Stirling Castle and the tapestries

We took one weekend to go to Stirling Castle. Again, lots of walking! We took the train from Edinburgh to Stirling, and everything we saw online indicated that we would have to walk up to the castle. That turned out not to be entirely true, but we didn’t discover that until we had walked straight up (it seemed like it was straight up!) to the castle. Then it was more up and down and all around the castle, but let me tell you what we saw!

One of the first things I saw was a sign to the tapestry exhibit! So of course we had to do that! The tapestry studio exhibit was at the very far end of the castle grounds, and we didn’t see it until we had gone through the castle with a guide. So after seeing the tapestry studio exhibit we had to go back to the castle to see the tapestries we learned about – more up and down. Let me tell you, everything in Scotland is hilly!

The tapestries hang in the queen’s bedchamber, and tell the story of the unicorn hunt. This is a classic them in medieval tapestry, and the tapestries covered the walls of the queen’s bedchamber, both for warmth and decoration.

https://www.stirlingcastle.scot/discover/highlights/the-stirling-tapestries/

The link goes to a video about how the tapestries were woven, not very long, but very interesting!

The studio exhibit was fascinating because it tells the story of the recreation of the tapestries. It includes a short video about the tapestries, but it also had several of the threads, bobbins, a tapestry in progress, and other items. I even saw a DMC thread wrapper! It’s always fun to find things in an exhibit that I recognize immediately.

After we had walked to the far end of the castle grounds to see the tapestry studio, of course we had to walk back up to the castle to see the tapestries again, because we didn’t know what to look for the first time we were in the queen’s bedchamber. So we climbed back up to look more closely. Well worth the walk and the effort, and probably the thing we enjoyed the most at Stirling Castle.

A couple of things about this visit: as we were walking up to the castle, we were looking in shops as we went. And I saw someone sitting in one of the shop windows, working on an embroidery in a hoop! Across from her sat another woman winding DMC floss onto bobbins. I wanted so badly to go in the shop and visit for awhile, but we were concerned about our time and catching the train back to Edinburgh so I regretfully passed it up. My husband knows that once I start talking stitching all hope of schedules is gone.

And yesterday, I was rewatching Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (one of my favorite series to rewatch as I work), and lo and behold – the unicorn tapestry from Stirling Castle was in one of the background shots! I think the Gryffindor Common Room, but I was so surprised to see it and give it some context!

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Edinburgh Castle and the Scottish War Museum

Believe it or not, I found stitching in the Scottish National War Museum at Edinburgh Castle!

First of all, there are a LOT of kilts on display! Along with the kilts are jackets, several of which are decorated with some really impressive gold work. Everyone else was looking at the exhibits; I had my face pressed against the glass studying the gold work on the uniforms.

There were also other embroidered artifacts on display, and I had to see all of them, of course.

An embroidered post card from World War I

On the grounds of Edinburgh Castle is St. Margaret’s Chapel. This is the oldest building in Edinburgh, very tiny, but so beautiful. And of course the thing that caught my attention the most was the beautiful embroidered altar cloth! Unfortunately, I couldn’t get close enough to it to examine it thoroughly, and if I were the rule-breaking type I’d have slipped under the velvet rope guard to look more closely!

I learned more about St. Margaret’s Chapel when I visited with some Edinburgh friends, and I’ll share that in a later post.

We walked from our hotel to the castle, and of course the working textile mill just below the castle caught my attention! So we visited the mill after the castle, went down four flights of stairs to the basement, and saw the looms where they weave the plaids. It was Sunday so the looms weren’t working, but we did get to talk to the attendants and see several examples of woven plaids. Did you know the mill will let you create your own plaid? I was very tempted! It seems that people create all kinds of plaids to celebrate weddings and other events – who knew!

I think we walked about 6 miles that day, from the hotel to the castle, up and down all over the castle grounds and the War Museum, then the flights of stairs at the textile mill. I was exhausted! But so glad to have seen so many wonderful textile/embroidery/goldwork things! Well worth the exhaustion and jet lag!

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Let’s talk about Scotland

I’m back from two weeks in Scotland and I managed to do a lot of stitching related things while I was there. I’ll take some time to highlight all of the things I did, and hope you find them as interesting as I did!

I wrote earlier about my stitching emergency and needing to find stretcher bars, and I substituted artists’ bars. They worked! I was able to start and finish a project while I was there, Indie Pop in a neutral/lilac color scheme. I also got some good news while I was in Scotland – Indie Pop has been picked up for ANG National Seminar 2020 in Tucson! So I’ll share more about that later.

Admittedly not a great picture, but not bad for my phone and hotel room lighting!

I also continued working on regular business stuff, emails, ordering supplies, etc. The good thing about having a home based business is that as long as I have a wifi connection I can work. So I did, spending several days in the room, watching BBC and stitching.

