Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Embroidered Stories: Heritage Tapestries


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Several weeks ago, we started exploring embroidered stories – tapestry projects that, in some way, tell stories that are significant in some way. Most of these tapestry projects are community efforts, embroidered by volunteers.

First, we saw the Prestonpans Tapestry, and then we looked at tapestries, embroideries, and textile art relating to World Wars I & II.

For your perusal and further exploration, here’s a group of tapestry projects that I call “heritage tapestries.” For the most part, they have to do with the settlement and development of communities, or the cultural, artistic, religious, or historical heritage of the communities or individuals involved in making them.

Some of the tapestry projects may be familiar to you; hopefully, you’ll find some new gems among them to explore further on your own! And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find out that there’s a tapestry near you – or in the vicinity of some future travels – that you can see in person!

Embroidered Stories: Heritage Tapestries

So, here’s a list and descriptions of various heritage tapestries around the globe. They’re in no particular order. Hope you enjoy them!

Scottish Diaspora Tapestry

The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry is rather popular these days – you may very well have seen parts of it on needlework blogs from around the world!

The panels represent connections between the community or individuals that stitched them and their Scottish heritage.

The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry has one of the most complete websites devoted to the development of a tapestry, and it’s quite fascinating to explore! Visit The Tapestry section, to view the individual panels.

The Great Tapestry of Scotland

It’s true, the Scottish seem to excel at this whole tapestry thing!

The Great Tapestry of Scotland is another project with a great website for further exploration.

Besides viewing the images of the tapestry panels here, you can visit the Great Tapestry of Scotland shop to find some nice resources – books, DVDs, images, postcards, and tapestry paraphernalia.

The French Shore Tapestry

The French Shore Tapestry hails from Newfoundland in Canada. It relates the story of the history of the French Shore of Newfoundland, from prehistoric times to the beginning of the tapestry in 2006.

The style of this tapestry is very much Bayeux-influenced, and the panels are vivid and delightful! You can view some of the panels here – just scroll through with the arrows.

The Quaker Tapestry

Began in the 1980’s and finished in 1996, the The Quaker Tapestry is a modern tapestry masterpiece! The details, the stitchery, the colors, the story-telling – it’s quite a fascinating piece.

If you explore the website, you’ll find that the tapestry has ignited its own little embroidery education industry, replete with workshops in narrative embroidery, children’s activities, and a shop where you can purchase books, kits, and the like relating to the Quaker Tapestry.

The Guernsey Tapestry

The Bailiwick of Guernsey Tapestry is made up of ten panels of canvas work, and it tells the story of a thousand years of the local history of this Channel Island.

If you like maritime scenes, you’ll love this tapestry! The stitchery is fantastic, and the various representations of the surrounding sea are lovely.

You can read the background story about the tapestry here, and you can view the Guernsey Tapestry Panels here.

The Palestinian History Tapestry Project

The Palestinian History Tapestry Project is a non-profit endeavor aimed to support Palestinian women. It’s underway at the moment, so it isn’t a complete tapestry, but it tells a story, too.

You can read about the Palestinian Tapestry Project here. Some of the completed panels and spacers can be seen here.

The Keiskamma History Tapestry

Somewhat related (as a precursor) to the Palestinian History Tapestry, the Keiskamma History Tapestry accomplished in South Africa what the Palestinian History Tapestry project hopes to accomplish in Palestine – that is, it brought together people, it helped the impoverished, and it tells the engrossing story of the region.

On the main tapestry page, you can view wonderful, large images of the tapestry, and there’s a link at the end of the page to a dropbox file, to view more images.

Plymouth Congregational Church Summer of the First Amendment Tapestry

I wasn’t able to find a lot on the Summer of the First Amendment Tapestry, which is located in Minneapolis at the Plymouth Congregational Church, but the webpage devoted to the Needlers in the community has some great photos of the projects, so that you can see the huge scope of this one embroidered panel. It’s Big!

The New World Tapestry

The New World Tapestry, which is a little more “cartoonish” in style – very colorful, very (very!) extensive, tells the story of English colonization in North America, Newfoundland, Guiana, and Bermuda. The tapestry was begun in 1980, and it took 20 years and the work of 256 stitchers to complete it.

You can read the history behind the tapestry here. To view the panels, there are links at the top of the website, to take you to different historical eras depicted in the tapestry.

The Fort Vancouver Tapestry

The Fort Vancouver Tapestry focuses on the heritage of Northwest America, especially in Southwest Washington, around the Columbia River basin.

On the website, you’ll find information on the tapestry and its purpose, a terrific slideshow of the whole tapestry, so that you can view it as it scrolls by, and links to view and read about the individual panels.

The Bristol Berkeley Plantation Tapestry

The Bristol Berkeley Plantation Tapestry is a project underway. I’m not sure what the status is on it, but the story it tells is the connection between Berkeley Plantation in Virginia and the district of Berkeley in Gloucestershire in the UK.

You can read the history behind the tapestry here, and see the basic layout of it. You can also zoom in on a couple of the tapestry scenes by hovering over the colored pictures on that page.

Fort Anne Heritage Tapestry

If you happen to be visiting Nova Scotia this summer, stop in at the Fort Anne National Historic Site, where you can view the Fort Anne Heritage Tapestry.

The tapestry colorfully relates the history of Annapolis Royal and the Annapolis basin in southwestern Nova Scotia. When I visited Nova Scotia several summers ago, I had no idea about the tapestry. It’s a good excuse to go back to a gorgeous area of Canada!

There aren’t a lot of photos on the website of the tapestry, if you google Fort Anne Heritage Tapestry, you can find some good images of it. Notable Travels (a travel blog) has a good article about a visit to Annapolis Royal and a nice picture of the tapestry.

