What Is The Difference Between Tapestry And Weaving?

Humans have been creating beautiful and functional textiles for ages. However, you may have difficulty discerning a tapestry versus a weaving. It is understandable why some people may confuse the two as they are closely related but have distinct differences. We scoured various sources to understand how tapestry and weaving compare, so read on to learn more.

Tapestry and weaving are both textile arts. Weaving is a method used to create a textile, whereas a tapestry is a more artful, picturesque textile created using traditional weaving techniques. Weaving often requires a loom and consists of interlacing thread or yarn to develop fabric or cloth. A tapestry is made using the weft and warp threads of weaving, but the warp threads are hidden from view in the completed work.

To clear up any lingering confusion about tapestries compared to weaving, we will discuss more at length in this article. Please read on to discover the rich history of textile creation for practicality and art's sake.

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Detail of a female silk carpet weaver, knotting and weaving for crafts, What Is The Difference Between Tapestry And Weaving?

A Rich History of Textiles

Human civilization has shown its progress and development through the creation and preservation of textile arts. Following the domestication of animals, plants, and the land, humans learned how to take fibers to make fabric, clothing, baskets, and artistic objects. Using looms, knitting needles, crocheting, and hand weaving techniques, artisans have made remarkable objects. The textile arts allow people to create and enjoy both functional and visually stunning rugs, clothing, lace, and other artifacts.

Weaving has been practiced by humanity since 12,000 years ago during the Neolithic age. Ancient humans found ways to interlock plant fibers or animal hairs into structures for their housing, baskets, shoes, and other useful objects. Materials would be gathered, spun into yarns or threads, dyed, and woven on looms or with other tools. Today, many modern-day weavers still rely on natural fibers spun from cotton, wool, silk, or linen.

The Art of Weaving

Using a loom, weavers can create an intricate tapestry depicting everyday life, historical events, or figures using threads or yarns. An artisan will take threads and run the weft on the loom vertically. The warp threads run horizontally and are placed so they fall in between the weft. A shuttle is used to weave the warp threads between the shed, which is the space between the weft threads. A shed stick is a helpful tool to open the distance between the weft and makes weaving faster.

Textiles can be woven using a loom and various techniques, including but not limited to Twill weave, Shag weave, Rya knots, and Plain weave. Other forms of weaving together fibers to make clothing, blankets, and rugs include crocheting, knitting, and tatting for lace making.

The Majestic Tapestry

Tapestries are typically heavy, displayed with care, and depict elaborate scenes. It's no surprise that the word tapestry comes from Old French, tappiser, meaning 'to cover with heavy fabric,' 'carpet.' Tapestries were commissioned by expert weavers for royalty, churches, and were used since the Hellenistic age. During the 14th and 15th century France was an epicenter of weaving and the creation of tapestries in Europe.  Beyond the Middle Ages of Europe, varying methods of making tapestries have been resurrected and used as contemporary art forms worldwide.

One beautiful art object and tapestry reflective of the high art of weaving is "The Adoration of the Magi" by Edward-Burne Jones. The tapestry depicts the Christian religious scene of the three Magi from afar bearing gifts to baby Jesus, and this rich piece is illustrated using wool and silk fibers.

What Material is Used for Tapestry?

A weaver will use fibers that are made from natural or synthetic fibers to create a tapestry. Popular fiber choices include wool or cotton, but some weavers may use silk, gold, bamboo, or silver fibers to complete their work. Wool is a welcome choice because it is forgiving, and pearl cotton achieves desirable results too. Inexpensive, synthetic fibers like rayon or nylon may also be used to weave tapestries.

Check out this thread for a loom on Amazon.

Check out this yarn needle set on Amazon.

What is the Best Yarn for Tapestry Weaving?

Enjoy beautiful results with worsted wool to weave a tapestry. Worsted wool fibers are a desirable choice because it doesn't have a lot of elasticity or bounce, and it wears well over time. Cotton fibers are admirable for their softness and absorbency, but for a heavy-weight tapestry, you want to work with wool threads.

Check out this worsted wool yarn on Amazon.

Check out this elegant worsted wool yarn on Amazon.

Check out this durable warp thread on Amazon.

How Long Does it Take to Make a Tapestry?

Significantly large tapestries can take months or years to finish, even when in the hands of a professional, skilled weaver. If a weaver were to work at their loom for 35 to 40 hours a week, they would weave 1 square meter each month labored.  A small contemporary tapestry woven on a basic loom, using simple techniques, might take a month or less to create. A tapestry is no small feat and is a labor-intensive process that requires planning and sustained effort.

Check out this small weaving loom on Amazon.

Check out this shed stick on Amazon.

How Do You Finish A Tapestry Weaving?

When you are finally ready to finish your tapestry weaving, you need to know how to finish it for a polished look. Depending on the type of loom you used, whether it is a notched frame or simple frame, will determine how to end your tapestry.

  1. Take a tapestry needle and use it to weave in any loose threads, so they are at the back of your weave. Make sure to tuck in threads and trim off any excess.
  2. Check the front of your weave periodically to make sure you are not unintentionally creating bumps or changing the tension or pattern.
  3. Cut the warp threads at the top of your tapestry if using a simple loom and tie the warp threads together. Carefully weave the threads into the back of your work.
  4. Repeat step 3 at the bottom of your loom with the warp threads.
  5. If using a notch loom, carefully lift the warp threads off the loom at the top and bottom. Slip a wood dowel or natural stick to hang your work through the loops at the top and bottom.
  6. If using a simple loom, you can use a hemstitch to finish your work and attach your tapestry to a hanger.

Is Knitting The Same as Weaving?

Knitting is similar to weaving but not the same. Whereas weaving requires interlocking multiple threads running horizontally (the warp) between threads running vertically (the weft), knitting uses one or two yarns. Using a pair of knitting needles or four double-pointed needles, knitters can take a single skein of yarn to create cloth, a scarf, or a hat. Some projects require multiple yarns to achieve a specific pattern or finished article, but it is done so with interlocking loops or stitches, not a loom and shuttle.

Check out this knitting needle set on Amazon.

Summary

Weaving is an ancient technique of moving fibers up and down and in-between other fibers or threads to create a textile. Many established weaving techniques are used to make carpets, rugs, or bolts of cloth for clothing on a loom. Other weaving techniques may use interlocking loops to create textiles, such as knitting or crocheting. A tapestry is a type of high-art weaving created on a loom using multiple natural or synthetic fibers, a shuttle, and a shed stick. Tapestries are incredibly time-consuming to design and construct, even when made by expert weavers.

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