Stitches in time

Traditional croft house

Millions of stitches into linen, painstakingly sewn by over a thousand stitchers, have created a fascinating series of panels that together have been named The Great Tapestry of Scotland. Charting key events in Scotland’s history from the creation of the land through to the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, this is a breath-taking and quirky romp through millennia.

17th century Cockenzie House in East Lothian

17th century Cockenzie House in East Lothian

We went to see the tapestry at Cockenzie House, a 17th century house, now owned by a charitable trust run by local people. The coffee and cakes in the tea room lived up to the excellence of the exhibition, ensuring we’ll return for other events.

Tapestry Designer Andrew Crummy

Andrew Crummy, the designer of the panels of the tapestry.

The Great Tapestry project was instigated by author Alexander McCall Smith with designs and artwork for the panels undertaken by artist Andrew Crummy. We attended the launch of the project at the Borders Book Festival in June 2011 Now the panels — over 160 of them — are hung in Cockenzie House in East Lothian for everyone to see. And judging by the number of people there the day my husband and I attended, commenting on the events covered, the design of panels, and peering at the stitches used whilst reminiscences bubbled in their minds, large numbers will flock to admire the work that has gone into the stitching.

The first people.

The first people.

Like others, I wanted to view the panels as a whole, then linger to enjoy many of the details. With vibrant colours, skilful stitches had captured shape, tone, feel, touch and smell of the subject matter, and I’m sure when standing in front of some I could smell the brine of the sea, the gunpowder of battle, the scent of flowers and pomanders, the fragrance of joy, the odour of grief, a whiff of duplicity and the reek of hypocrisy as well as a not insignificant perfume of pride at what many Scots had achieved both individually and collectively, and what each stitcher had achieved in bringing all this together in a wonderful illustrated story.

Arrival of the Vikings.

Arrival of the Vikings.

Vikings on the West Coast

Vikings on the West Coast

Founding of Scottish Universities

Founding of Scottish Universities

William Wallace

Blind Harry

The aftermath of the Battle of Flodden.

The aftermath of the Battle of Flodden.

The Three Estates.

The Three Estates.

Founding of The Scotsman newspaper.

Founding of The Scotsman newspaper.

Whisky still

Whisky still

The textile industry in the Scottish Borders

The textile industry in the Scottish Borders

Traditional music.

Traditional music.

Stitching Scotland's history

Stitching Scotland’s history

Under the sea - panel detail

Under the sea – panel detail

Over 1000 stitchers from Shetland in the far north to the Borders in the south worked together to create the world’s longest embroidered tapestry, taking over 60,000 hours of work and using over 300 miles of woollen yarn.

Author and instigator of  The Great Tapestry of Scotland project Alexander McCall Smith

Author and instigator of The Great Tapestry of Scotland project Alexander McCall Smith

As Alexander McCall Smith commented —

‘Now we have it: a record of our history, designed by an artist whose eye has captured the essence of Scotland, and stitched with love by hundreds of people throughout the land. They invite you to look at this and celebrate our country.

            Welcome.’

Great Tapestry of Scotland book

Great Tapestry of Scotland book

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About jingsandthings

I am me. What do I like? Colour Shapes Textures Paintings, photographs, sculptures, woven tapestries, wonderful materials. The love of materials probably comes from my father who was a textile buyer, and I grew up hearing the names of mills and manufacturers which sounded magical and enticing. Glass in all its soft and vibrant colours and flowing shapes, even sixties glass which makes its own proud statement. A book I can immerse myself in. Meals with family or friends with lots of chat and laughter (and probably a bottle or two of wine). The occasional trip abroad to experience the sights, sounds, food, conversation, quality of light and warmth of other countries. To revel in differences and be amazed by similarities. I like to create and to experience, to try and to achieve. And then there are words – read, heard, written at my keyboard, or scrawled on sticky notes, or along the edges of dog-eared supermarket receipts excavated from the unexplored nooks of my handbag. What do I dislike? Cold Snow Bad design Fast food Condescension
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14 Responses to Stitches in time

  1. mamacormier says:

    What a wonderful treasure! Makes me want to pull out some of my unfinished projects.

  2. mybrightlife says:

    Beautiful! We have a Great Trapestry created by South African women hanging in Cape Town – also depicting our history. It is interesting to see the difference in style that emerges out of the same technique across continents.

    • I expect that will be in a very different style. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there could be swaps so that we could see what other groups in other countries have produced.

      • mybrightlife says:

        That would be amazing. There are also some really intersting projects in our area – centres for local women who have managed to make a mark on the international market with their work – no mean feat!

  3. Carol Breslin says:

    As usual, your blog this time totally excites me to want to go to Scotland!!!

  4. capri46 says:

    Truly magnificent! A labor of love – plenty of love.

    • Yes, everyone who worked on the project deserves a prolonged round of applause. Hopefully a permanent home can be found for the panels so that people can continue to visit and enjoy the work.

  5. crafteelooks says:

    thanks for the update

    http://hauntedpages.wordpress.com Date: Tue, 3 Dec 2013 17:19:43 +0000 To: crafteelooks@hotmail.com

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