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June 19, 2013

A stitch in time makes history

A remarkable project depicting 12,000 years of Scottish history in just 150 panels of stitching, (using enough yarn to lay up and down Ben Nevis 37 times) reaches an important milestone this weekend. Sunday is the deadline set for the 300+ stitchers based in communities all across the country to tie off their final threads and complete their sections of the Great Tapestry of Scotland. Inspired by the ancient Bayeux Tapestry and more recently by the wonderful Prestonpans Tapestry, this is community arts on a massive scale.



The Great Tapestry of Scotland is a unique project to stitch the entire story of Scotland from pre-history to modern times.

The Great Tapestry of Scotland is the brainchild of one of Scotland’s best- known writers, Alexander McCall Smith. The 44 Scotland Street author, together with historian Alistair Moffat, and with the artistic talents of Andrew Crummy, (not to mention stitchers from all over Scotland!) form a team set to produce one of the world’s longest tapestries through one of the biggest community arts projects ever to take place in Scotland.

50,000 sewing hours (equivalent to sewing 24 hours a day for 6 years!)

The creation of the tapestry initiates a legacy project worth its length in gold. It is a unique and outstanding opportunity to tell our nation’s history and to involve as many people as possible in the telling. The aim is to create a series of over one hundred and fifty panels that tell the key stories in Scottish history- everything from Duns Scotus to the formation of Rangers. Each panel will focus on a specific historical chapter, and interwoven through each will be other tales of the time. These stories will add new layers and reflect not only our shared history, but tell individual stories of place and family.

49,000 meters of yarns (enough to lay up and down Ben Nevis 37 times!)

This exciting project will use a range of embroidery skills and over 30 miles of woolen yarn to translate Andrew Crummy’s descriptive artwork into a colourful, skilful and textural depiction of the history of Scotland. To date there are over 300 stitchers committed to taking part, all of whom share a passion for Scottish history and some pretty impressive sewing skills. These volunteers will work together for over 400 hours per panel from locations around the country, islands and mainland, to help make Andrew Crummy’s artistic vision a reality, and then gift The Great Tapestry of Scotland to the nation.

The Great Tapestry of Scotland will be created – like the Bayeux Tapestry – on embroidered cloth, rather than a woven tapestry. It will be annotated variously in English, Gaelic, Latin and Scots, with surface stitching in a variety of yarns, creating a wonderfully rich and tactile artwork.

12,012 years of Scottish history

A defined range of stitches will be used including stem, split and chain, with filling stitches like long and short, satin and darning, and composite stitches where appropriate. The tapestry design currently consists of over 150 panels, each measuring approximately 100 × 50 cm.

150 plus panels

Alistair Moffat discusses the project in detail…

_“As political statements like Bayeux or medieval draught excluders like most of them, tapestries have never gone out of style. These freeze-frames of history still fascinate. To make a tapestry for a nation, something attempted nowhere else, involves a glorious process of ruthless editing. Pitfalls open on every side. One of the deepest is the military option, our history as a series of invasions, wars and battles, many of them grey defeats. Another is to show Scotland and the generations of nameless people who made the landscape and built the towns and cities as a soft-focus background for colourful, stately aristocratic processions. While some pivotal set-pieces simply insist on inclusion, such as Bannockburn and Culloden, other episodes of our hidden history rightly claim a place; the great timber halls of prehistoric farmers at Balbridie, Claish and Kelso, James Small and his

invention of the swingplough or John Watson Nicol’s composition of An Ataireachd Ard. Most important have been our efforts to make a tapestry that distils Scotland’s unique sense of herself, to tell a story only of this place, and without bombast, pomp or ceremony, to ask the heart-swelling rhetorical question; Wha’s like us?”_


The project will take over a year to complete and the finished tapestry will go on display from August 2013.

1 beautiful tapestry depicting the entire history of Scotland!