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Saturday, 20 June 2015

Rosslyn Chapel and stitching Phoebe Anna Traquair piece.

Today began at 9.45am with a slight change of plan. Because of traffic congestion due to Royal visits, we stayed out all day instead of returning to the hotel for a period in the middle of the day.
The Rosslyn Chapel is 7 miles south of Edinburgh. It was founded in 1446 as the Collegiate Church of St Matthew by Sir William St Clair, who intended to build a large church with an 80 foot tower. He died before it could be completed. The choir was substantially completed by his second son, who added the extraordinary barrel-vaulted ceiling. It is on our itinerary, not for any embroidery connection, but because the last time Philippa brought a group to Edinburgh, participants were very disappointed at driving past Rosslyn to get to another venue. It certainly provides much inspiration for potential embroidery projects.
During the Reformation the Clair family resisted orders to remove the altar and cease Masses but eventually closed the chapel and moved away. It was closed for 240 years, during which time Cromwell stabled horses there, William and Dorothy Wordsworth sheltered there, and  it was subject to some (although not substantial) vandalism. In 1842 Queen Victoria saw it and recognised its value. The organ loft, baptistery and stained glass were all added in the 19th century. The remainder of the church was never built.
The interior cannot be photographed - which is a shame as it is so beautiful. The outside stonework, however, gives the idea. One of the methods used to preserve the inside sandstone was to use a cement wash over the top. As a result the inside has largely lost the colour variations, especially the pinks, of the outside. It is, however, less weathered.

There is much speculation about the Masonic significance of the stonework, and whether it survived because Masons protected it. There are, however a proliferation of Biblical figures, crusaders, Tudor roses and Green Men. Our guide was in no doubt about miracles. In her view Divine Intervention took the form of The Da Vinci Code, taking the number of visitors from 37 000 a year to 157 000. It is certainly worth seeing and preserving.

From the Rosslyn Chapel we went to The Glasite Meeting House, at 33 Barony St., Edinburgh, an 1835 History trust property,  (the building with green shutters) where we were to stitch for the afternoon. The building was a former place of worship of the Glasites, a small Scottish religious sect. 
This was our first class with Meredith. We were supplied with sitting hoops, shown how to set them up and provided with the printed fabric, threads and needles. An original clock ticked away and chimed the hours as we stitched.
Great trouble has been taken to secure a fabric close to that used by Phoebe Anna Traquair. It is a vintage fabric, contemporary with her work, quite heavy.  The thread is 12 strand silk. 
We lay the foundation for the leaf in our piece. My first segment, should, I think, have been stitched at a greater angle, but this technique is quick and adjustable. Our homework before our next class with Meredith is to finish the foundation for the whole of the leaf.

We went out to a French Restaurant for dinner. Most of us came back by taxi in order to keep stitching. We have an 8.15 start tomorrow.  Time to stop writing and continue stitching!


  1. Beautiful church. I thought I recognised the name. Now I remember the reference in the Da Vinci Code. It must be so relaxing doing the embroidery afte running around site seeing.

    1. Yes, it's great-and lovely to do it in company of others who also enjoy it.

  2. Well, that is really beautiful fabric, I did not look closely at it in all the subsequent photos! Is there any stabilizer on the back? Is the plastic just to protect the work from your hands? That does seem really nice, to be working with authentic materials in the authentic surroundings, with similarly minded people. You were off to a great start!

    1. No stabiliser. Yes, the plastic food wrap went over each piece as it went in the hoop, then was torn to expose the bit we worked on. It protects from oils and also stops the hoop from marking the fabric - very simple and effective.