Medieval Tapestry Weaving Stitches

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Gobelin tapestry is first of all a technique. It differs from other forms of patterned weaving in that no weft threads are carried the full width of the fabric web, except by an occasional accident of design. Each unit of the pattern or the background is woven with a weft, or thread of the required colour, that is inserted back and forth only over the section where that colour appears in the design or cartoon. As in the weaving of plain cloth, the weft threads pass over and under the warp threads alternately and on the return go under where before it was over and vice versa. Each passage is called a pick, and when completed the wefts are pushed tightly together by various devices (awl, reed, batten, comb, or serrated fingernails). The weft threads so outnumber the warps that they conceal them completely. The warps in a finished tapestry appear only as more or less marked parallel ridges in the texture, or grain of the fabric, according to their coarseness or fineness. The thickness of the warp influences the thickness of the tapestry fabric. These fine grains make the fabric very flat and regular, tending to imitate the canvas of a painting.

Alongside the plain-cloth method of weaving usually used in making tapestries, a twill technique appeared in medieval Persia and in the 17th century. In this type of weave the weft is floated over two or more warps, then under one or more warps, with this underpassage shifting always one to the right or left, thereby making a diagonal ribbing.

In Western tapestry the medieval cartoon, or preparatory drawing, was usually traced and coloured by a painter on a canvas the size of the tapestry to be woven. At the end of the 15th century the weaver probably wove directly from a model, such as a painting, and consequently copied not a diagrammatic pattern but the original finished work of the painter. At the beginning of the 17th century there arose a clear distinction between the model and the cartoon. The model was the original reference on which the cartoon was based. Cartoons were rapidly and freely used and were often copied.

In the 20th century other solutions have been adopted. The cartoon may be a photographic enlargement of a fully painted model or, more simply, a numbered diagrammatic drawing. The grain of 20th-century tapestry approximates that used in 14th- and 15th-century tapestry.

Our tapestry designers use the method where each symbol on the diagram corresponds to a precise colour and each model has its own range of colours.


The fabric should be stretched evenly on a tapestry frame or with drawing pins on a wooden frame. The frame should be the same size as the fabric to keep it in shape.

Bind edges of fabric with masking tape before you start to work.

Every kit is provided with a wide range of coloured yarns in sufficient quantities to create a beautiful piece of needlework. Each needful must be used completely. If other stitches are used, you may not have enough yarn to complete the design.

As a rule you should use only two strands. There are indications on the diagram when you should use three. You must separate the yarn.
No knots are used in needlepoint. To start first strand,  hold short end of yarn at back and work over this yarn length for several stitches. To end or begin new strands, weave yarn into wrong side of stitches previously worked.

If the yarn becomes twisted while working, drop needle and allow yarn to resume natural twist. Work with light, even tension so stitches lay evenly and cover fabric well.
It is advisable to start with darker shades in order to protect your work.

As you work, refer to the colour photograph as well as the instructions.

The lines of the fabric are a guide to make the design easier and more enjoyable to work.
Work each stitch following step-by-step diagrams. Match the yarn colours to the signs printed both on the colour card and the diagram.
You should not wash the tapestry when finished. You can use a special cleaning substance to clean it - such as dry cleaning fluid. The tapestry does not need ironing either.
There are two ways to sew your tapestry. The Classic point is mainly used to sew the gobelin tapestry (fig.1).

Fig. 1 (A)

When you have a larger size tapestry  you must use the Square point (fig.2) to ease your work. In such cases you will use the classic point to sew faces, hands and legs of the figures, and, the Square point to complete the rest of the design. It will be indicated when to do this on the diagram.

Fig. 2 (B)

The letters “A” and “B” indicates the very points. As you can see - one Square point is made out of two stitches that pass over two strands of fabric. One Square point is the equivalent of four Classic points sewn as a square (fig. 3).

Fig. 3

Choose the frame for your tapestry carefully taking into account the tapestry, its colours and the colour scheme in your own home.

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