How to Make Tapestries

Updated June 30, 2018

Tapestries can be woven on a loom or made using needlepoint techniques. The method detailed here uses needlepoint canvas and Gobelin needlepoint stitches to resemble a woven tapestry.

Choose the design for your tapestry. You can print a picture from the internet, purchase a pattern or printed canvas from a craft store or design your own.

Size the design to fit your canvas and desired size of your finished tapestry. Enlarge or reduce the design to the right size on your computer or a copy machine and print it onto graph paper.

Either paint your design on the canvas (the whole design or outlines), or chart it onto graph paper with each square representing one hole in the canvas that you follow as you work your stitches. You can trace the design by drawing over the outlines with a thick marker and placing the canvas over the paper, then trace the outlines or whole design with a pencil or special marker or acrylic paint.

Prepare your canvas by trimming it to the appropriate size if necessary (but leave a margin), then bind the edges with masking tape.

Prepare your yarn by cutting strands around 18 inches long in each of the colours you will be using, and sort the colours by looping them onto a piece of cardboard with holes punched along the side. This will prevent the yarns from tangling.

Hold your canvas on a frame, if you are using one, and thread your tapestry needle with the first colour yarn you are going to use.

Use Gobelin stitches to make the design. Straight Gobelin is worked by bringing the yarn from the back to the front of the canvas and stitching vertically by covering two canvas threads upwards, then threading the yarn through to the back again. Repeat the stitch moving from left to right and work in rows from top to bottom. There are no horizontal dimensions to the stitch--just straight vertical lines covering two horizontal canvas threads. Work the whole design onto the canvas in this manner.

Tape graph paper to a cork board, spray it with water and wait for it to dry and become taut.

Wet your finished needlepoint thoroughly with cold water and place it facedown on the paper.

Staple the needlepoint around the edges to the board on the margins of canvas, matching the corners to the squares on the graph paper and stretching it to the correct size as you go.

Allow the canvas to completely dry, then remove from the blocking board.


Don not make knots at the start of each thread, but leave a tail at the back of the work that you will cover with stitches as you work. Use an appropriate size of needle for the canvas so you do not distort the holes.


Use colour-fast, washable threads so that the colour does not bleed when you block the tapestry.

Things You'll Need

  • Needlepoint canvas
  • Needlepoint yarns
  • Scissors
  • Tapestry needle
  • Needlepoint hoop/frame (optional)
  • Graph paper
  • Masking tape
  • Cork board
  • Staple gun
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About the Author

A writer of diverse interests, Joanne Thomas has penned pieces about road trips for Hyundai, children's craft projects for Disney and wine cocktails for Robert Mondavi. She has lived on three continents and currently resides in Los Angeles, where she is co-owner and editor of a weekly newspaper. Thomas holds a BSc in politics from the University of Bristol, England.