The making of our tablecloth - The story behind the heirloom
our first year we were invited to display our crafts at a group craft show in
Woodford. Each WI had a beautifully made
tablecloth to cover their display table.
We were advised about the tablecloth a few weeks before so we produced a
temporary cloth just in time. Originally
Carole took on the project, then had to suddenly hand it to Chris when she had
one family problem after another. Chris
rose to the challenge and used some fabric cut out letters to Bondaweb onto a
tablecloth. It is still in use two years
later, on the competition table at our meetings. We decided we wanted a more
detailed one and so the sewing group was formed
5/2/09 was the first meeting of the sewing group at Carole Whitehurst’s home. We all introduced ourselves and gave an idea of our sewing skills, or lack of, but many good skills were included, in fabric crafts and embroidery skills. The people at that meeting were Carole, Suze, Chris, Yvonne, Sheila, Joan, Anne & Beryl – (did not become a member). We had a good discussion but no definite plan. Suze did a rough sketch with a central tree and pictures representing the four heatons around the edge. We all agreed that a tree was an essential component to represent the leafy area we lived in.
At a WI meeting Carole by chance sat next to Joan and the conversation turned to art. Joan let slip that she had trained at Manchester college of Art and Carole asked her if she could draw a tree. A picture on the wall of the meeting room of a simplified tree gave Joan inspiration and she produced the first design, incorporating 4 main branches.
We all looked around for landmarks that would represent the four areas. Joan went out with a sketch book, drawing various buildings in the area, standing in the middle of Parsonage Road to draw the top and front of St Thomas’ church. Joan contacted the local council to ask if we could use the design on the lampposts at the entrance to the Heaton Mersey village. She received a letter from Vincent McIntyre, Projects Officer, District & Neighbourhood Regeneration, giving us permission to use the design. He also provided a copy of the design drawings. The simplicity of the design provided Joan with the inspiration for the remaining panels.
The sewing group continued to meet and the ideas for what to include or leave out of the panels were discussed every month while we experimented with Kantha embroidery, a simple, colourful form of embroidery that produced some lovely results.
To get some background, Joan and Chris went to St Mary’s church on the market and found a very helpful person in their heritage centre. He brought out a picture of Christchurch and confirmed that the viaduct did indeed belong in Heaton Norris, which provided some essential elements. Joan asked about the toll bar in Heaton Chapel and he again provided a picture of that building, once used as a bank, which used to stand at the junction of Manchester Rd and Wellington Rd North. Chris and Joan also asked if he had any pictures of the plane produced in Heaton Chapel that Alcock & Brown used. ‘Jack Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown became the first men to cross the Atlantic by air in June 1919, flying a Vickers Vimy biplane, its bomb bays filled with extra fuel.’ Quote from magazine. He couldn’t help, but he suggested they try Woodford Aerodrome who hold archives.
Chris arranged the visit, but before the day she rushed to answer the phone, which uncannily was a call from Woodford, and slipped, breaking her arm so the visit was cancelled. Meantime Joan went on a visit to Abersoch and when casually talking to the man in the next caravan discovered that he, Cyril Coombs, had written a book on the history of St Thomas’ in Heaton Chapel. They talked about Alcock, who had gone to school at St Thomas’. He gave Joan a picture of an old drawing of a Vickers Vimy which she tried to adapt but found it difficult to get the right perspective of a head on view. Hoping that as a boy he may have more idea about planes, she called on her husband to help and he produced the basis of the drawing that Joan was then able to finish.
Once the viaduct was in the picture the group felt that it should have a train running across it but we were divided between ancient and modern. In the end Joan was sitting in a hospital waiting room with her husband when she spotted a picture of a train from the 1800s that she realised would be easy to sew. She sat there doing a quick drawing while her husband was in his appointment!
Joan was very unsure of her finished drawings when she presented them to the group at a meeting in Uptown at Town Bar. She brought the sketches and cellophane drawings which she had painted in colour with the shapes edged in gold, giving a leaded window effect. She needn’t have worried, the group loved them and agreed that the colours would look good in bright hues.
The contents of each panel are:-
Heaton Mersey – St John’s church, the Celtic cross war memorial, trees and the River Mersey
Heaton Norris – the viaduct, a train, Christchurch on Wellington Rd North, trees and the River Mersey
Heaton Chapel – Toll Bar, Wellington Rd Nth & Manchester Rd, the biplane, the top of St Thomas’ church
Heaton Moor – the Savoy, St Paul’s and Heaton Moor Rd
Joan produced a colour swatch of the paints used and Chris, Carole, Joan and Norma went shopping at Patchfinders in Hazel Grove to find fabric that closely matched the paints.
The first job we did was to trace the designs onto card which was then cut up into the background sections as a pattern for the first layer of fabric. We then, with a few errors, ironed on Bondaweb to secure the pieces to a backing panel. We had so many pieces of blue, green and white fabrics that it was hard to remember what went where, and which was the right way round, so that we had many false starts and back to front shapes. Some of us were worse than others, it was like being back in domestic science lessons, giggling over our mess ups.
After the background was on, the edges were oversewn to secure them and we could start adding the details, like the buildings and the trees. The jobs were shared out among the group with Carole and Chris supervising and adding many of the fine touches. Some of the details were so small, like the stained glass church windows, it was decided to add them as painted pieces of fabric. A gold bias binding was found which illuminated the panels and was delicately stitched on over the joins. Between Carole and Chris they came up with the different stitching techniques we used, such as seeding for the river and roads.
Carole, Chris and Joan had a meeting to design the layout of the cloth to allow for a central tree. Joan redrew the original tree on a larger scale and they felt it needed a border. Chris had done some research into the history of the area and discovered that there used to be a ‘rope walk’ in the 1700s in Heaton Moor. It ran for a mile from the side of the now Moor Top pub towards Burnage. Joan designed the rope to go under the tree roots and round between the panels. Chris drew rope segments and Joan added the detail, rounding out the rope sections.
It was brilliant to see the panels taking shape each month. It has been a slow process and the membership of the group has changed over time, mostly more new ones joining in, and as well as the original ones there was Barbara, Angela, Pat and Chris. Everyone has joined in and taken part in the decisions, guided by our experts, Carole and Chris, and done some share of the work to produce the pictures.
After the panels we moved onto the central tree. Joan had the daunting task of sketching the outline directly onto the tablecloth, and then it was out with the Bondaweb again, to attach the leaf shapes. Chris took on the job of embroidering on the roots to finish off the tree. It was ready for its first formal outing to the 2011 Woodford Craft Show and we were all very proud of it.