50 metres of tape, countless reels of thread…and did anyone note how many cups of tea? It’s some while since my regular updates about the GladRags project. But that doesn’t mean nothing has been happening!

First, as you may remember, Clare asked everyone to send in their squares. A few people didn’t want to part with their masterpieces, but we got a wonderful selection of ‘the real thing’ arriving through the door – in fact more than eighty beautiful miniature pictures! Having been receiving pictures and writing blogs about the squares during the lockdown months, it really was wonderful to see the fabric squares arriving.

Clare and I were equally gratified by the number of volunteers who came forward to help with the sometimes tricky task of stitching all these creations into a format they could be displayed.

When I was asked to take on leading the stitching group I had only a hazy idea of how we would manage it, but such a super-enthusiastic group of ladies turned up, the process evolved smoothly. We styled ourselves the GladRags Gang and have been getting together each Tuesday afternoon since those hot July days! The result of our work will be a colourful banner which can be hung in the Farm Barn or in the House or indeed taken to show schools in the future.

Our first task was to ensure the stitching was firmly attached on each square and to trim them to size. We elected to create a frame around each square which entailed very accurate measuring so that the intersections matched. We had some ‘fun’ with that, I can assure you, with some fabrics being more difficult to handle than others, so sometimes the measurements seemed to stretch! We did joke with one volunteer who could repeatedly be heard saying ‘I think we’d better unpick that one’. You may be amazed to know that we have used nearly 50metres of tape for this framing task and for reinforcing the backing and a staggering number of reels of thread.

Three members of the Gang agreed to create five additional squares. Beautifully embroidered letters – W,H,P – an embroidered picture of the front door of the House and the dates – 2020 and 2021 - took our breath away.

Meanwhile, the lines of squares grew as they were joined to each other, and the ingenious crew ended up rolling the backing to run the sections through a sewing machine! As you can imagine, as this creation expanded it became increasing unwieldy and heavy. Our final task will be to join the front to the back – this will have to be hand-stitched as there is no way we can get both layers of fabric through anyone’s sewing machine!

We agreed on a subtle teal colour for the backing and border – this came in 1m widths so three strips had to be stitched together – yet more rolling and as you can see in the picture, it took several volunteers to feed it through the sewing machine!

We have made a grid of all the names of those who made the squares so everyone can identify the creator of each - this will be displayed alongside the banner and a copy stitched to the back for posterity.

Our next task will be to attach the squares to the backing and trim the border. We hope the result will be unveiled in just a few weeks’ time, so ‘watch this space’ as they say, for a date to come and see all the hard work finally displayed.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has joined the GladRags Gang, especially those who took it upon themselves to supply us with cake on a regular basis,

and Clare for providing tea and biscuits to keep us going. Of course we collectively want to thank everyone who made and shared a square – without you none of this would have happened!

The finished GladRags Patchwork will go on exhibition in April, heralding West Horsley Place's reopening from the winter closure. We will keep you posted here as plans for the exhibition and how we can involve the community in their response to the artwork develop. 

Nancy Shafee is a member of the International Feltmakers Association, Fibre Art Network, Heritage Craft Association, Guildford Art Society and Oxshott Art and Crafts. She is a former Chair of the Surrey Guild of Craftsmen and has been leading The GladRags Gang. Nancy lives in West Horsley. She teaches feltmaking and sells her work through The Surrey Guild of Craftsmen Gallery in Milford.