The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry

This week I managed to see the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry on its brief visit to Edinburgh. This is a fine complement to the Great Tapestry of Scotland and was initiated by the same team. The panels were designed by the same artist, Andrew Crummy, so there is a clear underlying unity to both tapestries. The fabric, linen, and the threads, Appleton wool are the same. This one has more panels, just over 300, but each is smaller – a 50cm square.

The Diaspora Tapestry started in 2012 and has involved stitchers from 34 countries, all with a living Scottish connection. The project is a celebration of Scottish heritage and culture, the people and places which connect Scotland to its global diaspora.

With the opportunities that the British Empire opened up to Scots to leave their homeland and settle elsewhere, it is not surprising that the majority of panels come from  countries that were once part of that empire. However long before then, while Scotland was still an independent country, Scots had ventured far and wide in Europe. The tapestry provides a fine visual record of this part of our history.

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Scotland in the middle ages had developed alliances and trading links with most of Europe. Scots have played an important role in the cultural, economic and military development of many countries, including the Netherlands, Scandinavia and Russia. The first panel shows one of the most celebrated of these alliances – the auld alliance with France.

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I was aware of some of the important contributions of Scots to other European countries, but was pleasantly surprised by some of them. For example I did not know that two Scots were among the select band who founded the Swedish city of Gothenburg.

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However with the Union of the Crowns with England and later with the Treaties of Union, Scots began to venture much further afield. First to the American colonies, and not always as free men, as this panel shows. Defeated soldiers could be taken as prisoners and sent to New England to be sold for between £20 and £30 each.

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Thankfully most Scots who went to America were not taken as slaves, though not all went willingly. A happier recollection of this movement of people is the town of Alexandria in Virginia, founded by Scots. Alexandria, along with Nablus, Wurzburg and Orleans, is one of Dundee’s twin cities.

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Scots were also to be found in other parts of the Americas, though in much lesser numbers. However they were often just as successful and important. The first panel above illustrates one of the large estates founded by Scots in Argentina, while the following shows how Scots succeeded in many different sectors in Chile, including football.

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Scots have also played an important role in many Asian countries and not always for the good, alas. This is the case with trade with China. Many Scots worked for the East India Company which led this development in the 18th century. Not just silk, tea and porcelain were in demand, but also opium. A trade that was very profitable and that Britain was desperate to continue. A determination that would directly lead to the infamous Opium Wars of the 19th century.

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Scots were also active in maintaining British military rule over India. My paternal grandfather was a regular soldier in the British army and was stationed for many years in Kanpore in northern India. My father and his elder brother were both born there. So I have always felt a kind of affinity for India. Luckily not all of the Scottish involvement was of a military nature. The following panel shows the beginnings of tea planting in Darjeeling, which owed a lot to Scots. We can all drink to that!

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In addition to the USA, most Scots who emigrated to settle, did so in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  Many ended up in Adelaide in South Australia, taken there by the City of Adelaide clipper. Between 1864 and 1887 the ship made 23 voyages to Adelaide. In 2014 this fine ship was was restored and transported from Irvine in Ayrshire to Australia to become a museum ship.

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New Zealand was another popular destination for many Scots and many ended up in Otago, on the southern of the two large islands. Dunedin from Dùn Èideann (Gaelic for Edinburgh), the Edinburgh of the South, was founded in 1848. It is the capital of Otago and Scots shaped the city’s spiritual life, education, and architecture.

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Canada is probably the country with the greatest Scottish connection. The first Scottish settlers in Canada came after Sir William Alexander, Earl of Stirling, was granted land there by King James VI in 1621. This was to become New Scotland or Nova Scotia to give it its official name. Many of the settlers were gaelic speakers and the language remains alive and well in parts of Nova Scotia.

Ontario was another province with a strong Scottish presence. The second panel above is a lovely illustration of the move from rural Scotland to rural Canada.

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This short selection of panels from the Diaspora Tapestry began with Scotland’s links with Europe. It is only fitting that it should end with another illustration of this continuing link. Though many Scots have left to settle elsewhere, Scotland has always been at the same time a destination for others. People from all over the world have come and made Scotland their home, and have enriched the lives of all of us in the process. The panel above illustrates the arrival of Italians from Barga in the 19th century. Let us hope that all who want to come to live in Scotland can do so.

