Susanna and the Elders. Tapestry, Tournai,  Belgium, c. 1500. Susanna and the Elders. Tapestry, Tournai, Belgium, c. 1500. Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK, acc. no. 546-1872.

Tapestry is a heavy, handwoven cloth with designs made by separate weft threads that interweave only with the warp when required for the pattern. The binding is usually tabby and weft-faced, and the weft threads are usually of different colours. As most tapestries are woven on looms without a beater, the wefts do not have to lie strictly at right angles to the warp threads. Instead they may follow the contours of the design much more freely.

Tapestry weaves of various types can be found throughout the world and some date back thousands of years. They were very popular in the Middle East and examples have been found at Qatna (Syria) and in the tomb of Tutankhamun. The latter exampole dates back to the fourteenth century BC.

Tapestry weave textiles can also be found in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America, but surviving examples tend to be of a later date than the Middle Eastern ones.

Tapestry is a term also sometimes used for counted thread embroidery.


  • BURNHAM, Dorothy (1980). Warp and Weft. A Textile Technology, Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum, p. 144.
  • TORTORA, Phyllis G. and Ingrid JOHNSON (2014), The Fairchild Books: Dictionary of Textiles, London: Bloomsbury, p. 609.

V&A online catalogue (retrieved 8th June 2016).


Last modified on Sunday, 30 April 2017 18:43
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