The Story
The Tapestries
First chapter




In the 14th and 15th centuries, tapestries were woven primarily in the north of France and in present-day Flanders. Centers included Tournai, Arras, Lille, Bruges, Brussels, Ghent, Aubasson, and Oudnaarde. Tapestry workshops were typically run by a master weaver called the lissier or tapissier, who handled commissions, materials, and the hiring of workers. Under him were journeyman weavers and apprentices, as well as members of the lissier’s family.

Having a tapestry woven required several steps and input from various people:

1. Patron decides to have tapestry made and what subject matter will be
2. Designer makes preliminary sketches in form of small paintings
3. Cartoonist makes full-scale drawings/paintings on linen or paper
4. Master weaver calculates materials needed and orders dyed wool, silk, gold thread
5. Workers set up loom and attach warp threads
6. Weavers weave, following cartoon

A few technical terms:

warp – thick wool threads stretched across the loom in even rows, through which weft threads are woven

weftthin, colored threads made of wool and/or silk woven in and out of weft threads to follow the pattern of a design

dovetailing – two weft-colored threads passed around the same warp thread to interweave colors

interlocking – more complicated version of dovetailing that weaves two colors together without creating a slit

hachure (also called hatching) – strokes of lighter-colored wool penetrating darker colors, and vice versa, to create shading effects and to suggest a wider color range. “The skillful hatching of one tone into another not only gave the impression of a varied palette but also enhanced the texture of the tapestry to give it a more three-dimensional quality” (Linda Woolley, 2002).