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Kneeler Blogs

Tuesday 8th June 2010 - Kneeler Project

A merry band of women are stitching new kneelers for our village church in honour of the 150th anniversary of its consecration on 4th November 1862. The idea is the brainchild of Sarah Gooch, and the beautiful designs, based on decoration in the church, have been worked out by Ann Moody. The colours are earthy: rusty reds, a deep gold and two blues, bringing medieval church decoration to mind. Last I heard there were 21 of us stitchers, including me.

I was unsure whether to stitch or not when first asked. Would a kneeler stitched by a non-believer be acceptable? It was, and when I saw the designs I very much wanted to join in.

Saturday 6th November 2010 - Kneeler Project 2

The project to make new kneelers for the church in time for its 150th anniversary on 4th November 2012 continues. 24 individual kneelers are being made. The stitchers have been meeting roughly every fortnight at the Village Hall to check progress and iron out problems. Now, with less than two years to go, we have started on the first of the two nine foot long altar rail kneelers and the fortnightly meetings have been extended from two hours to five hours, including a stop for lunch. With the hinged wooden frame supported on trestles several of us are able to stitch the long kneeler side by side, maintaining a tradition that stretches back a long time. It feels good.

Tuesday 23rd November 2010 - Kneeler Project 3

There was a good turnout for the Kneeler Project meeting in the hall last Friday. Again we spent the wole day stitching with a break for lunch. We decided names are needed for each element of the altar rail design and perhaps for each kneeler design too. Otherwise we speak of "squiggly bit" and "cross" when there are quite a few squiggly bits and several crosses. A heraldry book provided "cross moline" - the cross with squiggly ends; "cross ordinary" - the plain cross with plain ends, and "mascle" - the diamond outline shape to be filled in, but that's as far as it goes. I guess the leaves are just "leaves". As for the kneelers, well one design has already been labelled "spatchcock" because it reminded one stitcher of a boned and flattened bird ready to roast, and that's the kind of label that's going to stick unless we think of a more appropriate one.

On Monday, yesterday, a couple more hours stitching at Manor Farm and the unfinished leaf nearest the camera was done. Are we completing a foot a month that the designer calculated is needed to finish in time? Impossible to say with areas of stitching dotted about the length of canvas.

Friday 26th November 2010 - Kneeler 4

Today I finished the top of my kneeler! Just the sides to do now.

Wednesday 19th January 2011 - Kneeler 5

This is the central part of the new altar rail kneeler being made to mark the 150th anniversary of Chitterne Church. It is being stitched by one person and therefore gives a better impression of the overall effect of the colours and the wonderful designs that AM has produced for us. Last Friday the second 9-foot long altar rail kneeler was set up in the hall for the first time alongside the first section. We are stitching every Friday through January and February. Two individual kneelers have been completed so far. We still have a long way to go.

Saturday 12th February 2011 - Kneeler 6

Yesterday at our regular Friday stitch-in some of our Kneeler Group were interviewed by a reporter from BBC Radio Wiltshire for the part between 8am and 9am of their Sunday morning programme with Lee Stone, which airs between 7am and 10am. But if you like a lie-in you can hear the programme using the "listen again" link on the Radio Wiltshire website anytime during the following 7 days. Our reception isn't too good here in the village so it may be best for villagers to listen to the live broadcast using the iplayer facility, also on the website.

We had the best turnout yet for a Friday meet. 17 stitchers turned up to work on the two long kneelers set up in the hall and to enjoy a great soup lunch. In honour of the Radio Wiltshire reporter many partly stitched kneelers and the first two finished and upholstered kneelers were on display. Unfortunately no pictures yet as I forgot to take my camera with me, although I did remember my almost finished kneeler. Will mine be the third one to be finished? I am neck and neck with RG at the moment.

Another visitor was the library van man who was at last persuaded to come and see what we are doing on Fridays when he parks the mobile library ouside the hall. He was suitably impressed and enjoyed a cup of coffee and a flapjack. Visitors are always welcome to come and see what we are doing. There's always coffee or tea and flapjacks or biscuits to be had. We will be meeting every Friday throughout February and March from 10am to 3pm.

