Sunday, 10 June 2018

The poppies project - making the wreath

I've been very bad at posting about the Poppies project, the University of Chester sewing group's project to commemorate the 77 university staff and students who died in World War One.

In my defence, it's been difficult to post about. Unlike our previous project, this time most of the work has been done by group members at home. At each meeting more poppies were added to the collection, but not much actual sewing or knitting took place during meetings. One exception was when Nicola brought in her embroidery - her poppy was made up of four embroidered petals with wired edges.

The first petal of Nicola's embroidered poppy

We ended up with well in excess of the 77 poppies we had been aiming for; more than 100 over the target in fact! For various reasons, I hadn't been able to get fully involved in the project last year, so I offered to make up the wreath of 77 poppies which will be displayed in the campaign chest. The remaining poppies will be used in displays for the commemorative event, which takes place later this month.

The chest is being made specially for the project. I was given the internal dimensions, and decided that the simplest way to ensure that the wreath fitted inside was to make a mock-up from a cardboard box. It soon became obvious that the poppies would need to be tightly packed on the wreath; they completely filled the mock-up when laid flat.

The 77 poppies inside the cardboard 'chest'

The wreath base was made up from rings of 'bump'; thick curtain interlining fabric, sewn onto a base ring of heavy interfacing. The rings grew narrower, to create the curved shape - it ended up reminding me of the ending of Looney Tunes cartoons!

That's all Folks!

A final wide ring of bump was sewn over the top, to smooth the edges out. Fortunately bump both stretches and contracts quite easily.

Now looking more like an iced doughnut

Because the bump is quite fluffy, I had to cover it with a layer of cotton. This did not stretch to accommodate the curves, so I pleated it as I went round. To me the end result was reminiscent of puttees, the leg wraps worn by soldiers in World War One.

The completed wreath base

This gave me a base onto which I could sew the poppies. I sorted them by size and technique, and placed 12 of the smallest ones around the inner edge, and 26 of the largest ones around the outside. (Although the maximum size was meant to be 8-10cm diameter, there were some, ahem, 'generous' interptretations of these measurements!) As the photo shows, they had to be overlapped to fit them all in.

The first two rows of poppies

Sewing the poppies in place was hard work. Not all of them had backs which were easy to sew through; in some cases I had to attach a felt backing first, and sew that to the wreath. A lot of the time there wasn't room to manoeuvre the needle easily, so I had to use tweezers to pull it through the fabric.

The remaining poppies were attached in two further rings, of 17 and 22 flowers. These were even more awkward, as the space I had to work in got smaller and smaller. It was one of the trickiest things I've ever worked on, but the end result was worth it. I will post about that after the commemorative event, which takes place in a couple of weeks.

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