Scalloped interlace

This beautiful circular place mat contains an intricate embroidered interlace design. Brightly coloured silk and wool threads totally cover the backing fabric. This has produced a sturdy piece, so was probably used under a teapot or plant.

The central single strand design has been worked in light and dark greens. The more complicated outer circle of knotwork is stitched in yellow and fawn. It contains loops which link the two blanket-stitched designs together. Even the spaces between the strands have been filled in with a variety of textured stitches, including satin stitch and French knots.

A blue strand

This knotwork design is made up of a single strand outlined in bright blue thread. The embroiderer has skilfully defined the two edges of the interlaced strand.  The incredibly even blanket stitches also complete the four edges of the outer circle. If you trace the flow of the strand it has no beginning or end, used to signify eternity, or eternal love.

Working the blue detail onto a fine white cloth gives the design an almost three dimensional effect. We think it was made by a member of George Bain’s family.

Knotwork place mats

George Bain explored how Celtic interlaced designs on sculpture and other objects could be translated into embroidery. The pattern on this small, circular place mat was created by him. It was transferred onto cloth so that a set of six could be made. We presume they were embroidered by one of his students, either in Kirkcaldy or Glen Urquhart.

Light and dark blue chain stitch forms two endless knotwork strands. Accents are added in turquoise satin stitch. The cloth has then been carefully edged in white blanket stitch. It’s finished with a separate border in fawn, either created using picot stitch or by tatting.

More complex embroideries, sewn by needlework pupils at Kirkcaldy High School, were included in a display at Glasgow’s Empire Exhibition in 1938. As well as sponsoring the Exhibition, J&P Coates Ltd of Paisley organised their own display stands for an International Collection of Embroideries. It included work by the school using Bain’s designs.