Lately, I’ve been exploring embroidered tapestries and other needlework projects that tell stories.
And there are oh, so many of them out there!
Embroidery has been used to tell stories for a long, long time. We’re probably all familiar with the Bayeux Tapestry, a 230-foot long embroidered cloth that relates the tale of the Norman conquest of England in 1066. (If you haven’t seen it, this video animating the Bayeux Tapestry is fun!)
But the Bayeux Tapestry, while certainly the most famous, is not the only embroidered tale worthy of attention.
In recent years, many fascinating tapestry projects that focus on retelling an important story have been undertaken and completed. For example, the Ros Tapestry, which I wrote about previously, retells a snippet of the history of Ireland.
Despite the fact that it’s St. Patrick’s Day and everyone’s thinking Irish, here’s a modern Scottish tapestry that relates a snippet of Scottish history and is definitely worth exploring!
The Prestonpans Tapestry relates, in thread, the story of the events leading up to Bonnie Prince Charlie’s victory at the Battle of Prestonpans in September of 1745, after he returned from France (via Scotland) and garnered the support of the Scottish clans to rekindle the Jacobite rising and restore the Stuart monarchy.
The battle at Prestonpans was successful, insofar as the Scottish won against George II, but even more so because it boosted morale and garnered more support across Scotland for the Jacobite cause. However, April of the following year, the Jacobites lost against the Hanoverian forces at the Battle of Culloden, near Inverness, which, for all practical purposes, marked the end of the 1745 Jacobite rising.
In 2010, to commemorate the battle at Prestonpans and the events that led up to it, a tapestry was begun. With more than 200 stitchers across Scotland and 25,000 hours of stitching, the 104 one-meter-long panels were completed between January and June of 2010.
On the viewing page on the Prestonpans Tapestry website, you can view the panels of the tapestry, along with explanations of the scenes and information about the embroiderers. Unfortunately, the online slideshow wasn’t working when I tried it last, but if you have PowerPoint (or Keynote on Mac), you can download the slideshow and view it on your own computer. (Hopefully, they’ll fix the online version soon!)
While you’re exploring the Prestonpans Tapestry website, take some time to read the background of the tapestry project. If you’ve ever imagined organizing or working a collaborative tapestry project that relates a story, this background information is good reading!
Some additional publications that are worth reading and are available on the website include “Stitching the Prestonpans Tapestry” by Dorie Wilkie (PDF) and “Designing the Prestonpans Tapestry” by Andrew Crummy (PDF).
I hope you find as much pleasure exploring the Prestonpans Tapestry as I did!
The more I explore large tapestry projects like these, the more I am enamored with them. If you’re also interested in this type of storytelling with thread, let me know, and I’ll share some other gems with you in the future.