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I recently visited my parents in Edinburgh. Apart from seeing family, lovely outings and a visit to Be Inspired Fibres, a super local yarn shop, Mum and I also headed out to the Scottish Parliament to see the Great Tapestry of Scotland. Strictly speaking this is not a tapestry as the whole work is a series of embroidered and not woven pictures – just like the Bayeux Tapestry. It is annotated variously in English, Gaelic, Latin and Scots.

Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith came up with the idea of stitching the entire story of Scotland from pre-history to modern times. He teamed up with historian Alistair Moffat and artist Andrew Crummy to set about creating the world’s longest tapestry. The aim was to create a series of over one hundred and fifty panels that told the key stories in 12,000 years of Scottish history. Each panel focuses on a specific historical chapter, and interwoven through each are stories of that time. These stories add new layers and reflect not only shared history, but tell individual stories of place and family. It is one of the biggest community arts projects ever to have taken place in Scotland.

Some facts:
There are 160 panels
created by 65,000 hours of stitching.
It uses over 300 miles of wool (enough to stretch the entire length of Scotland).
At 143 metres (469 ft) long, it is the world’s longest tapestry.
More than 1000 stitchers took part.

A college friend of my mother’s stitched one of the panels:

Embroidered wallhanging women fishing herring

Herring Girls

I particularly liked the depictions of knitters:

embroidered wallhanging Shetland Knitters

Shetland Knitters

embroidered wallhanging Fair Isle Knitters

Fair Isle Knitters

If you look at this close-up, the embroidery looks almost like knitting!

embroidered wallhanging Fair Isle Knitters close-up sock

Fair Isle Knitters

I was very impressed with the high standard of needlework. Occasionally, there were less intricately-embroidered panels but these reflected the artist Andrew Crummy’s designs rather than the needlewomen’s and needlemen’s (yes there were a few) work.  Images of the original artwork panels can be viewed on the tapestry’s website along with the names of every single stitcher.

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