Telling our story in stitches

Members of the Tauranga Embroiderers’ Guild have been working on a historical tapestry of Tauranga.

Part of a national project called A History in Stitch, the tapestry is one of 120 regional, one-metre wide panels outlining the history of New Zealand from early Maori to the present day.

The project is regarded as the New Zealand equivalent of the original 70m Bayeux Tapestry, created around 1000 years ago and depicting the Norman conquest of England.

“The Tapestry Trust of NZ asked the NZ Embroiderers’ Guilds if any of the regional guilds would stitch a tapestry pertaining to their area,” says Carol Roband, treasurer of the Tauranga Embroiderers’ Guild.

Otago businessman Fred Haslan first had the idea of a New Zealand tapestry, depicting the history of this country, in 2010. He approached then-president of the Otago Embroiderer’s Guild, Jeanette Trotman, with the concept.

The Tapestry Trust was formed, and a Lower Hutt mill produced the specially-woven wool for the panels. The Trust consulted historians at two departments at the University of Otago (History and Art History, and Design Studies) to define the historic themes and events depicted in the panels, and the designs were drawn by artists before being sent to the guilds.

The final design for the Tauranga tapestry has the Tauranga Embroiderer’s Guild emblem in the lower left corner. Mauao, a pohutakawa tree, the Mission Cemetery and Gate Pa also feature.

“We didn’t have to supply anything, just our time”, says Carol. “From the beginning until now has taken four-to-five years.

“We’ve been working on this for many months.

“We’re rather pleased with ours because of The Elms and Reverend Brown being depicted rather nicely.”

“It’s set up at the guild meetings every Wednesday,” says guild member Jenny Thomas.

“Every member of the nearly 80 members of the guild is asked to put in a stitch or two. Regularly there’s half-a-dozen people working on it.” The guild plans to complete the tapestry by 2020.

During the last week in September, the tapestry was worked on at The Elms.

“This is because of the Rooms exhibition, and the connection with embroidery at The Elms, which has been going on for 170 years,” says guild member Jenny Thomas. “Celia Brown’s sampler was stitched here, so it just seemed right that we should be back there stitching.”

Each panel costs about $5000 to produce and it is estimated each panel takes about 300-400 hours of stitching.

The Tauranga Embroiderer’s Guild usually meets weekly on Wednesdays at the Tauranga Rowing Club in Memorial Park, from 10am2pm and from 7-9.30pm.

All are welcome to join.