After the 2010 Axbridge Pageant some of the ladies in the sewing team who had met regularly for over 2 years realised their lives felt a little empty! And so, in 2012 the Axbridge sewing group was formed. At first the group learnt different sewing techniques from each other. From teenagers to those slightly older ? all came to regular meetings sometimes on very dark chilly nights to help, sew and chat. Two girls from the 5th form of the local school joined the group to help with their GCSE and A level subjects. One of the group suggested depicting the Pageant in Axbridge’s very own version of the Bayeux Tapestry and gradually the idea took shape. For the next 5 long years with donations of funds from the local Chamber of Commerce The Town Council and others, material and haberdashery from the ladies themselves as well as a lot of time and effort, the work was created. None of the group was a professional seamstress and experience varied, but together they produced what you see before you today.
Design and production
It was decided a continuous design was not practical; instead each scene was given its own panel. This enabled people from the group to take a single panel home to work on and it also made for ease of display and storage. After reviewing the DVD of the 2010 pageant, the individual scenes where then designed on paper by one of our group, this ensured continuity of style throughout the work. Tracing paper copies of the designs were then used and cut out in bonda web, this was then ironed on to the various materials keeping true to the colours and designs in the pageant. Some, where possible were made from scraps left from dresses made for the pageant. These were then appliqued onto the linen backing by machine. ( see example) Features were then embroidered on to the panels. Special mention should be made to one of our youngest members, for the bear in the fair scene which she knitted freehand from a drawing and to one of our older members who did all the embroidery on the Two World Wars Scene, embroidering her Uncle’s name, who was lost in the First World War, on the war memorial. The panels were appliqued with hand and machine sewing over the top. Other techniques such as knitting and hand painting on silk were used. The dates at the top of each panel are embroidered in a variety of colours and show the local flora and fauna of the time. The borders at the top of each panel show items from the 2010 Pageant such as the sewing machines or cameras along with the scene title. The border at the bottom has a coin and items that relate to the period of the scene. Can you spot the Axbridge streaker?
Each panel has attempted to reflect the number of people in the scene of the 2010 Pageant which in turn reflected the population of Axbridge at the time the scene was set. The skyline of the Mendip hills is a continuous feature in the scenes whilst the roofline adapts as the houses change. The finale scene shows two or three characters from each different era plus representatives from groups in the Town in 2010. The roof line in this final scene is as it was in 2012 when the scene was drawn and the Mendip skyline accurate as viewed from Crossmoor Drove. When completed the panels were backed with stiffener and calico finished with a ¾” black cotton fabric binding to protect the edging and give each panel a framed look. A sleeve, machine sewn onto the calico backing allowed each panel to be hung when a wooden batten was threaded through and tied with ribbon. This meant the panels could be displayed. At the first showing of the completed work many people commented that the panels should be framed to preserve and protect them. We are lucky enough to live in a wonderful Town with very generous groups and individuals and with their help we soon found ourselves in a position to get the panels framed by a local business Folly Framing up at Shipham. This kind lady not only offered advice on framing, eventually deciding on paired down solid oak frames with acrylic ‘glass’ making them light to move and sturdy, but also agreed to help with the cost by offering a generous discount.
A big thank you to the sponsors whose donations paid for materials along the way, including The Town Council, The 2016 Rumble in the Jumble, The Axbridge Chamber of Commerce and to Maunders in Cheddar for their donation of materials, to the ladies of the sewing group for the time and effort they put in to make the panels, to our lovely framing lady for her generous discount and last but by no means least to the people and businesses in the Town who sponsored the framing of the panels. To Enable MP Ltd who not only sponsored one panel but made a large donation towards others; to ACutAbove who donated the proceeds from their wonderful Christmas raffle as well as sponsoring a frame and to Dr Robin Goodfellow for his generous donation.