Annapolis Tapestries

And speaking of Annapolis, in the Historic Annapolis Museum in downtown Annapolis, Maryland, you can find the first panels and information on the Annapolis Tapestries.

The Annapolis Tapestries were inspired by the tapestries at Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia, and they intend to tell the rich history of Annapolis, Maryland. The Annapolis Tapestries project begin in 2006, and I don’t know if it’s completed or not. The website seems to have stagnated in 2012.

There are some nice photo galleries on the website, though, and with a little exploration online, you can find some photos of finished panels.

EGA National Tapestry

The EGA National Tapestry is not so much a “story” tapestry – it celebrates the natural beauty of the US – but it’s definitely worth mentioning!

The EGA National Tapestry (America the Beautiful) is made up of five painted and then embroidered mono-canvas panels that depict America, from sea to shining sea, and her flora and fauna.

You can view the individual tapestry panels at the EGA National Headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, and you can also check for a schedule of exhibits around the country – it occasionally circulate from region to region.

In the meantime, though, you can view close-ups of highlights from each panel on the EGA website, by accessing the panel menu on the right side of the page.

Start Your Own!

I hope you enjoy perusing the links in this chapter of Embroidered Stories. Maybe you’ll be inspired to start a heritage tapestry in your own community?

Now, wouldn’t that be something?!?


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(11) Comments

  1. Dear Mary

    It took me quite a while to look at all the tapestries above and their histories, very interesting. They are such lovely embroideries and I think this is a lovely way to discover the different histories of different places and cultures in the world and the women who volunteered their time and efforts into stitching the panels are to be congratulated. I notice that some of the women worked without hoops or magnifying equipment I don’t know how they do that, hats of to them. Thanks for sharing these websites with us, to look at and wonder at these beautiful pieces of embroidery.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  2. Mary, I realize that this does not pertain to the various tapestries that you have shared but I hope that you will be willing to answer a question and give some much needed advice. I am working on a project that has quite a bit of the Lazy Daisy Stitch and I am not sure of the correct way to start and end this. So far I have just been weaving my threads into areas that have already been stitched, and I am wondering if that is how you would do this. I don’t know if there is any other way to to anchor the threads of this stitch. I know that you are very busy with other projects, but if you can help it would be wonderful. Thank you, Louisa

    1. Hi, Louisa –

      Yes, I weave under previously stitched areas, especially to end threads, and especially if there’s no where else close by that will be covered with stitchery. If, though, I’m working in an area that’ll be covered with stitches, I start on the front with a waste knot (going down into the fabric and leaving the knot on the front) and then I take a few tiny stab stitches in the area that’ll be covered by other stitches, and then I cut away the waste knot and proceed with the embroidery, covering up those little anchoring stab stitches. They’re generally tiny stitches, just over one or two fabric threads, depending on the weave of the fabric – enough to anchor the thread, but easy enough to cover. If I’m ending a thread and it’s right next to an area where there will be more stitching, I end the same way – by taking a few tiny stab stitches in an area that will be covered with other stitches, and then I cut the thread close to the fabric. Then I proceed with stitching, covering up those ending stitches. It just depends on the design and what’s being stitched around any given area. The advantage of doing it this way is you don’t get a huge build-up of thread on the back, where you’re weaving your ends and beginnings in and out. But, there are times when running your working thread under the backs of stitches is a better way to go – so it really just depends! Hope that helps!

  3. For what it’s worth, someone has created Star Wars in tapestry:

    This sort of thing completely tickles my funny bones. I’ve thought of doing something similar with tv shows I’m a fan of.

    I found a lot of other images of nerdy/ geeky tapestries, but photo-rendering and digital art is so good these days it’s difficult to say what’s actually be stitched and what’s just a manipulated image. (Although to be fair, nothing along the manipulated image lines these days is ‘just’ an image anymore.)


  4. How could you? I have things to do! Chores, projects, sleeping, reading…. I got stuck on the Canadian panels of your first suggestion. Too much! I’m going to have to view one a day, or something! Beautiful; I had no idea things like this were being made now.

  5. So much fun info. I’m excited already. I’m going to start with the Quaker Tapestry and then go to the Fort Vancouver Tapestry…..
    Thanks, Mary

  6. Hahaha, Barb’s post made me chuckle. I had the same issue. Not enough time, so yesterday (since I still am living in MN) I had to start with the one in Minneapolis. I am hoping I can find the time to maybe go and see it. Would love to. I will be keeping this post up for days so I can look and savor as time allows. Thanks Mary – until you started these posts I also had no idea this sort of thing was still being made.

  7. I’m a bit late to the party so to speak. I love looking at tapestries and wonder how long each one takes to create. Some of my simpler cross stitch things take a few months. Then again, I’m very slow.

    I wonder if there’s a specific requirement for something to be categorized as a “tapestry.” In Astoria, OR we have the famous Flavel House. OK, maybe only famous in Oregon. LOL In the museum they have a huge wall hanging (tapestry) that appears to be needlepoint. I was able to get a photo without flash but it’s not very good. I don’t know how to share it here and I can’t find a link to the piece. Does size alone qualify something as tapestry or does it have to be historical in nature?

  8. I see you are aware of the wonderful Keiskamma History Tapestry and I wondered if you had heard about that community’s subsequent tapestry projects, as well as a recently published book called The Keiskamma Art Project, which is not only fascinating but beautifully illustrated, too. I wrote a review of the book for a South African daily newspaper (I’m an English-born journalist living in South Africa). If you’d like to find out more about the book, here’s a link to my review (which you are more than welcome to quote from if you ever cover this particular tapestry project again):
    I do love your Needle ‘n Thread columns, by the way.

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