The tapestry was woven using a special tapestry-weaving technique where the wefts, which go all the way across the warp, are divided into sections. The weft sections in different colours are worked together but still kept separately. Weaving two colours into each other by using long narrow wedges creates a change of colour or shade. Where two different coloured sections meet parallel with the warp vertical gaps might appear. If the gaps are very long they will later be sown together. However, long open gaps can often be avoided by using different techniques weaving the threads together.
The illustration shows the chevelure of the man from the month of April as it meets the blue background.
The Baldishol Tapestry was made by using different special techniques of weaving. One technique was used for tying the weave together where vertical lines appeared in the design. For the more or less slanting lines another technique has been used. The diagrams show the technique.
Tapestry weaving is a "restrained" technique which has a limited number of choices of variation due to the pattern of the threads and the way the coloured sections are joined together. The warp is strung tightly over a loom and the coloured sections are created like a mosaic as the weaver weaves the weft into the pattern by hand and pushes it down against the part which is already woven by using a reed.
The Warp and the Weft
The warp constitutes the length of the tapestry. Therefore the tapestry must have been placed upright when it was woven resulting in the figures, the columns and the trees being made horisontally. It was a question of practical measures since the overall pattern required long straight lines in regards to the figures height and it was easiest to achieve this effect by using long shoots. If the tapestry had been made the other way around it would have been necessary to change the skeins more often. The process would then have taken more time and offered greater technical difficulties. It is also likely that the motif for the month of April was woven before the knight of May and that during the weaving process the four birds in the first motif were turned the right way by coincidence and not turned upside down. If this is really the case then the weaving must have started from the bottom and moved upwards. Thus, an upright tapestry loom with two beams was used and the finished part of the tapestry was rolled around the lower beam.
Ét for hver måned i året. Med andre ord ca. 12 m langt.
The preserved part of the Baldishol Tapestry with its two motifs for April and May is only two metres long but the warp has been cut or torn over a long uneven edge at both ends of the tapestry. If the tapestry originally consisted of twelve months and if each was of the same length as either April or May, the total length of the tapestry would be twelve metres and the breadth 1.18 metres. The size of such a tapestry must have required a rather strong and large loom.
The warp of the Baldishol Tapestry is made of coarse two-ply wool. The weft is woven across the warp by using a special "jagged" technique where the colours are intertwined as the weaver allows one or several shoots to take turns in overlapping the individual warp. This technique can also be described as the weaver using a discontinuous weft, which in return caused a jagged looking effect. Interlacing of two wefts never takes place. This special technique is used in connection with all vertical lines in the pattern. When it comes to diagonal lines the coloured sections meet in a stepped way that leaves a slanted line of small holes which are only apparent when the tapestry becomes worn. When it was new the loose fibre of the yarn hid both these holes as well as the ones which might have appeared where the technique of the discontinuous weft was used. The method with the slanted line of holes has also been used to break large uniform looking surfaces. This was done to relieve the strong pressure of the shoots against the warp. By dividing the surface into smaller sections by a number of stepped lines of small holes, it was possible to prevent the shoots from becoming too tight and making the tapestry shrink in certain places. After all, the weaver's goal was to create a smooth surface with even edges.
The first of the two techniques - the one which connects the coloured surfaces along straight lines parallel with the warp - can be used for creating decorative details.
The stepped lines with the small holes offer certain technical difficulties. When the lines of the pattern create obtuse angles against the warp these will become straight and clear. However, if they create acute angles against the warp it is difficult to make this result into a straight line. The Baldishol Tapestry reveals this problem in connection with the outline of the horse's back, the throats and chests of the birds, and the spear. If there are not too many of these stepped lines too close to each other this technical weakness can even create an interesting effect and create life and movement in the tapestry. It is very likely that the person who drew the pattern and wove the tapestry many years ago knew about this effect and made use of it on purpose.
With the back of the tapestry to the weaver
The Baldishol Tapestry was woven by letting the back of the tapestry face the weaver. This is evident by studying the shoots going from one coloured section to another without having been fastened.
Most likely the piece of canvas, which the pattern had been drawn on was extended on the back of the warp exactly like it is done today. By using this method the contours of the pattern can be discerned through the warp and the individual sections will thus not be transposed during the weaving process. The pattern may have been drawn on a piece of canvas or possibly on a piece of tanned hide. One should bear in mind that paper was not to be found in Europe until the 15th century.
The number of colours used is surprisingly small. The white sections stand out clearly as they are woven by using a white linen thread. For the rest of the colours a regular thread made of wool has been used. Three or four shades of blue are displayed on the tapestry as well as powerful red, green and yellow colours. The weaver has shown no regards to the true colours of nature. The horse is red, and the man from the motif of April has a green beard. No attempt has been made in order to give a natural perception of the picture plane. The entire tapestry was made in a two-dimensional style where the figures are seen either from the front or in profile. Only the horse's legs are depicted showing the left legs as placed behind the right legs but this is also the only attempt made at adding a kind of perspective or third dimension to the tapestry.
The surfaces of the clothes have been treated in an ornamental way without any indication of pleats or shadows, and the features of the faces have been reproduced with an almost brutal simplicity. The big round eyes, the bridge of the nose which continues straight to the forehead without a transitional stage, the simple crack of the mouth under the semicircular moustache and the pointed beard makes you think of the elegantly sculptured heads from the Oseberg Boat. The 300 years difference in time between the boat and the tapestry almost disappear - it is the same primitive interpretation of the human face, the same suppression of individuality in favour of ornamentation.
The Baldishol Tapestry is thus a piece of textile artwork where consideration for ornamentation was put first. Instead of using the modelling technique of the paintbrush by contrasting light and shadow and shortening individual limbs respectively, air has been created around the figures by moving them in front of both the ornamental edging and the vaults. This was simply done by making both the man of April and the knight of May taller than the vaults as their heads rise above the arches and their feet touch a part of the palmette band.
The entire composition is made light and elegant by this small trick and together with the rich variation in the pattern and the pure clear colours the Baldishol Tapestry is given its great decorative value.
The Motive of the Month of April
The Motive of the Month of May
The Edging, Flowers and other Details
The History of the Tapestry
This page about the Baldishol Tapestry was written and designed by in March 1999. Updated January 20, 2001. English translation October 2000 by Karen and Tim Williams. Visited