Tapestry is a form of textile art, woven on a vertical loom. It is composed of two sets of interlaced threads, those running parallel to the length (called the warp) and those parallel to the width (called the weft); the warp threads are set up under tension on a loom, and the weft thread is passed back and forth across part or all of the warps. Tapestry is weft-faced weaving, in which all the warp threads are hidden in the completed work, unlike cloth weaving where both the warp and the weft threads may be visible. In tapestry weaving, weft yarns are typically discontinuous; the artisan interlaces each colored weft back and forth in its own small pattern area. It is a plain weft-faced weave having weft threads of different colours worked over portions of the warp to form the design. Most weavers use a naturally based warp thread such as linen or cotton. The weft threads are usually wool or cotton, but may include silk, gold, silver, or other alternatives.
Tapestries have been used since at least Hellenistic times. Samples of Greek tapestry have been found preserved in the desert of Tarim Basin dating from the 3rd century BC. Tapestry reached a new stage in Europe in the early 14th century AD. The first wave of production originated in Germany and Switzerland. Over time, the craft expanded to France and the Netherlands. The basic tools have remained much the same since then. In the 14th and 15th centuries, Arras, France was a thriving textile town. The industry specialized in fine wool tapestries which were sold to decorate palaces and castles all over Europe. Few of these tapestries survived the French Revolution as hundreds were burnt to recover the gold thread that was often woven into them. Arras is still used to refer to a rich tapestry no matter where it was woven. By the 16th century, Flanders, the towns of Oudenaarde, Brussels, Geraardsbergen and Enghein had become the centre of European tapestry production. In the 17th century Flemish tapestries were arguably the most important productions, with many specimens of this era still extant, demonstrating the intricate detail of pattern and color. In the 19th century, William Morris resurrected the art of tapestry-making in the medieval style at Merton Abbey. Morris & Co. made successful series of tapestries for home and ecclesiastical uses, with figures based on cartoons by Edward Burne-Jones. Tapestries are still made at the factory of Gobelins and a few other old European workshops, which also repair and restore old tapestries. The craft is also currently practiced by hobbyist weavers.
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