Day 4 – Game of Thrones Tapestry at the Ulster Museum, Belfast

My guilty pleasure… Game of Thrones (well, Fantasy & Science Fiction overall.)  Now, mix that with textile art and I’m in heaven!

Before the final episodes of Game of Thrones were filmed, an army of designers, weavers and embroiderers in Northern Ireland was hard at work.

The tapestry was designed by hand by illustrators and color artists Carim Nahaboo, Jacob Merrick-Wolf, and Rob House.  The weavers, Juliet Bailey, Franki Brewer, and a team at Dash & Miller in Bristol used a state-of-the-art jacquard loom. The linen thread was provided by Thomas Ferguson Irish Linen in Banbridge, one of the last surviving mills in Northern Ireland, and contains over 250,000 threads placed by hand.

Each episode through season 7 is represented in the 253 foot tapestry. Rather than wait for the final season to be released (Season 8, set to air in 2019), the tapestry develops its own conclusion.

Embroiderer’s working on the Game of Thrones tapestry

After the weaving was complete, delicate hand embroidery added by a team of 30 stitchers at the Ulster Museum adds color, glints of metalics, and detailing to enhance the tapestry. From King Joffrey’s golden crown to Daenerys’ shimmering white and silver hair, blood red weddings, emerald green wildfire, cold-blue White Walkers and jet black ravens, threads of metallic, cotton and silk yarns bring vibrancy and lustre to the story.  The embroidered elements  are quite simple overall, but bring much to the finished project. Stitches include chain stitch, split stitch, back stitch, running stitch, couching and seed stitch.

Willow dragons made by Bob Johnson, basket maker at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum





In Belfast’s Ulster Museum where the Tapestry is currently on display, they also have two magnificent Willow dragons soaring above the three story atrium













Click on the video below to view the entire tapestry!

A woman & young girl embroidering linens in County Down early 1900’s.

As well as information about the making of the tapestry, the exhibition included further documentation on the history of the linen industry in Northern Ireland, supplementing what I’d learned in Lisburn.






Dragon Head detail

The process of making the tapestry is described in this video by Northern Ireland’s tourism department:


Last night I helped my son Ryan finish up his wool Viking tunic.  This has been a terrific learning experience.  We went together to pick out the fabric (had to be wool for authenticity.)  He made the pattern from historic sources and his measurements.  I taught him how to pre-wash the fabric and straighten the grain, layout and cut the pieces.  I then taught him the basics of using my Bernina sewing machine (winding the bobbin, threading the machine, stitch length, type of stitch, etc.) and then let him go about constructing the garment.  We did one fitting prior to doing the final seaming, where I suggested we insert some gussets under the arms, to give him a more natural range of motion.  When it was constructed but not hemmed, he asked if I could dye it… the color didn’t go as well with his under-tunic as he had thought.  We did several samples to get the color where he wanted it (and because I don’t have a lot of experience with wool) and then I dyed the whole tunic. 

We were down to the final steps, hemming and adding some authentic hand-woven trim which he had purchased.  I think he really wanted me to do the hemming… but I got out a needle and thread, showed him how to do it, watched for a few stitches, and then let him finish it up.  I did go ahead and topstitch the trim on for him.

What a wonderful way to be able to contribute to him.  First, teaching him the basics of sewing and that he is capable of doing it.  Next, letting him pursue his passion-not just allowing him, but supporting and encouraging him.  Finally, being able to share this time with him… going to his event with him (yes, I’ll be in costume too) and letting myself be enlightened about how much this young man of mine really knows about the era and culture with which he is so entranced.

I still need to finish my Viking apron dress tonight, as the “Good Yule” celebration is happening on Saturday.  I’m excited to be doing a Viking embroidery class at the event, particularly after getting to see the Bayeux Tapistry last June.  More on that in the future!