Saturday 4 September 2021

The Story of the Doctor Who Tapestry (Part One)

I often get asked the same questions regarding the tapestry: When did you start it? How long have you been doing it? It’s not actually that easy to answer because it has not been a continuous activity. But let me wind the clock back and try to provide some answers.

Part One – How it got started.

Let me start by going right back in time to when the craft came to my attention. We were on holiday one year, very probably staying down in Dymchurch, in a caravan and you could guarantee that at least one day of the week would be a washout with the weather. On one of our day excursions mum bought a tapestry kit to amuse herself on one of these wet days. It was a country scene, and when she had finished it dad framed it and it was hung on the living room wall. There followed two more of these country scenes and even dad got involved in doing some of the stitching on the third one as I recall.

I did ask, if we ever saw a Doctor Who kit would mum do it for me, never then did I think I would ever stitch one myself. Of course, by the late 80s there was no sign of such a kit and the status of the programme on the BBC was in a rocky place. I decided then that if such a kit could not be bought, I would try and design one myself. And so I did.

I started with the current Doctor at the time, Sylvester McCoy - already grand plans were forming, I would design one for each Doctor: Hartnell, Troughon, Pertwee, T. Baker, Davison and  C.Baker. Note the phrasing, one for each. At this time they were intended to be individual canvases for each Doctor. Indeed Sylvester McCoy, Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee were completed and framed by dad in wooden frames painted silver. Unfortunately I don’t seem to have any photos of these from when they were framed.

The design was quite simple, the Doctor’s face in the centre, something representing their era bottom right and left, for Tom Baker that would include K9 and for Jon Pertwee, Bessie.  The backgrounds were based upon the title sequences that went with the majority of their time aboard the TARDIS. The swirling patterns of Pertwee, Baker’s time vortex and McCoy’s animated space excursion. 

Mum was quite happy working on the background parts, but unlike the kits where the pattern to follow was painted on the aida (that’s the material with the holes of different sizes weaved into it to allow the needle and wool to pass through it) she was less confident with the faces taken from just photos. I sketched outlines onto the aida, specifying which shade went into each area but eventually it was clear I would have to do those parts.

Before I did venture forth with the Doctors, I got a small kit of my own to practice with. It was a robin, and may still be a storage box somewhere. It was tricky at first, getting the tension right, not pulling too tightly that you pulled the design out of shape or too loose that the stitches bulged out. That was when I discovered I quite enjoyed doing it too and took over with working the faces and the detailed parts.

I got started on the others, but one thing and another happened and the time spent working on them became less and less. I started working, other things took priority until eventually the project got put on hold and was confined to the back of the cupboard for a time. This would have been around the late 1980s going into the early 1990s…

Part Two

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