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Sue's diary ~

Early in 1999, I was asked to co-ordinate a millennium project to make banners for St Catherine's Chapel ~ we finished up with 48 of them ! At our first meeting in the village hall in September 1999 around 20 enthusiastic people arrived. As the weeks went by, our skills kept expanding and confidence grew as we moved on to working in coloured paper and eventually in fabric.

By December 1999, everyone in the village knew about the banners, and by February 2000 at least eight banners were completed. On 28th March we held our last workshop, with everyone's banners finished, all pinned up round the Hall.

In April, we were given more than enough of the fabric we needed to mount the banners on, and were offered the beaters' room in the Sub-Tropical Gardens as a place to store them until May. We asked everyone to bring their banners to Wheelwrights on Monday 27th April and to the village hall on the following day. We had two machines going full pelt stitching the banners to the fabric, and at 2.00pm precisely ... we were finished !

Friday 19th May : 11.00am ~ the day and time for hanging the banners in the Chapel. The final banner carried the signatures of everyone who took part in designing or making the banners, and it had to be the last to be made. It was an enormous task ~ scanning 166 signatures into a computer-generated design ~ and it arrived at the very last minute. At 11.30am, I was on my way to the Chapel with the St Catherine banner folded at one end and the signatures machined at last on the other. The deadline for taking down the scaffold tower was 12.00 noon !

Why scaffolding ? The Chapel is a listed building and we couldn't use nails or screws, so we devised a scheme to rest timber beams high across the arches of the vault for each row of banners. From each end of these beams fishing line hung down to the lighter beams that carried the banners. The only snag was that the upper beams were so high up in the roof space that we had to hire a scaffolding tower. However, it all worked well. The banners seemed to float in space.

The kneelers project began in May 2000 with the aim of turning the 48 Millennium banner designs into kneelers for the village church ~ by December, they were all finished and dedicated, along with a few more on top of the original designs.

There's only enough room here for one row of the 60 kneelers but, of course, you can see the originals in the parish church, which is always open in daylight hours.

How could we follow the banners and the kneelers ?

As soon as we heard that dry rot had been found in the Strangways Hall (the focus for every community group in Abbotsbury), Sue put a letter in the Chesil magazine, asking if anyone was interested in making a quilt to be raffled in aid of repairs. The quilt was under way in weeks ~ 42 panels each a foot square, separately quilted and stitched. All Abbotsbury life is there ~ ammonites, birds, trees and flowers, village buildings, signposts for the walkers ~ all hand-stitched on panels individually coloured with transfer paint. By the late spring of 2002, the quilt was ready. The Hall committee, who had printed 3000 tickets for the raffle soon had to print 3000 more! By the end of May, every single ticket had been sold, 1200 had been raised for the repair fund, and the quilt now hangs in Blandford, in a healing room for cancer sufferers.


Sue was asked to organise this community project for Abbotsbury's church. Using the technique of crazy patchwork would make the gem-like colours used in the staained glass windows stand out from a black background in a striking contrast. We leaflet-dropped the village and looked round for suitable fabrics ~ satins, taffetas, silks and sheers ~ but we also needed money, and we raised that through car boot sales, coffee mornings and generous donations. By November, we knew that we needed 108 squares ~ but we also knew that we had 48 people to make them.

We bought fabric for the black background in Dorchester, and went further afield for the colours ~ to Poole, Sturminster Newton, and Southall for the sheers. Beads, sequins and ribbons were bought wherever we saw little gems. We went on the internet for little bells, and eventually found them ... in America. It was amazing how quickly everyone finished their squares, but it wasn't until we started stitching beads and sequins on to the designs that we all realised how they enriched the work and turned the squares into individual works of art.

At the end of January 2006, with most of the squares completed, we started on the edges, made tassels and strung them on to ribbon with beads and bells. We assembled the whole of the cover on Saturday 11th March, a very special day, filled with laughter. A week later we had a private view in the church, with the cover on the piano for the first time. With families and friends we all enjoyed an evening of looking at the finished work of art ~ it was delightful.

2012 ~ the big one!

Click on the sail to read all about Abbotsbury's Olympic sails
and our welcome to the Torch Relay and the 2012 sailing events in Weymouth Bay.