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Heirloom Custom Tapestry Weaving

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


Commissioning a Custom piece

Heirloom Tapestries have built a reputation over decades for creating the finest hand-woven custom tapestries. Commissions range from family coat of arms for private clients to large and complex designs of fascinating diversity for corporate, leisure and hospitality. We are fortunate to work with a wide range of discerning clients and professionals including interior designers, museums and film producers.

Dimensions usually start from around 3' by 5' and go up to huge sizes; the beauty of hand-weaving is the ability to create vast masterpieces. Prices start from around $2,500 for a small tapestry and the lead time usually ranges from around 4 - 12 months depending on complexity, size and quantity.

Commissioning a custom woven tapestry is an exciting and fulfilling experience. Seeing your design come to life as an extremely beautiful decorative wall-hanging is very rewarding. Inspiration for a custom tapestry can be an exact copy of a painting, a family coat of arms, an existing tapestry or maybe an artist generated artwork designed specifically for the purpose of hand-weaving - the possibilities are endless!

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: [email protected] to discuss your project in detail.



Working with you

Heirloom Tapestries is ready to receive your brief, and will be happy to guide you or your interior decorator in realising the best way to achieve your goal. We will discuss the design and yarn colors, and advise 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, 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 life size 'cartoon' drawn by hand, by expert artists with years of experience. These 'cartoons' hold a vast amount of detail for the weavers including color and thread references.

'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 depending on complexity and size.



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’, this will be used for continual reference throughout the weaving phase of the project. When the weavers have the 'pom' cards with the yarn references along side the hand-drawn 'cartoon' work can commence to weave a small sample for approval.

Once acceptance of the small woven sample has been received, the weaving will begin. This will typically involve at least three skilled weavers, working on a ‘low-warp’ (horizontal) loom, who will work tirelessly to create the custom tapestry from scratch. The techniques used are very similar indeed to those utilised in the production of the Originals since the fourteenth century, at renowned tapestry weaving centres such as Aubusson in France and also the Flemish cities of Arras, Tournai and Brussels, and which have been perpetuated for over five centuries.

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. 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.



Project Portfolio

With many projects successfully 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. Reach out to Duncan today with your custom tapestry inquiry by emailing [email protected].  

With many projects based from all around the USA and globally, Heirloom Tapestries has the knowledge and expertise to deliver.