The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidery.
The Bayeux Tapestry presents itself as a piece of needlework; we have learnt more about it through an extensive study carried out in 1982-1983. The embroidery on linen cloth, measuring 224.34 feet, is made of 9 panels each measuring 19,68 inches in width and of unequal length (from 45,60 feet to 7,9 feet). It consists of a central band (measuring roughly 13 inches) and two upper and lower borders, each measuring about 2,75 inches.
The Bayeux Tapestry was embroidered with 10 shades of woollen yarn, obtained with three vegetable dyes, isolated through chemical analysis: madder for the reds, dyer’s rocket for yellow and indigo dye (made from woad) for blues and greens.
Embroiderers used four different stitching points: the stem stitch for inscriptions and linear patterns, carried out very neatly; the couching stitch used to fill in surfaces; the chain stitch and split stitch.
The study of the reverse side revealed that different hands had been at work at the same time: the reverse side of certain panels is perfectly mastered while others have a chaotic appearance.
The embroidered linen cloth was attached to another piece of cloth, which was used to hang the Tapestry in the cathedral. It is on this second piece of fabric that numbers were inscribed in the late 18th Century to mark the different scenes. In 1724, a lining was added to protect the reverse side.
The Bayeux Tapestry underwent major restoration after 1860, as shown by the synthetic nature of dyes used for the yarn. The cloth was darned in 120 places to strengthen the fabric and 518 fragments were added to patch it up.
Pierre Bouet and François Neveux
International experts on the Bayeux tapestry
The Bayeux Tapestry by Pierre Bouet and François Neveux
Hardback due out in October 2013, éditions Ouest France