Mary Queen of Scots dreaming and stitching through her captivity - The Great Tapestry of Scotland, 2013
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"She sits and makes pink roses with her thread
And wonders what to do, her heart astir,
What road to take, where roads branch close ahead ..."
~ Embroidery, Margaret Widdemer (1884-1978)
A French Knot is a simple embroidery stitch that creates a rounded, little three-dimensional dot and is easily recognized. Throughout history, embroidery has been used in the decorative arts, as specialized art cultivated by guilds, o by individuals to denote genteel social standing, as a patching device for mending and tailoring, and as an illustrative means of chronicling events or symbolism into textiles. Many countries and regions have developed their own styles and signature techniques. In Scotland (developing from Dresden and tambour embroideries of the 18th century) is the embroidery style known as Ayrshire whitework. Ayrshire work is characterized by stylized floral motifs with lace insets, outlined in satin and beading stitches on fine muslin. Ayrshire whitework embroiderers had the nickname ‘The Flowerers,’ because of the pre-dominantly floral motifs that they produced, with the work they carried out becoming known as ‘flowering.’ This form of whitework thrived in the early nineteenth century when the fashion for simple muslin dresses became popular. It remained popular and was exported throughout Europe as well as the British Empire and America for use in women’s collars, cuffs, caps, as well as babies’ robes and bonnets. By the 1860s with the changes in fashion, it fell out of popularity. The American Civil War (1861-1865) drastically reduced the demand for Ayrshire whitework in America as well as did the emergence of the cheaper Swiss whitework, especially from St. Gallen, which was machine made.
Today is World Embroidery Day! An excerpt from the Embroidery Manifesto states:
”We want to acknowledge embroidery as an act of free creativity, which can lead to free, creative thoughts and ideas. We want to tie our embroidery threads from the privileged northern hemisphere together with stiches that are sewn by embroidering sisters and brothers all over the world."
A French knot is knotted stitch in which the yarn is knotted around itself.
One of the best known embroideries created to chronicle a historic event is the Bayeux tapestry (first documented in the 15th century) which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings.
Inspired by the Bayeux tapestry, "The Battle of Prestonpans Tapestry 1745" is a large modern embroidery created in Prestonpans, East Lothian, Scotland, and illustrates the events before, during and after the Battle of Prestonpans on 21 September 1745 where Bonnie Prince Charlie triumphed over the Hanoverian Army led by Sir John Cope.
Like the Bayeux Tapestry, this tapestry is actually an embroidered cloth, rather than a woven tapestry. More than two hundred embroiderers created the work over a two-year period; more than half these reside in Scotland along the route that Bonnie Prince Charlie marched to his Victory. Other embroiderers with family links come from as far as the US, Australia and New Zealand. For more about this, see here.
The complete community artwork measures 104 metres and consists of 103 panels!
Another great work of art is the 2013 Great Tapestry of Scotland! Stitching began in the Spring of 2012 and was almost complete for the first exhibition in September 2013. At that point four panels out of a total 160 panels remained unfinished. These panels were completed in late 2013 and the completed tapestry was hung for the first time in Aberdeen Art Gallery from February to April 2014. Each panel (1 metre x 1 metre) took at least 500 hours to complete. That is a total of more than 50,000 hours (equivalent to sewing 24 hours a day for 6 years!)
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.
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.
For more on this extraordinary work of embroidery art, click the thistle embroidery.