Tapestry finishing

Tapestry finishing refers to the important task of making a woven tapestry into a wall-hanging. Our European weavers produce tapestries on their tapestry looms, these being the all-important design on the front which you admire. However, at this stage they have no backing: they are simply a raw piece of fabric with rough edges (the selvedge), beautiful but not functional. To be enjoyed as a tapestry wall-hanging this fabric needs a backing added to it by seamstresses.

Tapestry finishing - making a woven tapestry into a wall-hangingThe backing has two elements, the rod pocket and the lining material which covers the rest of the tapestry: see left. I will not describe this task in detail but this hand-finishing, such as we do in our own workroom, is a lengthy, skilled task. Done incorrectly your tapestry will not hang properly (we once bought 65 designs from a USA weaver and 64 had to be re-finished because they hung badly).

First we need to ensure that the tapestry is perfectly square with right angled corners and straight top, bottom and sides so faint lines are drawn on the unseen back of the tapestry. These indicate the lines along which the backing will be attached. The lining fabric is cut to size and the rod pocket is attached, it being about an inch shorter at each end than the backing fabric so that you can hide the ends of your rod if desired. This combined lining and rod pocket is then sewn to the tapestry (the seamstress has to carefully follow the previously drawn edge lines). A one foot length at the bottom is left unsewn. Then the tapestry and lining are pulled through this aperture so that the design on the front of the tapestry is now visible on the outside. The tapestry is then pressed, taking care to press sharp corners and edges. The foot long section is handsewn and, after a few critical additional touches, there it is, finished. Alas, it is not as easy as it sounds.

This tapestry finishing could be called tapestry completing which reminds me of a delightful account. At a major international linguistics competition held in London, the winner was Samsundar Balgobin, a Guyanese. The last round of the competition required an explanation of the difference between “complete” and “finished” in a way that is easy to understand. “When you marry the right woman, you are complete,” he responded. “If you marry the wrong woman, you are finished…and when the right one catches you with the wrong one, you are completely finished”. (Irrelevant to this blog post but rather irresistible.)