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Heirloom Custom Tapestry Weaving

Discover the process behind hand-weaving custom tapestries with Heirloom Tapestries


Commissioning a Custom piece

There are many reasons to commission a custom hand-woven tapestry with Heirloom Tapestries.  You may have a filmset, government building or hotel entrance lobby with a specific size space to fill with a specific subject.  You may wish to substitute an invaluable tapestry of museum quality with a replica to preserve the orignal.  Or, like a great deal of our projects to date, you may just have a passion for exquisite hand-made luxury items and wish to furnish your home with the best tapestry money can buy!

Commissioning a custom woven tapestry is an exciting and fulfilling experience.  Seeing your design come to life as an extremely beautiful decorative wall-hanging that will last for generations to come is very rewarding indeed.  Inspiration for a custom tapestry can be an exact copy of a painting or existing tapestry or maybe a computer or artist generated artwork designed specifically for the purpose of hand-weaving.

Project Concept

Heirloom Tapestries often receives commissions from clients internationally with inspiration from a wide variety of concepts. Understandably, this is an area which is quite subjective, with ideas stemming from original tapestries or from personal or business-related themes. The concept may be a family Coat of Arms or to commemorate an historical event which means much to the client, or to weave a tapestry to furnish an important wall in a public building, hotel or private residence.

Every commission is different from the one before. Good quality origination is a great help for the artists who work on the original ‘maquette’ (Fr) before weaving can begin, and promises well for a finely woven tapestry. Our project Manager, Duncan Robertson, will be delighted to work closely with you to achieve a handwoven tapestry in the fulfilment of your dreams. Contact Duncan at: duncan@heirloomtapestries.com to discuss your project in detail.




Heirloom Tapestries is ready to receive your instructions and will be happy to guide you or your interior decorator, as client, in realising the best way to achieve your goal by discussing the design and choosing yarn colors, and advising in the use of wool and silk in the weaving process.

Experience has taught us that it is very important to maintain this close collaboration from concept to final delivery of your work of art. This is the service you can expect from Heirloom Tapestries. We will also liaise closely with the weavers and relay your instructions in a manner understood by those that are skilled in this wonderful art.

Tapestry 'Cartoons'

From the original design supplied to Heirloom custom weaving team, (a high resolution professional photograph for example) the designers will create the artwork which is known as the 'cartoon'.  It is from this artwork that the weavers will weave the tapestry.  Each custom project has a full size 'cartoon' drawn by hand by expert artists with years of experience.  These 'cartoons' hold a vast amount of detail for the weavers with color and thread references in addition to the design layout itself being noted aginst every weaving area by number.

'Cartoons' are very detailed sketches, numbered with the individual shades of yarn as derived from study of the photographs of the original. This origination stage is expected to take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months to complete being very skilled work. 



Weaving Set up & Samples

Once the color range has been selected by the designers as closely as possible to the original, tufts of these yarns will then be assembled on a card known as a ‘pom’ for continual reference throughout the weaving phase of the project.  Once the weavers have 'pom' cards with the yarn references along side the hand-drawn 'cartoon' work can comence to weave a small sample for approval.

Once acceptance of the small woven sample has been received, the weaving will commence.  This will typically involve at least three skilled weavers, working on a ‘low-warp’ (horizontal) loom, who will work tirelessly for many weeks to actually create the custom tapestry from scratch.  The techniques used are very similar indeed to those employed in the production of the Originals since the fourteenth century, at renowned tapestry-weaving centres such as Aubusson in France, and which have been perpetuated for over five centuries. The loom itself is wooden-framed and entirely operated by hand.

Main Weaving Phase

The loom is set up with the artwork immediately beneath the warp threads, so that the weavers can see the identifying numbers of the yarns to be used throughout the width of the loom.  The artwork will actually be a ‘mirror-image’ of the original tapestry, due to the fact that as the tapestry is woven from the back, the front side actually comes out the correct way round. The tasks of the weavers include the mounting of the warp threads and the setting of correct tensions on the loom.

The creation of the design involves innumerable passes of the different colored yarns in front and behind the warp threads which they entirely cover.  These woollen yarns are carried on small palmsized bobbins on which they are wound.  There are approximately five hundred stitches per square inch, or seventy-two thousand per square foot.  The mechanism which produces the separation of the alternate warp threads to make the ‘shed’, through which the bobbin is passed, is operated by foot pedals.  These are controlled by the weavers, whilst passing the bobbins, and compacting the stitches with a weaver’s comb.  Each color change in the weft yarns necessitates the hand-knotting of the yarns at the back of the tapestry.



Project Portfolio

With many projects sucessfully completed, it is important to Heirloom that photos and descriptions are collected to form a portfolio of projects for future customers to browse and enjoy.  Click on the link below to view a small selection of case studies with background information, the brief details, design specifics, product features and in some cases customer testimonials.

Such case studies feature projects completed for commercial applications such as hotel and conference venues as well as tapestries woven for private customers to hang in their homes and offices.  The applications for tapestries are wide and varied, where there is a wall there is an opportunity for a decorative tapestry commission.  Heirloom have woven custom tapestries starting at 3' x 9' with larger sizes reaching as big as 10' x 20' but there is no limit to the size that we undertake!

Contact Heirloom

A custom tapestry can take several months to design and weave depending on the size and complexity of the design.  When the tapestry is finally completed, it is ‘cut’ from the loom and the edges are bound over to finish the tapestry neatly.

Heirloom's custom expert, Duncan Robertson, has many years of experience in handweaving tapestries right from the concept to the completion and welcomes new inquiries. Reach out to Duncan today with your custom tapestry inquiry by emailing duncan@heirloomtapestries.com.  

From contemporary and colorful custom tapestry projects to famous Museum replica weavings to replace priceless originals, Duncan has years of experience.  With projects based from the east in New York to the west in San Fransisco Heirloom is well placed to work with you as a custom expert of choice.  Many other projects have also been completed in England and Europe.

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