I've been wanting to tell you all about this exciting project since I first became involved back in May, but there hasn't really been much to see until recently.
I first heard about it on the radio one morning in Spring on the Today programme. James Naughtie was talking to Alexander McCall Smith about a project to make a tapestry of the whole history of Scotland which would be stitched by groups of volunteers. Here's what Alexander has to say about it on the official website:
“The recording of events, both great and small, on cloth is nothing new. The most famous example, of course, is the Bayeux Tapestry, which is one of the world’s best-known works of art. More recently, the completion of the Prestonpans Tapestry in Scotland has reminded us of just how effective this method of narrating history can be. When I saw that tapestry for the first time, I was struck not only by its beauty but by the story behind its creation. That led me to raise with Andrew Crummy, the artist, the possibility of creating a tapestry that would illustrate the whole history of Scotland. To my delight, Andrew agreed to take on the task. Alistair Moffat, one of Scotland’s finest historical writers, was then approached to join the project and come up with a list of historical moments that the tapestry would cover. As we had all expected, Alistair’s list is both balanced and exciting – a series of snapshots of Scotland from its earliest days to the recent past. This is a collaborative project. The work will be done by volunteer stitchers working throughout Scotland. Although the overall artistic vision will be Andrew’s, and the telling of the story will be Alistair’s, the creating of the tapestry will be the task of many hundreds of people who will invest in it their feeling for the story that they will be illustrating. When the work is finished, we shall hand the tapestry over to the nation, to be displayed to the people of Scotland and visitors to Scotland. A great project is about to be launched. I believe that it will bring happiness and delight to many people.”
Straight away I knew this was something I wanted to be involved in and wrote an email to the organisers suggesting I could host a group in my craft studio. A few weeks later Gillian Hart got in touch to say could we arrange a meeting with other volunteers in my area (EH10) to start working on a panel. We arranged a date and time and I got the craft room ready with plenty of chairs.
My craft room doesn't really hold many more than 10, but the door just didn't stop opening that night and it was standing room only when 17 stitchers arrived!
We were given panel number 5 (which you can see in the top photo), "The Wildwood and it's Fauna 8500BC", which had been drawn with the design by other volunteers. Dorie Wilkie and Gillian gave us very clear instructions about wool, stitches and how to look after the linen panel and left us to sort ourselves in to a working group.
What we didn't realise until later was that this was the very first panel to be handed to a group so I think we all felt quite honoured!
After much discussion that night and in subsequent group emails, we settled into a group of 13 and arranged our first meeting (the 2 photos above) to work out how to proceed. Here we are sorting the wool. It is Appleton's crewel wool and we have been given all the shades we should need, though we can, and have, asked for other specific colours. We are called the Edinburgh Tapestry Tenners (because of our postcode).
Seeing as the main inspiration for the whole project is the Prestonpans Tapestry we decided to have a group outing to St Mary's Cathedral where the tapestry was hanging for the summer. I think we were all bowled over by the beauty and artistry of the stitching in these panels.here.
The tapestry is rolled on to a cardboard tube, covered with cloth and stored in this purpose built case, made by Joy.
These beautiful fauns were made by Joan H. Joan is working on her City and Guilds Embroidery at the moment, and is very proficient. But some of the group have not done much sewing before, and this was part of the intention of the project, to involve as many ordinary people in the work as possible. Working in a group means we can all support each other and share our skills. I have already learnt so much from the other ladies!
I am still very pleased and excited to be involved with this project, even if it is taking up more of my time then I originally anticipated. But I just love the idea that one day I can take my grandchildren (as yet unborn!) up to the Scottish Parliament and show them the panel our group worked on and say, "look Granny stitched that auroch!".
If you'd like to read more about the tapestry here's the website.