Tapestry making has a long and distinguished history. It has told the stories of many cultures, from the ancient Egyptians onward. Modern tapestries can be very costly. But if you’d like to own a tapestry (or two or three!), it’s very possible to make your own using one of the three most popular embroidery stitches-cross stitch, embroidery, and needlepoint.
Cross stitch is probably the most popular form of embroidery done today, and for good reason: It’s easy to learn and doesn’t require much in the way of supplies-a needle, embroidery floss, and an even-weave cloth.
Tapestries made using cross stitch will be more open than those made using other methods. It would be possible to make them more solid if you used more strands of floss, but you’d have to be careful that the fabric didn’t pucker. Cross stitch, though, is quite fast to work, partly because of the way it’s done, and partly because you don’t have to stitch the background (unless you want to). If you really love cross stitch, and feel comfortable doing it, this is a good way to make a tapestry.
Embroidery is not as popular as cross stitch, but it’s been the second most common way to make a tapestry for a long time. As a matter of fact, for a period of about 1,000 years, it almost replaced weaving as the technique of choice for tapestry making. The famous Bayeux Tapestry, for example, is actually embroidered, not woven.
Embroidery uses commonly available supplies-embroidery needles and thread, fine fabric or muslin, and perhaps an embroidery hoop-and stitching techniques that are either familiar or easily learned. If you decide to use embroidery to make your tapestry, you’ll be carrying on a tradition that is almost 1,800 years old.
Needlepoint is also a stitching technique, but it’s worked quite differently from cross stitch or embroidery. For one thing, it’s done on a stiff, open material that is more like rug canvas than fabric (and is actually called “needlepoint canvas”). And like cross stitch, it can be done with embroidery floss, but needlework yarn-usually called “tapestry yarn”-is more appropriate, because it holds up better when it’s pulled through the canvas.
There’s a wide variety of stitches possible, although most people stitching a picture use the basic slanted stitch (which can actually be made a number of ways; they look different only on the back). And because the canvas is so open, the stitches cover the open spaces, so the background is not as visible. However, the background can’t be left unworked, as in cross stitch or embroidery, so a needlepoint tapestry can take longer to finish.
If you like doing embroidery, you might want to try one of the above techniques for making your tapestry. They’re simple to learn, simple to do, and relatively fast; you’ll be able to show off your skill-and your art-fairly quickly.