Saturday, May 31, 2014

Scottish Diaspora Tapestry

We have looked a different styles of embroidery from around the world this month and today we are featuring a project that has brought together stitchers from across the globe. It is called the Scottish Diaspora project and one of the volunteers, Margaret Ferguson Burns, was kind enough to tell us more about it:

Scottish Diaspora logo

The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry, a series of hand embroidered panels of wool on linen, is a unique project involving communities around the world where Scots have travelled to settle and trade.

The artist is Andrew Crummy who also designed the images for the Prestonpans Tapestry and the Great Scottish Tapestry which is currently touring Scotland and will be at the Scottish Parliament for 3 months over the summer for the Homecoming 2014 and the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe. Plans for a new permanent home for this, in the Scottish Borders, have just been announced. 

The co-ordinators are Yvonne Murphy and Gillian Hart who travelled to around half of these countries to meet potential stitchers and develop the project. Countries represented include Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Canada, France, U.S.A., Netherlands, England, Northern Ireland, Portugal, Poland, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Argentina.

Members of these communities were able to contribute to the design by telling the story from their perspective and Andrew included their ideas in his drawings.
Packs containing the linen, wools, the coloured drawing and instructions were sent out. These included which stitches and colour to use for the outlines and border and some suggested stitches with diagrams to get them started. Stitchers were free to interpret their design by choosing which stitches and combinations of colours and shades to use to best achieve the effect they wanted.

Culcross Palace

A team of Studio Volunteers has undertaken a variety of tasks to contribute to the project: cutting linen and the calico backing fabric, sorting and labelling wool and transferring the designs onto the linen. We were also asked to stitch 2 of the global panels featuring Highland and Scottish Country Dancing. In the lead up to the launch we have been stretching the panels, machine and hand finishing the backing and attaching identification codes.

the studio

It is a great pleasure to work in the studio, a good humoured collaborative environment where skills have been re-established, shared and developed in very congenial company. Being surrounded by such beautiful work from across the world has been truly inspiring and has been a wonderful experience for us all.  

the Portuguese panels

I can tell you more about a terrific opportunity I was given - to stitch a Portuguese panel: the Madeiran one about Joao Escorcio/ Sir John Drummond of Stobhall who was one of the first settlers there in 1424, travelling there on Zarco’s caravel. I was asked if I could try to find stitchers in Portugal itself to embroider other panels. After following various avenues, Floresita of Feeling Stitchy put me in touch with Gabi of Agulha nao Pico and we had 2 groups, one in Porto stitching a panel about George Sandeman and one in Lisbon also about the Port trade. 

They embraced the challenge fully and it has been a pleasure to communicate with the women in these groups via their embroidery blog sites and on Facebook. I have enjoyed hearing about the progress of their panels and keeping them up to date with progress once they had been sent back to Scotland. The Porto group invited a descendant of George Sandeman (the 13th or so) to see them working on his family panel. The Lisbon group involved twenty 10 year olds in a history/geography/stitching session and 6 of them were able to make some stitches in their panel. Yesterday all 3 Portuguese panels were complete on the same day and hanging together in a row in the studio. That was great to see.

The returned panels show a huge range of different stitches and techniques and demonstrate the wonderful effects which can be made with such simple materials and tools. The linen/cotton mix fabric is manufactured by Peter Greig and Company, Kirkcaldy and the wool is Appleton's, manufactured in England. The panels for this artwork are 1/2 metre square.

John Muir panel

There are currently 164 panels with another 100 or so to follow within the next few months.

The launch of the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry will be on 31st May 2014 at Prestonpans Community Centre, Prestonpans, East Lothian (until 8th June) as part of the 3 Harbours Arts Festival. It will be exhibited at the McRobert Centre, Stirling later in June and at St Mary's Cathedral, Palmerston Place, Edinburgh in August.

Further information can be found on the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry Website and on Facebook.

What are you stitching? Please share in the &Stitches Flickr group. We'd love to see it!


  1. This is an amazing project that my mother & I have been following. Thanks for posting about it here. Amazing embroidery & the designs are fabulous.

    1. It is a beautiful project isn't it- would love to see them up close!

  2. I worked on one of the panels this spring, it was a lot of fun to do as a collective sewing project. It was great to feel like I was part of something that was so global!

  3. It was an honor to work in such a special project! Thanks to Gabi from "Agulha não pica" to Sofia from Lisbon and to volunteers from Porto.
    A very special and a BIG THANK YOU to Margaret Ferguson who during all three weeks of work we felt looking over our shoulders and always supporting us, writing a comment, sharing photos and so on. Thank you Margaret!

  4. I'm so glad that we were able to feature this amazing project- Margaret got in touch with the names of some of the stitchers so a big shout out to The Porto group (Méri Almeida, Rita Ruivo, Fernanda Freitas, Susana Félix, Anjos Mendes)and the Lisbon group (Sofia Amaral Menezes, Gabriela Moreira Pereira, Ana Paula Barata, Ana Nunes Silva, Cláudia Monteiro, Fátima Botelho de Amaral, Maria Henriqueta Louro, Heloísa Leal Azevedo,
    Maria Fernanda Saraiva) and the name of the school involved is the Luís de Camões primary school :)
    It has been lovely to hear from those of you who took part here in the comments- thanks for dropping by!

  5. The tapestry now has 300 panels (with the final 5 still to be completed), stitched in around 35 countries. I started its first world tour in Bergen, with all the new panels being united with the others in Veere, its next destination. Then it was off to Barga and Picinisco in Italy, then Boussy Saint Antoine and Paris in France before heading off to Australia where it will tour until April 2016. It will return to Scotland in 2017 after exhibitions in New Zealand, the United States of America and Canada. I was delighted to be able to travel to Italy and France to dismantle the exhibition in Picinisco and drive it up to Boussy Saint Antoine where it was exhibited in 3 locations, before being taken up to Paris - a very interesting, busy and challenging 5 week trip, with Frances Gardiner, where we met the people involved in hosting the exhibitions and helped to organise and set them up.


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