Tuesday 15th February 2011 - Finished Kneelers

I took this photo of the two finished kneelers yesterday at the regular Monday afternoon stitch-in at Manor Farmhouse. These were made by SO and SG; two different designs using the same colourways; one made by a stitcher with no experience and the other by one with a lot. SO has never attempted needlepoint before; SG has, eg the seat of the chair under the kneelers.

Tuesday 22nd February 2011 - Kneeler 7

I finished my first kneeler today at 3.45pm and now it's 7.15pm and I'm already feeling bereft. This needlepoint can really draw you in like a drug. What is it about filling rows and rows of little tiny holes with wool that is so satisfying? Notice I said "first" kneeler. I am intending to do another but I haven't decided whether to dedicate it to our late daughter Mandy or not. I probably will because although she was a devout atheist, she was a confirmed stitcher so she qualifies for a place of remembrance amongst the pews on that count. No such problem with my mother's dedication on the kneeler pictured, she was definitely C of E.

Sunday 10th April 2011 - Kneeler 8

My kneeler has come back from the upholsterer well-stuffed, ready to cushion countless pairs of knees, so I am well-chuffed. Stitching output has slowed in the mini-heatwave with so much else to do outside in the garden. It felt more like August than April today, but this is England after all so I don't expect it to last.

Saturday 7th May 2011 - Kneeler 9

At the kneeler stitching meeting yesterday we reached the stage where it was time to move the first two frames on the most advanced altar rail kneeler. We have been inching our way towards this goal for weeks, by concentrating on stitching the parts nearest to where these two frames meet. I'd better explain.

Each nine-foot long kneeler canvas is stretched across, and secured by drawing pins, to five separate rectangular wooden frames. The frames are not all the same length; long alternate with short. There are gaps between the frames to allow the canvas to be folded for easy transport. The five frames are supported by two stout lengths of timber, hinged in the middle so they also can be folded to fit in a car. The lengths of timber rest on two metal trestles, one at each end of the kneeler.

So at last we were ready to swop a long frame for its short neighbour. This would allow us to stitch the part that had been between the first two frames. It was quite a milestone moment.

The second altar rail kneeler is coming along too. Note the trestle and timber supports nearest the camera.

Friday 3rd June 2011 - Kneeler 10

Since 28th May and until 5th June we Chitterne Kneelers are displaying our project in Chitterne Church as part of the Wylye Valley Art Trail this year. The work is on show from 10.30 till 5.30 each day and members of the group come to the church to stitch on the two long altar rail kneelers at the same time. Stitching every day like this has meant we have made great strides this week. The first long kneeler is almost ready to have its second lot of frames moved.

We haven't been inundated with visitors but those who have ventured out have for the most part been dedicated stitchers themselves and without exception they have marvelled at the fineness of our canvas, our choice of vibrant colours and the designs. It seems that church kneelers are generally stitched on 12 to the inch canvas or coarser, not 14 to the inch as we are using. One visitor who was definitely not a stitcher asked if we were going to cut the long kneeler into smaller ones when we had finished it! This prompted us to collect daft comments for inclusion in the book of the project. So far no other comment has induced such hilarity amongst us stitchers (after the guest had left the building of course).

The centre section of the altar rail kneeler is coming along well.

Seven individual kneelers are finished now and on display too.

Sunday 21st August 2011 - Kneeler 11

This is how the first long kneeler is looking now as it nears completion. Stitchers work in a huddle at one end and soon the upholsterer will come and assess the task before him.

We have been waiting for more terracotta wool from the supplier for several weeks. More is promised but will be a different dye lot, so any spare terracotta has been gathered in to make sure we can finish this kneeler with the wool we have. The result is that stitchers are starved of terracotta wool for their individual kneelers, and several have come to a grinding halt, they can go no further for want of the rare colour.

