Panel 140: Cumbernauld

Well, this is my final post on the Great Tapestry of Scotland! I have really enjoyed revisiting my photographs, and thinking more about the tapestry, and your comments have also provided much food for thought. These photographs are, of course only snippets, and you’ll find much more thorough information in the two books I mentioned in my first post about the project. But honestly, no books or photographs can reproduce the experience of seeing this incredible thing for yourself and, if you ever have the opportunity, I really recommend you do so!

Detail of Panel 140: Cumbernauld

I can’t say I have a favourite panel, though I do love Fairisle (126) the Isbister Sisters (115) and the Hutton panel (74) but as I went through my photos this morning, I found myself thinking about how much I loved the Cumbernauld panel (140) and how it seemed to sum up for me what this project is all about.

Detail of Panel 140: Cumbernauld

Like many panels, this one celebrates the texture of ordinary people’s lives, and the ordinary spaces in which they live them. Andrew Crummy’s design – with the new town’s familiar roads and architecture – is incredibly witty and creative, and just like his Pictish or his Georgian panels, the style of the design has shifted in an inventive fashion here to suit the moment it represents. Cumbernauld’s local reputation is not unambiguous, but in this panel the urban environment appears beautiful and utopian simply because it is an everyday space of homes, and folk, and families. My favourite scene from Gregory’s Girl is referenced in the top left, and perhaps one of the reasons I like this panel so much is that so much of what it represents seems familiar to me from my own childhood and youth. Finally, the stitching on the panel is absolutely exquisite, and because of this the whole piece absolutely sings. Last Sunday, I spent some time admiring this panel, and I then read the information board which told me that just two Cumbernauld women had worked on the stitching, Elizabeth Boulton and Helen Conley. Conley and Boulton had depicted themselves as children in their signature at the bottom right of the panel, in a scene that seemed to be taken from an old photograph of the pair. I was suddenly struck by the sheer power of the Great Tapestry project – that these two childhood friends were quite literally making history, and with their needles stitching themselves into the story of their home, their town, their nation. What a wonderful thing to do.

So, some final highlights.

Panel 125: The General Strike stitched by June McEwan, Karen Philpot and Gil Tulloch in Pitlochry

Panel 126: Fair Isle Love this panel inordinately.

Panel 129: The Great Depression The lone figure of Chris Guthrie defines the 1930s

Panel 130: Tenement Life I loved everything about this wonderfully vibrant celebration of Scotland’s tenement communities

Panel 132: The Clydebank Blitz I found this panel deeply affecting

Panel 134: D-Day, 1944 Bill Millin defiantly pipes through the Normandy landings

Panel 143: Linwood and the Hillman Imp I was particularly pleased to see a yoked jumper, appropriately appearing here in its early 1960s heyday!

Panel 148: The rise of the SNP It amused me that Irn Bru and Tunnocks Tea Cakes appeared in this panel as 1970s nationalist icons.

Panel 149: Scotland at the Movies. Whisky Galore! “No son of mine will be eating human flesh.”

Panel 152: Gaelic Resurgent stitched by Christine Haynes and Pauline Elwell

Panel 154: Dolly the Sheep Tom’s favourite panel, for its inventive depiction of science in stitch.

Panel 155: The Scottish Parliament reconvenes, 1999. Incredibly beautiful stitching on this panel

Panels 156 and 157: Parliament of the Ancestors, Parliament for the Future An appropriately vast and varied tapestry of Scottish identities, from Joanna Baillie to Oor Wullie.

Thanks for bearing with me through this photographic tour! And if you’d like to see all of my posts about the Great Scottish Tapestry together, you can do so here.

40 thoughts on “Great Tapestry of Scotland 124-160

  1. Thank you so much for pointing us in the direction of the Great Tapestry. I visited Scotland for the first time last month and seized the opportunity to visit the Tapestry in the National Parliament building in Edinburg. What a grand experience! I only wish I’d had more time to pore over each panel. We brought home (to the US) both books you mentioned and I’m savoring them, but neither brings quite the experience of seeing this incredible piece of art in person. I was telling every waiter in Edinburgh they should drop everything and run down to see it. We particularly appreciated the portrayal of Scottish contributions to art, science, and culture – that it is not a parade of kings and queens but the vision of ordinary people. We also deeply admired the choices made by the individual stitchers that brought tremendous artistry to the project. Thank you again for the highlight of our trip!


  2. I’m late in seeing these posts; but, I want to say thank you so much for showing the panels in such detail. I love all three of your posts. I’ve admired other bloggers’ photos of the tapestry, but wished for closer details so often. Thank you for satisfying my itch for detail.


    1. I too want to say Thank You Kate. Your considered and insightful posts, particularly your last one on the Great Tapestry which has just moved me to tears, are a joy and an education.


  3. I enjoyed these posts tremendously and just got my copy of the book, which has made me appreciate your posts even more. While the book is lovely, it is impossible to actually see the embroidery; the panels might just as well have been of the cartoons (not that these aren’t brilliant in themselves). I hope someone will produce a book aimed at embroiderers that will highlight the incredible inventiveness and beauty of the stitching–something similar to Jan Messent’s wonderful book on the Bayeux Tapestry. In the meantime, thank you so much for the needleworker’s view of this stunning work.


  4. I have so enjoyed reading all of your posts about this tapestry at once Kate. What a stunning piece that could only be more breathtakingly so in person. I was particularly moved by your comment:

    “I was suddenly struck by the sheer power of the Great Tapestry project – that these two childhood friends were quite literally making history, and with their needles stitching themselves into the story of their home, their town, their nation. What a wonderful thing to do.”

