How to Make Medieval Tapestry

Written by donna g. morton
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How to Make Medieval Tapestry
Massive, luxurious tapestry often lined castle walls during the Middle Ages. (Word/Publisher free clipart/photos)

One of the oldest forms of textile art, tapestry signified nobility during the Middle Ages and was a popular artist choice in castles and other wealthy homes. To add tapestry to your own castle, the following information will help you understand the characteristics of medieval tapestry and what is needed to fashion it.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Loom or frame
  • Yarn
  • Tapestry needles
  • Wooden bobbins
  • Cotton
  • Pattern (Cartoon)

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  1. 1

    Learn to weave if you aren't familiar with the art. Authentic tapestry is woven and medieval tapestry was created solely by that method, according to craftsman and medieval expert Nick Turner of Christchurch, New Zealand. Weavers produce their work on frames or looms, both available in different sizes and models.

  2. 2

    Know what pictures represent medieval times, when tapestry was often used in religious education and for storytelling. Biblical accounts, royalty, court life, peasants, hunts, tournaments and unicorns are conventional scenes on medieval tapestry. Allegory, the use of people, objects or symbols to teach human truths are also characteristic of medieval tapestry.

  3. 3

    Choose or create a drawing, called a cartoon, of the picture to be woven into your tapestry. It will be used as a guide when you begin weaving. Whether making a large wall tapestry or a small one for a cushion, the cartoon should be drawn on paper to actual size. Cartoons can also be found online and in craft or yarn stores.

    Making the Tapestry

  1. 1

    Warp your loom or frame. Made from vertical yarn strands, the warp helps form the tapestry's foundation. Attach one end of each strand to the loom or frame and wrap the yarn around it. Strands should be firm and evenly spaced. Cotton yarn is recommended because it resists stretching due to temperature changes The colours in your warp should complement the colours in your weft, which is the yarn drawn horizontally over and under the warp to make your picture. Whether your tapestry will showcase a single knight or depict a royal battle, including gold colour will add opulence familiar in medieval tapestry.

  2. 2

    Place the medieval cartoon behind the warp threads or trace it onto the warp threads using a permanent marker.

  3. 3

    Using a strip of cotton, thread a header through the warp threads to align the warp into place.

  4. 4

    Using weaving needles and bobbins to keep the weft yarn wound and stored while you work, begin weaving by drawing your weft yarn between the first and second warp threads in an over-and-under direction. Draw upward first and do not pull the weft too tightly.

  5. 5

    After placing a full row of colour, beat it into place using a tapestry beater. Continue to the next row of colour, weaving and beating the yarn into place until the whole picture is completed.

    Finishing the Job

  1. 1

    Beat the cotton into place. This holds warp ends in place as you remove the tapestry from the loom or frame.

  2. 2

    Gently remove the cotton and knot the warp ends.Your medieval tapestry is completed.

  3. 3

    If hanging your work, add a rod pocket to the back top of the tapestry and insert a rod. Add decorative finials to each end of the rod, choosing ones that complement your medieval theme. Finally, attach tassels to the rod for a truly classic look.

Tips and warnings

  • If you're unconcerned about following traditional craftsmanship, a medieval wall hanging, cloth picture or pillow can be made using the standard tools, fabrics and stitches of cross-stitch, embroidery or needlepoint. Kits including canvas with pre-printed medieval patterns are also available.
  • Weaving tapestry can be labour-intense, so if you've never explored the art, self-teaching while trying to create a personal medieval masterpiece could be frustrating. Books, videos and classes on weaving will help you become comfortable with the process.

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