Friday, 8 May 2015

Christian Aid Banner in Christ Church

In November 1988 I met in Christ Church with the Reverend John Sargent and Church wardens Delia Fricker and Bob Carden, with his wife Peggy, who moved to Dorset a few years ago and still comes to Christ Church to see us.

Holy Trinity Church already had a number of volunteers embroidering kneelers and I was asked to design kneelers/hassocks for Christ Church, my brief being to use the rich variety of decoration in stone and glass, wood and textile to be found all over the building. We chose the rose-red range for background colour to complement the carpeting.

Because the heaters are fixed to alternate pews the kneelers could not be hung from hooks, as in Holy Trinity Church; so as they were completed, Peggy and Delia placed them on the pew shelves. By the time we had 100 or more, people commented on the warm glow they imparted to Christ Church. After eleven years, the number exceeded 200. Peggy and Delia exhibited 6 of them at the National Knitting and Stitching Exhibition at Alexandra Palace, where a group of us saw them displayed alongside kneelers from all over the country.

The next year the organisers invited designs for a banner, celebrating 50 years of Christian Aid and Peggy asked me to produce one for Christ Church. The logo, a human form straddling the globe, had to be included and a detailed ¼ scale drawing, in colour, with a listing of all materials required was sent to the panel of judges for the Knitting and Stitching Exhibition.

Christ Church has the highest quality woodcarving (and glass, stone and textile too) and the beautiful and symbolic Biblical fruits, bursting figs, pomegranates and grapes were my inspiration for the design, linked with the gold thread very traditional, and a mist of mother-of-pearl and hyacinth blue fabric paint, stippled onto the rose-red velvet, chosen to echo the carpet and kneelers. The borders on either side, similarly stippled, featured the transition from sky dawn to sea, to encompass a global theme.

A justification of the design had to be presented and mine was to celebrate the decorative richness and craftsmanship in a fine Gothic Revival church using traditional and contemporary materials. The three prize winners would have a visit to the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court, instruction in the making of the banner, plus materials, silks etc. and a visit to some studios there to see what work conservators were engaged in. The prize winners would have to have their banners completed for the Knitting and Stitching Exhibition the following year. The first prize was a modern design, produced by two women, and to my surprise, the design for Christ Church came second.

Some may remember Margaret Clark, whose name is on the back of numerous beautifully worked kneelers (she now lives in Wales). We had a most interesting and enjoyable visit to the Royal School of Needlework. It was good to have her with me to follow all the instructions for making the banner. It was to involve 12 of us. I had a large frame (made by my next-door neighbour) on trestles in my drawing room for three months, and our team met regularly, not all twelve together, I hasten to add! The silks and threads looked so tempting and we could not wait to start using them.

The banner was finished just in time to take to Alexandra Palace for the exhibition, where it was displayed with the other two banners to celebrate fifty years of Christian Aid. They then travelled to Harrogate and Northern Ireland.

A kind friend photographed the banner and a kneeler and the slides were sent to Abacus for printing; they are good quality cards, and Christ Church was funding-raising then for the restoration of the wall-paintings we now enjoy.

We are still fund-raising; we always need to. Someone, I heard, was concerned that the banner was mouldy. After an absence of a year from its place near the reredos, it has been taken to a textile conservator. In April, Lois York (who found the textile conservator for me) and I hope to collect the banner from Devon. I am assured there was no mould. It is hoped that the banner will come home to Christ Church in time for its purpose, to celebrate the work of Christian Aid, this time for it seventy years.

All shall be included in the feast of life
The cards, 50p or 5 for £2.00 will be available for Christ Church funds.
Dorna Daw