Tapestry Art: Exploring Culture and Creativity

Using Tapestry as a decorative piece is a creative way of giving your living space a touch of character. There is something about the large intricate designs that are both elegant and sophisticated.

You are not alone if you have ever considered livening up your space with one of these elegant pieces. Tapestry as an art form and a decorative piece has been around for centuries. Neither is it a privilege reserved for the super-rich any longer; some small-scale designs can cost you as little as $100.

This article will show you the production process of tapestry and how you can take care of one.

What is Tapestry?

Wall Tapestry

Tapestry is any piece of fabric that is woven decoratively. The decorations could be anything, from simple floral drawings to complex landscapes.

Tapestry weavers use wool, linen, or cotton as warp and weft threads, although materials like silk, gold, and silver as weft threads can appear on occasion. The choice of fabric depends on the weaver’s intentions.

Wool is the most preferred fabric for making tapestries. Weavers prefer wool for many reasons. It is readily available and easy to dye and has natural strength and flexibility, making weaving tapestry easier.

Weavers can create their designs in several ways. Traditionally, they weave the fabric by hand using a loom. But it is also possible to embroider or use machines to create designs. 

Weavers weave the fabrics differently to get the intricate designs you usually find in tapestries. They use a technique called Weft Weaving which hides all the warp threads in the completed work. 

Weavers also interlace each colored weft back and forth in a small pattern area, causing the weft yarns to appear discontinuous. The pattern contrasts with most woven fabrics, where warp and weft threads may appear in the finished work.

Most weavers make tapestries so you can view them on one side. These types of tapestries will have a plain lining covering their back. However, some tapestries you can view from both sides. Its unique weaving pattern easily distinguishes tapestries from other types of fabric embellishment.

A Brief History of Tapestry

Tapestry has been a part of many ancient civilizations. The Egyptians used tapestry as shrouds to bury their dead, while the Greeks and Romans decorated buildings and temples with them. The Chinese used them in decorating furniture and wrapping gifts.

In the mid-15th century, the growing religious revivalists used tapestry to illustrate biblical stories. By the late 15th – early 16th century, its use had shifted to recording the heroic exploits of kings and noblemen.

Tapestry significantly improved in the 18th century when Jacques de Vaucanson invented a faster loom machine, and Jacquard later improved his work. By the 20th century, the process of making tapestry had so improved that the art form increased, although the pieces got smaller.

By the 21st century, loom methodology was primarily computerized and more accessible than it was many centuries ago. Today, Weavers gather to showcase their work in exhibitions.

How is Tapestry Produced?

Making tapestry is very complicated and involves several skilled professionals to make it happen.

First, an artist draws a cartoon or design, which he hands to the weaver. The weaver converts the drawing to essential lines, which he draws on clear plastic strips. 

Next, the weaver prepares the loom by vertically wounding the loom with undyed warp threads. He makes sure to prepare the threads according to the tapestry specifications. The weaver uses special controls on the loom to add tension to the wound warp threads.

Then, he places the plastic drawings against the warp threads and redraws them with markers to make the essential lines visible.

A dye professional discusses with the weaver on a color palette. After which, he uses three basic chemical dyes to get various colors. He soaks the threads in the dye until he gets the right color. This process could take hours or even days.

The dyed threads are rolled into bobbins and handed to the weaver. The weaver sits at the back of the fabric and uses a mirror to carefully weave the different colors of wool to recreate the drawing on the plastic strips.

Creating a design, dyeing, and weaving could take months for a small-scale job, but on a large scale, it can take years. Although most tapestries are handwoven, weaving machines can make the work easier.

Types of Tapestry

Framed wall Tapestry

You can categorize Tapestries by their age or the method used to make them. Based on their age, there are two major categories:

Ancient Tapestry

These are the oldest known tapestries currently in existence. The Egyptians created them between 1483 and 1411 BCE, and the area’s desert climate helped preserve them.

They were mostly made of silk and gilt metal, unlike modern tapestry made mainly of wool. They often depict religious or heroic scenes of the ancient world.

Contemporary Tapestry

These tapestries were woven in the late 19th- to early 20th century in Europe and the Middle East. They are also called modern tapestries. They are divided into two broad themes-Landscapes and floral designs.

Based on the process of making tapestries, you can divide them into two major classes:

Hand Woven Tapestry

Nearly all tapestries are woven by hand, a painstaking process that takes a long time. Handwoven tapestries are differentiated based on tapestry weaves. 

Tapestry weaves refer to the way or variety in which weft yarns interlace with warp yarns to form patterns. There are four significant types of tapestry weaves:

Single Weft Weave: The weaver interchanges only one weft thread between the front and back of the weave. The interlocked weaves will produce the same number of colors and different weft yarns.

Double Weft Weave: The weaver uses two wefts of different colors to complete a horizontal row. The weft moves back and forth behind regular weft yarns.

Three Weft Weave: Here, the weaver uses three different wefts of different colors. One yarn is displayed in front, while two are at the back.

Combined Waft and Weft Tapestry: In this case, 3-5 warps interlock with two different wefts to create a diverse pattern.

Jacquard Tapestry

Jacquard’s tapestry is a type of tapestry made from automated looms. Weavers use a Jacquard loom, which is any loom that can automate weaving the yarns. They named the machine after its inventor, Joseph Marie Jacquard. Originally, weaving sequences of the machine were stored in a series of punch cards, but now, a computer program can run the entire weaving process.

The computer program directs most of the weaving and produces available high-quality tapestries. Because Jacquard weaving is easier and more precise, Jacquard machines can make very complex designs. They mostly hang such on walls as decorative pieces.

Uses of Tapestry

Over the years, there have been many uses of Tapestry. In ancient times, royals and noblemen used them for insulation and documentation for royalty; people use them differently these days. Some modern uses of Tapestry include:

Decorative Pieces

Creative home designers use tapestries as decorative pieces at home to separate rooms or cover blank walls. Creative use of tapestry can give a home a comfortable and stylish look.

If used correctly, they can give your room a new dimension. Vertical tapestries can heighten a wall, while horizontal tapestries can make a room look wider. You can use several smaller pieces to fill a blank wall and make it the room’s focal point. The possibilities are endless.

Furniture Covers

Carpenters use tapestries to cover different furniture. Sofas, tables, chair backs, and even headboards of beds are some examples. Tapestries give this furniture a unique feel about them.

Draping tapestries over old furniture can give them new life and a bust of color, and it might also make a piece the focal point of the room.


Textile manufacturers use tapestries as bedspreads, throw pillows, and blankets, which give your bedroom an elegant look. 

How to Care for Tapestries

The best way to protect your tapestries is to limit how much you wash them. Many have found that dusting down the tapestry and occasionally vacuuming it does the trick; it is possible to keep a tapestry for many years with dusting. 

If the need to wash the fabric arises, use a professional dry cleaner with experience cleaning tapestries. If that is impossible, then observe the following precautions while washing tapestry:

Avoid washing tapestry in a washing machine as it would cause discoloration. Handwash your tapestry with cold water, and you can also spot clean the jacket with a piece of cloth and some mild detergent.

Do not use a dryer to dry tapestry; instead, hang to dry on a sturdy cloth line. Keep tapestries away from direct sunlight to prevent them from fading. If the room where the tapestry is not in use, close all curtains.

The only exception is tapestry; you can throw blankets in cold water. After which, dry out in a dryer under low heat.

Tapestries absorb the odor, so be careful about the smell you have around them. Keep foul odors away; otherwise, your tapestry will smell funny. On the other hand, spritz the blanket and the area with fresheners and perfumes to give the fabric a pleasant smell.

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