‘Tapestry’ is the name used to describe Welsh double-cloth patterns; two layers of fabric are woven one above the other, interchanging at points forming ‘pockets’, and enabling bold areas of pattern to be created. Historically, a strong 2-ply yarn was used to weave these fabrics and this, combined with the doublecloth structure, produced a practical and hard-wearing fabric, suitable for use as bedcovers.
Records show that these quilts were woven on elaborate handlooms in North Wales from around the eighteenth century, and subsequently woven on power looms in that area of Wales. It was around the 1920s that mills in West and South Wales also began weaving similar patterns, and the Tapestry quilt is now seen as an iconic Welsh product in all parts of the country.
Although ‘Tapestry’ cloth is seen as being typically Welsh, similar patterns using the doublecloth structure have been found in woven fabrics from all over the world. Because the patterns of the fabrics are created by the weave structure, the patterns tend to have a resemblance between one another, which makes distinguishing the origins of the style almost impossible.
Each Welsh mill developed their own doublecloth or Tapestry patterns which would have made them identifiable by manufacturer. Originally woven as bedcovers in bold and large-scale designs, the same doublecloth structure was later also used to develop smaller-scale patterns suitable for garments and accessories.
Today you can still find these unique patterns in the remaining mills across Wales – many dating back decades – and the popularity of these iconic Welsh designs remains.