easy to change colours as required in the winding plan.
The threading is a straight draw on four shafts but note that, because of the number of ends, you need 312 heddles on each shaft. If you have eight shafts you can spread the warp across all eight using 156 heddles on each shaft.
I used two strands of 2/70 silk (red and fuchsia, the same as the tabby wefts as in the pillows) and wound them together onto a single bobbin. You need approximately 1600 yards of each colour.
This is a very simple pattern and you only need to weave about 55 inches so you’ll find that it flies along. Use a fairly firm beat to get approximately 24 ppi.
Because of all the hand-painted yarns, I recommend washing by hand to finish.
A lot of colour will come out, but there will still be plenty in the cloth.
Hang to dry, press gently and hem by hand – or tie a knotted fringe if you prefer.
Wrap yourself—and a partner—in silky luxury, lie back on your big squashy pillows, and enjoy.
Yarns and Stockists for the Tantric Bed
- 10/2 mercerised cotton from The Lunatic Fringe, available in 1.5 oz, 8 oz and 1lb cones
- 2/70 silk from Uppingham Yarns, available in 225g cones
- 9/2 nm silk by Traub from Fibrecrafts, available in 100g/450m skeins
- Almaza 10/2 Tencel from Just Our Yarn, available in 1000 yard skeins
- Lace weight Meru by Curious Creek Fibers from Carolina Homespun, available in 1.75oz/495yd skeins
- Silk Lace 20/2 by Claudia & Co from Carolina Homespun, available in 100g/1100 yd skeins
Cally Booker lives on Scotland’s east coast with her loom, her bed, her husband and her cat (though perhaps not in that order). She blogs her weaving and creative life at t’katch.