Image: Flickr ssedroTapestry is arguably one of the oldest forms of needlework, with the traditional weaving of weft and warp threads at its peak in Europe between the 14th and 18th century. Large wall-hanging tapestries and bed covers were extremely desirable as a symbol of one’s wealth and status in society amongst the aristocracy – according to the Victoria and Albert Museum, King Henry VIII was believed to have owned over 2,000 tapestries.
Traditional tapestries were not only incredibly fashionable, but were also functional, excluding drafts and insulating rooms. Designs usually included scenes of a biblical or mythological nature, or represented a topical or political issue of the then present day designed to evoke discussions.
Due to the large size of a traditional tapestry, a commissioned piece would require a group of craftsmen to complete the wall covering, and was, for this reason, incredibly expensive. Automated looms producing reams of plain fabric at greater speeds for much lower costs only served to increase the price of hand-woven tapestry.
The end of the 18th century saw a decline in the demand for large wall coverings as wallpaper made an emergence, rendering wall-hangings of decorative wool and silk unnecessary. However, the invention of a more superior loom by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1805 that could create intricately detailed designs ensured that tapestry maintained its appeal and has managed to remain a popular art form to this day.needlepoint tapestry; usually consisting of a painted plastic canvas and tent stitches (half stitches) that cover the whole canvas. Needlepoint became popular at the beginning of the 19th century, and was known as Berlin Wool Work. Much like cross stitch kits of today, old needlepoint kits contained charts or trammed canvases, which consisted of horizontal stitches marking the areas of the canvas to be stitched. Modern printing technology eventually led to the needlepoint kits that we know and love today, with designs printed directly on to the canvas and relieving the stitcher of the need to count stitches.