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How to Make Medieval Tapestry

Imaginative Tips on How to Make Your Own Lavish Medieval Tapestry

Do you wish to have an exotic piece of Medieval European art in your living room? Then a tapestry is perhaps one of the best ideas. This article is about how to make a medieval tapestry. Read on to learn about the nuances of this art...
Mukulika Mukherjee
Last Updated: Mar 10, 2018
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The period between 500 AD to 1500 AD is known as the Middle Ages or the Medieval Period. This period in history witnessed great advancements in the fields of science, art and literature. In fact, many historians claim that it was the Middle Ages that laid the foundation for the Renaissance. During the Medieval period, art was patronized and this led to the birth of new forms of art. Tapestry, the art of weaving colorful fabric by hand, was one of them. Colorful threads were used to illustrate common themes of the era, such as battlefields, brave knights, dragons, unicorns and floral motifs. Initially, this art form was patronized by the Church, as tapestries were used to illustrate stories from the Bible and incidents from the life of Jesus. Gradually, it caught on with the masses, who had learned to appreciate its beauty.
Tapestry in the Medieval Times
There were several factors which contributed to the popularity of tapestry over other art forms of the period, including murals and frescoes. Not only did it serve decorative purposes, but the thick fabric of the tapestry also served as a layer of insulation that protected people living in stone buildings from the cold outside. Moreover, it was portable and easy to clean. The rich families of the Medieval era had the practice of carrying their collection of tapestries on journeys and gifting them to folks, in order to show off their wealth. The most famous tapestries from the Middle Ages include the Lady and Unicorn series and the Bayeux Tapestry. The Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the conquest of England by France, is around 230 ft long and only 1.6 ft wide. However, it cannot be called a tapestry in the real sense, as it is not woven but has been done using embroidery.
Every individual tapestry was a thick fabric, hand-woven on a jacquard loom using two basic thread types: warp thread and weft thread. The warp threads were stretched tightly across the loom, while the weft threads were woven by the craftsmen, over the framework of warp threads. A sketch of the picture to be woven, was placed behind the warp threads, to be used as a guidance and this was termed as the cartoon. Since the entire process was done by hand, it usually took a long time to complete the individual tapestries, some of which reached up to 10 meters in length. Because of this, tapestries were not readily available. Moreover, the use of weft threads made of silk and expensive metals such as gold and silver, made the process of tapestry making an expensive one, which only the rich could afford.
How You Can Make a Medieval Tapestry
If you wish to add a rich and dramatic touch to your living space, then medieval tapestries are the way to go. And if you are imaginative and love to try your hand at all things new, then you must try making one. Learning how to make tapestry wall hangings is sure to open new vistas to explore your creative skills and ideas. Before we go ahead with the steps to make a medieval tapestry, let us have a look at what all things you may require to make one.

Materials Required
  • Weaving frame or loom
  • Warp threads (white wool or linen)
  • Weft threads (colored wool) in different colors
  • A neat sketch or cartoon
  • Permanent marker
  • Scissors
  • Needle
Once you have the materials with you, just follow these few simple steps to get started.

Step 1: Preparing the Setup
You can choose a smaller design for your first tapestry and gradually move to bigger and more elaborate ones. You can either use a loom or a frame. Just take the warp thread and wind it on the loom tightly. Make sure that each segment of thread is fully stretched.

Step 2: Choosing the Design
Once the setup is ready, the next step is to choose a picture for the task at hand. You can use just any Medieval themed design or picture that you can lay your hands on. However, make sure that the picture is not too intricate, otherwise, it might get difficult for you to bring out all the fine detailing neatly on your tapestry.

Step 3: Inking the Design
Now that you have a design with you, place it just behind the framework of warp threads, in the same way as you would like it to appear on your tapestry. Use a pen with a fine tip, preferably a permanent marker, to slowly and carefully trace the outlines of the drawing on the warp threads. Make sure that the marks extend all around each thread to prevent them from disappearing in case the threads twist as you weave.

Step 4: Selecting the Weft Threads
The weft thread is made from wool and then dyed, to give it attractive shades. Carefully observe the design and note the use of colors in it. Then get threads in these colors. You can use golden threads to add that rich look and feel to your tapestry.

Step 5: Weaving
To start weaving, take a piece of weft thread and place it under a warp thread. Now pull it from under the first warp thread and over the second warp thread on the frame. Continue this way by drawing each weft thread under and over the warp threads, in an alternate zig-zag fashion. Make sure you don't weave too tightly. Once a row of color is done, move to the next row using thread of a different color. Continue to proceed in the same way. In case you make a mistake, use a needle to pull out the threads and start weaving again.

Step 6: Finishing the Tapestry
After you have finished weaving the entire picture, secure the ends of the threads with knots. Finally, cut off the excess threads from the sides, using scissors and beat the tapestry with a narrow stick for a tight weave. This adds the finishing touch to your Medieval tapestry.
So, this was a simple guide on how to make a Medieval tapestry. Hope you have fun trying this out. With practice, you can master the art of weaving more intricate designs in vibrant colors. Good luck!