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The Great Tapestry of Scotland

160 panels. 143 metres of linen. Hours of enjoyment.

Move over Bayeux: there's a new tapestry in town.

The Great Tapestry of Scotland tells Scotland's story from the creation of the land itself right through to the present day, capturing in textile the rich history of a nation.

Stitched by more than 1,000 people, Scotland's tapestry is twice the length of its French rival and now has a permanent home in the Scottish Borders town of Galashiels.

It was the celebrated author Alexander McCall-Smith who came up with the idea for the tapestry. Scottish Borders historian Alastair Moffat rose to the challenge of translating 420 million years of history into one smooth narrative and then artist Andrew Crummy stepped up to bring it all together, sketching out the designs onto 160 linen panels and sending them out around the country along with detailed colour palettes for hundreds of stitchers to embroider.

Strictly speaking it is not actually tapestry - a weft-faced weaving technique that involves creating the design by weaving coloured thread (the weft) through a plain warp. But then neither is the Bayeux Tapestry. Both are technically works of embroidery.

It took more than 482 miles of wool to complete the panels under the supervision of stitcher coordinator Dorie Wilke and although Andrew Crummy was quite strict in his instructions, the embroiderers have managed to slip in a few personal touches along the way, such as the moon on a corner of the Border Reivers panel.

Stitcher Veronica Ross explains in the accompanying notes that the astronaut Neil Armstrong died while they were sewing the panels and they wanted to acknowledge his Borders roots (the Armstrong family home of Gilnockie Tower still stands at Langholm).

Before it went on permanent display in Galashiels the welcome panel toured Scotland to give as many people as possible the opportunity to contribute a stitch or two and to become part of creating their own bit of Scottish history. The completed Tapestry is now housed in a purpose built building in the town, with a lovely restaurant and gift shop to make for a great day out.

And if that's given you a taste for textiles, take a look at Famously Hawick's Textile Trail, visit Lochcarron of Selkirk for a mill tour and - of course - check out the work of our own talented handweaver Carolynn at her Five Turrets Handwoven online store.

Check The Great Tapestry of Scotland website for visiting times - it's normally open Tuesday to Saturday throughout the year.

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