Following up on last week’s excursion into embroidered stories and the Prestonpans Tapestry, here are a few embroidered stories that I hope you will enjoy exploring.
Great events in history, and especially great conflicts, have been retold with needle and thread since the Middle Ages. The Bayeux Tapestry is the first example of this.
The two great conflicts of the modern era – World War I and II – have been retold in stitches through a few well-known and lesser-well-known projects that should be well-known.
Don’t be misled into thinking the stories told here are meant to glorify war. On the contrary, they commemorate the spirit of the people whose lives were profoundly changed because of the horrors of war. Sandra Lawrence, on her web page devoted to the Overlord Embroidery, quotes Lord Dulverton, who commissioned the embroideries. He explains:
The Embroidery is a tribute to our Country and Countrymen over the part played in defeating a great evil that sprang upon the Western World. It is not, and was never intended to be, a tribute to war, but to our people in whom it brought out in adversity so much that is good, determination, ingenuity, fortitude and sacrifice.
As Time distances us from these massive conflicts that affected all of our ancestors (and hence, us) in one way or another, the stories below serve as a good reminder.
The Fabric of Survival
Fabric of Survival: The Art of Esther Nisenthal Krinitz is a series of 36 fabric art panels that employ embroidery, painting and appliqué in a bold, folk style to tell the story of Esther and her sister Mania and their survival during the German occupation of Poland in World War II.
It’s also worth taking the time to watch the 30-minute documentary, Through the Eye of the Needle on YouTube, where Esther and her sister are interviewed and where you can see close ups of parts of the panels as their story is told.
The Occupation Tapestry
The islanders of Jersey, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of liberation of Jersey from German occupation at the end of World War II, collectively created a 12-panel tapestry that retells their story of life under German occupation.
Through a community effort, the twelve panels were completed by Christmas, 1994. Over 7.5 million stitches and 275 shades of wool went into the tapestries, which were stitched by teams from each of the twelve parishes on Jersey.
You can read all about the Occupation Tapestry and view the panels on The Occupation Tapestry Page on the The Island Wiki.
The Occupation Tapestry is housed at the Occupation Tapestry Gallery on Jersey, where it can be viewed by visitors to the island.
The Overlord Embroidery
The Overlord Embroidery, housed at the D-Day Museum in Portsmouth, is a series of embroideries that relates the story of Operation Overlord, the decisive D-Day campaign, and final victory at Normandy in 1944.
Slightly different from the tapestries perviously mentioned, but perhaps more in line with the Bayeux Tapestry which inspired the idea, the Overlord Embroidery was a fully funded commission stitched by the embroiderers at the Royal School of Needlework.
The panels were designed by professional artist Sandra Lawrence. Begun in the 1970’s and consisting of 34 8-foot by 3-foot panels worked in embroidery and appliqué, the panels were stitched over four years by 25 skilled needleworkers at the RSN.
The D-Day Museum in Portsmouth was built to house the embroideries and was opened in 1984. Visitors can see the embroidered panels on display there. The original paintings of the panels are on display at the Pentagon.
A Tapestry Underway
The Gordon Highlanders Great War Tapestry, commemorating the sacrifices and heroism of the Gordon Highlanders in World War I, is underway in Scotland as we speak!
Although they don’t have a website (yet – there’s always hope!), you can follow the development of the Gordon Highlanders Great War Tapestry on Facebook, here, where they post photos of their work.
This is another community tapestry, stitched by volunteers in Aberdeen and Huntly, and designed by Andrew Crummy.
I hope you enjoy exploring all of these embroidered stories more thoroughly!
More embroidered stories coming up later!