Kate Davies visits the Great Tapestry of Scotland
July 12, 2014 2:03 PM   Subscribe

The Great Tapestry of Scotland is an embroidered artwork of 160 panels illustrating the whole history of Scotland in the style of the Bayeux tapestry. Over a thousand stitchers collaborated to make the panels, and the design is the largest of three large-scale embroidery projects by Andrew Crummy. Kate Davies visited the Great Tapestry of Scotland at the Scottish Parliament and took some amazing close-up pictures...

...and blogged them with commentary.
Panels 1-23: prehistory, the Ice Age, and several species of native animals grooving with the Picts.
Panels 24-59: the Black Death, drovers, the King James Bible, Mary Queen of Scots.
Panels 60-92: weaving, spinning, sign language, the birth of modern geology, Adam Smith's invisible hand, a wooden bicycle.
Panels 93-123: tartans, paisley, women's suffrage, James Clerk Maxwell's beard.
Panels 124-160: Fair Isle knitting, Irn-Bru, Dolly the sheep.
posted by clavicle (15 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
After looking over many of the panels, I like the way it acknowledges war and weaponry without focusing excessively on it.

Amazing work.
posted by poe at 2:38 PM on July 12, 2014

Kate Davies is great - I check her site every day. When she started posting these, I looked forward to them each morning. I can't imagine the skill needed for some of those stitches and wish I could design and stitch like that. It'd be so much harder to collaborate with someone on a panel.

She is a great writer and I've learned so much about Scotland from her, and am inspired with her strength at overcoming her stroke at such a young age.
posted by ugf at 2:39 PM on July 12, 2014

I know the Bayeux is not, technically, a tapestry, but an embroidery. I think the same is true of this - am I right?
posted by Segundus at 2:46 PM on July 12, 2014

Panel 148: The rise of the SNP It amused me that Irn Bru and Tunnocks Tea Cakes appeared in this panel as 1970s nationalist icons.

I'm no Scottish, but these two things are far more worthy of representing their country than tartan and devilpipes.
posted by Thing at 2:52 PM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

I know the Bayeux is not, technically, a tapestry, but an embroidery. I think the same is true of this - am I right?

posted by Sys Rq at 2:56 PM on July 12, 2014

You are correct, Segundus, it is an embroidery! The blog posts for the first two sets of panels address that, and somewhere in there Kate links to this blog post from a tapestry weaver who suggests the distinction is gendered, which I'd never heard before.
posted by clavicle at 2:58 PM on July 12, 2014

Not the first time a nation's history has been thoroughly embroidered.
posted by yoink at 3:06 PM on July 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

This is amazing. I particularly like how the various textiles have been rendered so perfectly in embroidery: the tartans, the lace, the crewel.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:11 PM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

I appreciated this insight:
The story of the people who stitched it is stitched up in this incredible thing, and that is certainly part of what makes it so terrific. So I think it was the tapestry’s sheer sense of shared endeavour that killed me most: that this was the best kind of collective history, created collectively. Craft and design have, I think, a unique power to bring people together in the expression and sharing of their creativity and cultural identity. In all honesty, this tapestry is the best example I’ve ever seen of how this might be so.
Just lovely. Thank you so much for bringing us this good thing.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:12 PM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is magnificent and beautiful and moving. Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention, I took a textile art class with a lot of embroidery twice during high school and feel like I should get back into it.

I'm fine with calling this a "tapestry", considering the most famous "tapestry" in the Anglosphere is also actually an embroidery. But this is better than the Bayeux, politically speaking, because it's an indigenous expression of a long view of history as opposed to a celebration of conquest and imperialism.
posted by Small Dollar at 5:39 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

i am of course moved by the skill of these, but also the inclusion of all kinds of history. the panel about women being burnt, the moral complexity of the mary queen of scots panel, the panel about the founding of the first deaf school, the working class and agricultural history, the complicated implicaitons of the east india company and in scotland in africa, that panel about women getting the vote with perth in the corner)


But where are scottish people of colour?
posted by PinkMoose at 5:49 PM on July 12, 2014

Oh thank you for posting! This had somehow passed me by, but looks like it's on display at the Scottish Parliament right now, so I can go and see it. Yay!
posted by penguin pie at 6:22 PM on July 12, 2014

This is absolutely lovely. Thank you.
posted by superfish at 2:41 AM on July 13, 2014

By coincidence, I visited the tapestry on Saturday and then read this post on the train on the way back to London. I’m not greatly interested in needlework as a rule, but this is wonderful, skilful in both the storytelling and the execution, and well worth a visit.

(Which is more than I can say about the outside of the Scottish Parliament building, which from a design point of view looks a complete dog’s dinner to me…)
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 12:50 AM on July 14, 2014

This is great! Thanks for the post - my train tickets are bought and I'm really looking forward to the visit.
posted by abecedarium radiolarium at 3:28 AM on July 15, 2014

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