I saw the Great Tapestry of Scotland recently – and it was amazing! As I enjoy both history and needlework, it was fairly likely I would be impressed, but I was absolutely overwhelmed by the standard of work and at the huge breadth of its coverage. If you haven’t heard of this great achievement, there’s much more information on the website http://scotlandstapestry.com/ but here’s a brief summary.
One of Scotland’s most popular writers, Alexander McCall Smith, had the idea of telling the story of Scotland in stitches, and over 1000 volunteers stitched the panels after they had been designed by Andrew Crummy. More than 65,000 hours (or over a third of million minutes!) went into working 160 panels, depicting 420 million years of Scottish history – although not a lot happened in the first few million years! Sadly, the panel featuring Roslyn Chapel was stolen when it was on display in September; the notice about this asks for help and features a tiny embroidered image of a police car!
What amazed me when I viewed it was that the whole thing was stitched – by which I mean, every type of fabric which appeared on the panels was presented in a stitched version, not as applique. Many different tartans feature, for example, and these are all depicted in stitched wool and as they would have looked as a garment, so where there were seams in the clothing, the tartan was stitched to reflect this. The gentleman playing golf, in the image I posted, is wearing a tweed jacket, and you can see how beautifully it has been rendered. The website even has a few examples of the type of stitches used, so you can have a try for yourself.
The inspiration, of course was the Bayeux Tapestry – Britain has its own Victorian version, stitched in the 19thc and on display at Reading Museum (http://www.bayeuxtapestry.org.uk/). I’ve never seen it – but I remember my mother taking me to see the Overlord Embroidery, which despite its name is an applique wall hanging. It tells the story of WW2 leading up to D-Day and is now displayed in Portsmouth (http://www.ddaymuseum.co.uk/). And we saw, also, the Quaker Tapestry which depicts the history of the Society of Friends (http://www.quaker-tapestry.co.uk/). These are all such incredible creations, and they depend on the collaborative work of a great many people. If you ever get a chance to see any of the works I’ve mentioned, do take the opportunity; you won’t regret it.