Learn about Tapestries and Textiles, and the history of it, with our ValueMyStuff valuations and appraisals experts. Find out how it developed over the years.
Tapestries, textiles and embroideries found on the market today generally originate in Northern Europe and America. Things are not as simple as they appear, however, as there are many embroidery and weaving traditions common across the world. For example, in their manufacture, tapestries are identical to ‘kilims’ (a West- and Central-Asian type of carpet) but are generally distinguished from each other in the saleroom. For this reason, this article will look primarily at Western examples of tapestries and textiles.
Antique clothing is, for something so ubiquitous in its time, relatively rare today. In many cases high quality garments were recycled for their fabric and common everyday wear was recycled or thrown away. Antique menswear is generally more uncommon than women’s. In most cases, it is examples of sentimental value, in particular wedding dresses or christening gowns, that survive. Before the First World War, women’s fashion was generally derived from the elite, particularly the French royal court and later other royal families such as the British. The First World War had a dramatic impact on women’s fashion and inter-war period clothing is desirable in its own right for its historical significance to women’s emancipation. The first half of the 20th century saw many top designers emerge including Chanel, Paco Rabanne and Yves Saint Laurent to name a few.
Embroidery and samplers have been popular as traditional pastimes for women for at least 400 years although the Bayeux Tapestry (falsely named), perhaps the most well-known piece of embroidery, dates from the 11th century. The oldest pieces found today outside museums usually date from the 17th century; at this time, furnishings were often embroidered at home and women’s education often culminated in the production of a piece of art in ‘stumpwork’, a type of raised needlework. Samplers also had a place in education, and as such many are formulaic. This, however, allows the origins of some pieces to be traced by their motifs.
Through the 18th century, pictures and orient-inspired designs, sometimes employing painted silk and other means of decoration became popular. With the onset of chemical dyes and industrial manufacturing techniques, the 19th century saw more charted designs produced on a larger scale such as ‘Berlin’ woolwork. Lacework was similarly popular in centuries past and was an iconic status symbol but is now largely undervalued.
Although quilting was used for both bedding and in armour in Europe since the 14th century, most examples found today date from the 19th or 20th centuries. Quilts were made by all sections of society, with the difference generally being in the materials used; the techniques of patchwork and appliqué were commonly used. British patchwork was generally of a mosaic style whereas American pieces are arranged in repeating patterned blocks with more striking colours. American patchwork embodies rural scrupulousness in the recycling of fabrics and can be considered folk art in their own right.