Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Windermere Deanery Mothers' Union quilted banner project

It has been a long time since I attended to this blog but I have been involved in a lovely project which took over my spare time for a while.  I want to show you how the project  progressed in this posting but first let me explain what it was.  If you do not live in Cumbria you may not have heard of one of our treasures, it is Cartmel Priory.  A beautiful place which I have visited in the past on my frequent cycle rides when I used to live in Levens where it was a superb afternoon ride there and back to my house.

Anyway, I was asked if I would make a new quilted banner to be hung in Cartmel Priory but which would be used at the various churches in the Windermere Deanery Mothers' Union.  The design had already been sketched out by the time I was asked to become involved.  So it was just a simple matter then to make the quilt, or was it?

Original sketch showing the Saints heraldry of the churches
I must admit when I saw the complexity of the design my first reaction was how on earth was I to do the heraldry?  Well came the answer from my brain, how about machine embroidery?  Of course that is what I do best, so it was easy then......So what about all that lettering in such a confined space?  Hmm, I pondered it and realised that my desktop publishing skills would be needed there and if I could design the letters on paper then they could be tried and tested before being made out of fabric.  So it was beginning to form in my head, but what about the Langdale Pikes and Windermere?  Easy peasy said my brain.

So here is the design process.

Firstly I spent a lot of time studying images of the Langdale Pikes whenever I felt I needed inspiration.  This is from an old postcard and gives a good idea of what I was looking for.  Clear shapes had to be used for the Pikes to be recognisable. I knew that I would not be able to put in too much detail but I also wanted to make the outline of the hills very sharp against the sky. I also started 'sky watching' anyone out walking with me would have been amused as I looked up at all the combinations of sky I could. I asked my arty friend and the reply was 'don't attempt to do clouds', but I had to do something I thought, so one day I laid out my Egyptian cotton and carefully set to work with my silk paints.  I was quite pleased with the result and decided to start on the lettering, and then I played with the various fonts until I found one which worked.

Spindly lettering did not work but the top font had potential
I also decided that I would need to break the quilt up into chunks to make it easier to design and then sew it together at the end, this meant I could isolate problems and work them to a satisfactory finish before attempting the next stage, a useful tactic which saved me from becoming distracted.  But I did work on some pieces at the same time so as I was designing the sky and lettering I was also starting on the heraldry.
Paper and card mock ups of some of the Saint's heraldry and the MU logo
I designed some of these on my computer and used a drawing from my DH of a medieval sword. I also researched St. Cuthbert's coat of arms.  I had seen his pectoral cross at Durham Cathedral when I went to see the Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition in the summer of 2013.

I also spent time looking at banners as used by the Mothers' Union because I wanted to see how they were constructed and took a few photos of banners in Churches I visited.  This all helped to keep the project current in my brain.

Carefully lining up the letters and checking the spacing.

The banner was starting to grow.  So I decided on the main grey fabric for the lake next and then applied pieces of printed paper scenery and auditioned each piece to see if it would work

Playing with cut outs and making decisions

An island for the lake was essential but what colour to use?

It was slow going at times but I was enjoying this bit.  Popping a tree here and there.

A rocky escarpment above the lake was given some leafy plants.

I was not sure what to place along the bottom of the scene so decided to make it look a bit like a rocky ledge with boulders and bits of May flowering plants such as rhododendrons and fox gloves and placed more dark pieces on the lake to make it look like large dark gusts of wind sweeping across the surface.

Nearly there.

The bottom of the quilt was filling up now and the shields had all been placed on three inch squares of green fabric which became lighter as they reached the outside edges, a little touch which made them more jewel like. The background fabric for the shields was chosen to match the top of the rocky ledge which had become important to the design. All of the shields had been embroidered too and they really worked well together.  From the left, St. Mary, the single lily; St. Michael, the cross; St. James, the shells of pilgrimage; St. Paul, the sword and book; MU logo; Holy Trinity, three fishes; St. Cuthbert, his pectoral cross; St. John the Baptist, Maltese cross; and lastly, St. Anne, the lilies.

The scenery design waiting to be embroidered.
Next the exciting bit; I turned on my trusty Bernina, oiled and cleaned her, dropped the feed dogs, and did a trial on my little embroidery frame to check the tension; all good.  I had now to really concentrate and did the sewing in small chunks of about two hours each.  Anymore, and I risked making a costly mistake because tired eyes are no good when you need to be precise.  No photos were taken as the sewing progressed because I was so engrossed and distractions were the last thing I wanted,  no this was full on sewing.

But it was worth it I think.

It was a windy day over the Langdale Pikes.

Dark patches moved across the surface of Windermere.

I signed the quilt off on the back with a feeling of relief and sorrow because it was over.

The date and maker label and the MU Logo on the back.
I liked the calm simplicity of the back of the quilt which contrasted with the front.

A simple, bold set of tabs and no frills border worked well.
There comes a time when you have to part with something you have made and give it to the owners and I felt quite attached to it really.  But I did go to the dedication ceremony on Tuesday (Lady Day) and we had a lovely time at St. John the Baptist's Church, Flookburgh with a lovely service followed by a superb afternoon tea.  So thank you, and well done ladies and special thanks to Gail Swanson for giving me the commission and the lunch too!  I hope you enjoy the banner for years to come.