Textiles and history are intricately connected in our consciousness. When we talk about history, references to textiles abound: we weave a story, tell a yarn, and spin a tale. And why not? Textiles have long been a common medium for recording history, with the tapestry coming first and foremost to mind.
This may be why internationally known story-teller Alexander McCall Smith got the idea to propose a tapestry that stitches together (pun intended) the history of Scotland – or at least as much of it as they could fit into 143 m of Scottish linen. The Great Tapestry of Scotland now holds the record as the longest tapestry ever made. The 160 panels were drawn by artist Andrew Crummy and embroidered by 1,000 volunteers over 50,000 hours. The tapestry beats the famous Bayeaux Tapestry in length by 70m, and the organizers claim that they intend to continue to add to it as Scottish history rolls on.
Many of the stitchers have a personal connection to the work they did on the tapestry. Some modeled figures in the tapestry after their own family members, or included references to their personal history in the design. One woman, while researching for her panel, discovered that her ancestors were actually a part of the whaling industry that she was depicting.
As an avid amateur textile historian, I’m enthralled with this piece. It gets my imagination going and makes me wonder what a Canadian history tapestry would look like. Although it certainly wouldn’t be as long as Scotland’s, which includes more than 12,000 years of history, it would definitely be diverse, including events, people, and culture from our vast land.
After touring Scotland, the tapestry will be brought to the UK, America, and Canada. I’ll definitely update when I find out the specific tour details; hopefully it will make a stop here in Toronto.
Read the BBC article, which includes a 2 minute BBC News video, here.