Tapestry Weave – Structure, Properties, Uses & Types

Learn all about tapestry weave. I was walking through a museum years ago when my eyes caught sight of an amazing piece of art. It sure did look like a fabric painting from a distance, but on a closer look, I was almost convinced that it was embroidery. Guess what? It was neither a painting nor an embroidery. “That’s a tapestry”, said the tour guide as he pointed to the sign under it. I immediately became fascinated by this beautiful piece of art and can’t wait to tell you all I’ve learned about it since that day. Ready to find out? Let’s get started then!

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Tapestry Weave

What Is Tapestry Weave?

Tapestry weave is a form of traditional textile art that is handwoven on a loom. It is woven with a variety of colored weft (horizontal) yarn, interlaced with the warp (vertical) to form a creative pattern. The tapestry weave is usually fragile and unbalanced with a weft covering several warps. This weave is unique as a result of its simplicity. It is not restricted to colors or patterns. This feature enhances its quality as the result of every tapestry weaving is a detailed piece of art. If you are wondering where it originated from or what it is used for, keep reading.

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History Of Tapestry Weave

The origin of tapestry weave dates back hundreds of years ago. This weave is a familiar piece of art to a lot of people and cultures. Its origin can be traced back to the Egyptians and Incas who used tapestry-woven clothes to bury their dead. However, this incredible craft was brought to light by the French medieval weavers.

Eventually, tapestry weave was recognized by the 13th and 14th-century churches, which used these pieces to teach Bible stories to their illiterate congregation. The oldest piece of tapestry is the Apocalypses of St. Mary’s. John. Tapestry also became a scale for measuring class in the middle ages as kings would carry them from tent to tent and exchange them as a victory prize when a war is won.

As tapestry became popular from the 13th century, these weaves became a useful craft. Fathers passed it down to their sons, and factories were built for the production of tapestry. One of the most popular tapestry weave factories is the LES GOBELINS. It was constructed under the reign of Louis XIV.

Tapestry weave saw a wave of change during and after the French Revolution. While a lot of factories were burnt down, there were positive advancements too. One of these was the invention of the Jacquard Mechanical Loom. This invention paved the way for tapestry production in bulk, making it available to a wide range of consumers. The invention of the Jacquard Mechanical Loom forms the basis of modern tapestry techniques.

Types of Tapestry Weave

There are basically 4 types of tapestry weaves. Read on to learn more about the types and which is easiest for you to learn as a beginner.

  • Single Weft Tapestry: With its name, you can already tell it’s simple to make. Single weft tapestry is the simplest of all types of tapestries. It is done with single wefts, interchanging between the front and back of the weave, to produce a design with the same number of colors and the same number of different weft yarns.
  • Two Weft Tapestry: This type of tapestry is a little more technical than a single weft tapestry. In this case, 2 weft picks of different colors are required to complete a horizontal row. In addition, the warps are more regular, allowing the wefts to glide both in front and behind the design.
  • Three Weft Tapestry: Love to work with colors? Then a three-weft tapestry is just perfect for you. To make a horizontal row design, you’ll need 3 weft yarns of different colors. While weaving, one yarn stays on the front side, while the other two are displayed behind. This process is irreversible; you will have to follow through till the end.
  • Combined Warp And Weft Tapestry: In making a combined warp and weft tapestry, more warp and weft yarns are required. This increases the diversity of the pattern. When weaving, 3-5 figuring warps of different colors are combined with 2 sequels of different colored wefts. While the wefts are crusty, the warps are delicate and impressive, with a stitching ratio of 1 stitch to 3 figuring warps and 1 stitch to 2 figuring wefts.

Now that you know a thing or two about all 4 types of tapestries, feel free to pick a yarn and start practicing.

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Tapestry Weave

Uses of Tapestry Weave

Tapestry weave has proved its importance in the past and in modern times. Before now, it was used mainly as insulation for castles, and artworks on the walls. In modern times, this weave has proven to be quite versatile. Today, a tapestry weave is highly useful in making the following:

  1. Furniture covers
  2. Wall hangings
  3. Bed coverings
  4. Decorative artwork
  5. Tote bags and purses
  6. Table covers
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Tapestry Weave

Making Tapestry Weave

Tapestry weaving is a hand-manipulated technique that involves working with one or more discontinuous weft threads, irregularly passing through the warp to build up rows.

To begin making a tapestry weave, place your vertical thread known as warp, and the horizontal thread known as weft on a loom in vertical and horizontal patterns, respectively. When that’s done, repeat the stop-start pattern as you weave the weft threads under the warp thread, squishing down the weft threads so they’ll all be closely knitted. This process will help to hide the warp from view. Once this is done, you’re ready to be a weaver!

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Tapestry Weave

Challenges of Tapestry Weave

Beautiful when it’s done, the tapestry weave has a handful of challenges. Here is a list of challenges associated with tapestry weaving:

  • Before now, the process of tapestry weaving could only be done by hand. However, that has changed to some extent with the invention of modern weaving technologies.
  • The stop-start patterns of weaving make it a lengthy process.
  • A tapestry is not complete until the loose ends at the back are secured to prevent it from unraveling.

Tapestry And Fashion

Ever seen a runway show and wondered what fabric the models were wearing? Well, It might just be a tapestry. As one of the older forms of woven textile, tapestry weave has gradually gained ground in the fashion scene. You probably have admired one of these fashion pieces on the runway and not even realized what it’s made with. This woven textile has been used to make tunics, dresses, jackets, and blouses. Leading fashion brands have incorporated it into their collections with mixed success.

Modern Day Tapestry

Modern-day tapestry weave owes much of its relevance to the Art and Craft Movement headed by Williams Morris in England. This movement revived many of the old crafts and creative energy lost during the French Revolution. Today, most tapestries are reproductions of originals in the museum rather than hand woven.

For the love of comfort and efficiency, tapestry today is taking to modern technologies. New techniques and processes have been invented to help relieve the stress of long hand-weaving processes. In addition, materials for tapestry are now easily accessible. Hence, weavers use this advantage to make beautiful art pieces far from what were typically viewed as tapestry. These inventions have made beautiful tapestry pieces more affordable than they once were.

Maintaining Tapestry Weave

Not that anyone does, but if you don’t find much joy regularly cleaning, owning a piece made with tapestry weave is probably one of the best things that could happen.

Maintaining a tapestry weave requires little or no effort at all. To clean it, you’ll need to gently dust off the piece with a soft cloth. Never put a tapestry weave under direct sunlight. If you want to maintain its color and prevent shrinkage, that advice is invaluable.

If you must iron, place a bed sheet or any dye-free cloth over it and iron with low or medium heat. To clean a fashion piece made of tapestry, it is advisable to take your clothes to a dry cleaner with cleaning tapestry experience.

What is Tapestry Weave – In Conclusion

When you buy a piece of art or a fashion piece made with tapestry weave, you can’t help but be captivated by its beauty and uniqueness. This craft has stood the test of historic time and remains one of the oldest surviving forms of woven textile. Its rich history and growth over the years mean it scores extra points for durability and quality. All that uniqueness aside, a tapestry is fragile and quite difficult to make. This is why many historical tapestry pieces are often hung vertically to protect them.

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