I’m sorry to miss my Dad’s Thanksgiving turkey, but Bill and I had the best day ever, visiting Stirling Castle. I want to show you the Tapestry Studio! Together with West Dean College , they are reproducing the historic Unicorn tapestries for the Queen’s Inner hall, in the Palace. This is an extraordinary craft. Up to three weavers work at a time. Although no work was in progress during my visit, it gave me an opportunity to get a very close look at what is being done. so that I can share it with you.
The original tapestries used wool for both warp and weft. The reproductions are using cotton for warp, as it is more durable. They are still using wool for the weft. The original tapestries had 18 warps to the inch, and took over a dozen years to produce. The new tapestries are not as fine. A guide told me they were 12 warps to the inch (but I should have asked the weaver to be sure). These tapestries are taking about 4 years to produce.
Here is the full workstation. The tapestry will be about 1.5 meters wide and 3 meters tall, when finished. Notice the Ott lights to illuminate the workstations.
A ciose-up view of the working edge. Behind the warp you can see the trace of the image being woven. There is no loom. The weavers move a bobbin of thread back and forth into the warp. The bobbins seem very large to me, to do this, and I wish that I could have seem them working. But I asked about using needles, and she said, no, the work is all done with bobbins.
Here you can see the print. pinned (below the work), the work being woven (in the middle), and the edge of the work, with loose threads (on the top).
The two fragments that exist are hung behind the weaver, together with the drawing of what experts believe the full tapestry might have been. The weaver is looking at the full drawing, that the weavers are producing as tapestry.
Here is the design seen from the right side of the work. This is not part of a Unicorn tapestry, but a sample woven by a weaver doing a modern scene. West Dean College is doing astounding work in this field, and the samples were inspirational.
All of the ends are left hanging on the wrong side of the work. They add insulation! Boy, am I glad that intarsia doesn’t look like this, but actually, with this ends all nicely trimmed it creates an interesting effect.
Weavers from West Dean College, in Chicester, have produced three complete tapestries for Stirling Castle, and 4 more have been produced by the Castle Studio. The Unicorn tapestries are based on a set held at Cloisters Museum in NYC. This one looked familiar to me, and I think that I saw it at MOMA, in NYC a few years ago. Freshly done, with brilliant colors, the tapestries are stunning.