The mention of the word tapestry usually conjures the famous Bayeux Tapestry, depicting the Battle of Hastings in 1066, where the marauding and conquering Normans gave poor King Harold a rather more close-up view of an arrow than he’d hoped for. Pop trivia fact: the Bayeux Tapestry is embroidered and not woven, and thus not technically a tapestry. Perhaps the Bayeux Embroidered Cloth doesn’t have the same ring.
The Bayeux Tapestry is roughly 70 metres long, contains about 50 scenes and, it would be fair to say, required a decent amount of skill and previous experience to construct. But, before you develop a stitch of overwhelm and worry, rest assured that Tina works on a far more manageable scale, normally 1 metre, with beginner’s kits starting at 35cm.
Born in Brum, Tina moved away “as a know-it-all teenager” for stints in London, Brighton and Denmark, returning now at 46 as a wiser middle-aged woman. The call of family was certainly one of her driving factors, but the excitement and renaissance of Birmingham today was a compelling argument to come home and grow her business here. With a live/work unit in the Jewellery Quarter and a proper studio at The Custard Factory in Digbeth, she’s made a point of putting herself at the creative hearts of the city.
So who, exactly, is tapestry making for? “Anyone who wants a relaxing hobby” says Tina. “On the art side, you can almost use it as paint. And everyone can get something from it; there’s lots of memory and history around stitching, particularly from parents or aunts.”
It’s not just for old people then, with cutesy scenes of the countryside? “The patterns I work with are quite design led, so it’s a traditional craft but with a modern look. Normally people imagine tapestry as a lake and house, or a windmill or a boat – but mine is designed to fit the houses of now.”
As well as selling tapestry kits and supplies, Tina’s online store also includes a number of goods that feature her designs, including cards, posters, serving trays and even brooches; so if you can’t face the thought of making one yourself, you can still give a tapestry a home, albeit it in a different form. Tina also runs workshops “teaching people how to use their stash and carry on their family story”, perfect for anyone with a lot of wool and wondering what on earth to do with it. Future plans include setting up stitching groups where people can sit together and chat while creating their woolly masterpiece.
A final word of advice from this crafty lady of the cloth: “Carry on stitching!”
Tina Francis Tapestry
The Custard Factory