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Monday 9 November 2020

Lest We Forget

Last December, I was asked to make a Remembrance Day parament for First Baptist Church in Amherst. This beautiful church is located downtown right next to the cenotaph and hosts the indoor part of the Remembrance Day service each year, right after the wreath laying.

I accepted the commission without hesitation as, having done hangings for this church previously, I felt comfortable with the task, plus I had almost a whole year in which to work.  I started work on the project right after the new year began to ensure it would be done in lots of time.  Ha!

The pulpit is not very large; the banner needs to be precisely 20-1/4" wide to fit between the posts.  The length can vary a bit, with a maximum of 28".  It's a really big church, with a beautiful horseshoe balcony on the upper level, so for a piece this small to be seen from the back of the church it needs to be simple in design with the various elements presented in high contrasting colours so they stand out. The centrepiece of the design is a big, red poppy and since that conveys the message of the day clearly, that's really all that needs to be seen. My palette for the occasion was red and white, with maybe a bit of green, or blue, for detail.  I began with a pure white bridal satin for the background and several shades of dupioni silk for the poppy and letters. The poppy is a simple shape, no leaves or pods, just what you see on a veteran's lapel.
 After cutting all the letters and making the poppy from silk, it was totally lacking punch as I couldn't get enough different shades of I switched to my stash of vibrant Island Batik cottons to use for the applique. I stitched the poppy seeds free hand on my Bernina using Aurifil 12 weight thread.  Notice that the centre of the poppy is a dark steel blue, as is the thread. This is because black is not displayed in a church on any day other than Good Friday. 
My idea for the bottom of the banner was to feature crosses lined up like we see in pictures from Normandy.
I began appliqueing multiple, tiny crosses but ran into difficulties with the satin puckering - even with a size 9 needle and multiple layers of stabilizers underneath.  Once you stitch on satin, you cannot remove it without leaving a hole, so...start over: new poppy, new letters, new satin.  This time my plan was to quilt the crosses in, but that was not a feasible idea since I was unable to mark lines on the satin.  I tried stitching them through tissue paper, but the results looked messy...and I accidentally picked the fabric with a needle.
My next great idea was to add the crosses with patchwork, and it did work fine except...the squares were 1/2" wide which meant a lot of seams to try and applique a poppy and letters satin does not hold a press well. It was lumpy.  I threw this out without taking pictures so have none to share, but this is the chart used.
By now, we are up to March. The next incarnation used plain white cotton for the background - easy to piece, applique, quilt, etc. I used a thin silk batting under the top. This one turned out great, and I even quilted maple leaves in the background.  Except...I didn't like how the cotton looked.  It was so dull and "unspecial" after that beautiful satin background.  I set it aside to convince myself that plain old cotton was totally appropriate to honour our soldiers. 
I dug this out again in September, when the church reopened after the Covid lockdown, and was horrified with how it looked.  There was no way that was going to hang in a church.  Now out of satin, I luckily found a place in Montreal which shipped quickly, so I started from scratch again.  More puckers.  Another order to Montreal for satin...
THIS TIME, I satin stitched the edges of the poppy on water soluble stabilizer instead of on the satin, soaked the edges to remove, and then straight stitched it onto the satin.  It worked great, so the letters were done the same way, as were the crosses cut in descending size from white dupioni silk.  FINALLY!
White fringe was added to the bottom.
I was very happy when the final stitches went in that hanging sleeve to finish up what should have been a simple project.
I took it outside to get some pictures.  You will notice that the crosses do not show up very well, and that was intentional.  They are meant to ghost up along the edge of the banner.  There is just enough difference in texture and shade between the white silk and the white satin to make this work. You won't see those crosses from the back of the church, but you don't need to.
This is taken in front of our bright red burning bush.
It has this much stitching - poppy, letters, and crosses are outlined and that's it! I was not chancing picking the fabric at this late date.  The filler is Bosal InRForm. 
I delivered it to the church right before Thanksgiving (you can see all the pumpkins!), and held my breath as I hung it in place.  It finished exactly 20-1/4" wide and fit perfectly. Whew!
Since our Remembrance Day service is cancelled this year due to the pandemic, the parament was dedicated yesterday in a lovely service at First Baptist Church.
It will be used to honour the veterans in future years when our world returns to normal. 
I will remember.


  1. Beautiful Remembrance Day parament and very special way to remember. I too will never forget.

  2. Your poppy has had quite the journey, Karen! The batik fabrics make quite a statement on the white satin.

  3. Gorgeous and what a lot of work to get it just right, but you did! Congratulations on the fitting tribute you made.

  4. What a great project. Glad you made it through all the challenges. Well done.

  5. It is a beautiful triumph! You should be proud.

  6. That is spectacular Karen - especially now knowing all that went into it!! You are such a talent! Well done!