    I can’t even find the words to articulate why this speaks to me so much, except to say that to my mind if perfectly articulates how the act of making can be/is so powerful and empowering. It has indeed started a train of thought in my mind about how crafting/making locates a person and how comforting that can be in what I might have described as a fractured post-modern world of shifting identities if I was still a student of cultural theory. I know one of the things I love about knitting is having a tangible output. Love something that provokes some thinking!


  5. Cumbernauld looks much better as an embroidery than it does in real life! I lived for some time in one of the multi-storey flats, and learned to drive there, which had one advantage – no traffic lights!


  6. Hi Kate, Thank you for sharing your amazing photos of The Great Tapestry of Scotland! I have never seen such detailed embroidery; it is wonderful to know that over 1000 people in the world have such skill! I am not Scottish, and have never heard of the Isbister Sisters. A quick internet search was not helpful. Could you share a bit on these women, or where we might find out more? Best wishes


  7. Thank you so much for telling us about this amazing piece of art. I will visit Scotland in July and I will definitely go and see this in Edinburgh.


  8. Thanks for showing in such detail The Great Tapestry of Scotland.. I visited your hat at Gawkthorpe on Saturday and loved the exhibition.


  9. Thank you so much for sharing this. I saw the tapestry at Cockenzie House in November and Santa delivered a copy of the book at Christmas. Your photos and words are just perfect. I need to see it all again!


  10. These panels are beyond words, thank you for sharing them with us and guiding us through the highlights as seen by you. I can’t begin to imagine what a huge, emotional impact this work would have on one in person. Stunning.


  11. Thank you for your lovely words. As someone who stitched on Panel 130 and also helped to bring it to Paisley, taking part in this project has been an honour and privilege.

    If anyone is planning a trip to see it in Edinburgh, the Scottish Diaspora tapestry is also in Edinburgh this summer between 6th – 31st August at St Mary’s Episcopal cathedral and is an even more amazing piece of work.


  12. Kate, thank you so much for sharing these wonderful photos. I have so enjoyed looking at the incredible stitching and reading your descriptions. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to see the embroideries in person, but I’m so grateful that I could see them here. I particularly loved the little details you shared… the can of Irn Bru, the knitting, the stitching in the kilts, the rocks and fields, the tail of that red squirrel. Just beautiful!


  13. What a wonderful thing it is! Thank you so much for all the detailed photos and explanations. I agree though that it is not actually a tapestry (but then we refer to the Bayeux Tapestry don’t we?!); I think it is an embroidered panel but that doesn’t matter too such as it is an amazing record of so many interesting aspects of life. Thank you for sharing, Susie xxx


  14. Thank you so much for posting these brilliant photos of the tapestry, Kate! I do hope it comes to the US some time, since I would dearly love to spend a few days just standing in front of the panels looking at the details of the amazing design and even more amazing stitching (and learning a lot about Scottish history in the process!). I definitely will be getting the books you’ve linked to, although I find your detail photos particularly moving since the variety and expertise of the crewel work is truly awesome in the classic sense of the word. What a wonderful tribute to a nation!


  15. I think this might have been the most amazing piece of craftsmanship I’ve seen in my life. Thank you for sharing those amazing highlights! (I had no idea Arthur’s Seat was a volcano and I’d learned it from one of your pictures, thanks! So much still to learn about the world, I guess :-)).


  16. thank you so much for all your effort kate, all your insightful thoughts and meaningful descriptions, this project, it’s just enthralling. i’m so grateful to you since i now know about this and have put it at the top of my list to see next month. i’ve downloaded the mp3 to my phone to listen to while viewing (with Alexander McCall Smith! well all the brilliant contributors and musicians on the recording really). i’ve gone from being a little anxious about traveling alone (for a part of my trip) to now just being excited. can’t wait. thank you
    x lori


  17. This is such an incredible piece of art. I loved the wonderful detail and your thoughtful reflection on the pieces you found moving, significant or beautiful Thank you so much for sharing your photos.


  18. Amazing stitches!I’m speechless with the skills of all embroiders.This is exquisite. Only to see “alive and in colors” as we use to say.

    I wish i could go to Scotland to see “the Great Tapestry of Scotland! and the “Scottish Diaspora Tapestry” as well. Hope you can go to see the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry at http://www.scottishdiasporatapestry.org/
    Have a great Sunday.


  19. The commentary was very helpful, especially highlighting the details for those viewing online. Panel 155! Wow. If I won the lottery, I would fly over tomorrow to see it in person.


  20. Kate, thank you so much for posting these detailed photos that show the intricacies of the panels. It’s an amazing exhibit and your commentary is so helpful.


  21. Oh Kate, I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed these last few posts. Such a joy to read and see such stunning embroidery and crewel work. Thank you so very much. I plan on showing them all to my mum today as she was born and raised in Edinburgh. She has been in the USA for about 60 years now, but she still will be able to recognize and tell me about every single thing in each photo.

    Thanks again,

    p.s. my fav is Cumbernauld!


  22. Thank you so much for sharing Kate! I was wondering if this is a permanent exhibition, or just temporary? I am planning a trip to Scotland, but it is still a couple years down the road and wondered if this would still be available for viewing then. Thanks!


  23. I am truly amazed at the detail of this tapestry. Wonderful what can be created with a needle and tread…and LOTS of talent! Thanks so much for sharing it with us.


  24. Thank you Kate for sharing your thoughts on this amazing piece of history. Like petroglyphs of the the ancient past, this tapestry tells the story of your lives in vivid color and thread. To see the whole tapestry and truly know the history behind it must be a wonderful experience.


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