Wednesday 12th October 2011 - Kneeler 12

Today I finished the top of my second kneeler. Part of one side I finished a while ago. Now I'm ready to start stitching the dedication to Mandy on the other long side. All the while I'm thinking about my third kneeler. The first idea was to stitch the top with Ela of Salisbury's coat of arms, but it's really her husband's Longespee coat of arms, so that won't do. I found a picture on the internet of what is thought to be Ela's seal when she was Abbess of Lacock. It's quite ornate but an interesting shape and with the expert help of AM I hope to be able to use it for the top of the next kneeler.

Saturday 12th November 2011 - Kneeler 13

We have finished stitching the majority of the first altar rail kneeler, except for the church dates at one end. Yesterday we took it into the church and placed it in situ by the altar rail, see above. It will be shaped at the top right-hand corner to fit around the altar rail post, and the row of gold crosses will fold down to form the front edge when it is upholstered.

After lunch yesterday as we stitchers were standing around drinking coffee a young lady popped her head around the kitchen door and asked if she could talk to us about broadband speeds in Chitterne. She was from BBC Radio Wiltshire and three of us ended up being interviewed by her, but we have no idea when the interview will be broadcast because we forgot to ask.

Friday 16th December 2011 - Kneeler 14

The Big Stitch was very successful last weekend, around 70 people came, stitched, ate their mince pies and drank the mulled wine or coffee or tea. We made almost 500 from the produce sales, raffle and donations.

The three parts of the altar rail kneeler were laid out in one long line, with the central piece between the two long pieces, as they will be in the church when they are finished. This was the first time we had seen them laid together like that, and even though they were sagging on the supports it was an impressive sight. The Archdeacon certainly seemed to think so on Sunday when he came and stitched.

Best of all were the numbers of children who had a go. Most of them got the idea of the diagonal basketweave stitch very quickly and were soon stitching up and down like old hands. Some had to be prised away from the canvas when it was time to go home or make way for someone else, and one young lad came back again for second session. Perhaps we need a junior kneelers group?

Yesterday I finished my second individual kneeler. I'm already feeling bereft. How can this be after only 24 hours?

Friday 30th December 2011 - Kneeler 15

I am stitching my third kneeler in memory of Ela of Salisbury, who inherited Chitterne from her father in 1196, and also founded Lacock Abbey.

Things are going a little better after a slow, painful, start trying to get the outside shape of abbess Ela's seal just right. It's a sort of eye shape. Two concentric eye shapes in fact, and the inside shape was worse to do than the outside one. Between the two shapes are words in latin which say: "S'CONVENT' BEATE MARIE SANCTI BERNARDI D'LACOC".

I marked the outline of half of the letters on the canvas using fine needle and thread as suggested by AM. But I couldn't do this just by eye, I needed more of a guide, so I traced the letters onto baking paper, placed the paper onto the canvas where I wanted the letters to be and then stitched through both the paper and canvas. Afterwards I gently tore the paper away. Not sure if this is good practice but it worked. I was able to work the letters in wool using the guide stitches but I referred to the printed enlargement of the seal as well. Next time I don't think I need to mark the letters in as much detail before stitching them in wool.

Saturday 14th January 2012 - Kneeler 16

Being confined to the house with a cough and cold has moved my kneeler on a bit. I've finished the central design in the two gold colours and last night started filling in some of the blue background to the outer border. The effect reminded me of the graphics on old-fashioned fairground rides. I intend to stitch the background of the central part in dark red.

I think I've finished the thumbnail of Chitterne I was asked to write for the Wiltshire Council communities pages. Just need to pluck up the courage to send it off!

Monday 23rd January 2012 - Kneeler 17

Last Friday was one of those extraordinary days when everything went right. I took my third kneeler to Kneeler Group as requested and it went down well, but not as a kneeler. I was nonplussed for a while, because it was a kneeler to me. Then someone suggested it should hang on the wall instead, and off we went to the church with it, to see where it could go. By then I could see what they meant. It's different to all AM's other designs so now it's "not-a-kneeler", I'm turning it into a ... what? Any ideas for a name?

