The Great Tapestry of Scotland and V&A Dundee

In April 2022 I had the great good fortune to spend some time with @SewOver50 supremo Judith Staley at her home in Edinburgh. On our first day we took the train to Dundee where we visited the new Scottish outpost of the Victoria and Albert Museum. It’s an architecturally stunning building, designed to resemble a ship on the River Tay and sitting alongside Captain Scott and Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic ship Discovery.

Posters and programmes from 40 years of productions, I remember seeing this poster on the London Underground!

After a tasty bowl of soup in the cafe to keep us going we went to explore the permanent Scottish Galleries which contain a wide selection of some of Scotland’s finest innovations, heritage, designs and designers.

V&A Dundee is nowhere near as large as its London counterpart and is ideal for a half-day visit, entry is free except for the special exhibitions and it’s definitely worth going if you are in the area.

The following day Judith and I caught a train from Edinburgh Waverley to Galashiels where the Great Tapestry of Scotland is now permanently housed in a new, purpose-designed building. I urge you to take a look at the website because it will give you so much more information on the origins and creation of the tapestry than I can here. Each separate tapestry (which, like the Bayeux Tapestry, is actually an embroidery) has been sewn by people in locations all over Scotland, a thousand individuals, on specially-woven linen from the Isle of Bute and the majority measure approximately 1 metre by 1 metre square.

The 155 panels are now displayed in chronological order and cover almost every aspect of Scottish life from prehistory up to the present day.

Judith taking a closer look at the opening tapestry.
How Scotland started, before it was even Scotland, 420 million years ago.
This beautiful nautilus shell contains the names of the embroiderers of this panel.

What follows is a selection of the photos I took on my visit, they are loosely in chronological order (unless I’ve mixed them up) but they represent a very small part of the Tapestry as a whole.

Historic Rosslyn chapel
close up of the Green Man motif.
Fingal’s Cave on the island of Staffa in the Inner Hebrides
The life of Mary Queen of Scots, a highly skilled embroiderer herself
There is so much variety in the techniques on display, I was especially impressed with the representation of plaid cloth and other textiles in this panel.
Scottish Tweed fabrics became an essential element of the upper-class gentleman’s country wardrobe.
This panel was possibly my favourite, the vibrant colours really caught my eye.
The complex range of stitches and textures is stunning.
The peacock feather motif of the Paisley design
Designer and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his equally talented wife Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh
In V&A Dundee they have a complete interior by Charles Rennie Mackintosh originally from a tea room in Glasgow.

I could have photographed every panel but then my phone would have exploded so I had to stop somewhere! These are just a few of the 155 panels to see and enjoy.

There are magnifying glasses provided if you want a closer look.
reading the info…

I know next-to-nothing about embroidery or tapestry, Judith is very skilled, but we were both blown away by the sheer variety and skill that we witnessed in the Great Tapestry of Scotland. If you are ever in the Galashiels area it is definitely worth a few hours of your time, although sadly we didn’t have long enough.

Until next time,

Sue

8 thoughts on “The Great Tapestry of Scotland and V&A Dundee

  1. Thanks for this post and all the information. I’m hoping to get back up to Edinburgh this summer, and I’ll definitely try to see the tapestry – I’d forgotten that Gala is on the Tweedbank line.

    Liked by 1 person

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