Pick and Pick: A Medieval and Modern Technique for Tapestry

With my upcoming Vesterheim workshops in mind, I’ve been studying the various decorative elements in the clothing of figures in medieval Norwegian billedvev (tapestry) pieces. One frequently-used technique for the buttons of bodices is pick and pick.  It is simple to do–you weave one pass across in one color, and then weave back the other way with another.  Repeat. As you weave with one color in one direction, and another color in the other, it forms vertical stripes.  See these two virgins, first shown upright, and then shown as they were woven, sideways.  Just a few rows of pick and pick creates a seemingly detailed effect.


Note that almost every bodice in this version of the Wise and Foolish Virgins owned by MIA (the Minneapolis Institute of Art) includes the same button treatment. Plus, look at all of the other wonderful decorative elements used on the costumes. My favorites are the three aprons that use two similar colors to mimic Jacquard woven silk.



sleeve.jpgPick and pick can be used for an interesting background or design element within a figure.  Here I used the technique to make a striped sleeve for a king

But look at how pick-and-pick can be used in the hands of a true contemporary master, Susan Martin Maffei.  I saw her piece, Angel #1″ (1998), this month in the New Acquisitions show at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, MA.

I know that Susan is a fan of Norwegian tapestry; she and Archie Brennan taught a workshop in Norwegian tapestry at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota in 2005.

Check out the chest hair  and hair in pick-and-pick! If you weave a few rows in pick-and-pick, weave two passes in a row in the same color, and then continue in pick-and-pick, you get a checkerboard effect.

Susan Martin Maffei. “Green Nude,” 1994.

The background in two shades of lavender is also made livelier than a solid background with pick-and-pick. The weaving is so admirably clever–also look at the fingers that are created by leaving slits, and the textural nipples created by weaving over two warp threads.

Pick-and-pick is an easy technique, but can be tricky to weave at the selvedge or edges of  a shape within a piece.  There is a good post on the Mirrix loom site about dealing with that issue,   The Newbie’s Guide to Pick and Pick.