Next, my second kneeler came back from the upholsterer. When the sun came out I managed to get a photo of it that shows the effect of stitching the chequer pattern in different directions.

Back home after Kneeler Group I opened some mail and discovered that Barclays wanted to give me some graduated pension money from when I finished working for them in 1972, 40 years ago! Only a small amount, but a nice surprise nevetheless and it might just buy a meal out for me and D.

Tuesday 13th March 2012 - Kneeler 18

The first altar rail kneeler is finished! Without its wooden frames and pressed, it looks stunning and very beautiful, "far too beautiful" someone said, "to go on the floor." The cut-out bits are to fit around the altar rail uprights. This section has 1862, the date of the consecration of the church, at the far left. The second long altar rail kneeler, which has about 3 small patches left to be stitched, will have 2012 at the far right. The central section has a bigger area that needs completing.

Sunday 25th March 2012 - Kneeler 19

Glorious spring sunshine enticed us to stitch outside on the hall patio for the first time last Friday. The second long altar rail kneeler is finished except for the date to be added at the right hand end. So with just the central section of altar rail kneeler left to finish only a small group could work on that; the rest stitched their individual kneelers. Next Friday will mark the end of weekly kneeler stitching as we will switch to fortnightly meetings after Easter.

Tuesday 17th April 2012 - Kneeler 20

I finished Not-a-Kneeler! After lots of angst over the masculinity of the Virgin Mary (I'd thought it was a bloke!) and various experiments with brown silks and gold threads followed by much reverse-stitching (unpicking to the uninitiated) it is finally finished. I think I am quite pleased, but then I am hard-to-please and my own worst critic.

Friday 20th July 2012 - Kneeler 21

Just when we thought we'd reached the end of the altar rail kneelers we have more to do! It's like painting the Forth Bridge.

A few days ago the upholsterer came to assess the job of making up the finished (as we thought) canvases into kneelers for the altar rail. The three pieces were spread out in place on the corresponding slabs of foam to see if they fitted.

The sun came out and the colours looked magnificent in the church. We were just feeling mighty proud of ourselves when the bomb dropped. The upholsterer pointed out that if we wanted to avoid "grins" we should add another inch of stitching to the four short edges where the two long kneelers will meet the central kneeler. What is a grin? It's when you can see the bare canvas showing between adjoining cushions.

Heed that old adage: Pride comes before a fall. But the good news is that they did fit.

Thursday 6th September 2012 - Kneeler 22

My blog holiday's over so what's new? Well, I never thought I would get to see our kneelers being made up, but that's what happened yesterday after a phone call from Angelo de Cortes, the upholsterer, inviting me to take photos of him at work to put in the kneeler book. Have I mentioned that before? In case not, we are going to record our Kneeler Project in book form, that is if I get my act together sufficiently to produce the goods. But more of that later, back to yesterday's visit.

I found Angelo's premises, a shop and adjoining workshop called Cambrica almost at the end of Winchester Street in Saisbury, without problem. The shop had a closed notice that directed me to the workshop next door. I walked into the workshop between various wooden chair frames and a vast array of hanging pattern books to a larger room beyond. I was welcomed in and invited to inspect the kneelers in the upstairs workshop while he concluded some business below.

This gave me the chance to take the photo above with the sunlight streaming through the skylights in the attic, where the hard work gets done. My goodness what a challenge we had set him! The tables containing our three altar rail kneelers almost filled the main part of the room; laid out like this and wrapped around their shaped foam fillers the kneelers looked magnificent! Angelo worked and moved around the tables sitting on a wheeled office chair.

