A STOLEN panel from one of the largest community arts projects in the country, the Great Tapestry of Scotland, has been painstakingly recreated by its original stitchers.

The section depicting Apprentice Pillar at Rosslyn Chapel was stolen when the tapestry was on display in Kirkcaldy Galleries in September 2015.

It has never been found and so artist Andrew Crummy and a team of volunteer stitchers recreated the panel, which is one of 160 in the work.

The brainchild of author Alexander McCall Smith, the tapestry tells the story of Scotland’s history and has been touring the country since it was completed in 2013.

Measuring more than 140 metres, it is double the size of the Bayeux tapestry and believed to be the longest in the world.

From the islands to the lowlands of the country, more than 1,000 stitchers worked for more than a year to complete it.

The panel depicting the Apprentice Pillar vanished from Kirkcaldy Galleries and the thief has never been identified. The panel has not been recovered so the only option was to recreate it from scratch.

Yesterday the original stitchers, who all live in or near Roslin, gathered at Rosslyn Chapel to reveal the panel they have lovingly and painstakingly embroidered to replace the missing piece.

The seven– Margaret Humphries, Jean Lindsay, Anne Beedie, Jinty Murray, Barbara Stokes, Fiona McIntosh and Phillipa Peat – worked for hundreds of hours to embroider the replacement.

McIntosh said: “We were all devastated that our panel had been stolen, but we are happy now that it has been remade and delighted that it will once again take its place with the rest of the tapestry.”

The new panel closely resembles the original, but some “subtle design differences” have been added by Great Tapestry designer Crummy to distinguish it from the original, and different stitches have been used. Should the original panel ever resurface, it will be used for outreach education activities.

Project historian Alistair Moffat said: “What the women of Roslin have achieved is something remarkable: not only have they refused to let the miserable people who stole the original panel win, they have also poured all their love and labour into creating a stunning new panel of the Apprentice Pillar that is even more powerful.

“Their panel will have a special place in my heart and it will join its companions in the new building to house the tapestry in Galashiels.”

The Great Tapestry of Scotland was spearheaded by McCall Smith, who together with historian Moffat, artist Crummy, and stitch-coordinator Dorie Wilkie designed 160 historical panels each depicting a moment from Scotland’s past, from pre-history to the 21st century.

The completed tapestry has been touring Scotland since 2013 and has been viewed by more than 350,000 people.

Future exhibitions are planned this year at the Spiers Centre in Alloa from May 29 to August 18, and the Verdant Works in Dundee from August 26 to 22 October 22.

Galashiels will be the permanent home for the Great Tapestry of Scotland from 2020, after the Scottish Government and Scottish Borders Council committed to the project in December 2016.

Rob Dickson, Scottish Borders Council’s corporate transformation and services director, said: “The Great Tapestry will be a catalyst for creating a destination of national and international significance, and will help to strength the existing textiles innovation and heritage community in the area.

“It’s very exciting when a new panel is completed, reminding us all about Scotland’s unique and compelling story, and the important role this plays in our economy through tourism.”

In total, it took the stitchers 50,000 sewing hours – equivalent to sewing 24 hours a day for six years – to complete the work.