History in needlework

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The GREAT Tapestry of Scotland will depict our country’s history from 300 million years ago until the present day.

The brainchild of novelist Alexander McCall Smith, the tapestry will consist of 163 panels, one metre square, and will be significantly longer than the Bayeux Tapestry (70 metres), and even longer than the current record holder, some 120 metres long, in South Africa.

Montrose resident Gail Hughes was the only local person to contact the organisers, and she has been teamed with Kate MacKenzie, proprietor of Starfish Studio, Johnshaven, to create panel number 155, a half-size panel, depicting ‘The Steamie’.

Each panel is designed by Andrew Crummy, who was also involved with the Prestonpans Tapestry.

Among subjects are Mary Queen of Scots, the Jacobite rising, and the battle of Carbisdale in 1650 in which the Marquis of Montrose was defeated.

The ladies take fortnight about with the tapestry, as it is not possible for both to work on it at the same time, and it regularly commutes between Montrose and Johnshaven.

Gail and Kate are both full of enthusiasm for the project, and are delighted both with the panel they have been allocated, and the fact that although there is some guidance about the way they treat the design, they have a considerable amount of discretion about how they treat individual elements of it.

For example, Kate is experimenting with ways of making the lower part of the subject’s apron look as if it is wet, and she explained that it is important to give the different garments appropriate textures to make them look authentic.

In panels where a Scottish King appears, for example, his garments will have very fine embroidery on them.

Each panel is estimated to take 400 hours to complete, and the deadline is June, which it is felt is perfectly realistic.

It will initially go on public display at the Scottish Parliament, but will then go on tour at suitable venues, both at home and overseas.

The ladies both concluded: “It is very exciting to be involved in this project!”