He had already stitched the corners and was using red vevet material to complete the sides which will be hidden at the back next to the altar rail. He explained that he also needed to add the velvet at the sides where we had recently added an extra inch of stitching because the centre section canvaswork was not large enough to cover its foam pad. What a relief that he is able to overcome this setback. It is this section he is stitching in the other picture. He is using Barbour's Waxed Thread, a very strong waxed slipping thread, in a curved needle. I was surprised to see that the thread was blue, but in his skillful hands the stitches became invisible so you wouldn't know they were blue when it was finished. The job of pulling the thread through the closely stitched canvas is tough on the fingers and he joked that the red of the material wasn't just red dye! If we complained about sore fingers after a day stitching our kneelers we should think on the poor upholsterer! When the altar rail kneelers are done he still has scores more little kneelers to do.

PS: On reflection I think the challenge we set ourselves to make those 3 million+ stitches was far and away the greater challenge of the two. Unlike Angelo, we were unpaid. We did it for love!

Tuesday 9th October 2012 - Kneeler 23

We've had the Big Stitch so this latest stage last Friday was aptly named 'The Big Fit' by AM. (The irony in this name didn't strike me until later!) It was a big moment for all of us but especially for AM. The culmination of over two years of work on her wonderful designs and calculations; would the altar rail kneelers fit the space, or wouldn't they? That was the big question hovering over us as Angelo de Cortes brought the wrapped kneelers into the church and placed them on the altar steps.

As we watched Angelo strip off the wrappings what was needed was a fanfare ...... but there was none, even the sun failed to make an appearance this time. The gloomy, drizzly rain continued casting a poor light throughout the church; a portent of doom?

The kneelers did fit the space, and yet, and yet, what was happening between the centre kneeler and the one to the right? It seemed that AM's flowing diamond design had hit a cataract. The two diamonds were not meeting at the join as they should and the right long kneeler was more wrinkly than the left one.

There was a disappointed silence for a few seconds, but soon arrangements were made for Angelo to adjust the fit the following week. He also recommended ironing the kneelers with a very hot steam iron.

The drama over we turned our attention to the vicar's stool and the finished individual kneelers. The stool looked beautiful, a magnificent piece of work.

Some of the individual kneelers had been re-upholstered without the hanging loops and D rings, and others had been upholstered for the first time. Placed on the dark-stained wood of the pews they looked very eye-catching.

'Not-A-Kneeler' was hung in the church last Friday too.

This is the end of my numbered Kneeler Blogs because I then concentrated on writing and editing a book about the project. However, to round off this story here is an extract from the book concerning the BIG DAY. The day of the church anniversary.

The big day dawned and neither the gentle rain nor the flakes of snow dampened our spirits. The whole day was a glorious triumph. The church was full as could be with stitchers, villagers and visitors who had come to celebrate the anniversary of the church and to witness the blessing of the kneelers and the licensing of Rev. David Walters by the Bishop of Salisbury.

The service of Thanksgiving was superb. the choir of Lay Clerks from St George's Chapel, Windsor, sang divinely and the organist, Daniel Phillips, played beautifully. Nicholas Holtam, the Bishop of Salisbury, looked splendid in his robes of terracotta and gold, which blended so well with our kneeler colour scheme that we wondered if he had been tipped off in advance!

Stitchers occupying the frnt pews swelled with pride when he spoke of his amazement that we had taken "only two years" to create such wonderful kneelers.

"Chitterne Kneelers - A Tale of 40 Stitchers and 3 Million Stitches"

Thursday 15th November 2012

Where have I been? Good question! Ensconced at my computer putting together "Chitterne Kneelers" the book version. It's almost ready to be sent off for printing.....

Tuesday 20th November 2012 - Chitterne Kneelers Book

Hurrah! The book is finished and copies have been ordered. I used, a print-on-demand company, to make the book. It was a steep learning curve but I eventually got the hang of building a book using their online software. Now I'm just hoping it turns out OK.

Monday 26th November 2012 - Kneelers Book Here!

The first consignment of books came today only 6 days since I ordered them! I am mightily impressed with the quality of the printing, it's superb, well done Blurb. So, have you ordered your copy? Are you in it? Ordering details in December Chit Chat.