 

 

A Blackwork Heart

I have just finished my latest endeavour with Blackwork embroidery. It consists of two heart shapes, one within the other. Here it is.IMG_4794

The fabric is a 28ct Brittney which is a 52% cotton and 48% rayon mix. The colour is listed as orchid. The threads are Rajmahal ArtSilk, which is a mix of silk and rayon. I first stitched the outlines of the two hearts with two strands of the threads. This is a simple whipped backstitch.

For the body of the hearts I chose three patterns for the outer heart and another pattern for the inner heart. The strands of Rajmahal thread are very fine, so I used a combination of two, four and all six strands for the work. None of the outer patterns seem to have a name, but the inner pattern is a simple zigzag.

The outer heart is stitched in Imperial Purple, while the inner heart is stitched in Spring Leaf. Rajmahal ArtSilk is quite difficult to work with as the strands do not lie smoothly on the fabric. However they are very vibrant and luscious.

The 28 count fabric makes for very slow work, at least for me. The overall size is only 12cmx11cm at its widest. Yet it took me over 26 hours to finish the stitching. Very enjoyable all the same. With luck this should fit into another of my IKEA frames.

I now have a week without embroidery as we are off to Dubrovnik for a bit of relaxation and hopefully, some warmth and sunshine.  Happy stitching!

More Traditional Palestinian Embroidery

For my latest project I returned to traditional Palestinian embroidery.  The design or motif as they are normally called is Disc and comes from Gaza. Here it is.IMG_4740

This motif is one of the many in Margarita Skinner’s book, Palestinian Embroidery Motifs: A treasury of stitches 1850-1950. The Disc is clearly made up of various motifs. Unfortunately the book does not identify them. The centre square seems to be a variation of one of the star motifs, though I am not certain. The vertical and horizontal sections are  examples of the Kohl Holder motif. I cannot make out what the other sections are meant to be.

The piece is almost certainly not in the traditional Palestinian style! The fabric is an 18ct Aida in pale yellow. Not normally a colour for fabric. The motifs themselves would I suspect, have been stitched in a number of bright, vivid colours. Instead I went for another of my colour experiments. To contrast the yellow of the fabric I chose just two colours – dark delft blue and dark blue violet. Both from the DMC cotton range and I used two strands for the cross stitches. With luck this piece should fit into one of IKEA’s neat little square frames. Crossing my fingers!  Happy stitching.

Tulips in Iznik style

While on holiday in Lisbon last year I visited the Calouste Gulbenkian museum. It is a wonderful museum and houses an outstanding collection of carpets, hangings and ceramics from the Ottoman Empire. In particular some beautiful ceramic tiles from Iznik. I loved them all, but especially the elongated tulips which seemed to be a feature of tiles from Iznik.

Anyway I decided that I just had to try and emulate this work in embroidery. The resulting piece is now finished and in a frame. Here it is.IMG_4684The fabric is a very fine linen, which I worked on without a backing, probably a mistake, but there you go. The tulip flowers are all stitched with Glissen Gloss Colorwash silk threads. These are very fine variegated threads which come in 12 strands. I used four for the embroidery. Three of the tulips are stitched in Strawberry Sherbet and three in Coral Blush. Long and short stitch was used throughout. The stems consist of rows of heavy chain stitch. The calyx is made up of padded closed leaf stitch. All stitched with two strands of cotton.

I included the flowers in the centre to add a bit of variety to the composition. The outer layer of the larger flowers are also stitched with Glissen Gloss Colorwash silk. This time in Blueberry, again using four strands. The other layers and the smaller flower are all stitched with two strands of au ver à soie threads in dark blue, light blue and red. The outer layers use satin stitch, while the centres are filled with padded satin stitch.

The composition was designed to fit into an old frame that I bought second hand. It had a brownish oval shaped paper mount. Unfortunately I made a mess of this mount while applying some glue. So I quickly tried to remedy this by cutting out another oval mount in purple. It fits the frame all right, but not sure of the colour.

