The Tiree Tapestry depicts a day in the life of Tiree. It begins in the early morning with a mother nursing her baby and the fishermen catching the early morning tide. Children catch the school bus and crofters feed their animals. There are patients in the waiting room at the surgery and people doing their shopping. The ferry calls and the plane lands. We put in the school dinner ladies, the local builders, and holiday makers walking, riding and windsurfing. In the evening there is a bonfire on the beach, music and dancing or simply sitting by the fire with the newspaper. Nightfall brings a cow calving, a father pacing the floor with a sleepless baby and the beam of Skerryvore Lighthouse.
We also made motifs to illustrate aspects of the life and landscape of Tiree from the flowers on the machair, the corncrakes and oystercatchers, hares, seals and basking sharks to cakes and teacups representing island hospitality.
Along the bottom edge is a profile of the island showing local landmarks including the distinctive houses, the church, the golfball and the community wind turbine. The border represents both the sea and the traditional culture of the island; the waves are the words of a Tiree song.
From the beginning, we wanted this to be a community project. We wanted to make something beautiful for our community hall and we wanted as many people as possible to take part and to share textile skills along the way. As well as regular Monday evening stitching sessions, we held monthly workshops exploring different techniques. We resist-dyed cloth for the patchwork backgrounds and learned basic sewing machine skills to put them together. We had a go at printmaking using potatoes, pizza bases, seaweed and found objects. The Youth Club made potato print pebbles and hoofprints. Other people drew, painted or photographed images for us to use. We hand embroidered shells, fishes and flowers and appliqued them to the background and some of us experimented with free machine embroidery and batik.
The whole thing, from the first ideas to the final unveiling, took us three years. Some people had never sewn or used a sewing machine before. We all learned something new. Other people contributed ideas, or baked for meetings, helped with fundraising or gave us cloth and thread. We were also grateful for grants from the Tiree Windfall Fund and the Co-operative Community Fund.
Postscript: The Tiree Tapestry gained a wider audience for a weekend when it was displayed at the Corran Halls in Oban in November 2014 as part of the Fasanta Festival of Fashion and Textiles, an annual event organised by Dunollie Museum, Castle and Grounds.
For more about the progress of the Tapestry from idea to completion, have a look at our blog.