Mary-Anne, Sheila and Jill
In the early days of sewing the tapestry a few embroiderers gathered with
Charles to demonstrate the stitches for a photo call for a Dalesman
magazine. One of the less experienced in the group sewed his shirt to the
Dorrie's tale: The embroidery of the Battle of Fulford Tapestry began in an
'open space' in Barley Hall. tables had to be put up and the tapestry, stretched
over a framework, was placed in the best position to catch any sunlight fighting
its way through the horn windows.
One of our first actions on entering the Hall was to turn down the volume of the
music emanating from the CD player. No doubt the staff downstairs thought the
volume was fine. To us working next to it, it was infuriatingly loud and
depressingly mournful in tone.
We were asked to start embroidering from the centre of the tapestry and to work
outwards. This was fine for those of us with long arms but was a real problem
for the embroiders who were 'vertically challenged'.
Later on we were allocated a room downstairs and we were able to recommence our
stitching in peace and quiet. When we had been upstairs, the general public had
shown great interest in the tapestry. This had meant that we had spent a lot of
time explaining to people what we were doing and not so much time actually doing
Much later, we were told that the room was needed for educational purposes. We
had to pack our trunk and leave. Fortunately The Dig was able to offer us a
space and we took up residence there. Roman helmets, breastplates, bones and
cloaks mingled with primary school children eating their packed lunches.
Light streamed through the huge arched window and, as long as the table had been
dusted, it was an excellent place in which to stitch the tapestry. But it was
cold in winter!
All good things come to an end and we were told that the space was needed for
(Where had we heard that before!) We were on the move again.
A day was spent searching the city for a suitable place in which to continue our
The Merchant Adventurers Hall welcomed us with open arms.
With the use of the kitchen whenever we felt the need for a restorative cuppa,
we have been able to complete the tapestry in very congenial surroundings.
Dorrie is front left in blue.
My experience when working on the Battle of Fulford Tapestry. (Sheila rear
I joined the Tapestry group about three years ago to work with the very pleasant
ladies (above) in the relaxed atmosphere of the Barley Hall. This wasn’t to last
as we were asked to find another place to work as the room was required by
school parties. The Dig, part of York Archaeological Trust, was suggested, and
we moved our wooden trunk into an upper room in this Archaeological Centre.
This was a noisy place as school parties were attending when we were working and
again we were asked to move.
Jill and I made a list of all the likely places in which we could work: The
Quilt Museum, they wanted payment; The Viking Museum- there was no room; The
Yorkshire Museum- deputy curator would ask the curator who was presently on
holiday; the main Library- could offer a room on Saturday or Sunday –not
suitable as we work on Wednesdays; The Castle Museum and The Priory Centre, they
wanted payment. Frustrated we went for lunch in a Pub and enquired about a
room- not suitable too dark. The next venue was The Merchant Adventurers Hall,
who were delighted to have us work in their mediaeval hall, so this is where we
stayed until we finally finished the Battle of Fulford Tapestry.
Mary Anne's tale
1 When I first began to sew the tapestry there were only three others
involved. (Dorrie, Jill and Maria) The first panel had been worked on for
three years at that time and still had very little done. I decided to have a
recruitment campaign. The next ‘residents weekend’ at the end of January when
all the visitor attractions are free for people who live in York seemed the
ideal opportunity. I printed flyers inviting embroiderers to join us and that
weekend we encouraged anyone interested to do some trial stitches on spare
material. From this we got several new members. The Press gave us coverage
with a colour photo and more embroiderers came forward from that too.
2 Some of the wool just shredded away when sewn, we discovered it was the
carpet yarns that did this, not being designed for repeated pulling through the
3 The first dying provided colours that were never again to be produced. It
was a shame as the beautiful dark wine red was quickly used up. Also the lack
of black and other dark colours became a problem as we found edging each image
in a dark colour made it stand out better.
4 There was a major problem with the amount of linen material needed. Whoever
began the tapestry did not think about how they placed the first images on the
material. The result of this was that the spare material was on the left of the
first panel instead of the right. The meant the first panel had to be cut away
from the rest of the material and joined to the other panels. What should have
only had one join, had two and there was not enough material to complete the
work. Another large piece had to be bought and I spent a long time deciding
where the join was to be. The design is dense and did not allow for a break, in
the end I decided to put it right through an image so, hopefully, the join would
be obscured by a group of figures.
5 Whilst the tapestry was at Barley Hall it was on a frame which was covered
with a cloth an left on a table when we weren’t actually working on it. There
were school parties coming round and at some point a heavy object was placed on
the tapestry or somebody trod on it causing tears to the fabric.
6 One summer (2009 I think) the tapestry had no home. The box was taken to
Sheila’s house and she and Jen worked on one piece through the summer. Another
piece was taken by Jill and Dorrie and I had the third. I worked all the green
parallel lines so they were straight and in the same colour on the newest piece
of linen. I thought this was essential because the first panel’s lines were
very wavy as they had been worked when the tapestry was stretched on the frame
by different people with different stitch tensions at different times. It
looked a mess. A lot of these lines have been rest itched now.
7 The joining of the three pieces. It was essential they were joined
absolutely straight. Diane pulled out single threads to make perfect lines. I
sewed them together using a cotton thread in an over and over stitch as
demonstrated to me by Isabel, one of the Norwegian ladies who visited us in the
Spring for the Viking Festival.
8 Each York Viking Festival held in York in February a group of Vikings from
Norway came to offer support and encouragement.