I enjoyed working on this piece and really like the Colorwash silk threads. Now have a mini collection of these threads. All awaiting a bit of inspiration.

Scottish Crossbill

My latest Blackwork project is now finished. Or at least the stitching part is! Not altogether surprisingly, for me, it is not in black. Here it is.img_4636

The body of the crossbill is stitched with hand made Japanese silk threads from the Colourwash series from GlissenGloss. This a variegated range with 12 very fine strands. This particular colour is cherry. Quite suitable for a Scottish Crossbill I think.  For variety of texture I used two, four and six strands of the thread. The fabric is a 28 count Britney, a mix of cotton and rayon, in pine green.

While the body of the crossbill is composed of Blackwork patterns I went for something different for the bill itself and the eye. The upper part of the bill was stitched with the redder parts of the range while most of the bottom bill was stitched with the browner parts of the range. A small section of the lower bill was stitched in a mix of yellow and cream threads to make the crossing over of the bill more apparent. The cream thread is a DMC cotton, while the golden yellow is a silk/rayon mix from Rajmahal threads. Both the upper and lower bill are padded for extra texture. The upper bill was stitched with long and short stitch, while the lower part was a simple sating stitch. The eye is also padded satin stitch, this time in a black brown cotton from DMC.

For the branch and cone I used mainly Appleton wool as a contrast to the smooth texture of the crossbill. Two shades of brown in long and short stitch for the branch. The cone started with padded satin stitch in a beige brown, overstitched with a trellis like stitch in brown cotton. Finally the feet, or to be precise, a bit of one foot can just about be made out on the left hand side of the crossbill. This was stitched with a dark pewter grey cotton thread.

I will probably get this framed eventually to go with the Merlin I did last year. Getting to be quite fond of birds as a subject for embroidery. However I think my next project will be back to flowers, tulips to be precise.  Happy stitching!

 

Flower Pots and Rosebuds

My first project for 2017 is now complete. At least the stitching part is. It is another composition using traditional Palestinian embroidery motifs. I am calling it Flower Pots and Rosebuds as these two motifs feature in the piece.img_4596

There are two other motifs as well. The central section in gold and yellow is the Olive Branch. The Flower Pots are in greens with a bright red for the flower itself. On either side of the Flower Pots are Rosebuds in pink and purple. To complete the composition I used the Crowns motif in two shades of blue.

All the threads are Anchor pearl cotton No 5. The fabric is a 14ct Aida in grey. The composition is my own design and while the motifs are traditional Palestinian, the colours used are not traditional at all. A Scottish-Palestinian original!

I will iron on a backing and then propose to turn the piece into a simple wall hanging. I am going to try this approach to finishing my work off with some other pieces.

My next project will be another foray into Blackwork. Though not in black! The subject is the Scottish crossbill. I already have the outline shape on the fabric and stitching will commence soon.

Happy stitching everyone!

Another Bargello medley

I have just finished the bargello medley project. I thought it might take me to Christmas to finish, but it has taken a few days longer. The stitching is finished but the whole thing has been, as often with me, pulled out of shape.  A bit of stretching coming up!img_4557

The fabric is 18ct aida in pale green and three strands of DMC cotton was used throughout. The central section is partly outlined with a whipped stem stich in cream. This part is stitched in copper colours with blue and green for the inserts. Florentine Signets is the name that Pauline Fischer and Anabel Lasker give to this pattern in their book Bargello Magic. The version here is a slight adaptation. I originally wanted to just use blues and greens for the rest of the piece, but added a bit of grey to avoid too much blue and green together. Other than the Florentine Signets, the other patterns are all used twice. The finished piece is 290mmx205mm.

I have now acquired my own personal stamp and you can just about make out my name on the lower part of the right hand side. The stamp works quite well on embroidery work where there is some unstitched fabric, as in crewel work or most blackwork. Not so good for bargello though, where all of the fabric is covered in stitches.  Here I had to try and stitch around the name, which is a bit awkward. Still nothing ventured, nothing gained!

A few days off stitching then back to work in the New Year. Happy New Year and happy stitching to one and all!