Wendy Landry: Pile Weave in Ancient Egypt

By Wendy Landry, author and textile artist

Coptic pile weave, linen and dyed wool. Private collection.
Coptic patterned pile weave, dyed wool loops on linen ground. Cooper Hewitt Acc. no. 1902-1-146.


At least three primary types of pile weaving occurred in Roman and Coptic Egypt: weft-looping with linen, weft-looping with colored wool, and warp pile (velvet) with linen pile.

Weft-looping with linen is the most common and the simplest to make. It merely introduces a doubled or trebled strand of linen, edge to edge, in one of the plain weave sheds, while pulling out a length of this extra weft between warp threads at regular intervals to an even length. Essentially, this is a form of inlay. It is found in various lengths; when long, the loops look and move like fringe.


Weft pile weave with tapestry. Created by Wendy Landry.


Weft-looping with colored wool is a similar inlay technique, but used discontinuously across the width, in order to depict an image. Usually these loops are short, and the wool weft forming the pile is thicker and softer than that commonly used for tapestry work.

loop Kelsey_90590_taquete loop_251
Pile weave with taqueté ground. Private collection.

Velvet linen pile is the most unusual and rarest type. It requires a supplementary linen warp for the pile ends, with a separately tensioned secondary warp. It adds texture to the plain foundation cloth, ranging from sparse, uncut bouclé to thick cut pile, often surrounding tapestry motifs. It also adds weight, softness, and thickness, and therefore warmth, to the cloth.

Warp loop velvet study. Created by Wendy Landry.


Landry, W.S. (2003) On the Possibility of Byzantine Velvet, Halifax. Download