I got a start on another project, Fantasia.

Yes, black canvas! I didn’t want to work on black canvas, but the colors just popped and I had no choice. I’ll struggle through and update my progress as I go.

But I didn’t spend all my time in the hotel room! There are lots of things to see, and do, with a little internet searching and keeping your eyes open to possibilities!

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Stitching emergency!

My husband works for an international company, and the project he’s assigned to is headquartered in Edinburgh Scotland. He’s been to Scotland 3 times, and I couldn’t go any of those times. They called him back again and the timing worked out for me to go! Yea! So the first thing I thought about packing was my stitching, of course!

I have 2 projects that I need to work on, so I carefully assembled the canvas, my graphs, all the threads I thought I might need, 2 pairs of 14″ stretcher bars (both projects are the same size), scissors, needles, laying tools, etc. When it came time to pack, I carefully put all those things in my suitcase, including my table stand, clamp, and extender arm.

Imagine my surprise when we got to our hotel, and I unpacked everything except the stretcher bars! Where were they? I had gotten everything together! And more important, how on earth was I going to stitch without them!

I already knew that there were no stockists of needlepoint supplies in Edinburgh. What to do? After some consideration, I decided that if I could find an art supply store, with artists stretcher bars for mounting canvas, I could make it work. That would be ideal, and if the plain bars were not available perhaps I could find mounted canvas, remove the canvas and use the bars. My canvas cut was 14″ square, the stitched area is 8″ square, so I figured as long as 1 pair of bars was 10″, 12″ or 14″, I could make it work.

You know, Google is a wonderful thing. I was able to find an art supply store within walking distance of our hotel, so my husband and I set off. It was a small store, but very well stocked, and they had 2 pairs of 14″ bars. I happily purchased them, and off we went.

Here’s what they look like when you buy them:

You’ll notice that the length is written on the ends. The ends are not dovetailed like the stretcher bars we buy for needlepoint, but fit together very much the same way.

I took them apart so I had 4 bars:

You’ll see that there is a little lip along the edge of the bars. When assembled, the lip should go all the way around on one side.

Very nice! Here’s a close up of the lip:

I lay my canvas on the bars, trying it on the side with a lip and the side without, and decided to mount to the side without the lip. Here’s my canvas ready to stitch:

Yes, I always put my tacks that close together. I found it a little more difficult to push the tacks in, and to get the canvas as tight as possible. I’m really spoiled to my Evertites; I don’t have to be careful to get the canvas tight when mounting it because after I adjust the Evertites the canvas is extremely tight. But I know how to mount on regular bars, so I did that, and got it as tight as I could. And I think it will do.

One thing I’ve noticed: I’m glad I got the 14″ bars. The artists bars are much wider than regular needlepoint stretcher bars. The 14″ bars will allow me plenty of stitching room, and I won’t be crowded up against the bars while stitching at the edges.

Some of you have used artists bars before, and use them more than needlepoint bars, so you’re probably reading this post and shaking your head at my “epiphany”. But I’m very happy to have resolved at least this stitching emergency, and will be able to stitch while I’m here.

I’ll share more about my trip in a subsequent post, because I have something very exciting that I’m going to be doing! And I can’t wait to share it with you!

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Progress toward goals!

The first of the year I set a simple goal – stitch every day. Today is January 24, and so far I’ve stitched every day except one! Great progress toward my goal!

It’s a little different for me since I don’t have projects kitted up ready to start, so when I finish something I have to scramble a little to start the next thing. And, I don’t have multiple projects going at once so it’s not as simple as choosing a work-in-progress to stitch.

So, I finished Symphony in the Autumn colors suggested by readers:

OK, it’s not the beauty shot that Rod will get later after it’s all framed and mounted. But you get the idea!

I finished Symphony while I was away teaching for Canvas A Needlepoint Adventure. Fortunately, I was anticipating finishing so I had brought materials with me to start the next project.

And I have a tiny confession to make: I decided that preparing the canvas to stitch would count as stitching for that day. I assembled the stretcher bars, tacked everything in place and got it nice and tight ready to stitch the next day. In my defense, I was exhausted after teaching all day, then an outing with the retreat members. I figured mounting the canvas was as good as it was going to get that night! Plus, I had decisions to make about starting and which threads to use. I admit that I was too tired to make decisions! But I did stitch the next day.

Guess what? My simple goal of stitching every day has netted another finish!

This is Indie Pop, and I’ll describe it in greater detail later. I made great progress on this piece, since I started it 11 days ago. During that time, I’ve been coping with an upper respiratory something that has made life very uncomfortable and unpleasant. But, except for the day I traveled home from Canvas, I stitched every day! Some days it was only for 10 minutes, but hey – that counts!

So one came off the stretcher bars, another one is mounted, and I’m ready to continue stitching. Let’s see how much I get accomplished this year!

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