A stitch in time: work starts on the Great Scottish Tapestry at the Scottish Parliament

By Jenni Davidson | 10 April 2012
A photograph of a woman and a man holding a circular tapestry frame
Tricia Marwick MSP, Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, and novelist Alexander McCall Smith hone their embroidery skills on the first panel of the Great Scottish Tapestry© Scottish Parliament
Alexander McCall Smith and Scottish Parliament presiding officer Tricia Marwick have sewn the first stitches on what is set to become the longest tapestry in the world.

The Great Scottish Tapestry, which will be 141 metres long when it is finished, will go on display at the Scottish Parliament from August 2013.

It will depict the key events and figures of Scotland’s history, from prehistory to the present, through more than 100 embroidered panels.

The first panel will show an ice dome splitting over Ben Lomond at the end of the last ice age, and the final one will depict the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

The remaining panels are given over not just to the well-known battles of Bannockburn, Flodden and Culloden, but also to many other significant milestones from Scotland’s cultural, sporting and political past, including the creation of the Book of Kells, the founding of St Andrews University, the Clydebank Blitz, Charles Rennie Mackintosh designing Glasgow School of Art and Hugh MacDiarmid writing A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle.

The tapestry is the brainchild of 33 Scotland Street author Alexander McCall Smith, and has been designed with help from historian Alistair Moffat and artist Andrew Crummy.

McCall Smith was inspired by the 2010 Prestonpans Tapestry – currently the longest tapestry in the world – which was made to celebrate Bonnie Prince Charlie’s victory at the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745, in turn inspired by that most famous of battle tapestries, the Bayeux Tapestry.

Like the Bayeux Tapestry, the Great Tapestry of Scotland will be made of embroidered cloth rather than woven. It will be annotated in English, Gaelic, Scots and Latin.

The tapestry will be sewn by hundreds of volunteers across Scotland. It is expected to take a team of 200 stitchers a total of 50,000 hours – 400 hours for each panel – making it one of the biggest community arts projects in the world.

A range of stitches will be used to build up different effects and embroidery workshops will be arranged to provide support.

To follow progress or get involved visit www.scotlandstapestry.com
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