Written by Elizabeth Rose
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Tapestries of all materials, sizes, and designs have been used since ancient times to enliven both private and public spaces. Even today, decorative weaving, in the forms of wall hangings, pillows and throws are key tools for attractive home decor. Common to many, if not a majority of cultures, modern tapestries have a wealth of history to draw on. This legacy has provided a rich panoply of aesthetic influences for the modern homeowner, renter, or designer.

Tapestries in History

Most people think of historical tapestries, such as the famous Bayeux tapestry, as medieval wall hangings. Although we often think of them as nothing more than a decorative craft, to medieval scholars, they are as important cultural artifacts as paintings of the period. While it was rare for women to paint in the Middle Ages, tapestries were art forms that were made almost exclusively by women.

While many of these pieces displayed pastoral or allegorical themes, others were more historical. Some depicted battle scenes from the period. These were events in which women had an important stake, as their husbands, sweethearts, or sons might well be away on these campaigns. Some might never return. The art was practiced mostly by noblewomen and nuns, who were generally either better informed or educated than other women of the time.

Other pieces depicted less violent, but equally historically vital events. In some cases, these works are the only window modern people have into the events and lives of people hundreds of years in the past. Because they were often made of wool or linen and they took years, even decades, to weave, these valuable pieces were treasured and passed down. A number of them survive to the present day, and can be viewed in castles and museums across Europe. Many of these have been copied and mass-produced for people who want to give a historical touch to their homes.

Tapestries are Indispensable Design Tools

Historical tapestries are only one of many options for the decoratively minded. While hand-loomed weavings are certainly still available to those who have the means (or skill), modern machine techniques have made sophisticated designs available to all, at very reasonable prices. The elegance of tapestries for decorating works in almost any home. From mansions to dorm rooms, they are decorative accents that are accessible to everyone.

Because they are portable, packable, and luxurious to the touch, many people are learning about the advantages of tapestries in decorating. The often-classic styles of great homes blend well with tapestries. Grand wall hangings look terrific in a classical or traditionally themed home. Designs are available that suit cottages and modern homes, as well.

Students and renters appreciate them too. If you can't paint, but need to add color, wall-hangings provide an intelligent option. Who hates 'Navajo White' (the classic cheapo landlord paint)? Raise your hand. Uh, me, for starters. If you're tired of living with it, but want to get your security deposit back when you move, consider a tapestry. If you're a student, you'll love that you can roll up your wall theme and move it to wherever you'll be living after summer break.

Tapestries are the Adaptable Choice

While wall hangings are the most common choice for decorating, decorative woven throws are gaining ground in recent years. Throws are made of soft materials, such as washable blends of cotton and other fibers such as silk, rayon, and wool. Throws also come in solids and patterns that can match your decor or wall hangings. Pillows are also available. Some companies sell coordinating sets that look very smart when scattered creatively throughout your living space.

Another terrific use for decorative weavings is gift giving for special occasions. Holidays are an obvious time for a tapestry gift. It's cold outside and a cozy fabric throw or wall hanging says, "Warmest wishes" like nothing else. With the many choices available, a gift for everyone can be found year-round. Baby blankets with sweet themes in washable fabrics are great for new parents. Rustic maps, outdoor scenes and hearty colors provide great choices for those hard to buy for men in your life or office. Housewarmings, weddings, and showers can all be matched with an appropriate item. With this vast variety, it's hard to go wrong.

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