The GladRags Banner – a true community project

On April 6th, the finished GladRags Banner was unveiled to an audience including not just the many people who had been involved in making the squares and the volunteers who stitched them together, but also representatives of Horsley Parish Council and Horsley Community Fund who made the project possible.

The GladRags project was originally the brain-child of Diana Burch who set it in motion in collaboration with Haslemere Museum. Small, similar projects took place during the lockdown months in many parts of the country, contributing to a feeling of ‘community’ and supporting everyone with encouragement to think of things that brought them pleasure at a time when were all tending to dwell on the negative outcomes of being confined.

A two-year project

stitched squares laid outThis has been a two-year project for me, starting with a regular blog for the WHP website in April 2020 to encourage everyone to make a square depicting something that gave them pleasure, photograph it and send in their pictures.  My blogs included ideas for lots of ways to take part, like painting or gluing, if stitching and knitting were not an option and we enjoyed sharing pictures on the blog as they arrived.

Fast forward to April 2021 and a request went out for all the squares to be sent in and volunteers were sought to help stitch them together. We didn’t know how many we would get as we knew some people would prefer to keep their little masterpieces, so it wasn’t until July that I could formulate a design. The one thing I was sure of was that I didn’t want it to be a quilt or just a display on boards!

The start of The Big Sew

women sewing at tablesEighty-two squares arrived and three members of the GladRags Gang used fabrics from the House to make squares saying W, H & P and the dates and a skilled embroidery depicting the front door of the house. And so The Big Sew started (well, we couldn’t call it The Big Stitch Up, could we?). 

All in all our wonderful banner incorporates eighty eight 15cm squares stitched, knitted, crocheted, felted, painted, printed or glued by local residents and West Horsley Place supporters plus nearly 50metres of tape outlining them and a button at every intersection!  

While the banner was finished in December (despite me breaking my wrist, so all I could do was ‘direct’!) it was agreed that its unveiling would wait until Spring when the house was re-opened to visitors and they could come and see it in place.

A lasting legacy

woman sewingOne lasting legacy of the project is the formation of The GladRags Gang, a group that still meets on Tuesdays in The Barn at WHP between 2pm and 5pm if the room is not being used for another event and we are hugely grateful to WHP for making the room available for us..   

Everyone is welcome to come along. At the moment we are knitting for Blankets without Borders, but you are equally welcome to bring your own knitting or stitching project and just join in for tea and chat! All you have to do is sign up on the volunteers page on the website so that you get the weekly newsletter and know if the group is definitely meeting.

women holding up patchwork banner

At WHP the mission is to improve people's wellbeing through art, heritage and nature. They have now partnered with Woking Mind. The pandemic has had a negative impact on everybody's mental health. One of Mind's suggested ways of taking care of your wellbeing in the aftermath of C-19 is to 'find ways to connect with others and share experiences".


The GladRags Gang will be considering more collaborative ideas to involved the community in the coming months.

The Banner will be available in The Barn from Wednesday to Friday each week and we all hope visitors will share their own stories or their response to the Banner in our book (underneath the Banner), on social media #westhorsleyplace or by email/audio file to [email protected]


Nancy Shafee is a member of the Surrey Hills Enterprise Group, Crafts Council, International Feltmakers Association, Heritage Craft Association and former Chair of the Surrey Guild of Craftsmen.  Nancy lives in West Horsley. She teaches feltmaking and sells her work through The Surrey Guild of Craftsmen Gallery in Milford.