How to Value: Tapestries and Textiles

Learn about how to value tapestries and textiles, with our valuations and appraisals experts. Discover what to look out for and how it can impact the value.

Tapestries & Textiles

In recent years, tapestries and textiles have not been popular amongst interior designers. Unable to reconcile these traditional, often eclectic craft pieces with 21st century minimalism, prices for decorative tapestries and textiles have not been high. Currently, however it appears tapestry is growing in popularity, especially in a period setting and retains its appeal to collectors; the best examples continue to sell for large sums and the same can be said for other textiles such as clothing and quilts.

Valuing Needlework & Embroidery

Embroidery pieces can be found in a variety of materials including wool, linen, silk, cotton and canvas and all are collected. There was a significant shift in the mid-19th century towards ‘fancy work’, a method where set designs were copied out, usually in wool. Earlier, large pieces in silk generally carry the highest valuations, but fine examples of 19th century ‘Berlin’ woolwork that incorporate other decoration such as beadwork are also desirable. Embroideries, in particular picture-pieces and samplers, benefit from displaying character and originality. Bold, comical and personal early examples sell well, especially if accompanied by an original mount or frame.

Condition is also very important, especially for pieces dating from the 18th century or earlier; fading tends to be a major issue as many pieces have been displayed in direct sunlight. 19th century embroideries using aniline dyes also suffer from fading, as do picture pieces incorporating other forms of painted decoration. The value of any fabric piece is reduced by excessive wear or damage such as fraying.

Valuing Quilts and Lace

Finding examples of quilts that predate the 19th century is rarer than embroideries and early examples are often of brocaded silk and were luxury items in their time. The majority of European quilts from the 19th and 20th centuries are inexpensive, although some good condition, characterful patchwork examples can fetch up to four-figure sums. It is American patchwork and appliqué pieces that are most valuable, in particular 19th century examples. Those bearing the name of the quilter are often considered folk art and, depending on the character of their design, can be very valuable.

Lacemaking was once a highly prized and appreciated craft; lace served as a status symbol and its use was important in decoration. Today, however, lace is generally undervalued and seen as impractical as it can be difficult to display. It is only fine 17th and 18th century pieces and very particular collecting niches that achieve high sale prices.

Valuing Antique Clothing

When it comes to antique clothing predating the 20th century, older examples are generally more valuable; this applies to men’s and womenswear as well as accessories such as gloves or shawls. Most common are 19th century mourning and bridal wear and even in perfect condition are not particularly sought after whereas other items like Victorian corsets and those with unusual colour-schemes have a growing market. Provenance can enhance the value of many items, as can labels of names like Maison Worth of Paris. The value of womenswear from the 20th century depends largely on its label and design. Clothing that exhibits the classic style of major designers such as Dior, Schiaparelli, Chanel, Westwood, Yves Saint Lauren and others, dated and with accompanying labels attract the highest bids.

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