The Great Tapestry of Scotland is a series of embroidered cloths (rather than a woven tapestry) made up of 160 hand stitched panels, depicting aspects of the history of Scotland from 8500 BC until its launch in 2013.
The tapestry was designed by Andrew Crummy, son of Helen Crummy, who had previously designed the Battle of Prestonpans Tapestry and later the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry. It implements an idea of Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith for a grand tapestry to depict episodes from 12,000 years of the history of Scotland, after he had seen the Prestonpans Tapestry.
Each of the panels took around 500 hours to sew, involving over a thousand volunteers from existing or newly formed sewing groups across Scotland working between Spring 2012 and September 2013. Members of a studio group based at Eskbank, Dalkeith prepared the panels for display by stretching and backing them, and the completed tapestry was unveiled on 3 September 2013 in the Main Hall of the Scottish Parliament building.
The tapestry measures 143 metres (469 ft) long, each panel being displayed individually in approximately chronological order. In comparison, the Keiskamma tapestry in South Africa is 120 metres (390 ft) long, and the Bayeux Tapestry is nearly 70 metres (230 ft) long. Most of the panels are approximately 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) square, with only a few measuring 1⁄2 metre wide.
The linen–cotton union fabric used is made by Peter Greig and Company (based at Victoria Linen Works, Kirkcaldy, Scotland), and the 2-ply crewel wool is dyed and spun by Appletons, of Buckinghamshire, England.
The panels include illustrations of the end of the most recent ice age in 8,500 BC, the circumnavigation by Pytheas in c. 320 BC, Viking invasions in the 9th century, Duns Scotus in c. 1300, the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, the Black Death in the 1350s, the foundation of St Andrews University in 1413, the Battle of Flodden in 1513, Mary, Queen of Scots in the 16th century, the publication of the King James Bible in 1611, the Act of Union 1707, the Jacobite rising of 1715 and of 1745, James Watt, Adam Smith, David Hume, James Boswell, Walter Scott, James Clerk Maxwell, Highland Games, the First and Second World Wars, the first-ever international rugby match (between Scotland and England in 1871), North Sea oil from the 1990s, Dolly the Sheep born 1996, and the re-creation of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. A late detail was added to commemorate Andy Murray's victory at Wimbledon in 2013.
For its second visit to the Scottish Parliament from 1 July – 13 September 2014 a new panel was created: the People's Panel. Visitors to the exhibition were encouraged to add stitches to it. It travelled with the tapestry until completed and was then presented to the Scottish Parliament where it now hangs.
The tapestry has been exhibited, in part or whole, throughout Scotland, visiting New Lanark, Ayr Town Hall, Cockenzie House East Lothian, Stirling Castle, Aberdeen Art Gallery, Kirkcaldy Art Gallery, Anchor Mill Paisley, Sgoil Lionacleit on Benbecula, Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, and Verdant Works Dundee, amongst others. A selection of panels was also exhibited at the Cheltenham Literature Festival in 2013.
Theft of Rosslyn Chapel Panel
In 2016, the original stitchers began making a replacement, which was finished in 2017 and will join the rest of the tapestry at the permanent exhibition in Galashiels. The recreated panel closely resembles the stolen panel but several differences were added to differentiate it from the original.
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