Learn about this thousand-year-old crochet technique that allows you to create state-of-the-art fabric patterns
Tapestry is one of the oldest forms of textile weaving. It has been used to create almost everything from tunics to purses, table clothes to upholstery, and even some of the world’s greatest pieces of textile art.
In general, tapestry refers to a weaving structure that uses discontinuous weft to create an image on the fabric and is always done by hand. It’s a crochet technique that allows you to weave drawings, geometric or not, based on a pattern that follows a grid of different colors, similar to what we would do if we were to draw an image pixel by pixel.
A brief history
This technique is believed to have started in the second half of the 14th century and continued to develop until the end of the 18th century. During this time, tapestry was exclusively for the elite: it was used to decorate private and public spaces with stories from the bible and mythology, although it also served to represent fashionable life. It’s said that Henry VIII had 2,000 tapestries hung up in his various palaces.
Today, tapestry is open to the masses and its applications are more everyday than ever. We can use it to make all kinds of decorative and functional objects and accessories, as well as to personalize pieces to give them their own character.
Textile artists continue to explore and redefine tapestry with new materials and styles. Although technology has meant machines can now weave mechanically, many weavers continue to share and use traditional hand weaving methods.
Materials and techniques to start in tapestry
Wool or cotton are the main materials that are usually used for both warp and west threads in tapestry. They are easy to find and dye and are flexible and resident, perfect for weaving.
Sometimes silk threads are used for details or to add depth to a design and, on occasion, metal threads can be used depending on the design and finish you want to achieve.
The main technique usually followed to create a tapestry involves weaving threads with a colored weft through smooth warp threads. The warp threads are then stretched on a loom and act as a grid that functions as a pattern with colored weft threads. In this way, textile artists build color blocks to create an image.
It's important that, while weaving, the weft threads conceal the warp, so that the textile piece is visible both on the front and on the back.
If you want to learn more about how to start making tapestry, multidisciplinary artist Ángela Cayero (Poetryarn) teaches the course Introduction to Tapestry, an excellent option to learn the basics of weaving, modern pattern design, and to create unique pieces with this traditional method.
You may also be interested in:
- Design and Composition of Textile Patterns, a course by la casita de wendy
- Embroidery and Accessories Customization, a course by Josefina Allendes
- Creative Embroidery: The Stitch Revolution, a course by Trini Guzmán (holaleon)