Recreating 15th century textile art at West Dean Tapestry Studio, The ‘Hunt of the Unicorn’ Tapestries finally unveiled.

A 14 year West Dean Tapestry Studio project to beautifully recreate 'The Hunt of the Unicorn' series of tapestries, has reached its conclusion in Edinburgh this week.

The final tapestry in the series 'The Mystic Hunt of the Unicorn', designed and woven by Master Weaver Katherine Swailes and her team at West Dean Tapestry Studio, was unveiled at Stirling Castle in Edinburgh on Tuesday, 23rd June. With large parts of the original tapestry missing, Katharine had to use research as well as her keen eye, to complete this wonderful piece. The unveiling marked the culmination of the biggest tapestry project undertaken in the UK in the last 100 years.

The project was commissioned by Historic Scotland in 2001 as part of a wider project to restore the interiors of the palace of James V to how they may have looked in the 16th Century, when it was home to James' wife Mary of Guise and their young daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots.

The Original tapestries were purchased in 1922 by American business tycoon, JD Rockefeller and hung in the Cloisters Gallery in New York as part of the Metropolitan Museum. 14 years ago, the West Dean Tapestry Studio was entrusted with the painstaking task of recreating the stunning medieval tapestries from scratch, and my word did they deliver!

"Projects like this are few and far between - based on history, generations will pass before something similar is undertaken…At West Dean College, we're proud of our contribution not only to this project, but our wider work in the fields of conservation and creative arts, helping to develop new skills and to protect others from being lost".

The historic event drew attention from all over the country, with BBC South Today also covering the event and visiting us here at the West Dean Tapestry Studio to talk to our very own Master Weaver, and driving force behind the works, Katharine Swailes. Click here to view the piece (21.50 minutes in) on BBC iplayer. Katharine also spoke to BBC Radio Sussex about the project on the morning of the Stirling Castle unveiling. Listen here… (1:37.49 in)

Watch the weaving of The Hunt of the Unicorn

The significance of just what the team at West Dean Tapestry Studio, the only professional tapestry studio in the country, has done over the course of the last 14 years, is not to be underestimated. The recreation of the 'Hunt of the Unicorn' tapestries is truly a feat of artistic craft. At 10cm per week for well over a decade, West Dean Tapestry Studio have produced something spell binding and technically mind boggling that will be admired for generations to come.

If you're curious as to how these pieces were created, you can view a time lapse video of the team working one one of the sections here

Tapestry at West Dean College

The West Dean Tapestry Studio operates as part of The Edward James Foundation (charity no.1126084) and works on both public and private commissions .

Full time Diploma, MA and MFA courses in Tapestry, as well as short courses are available to view at

To find out more information on anything else to do with West Dean College or the Tapestry Studio, visit us on



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