VIDEO: Heritage Quilt Project is all sewn up

NEEDLEWORKERS have sewn the final stitches in a mammoth project that has taken more than two years to complete.

The Heritage Quilt Project has been a huge undertaking involved the whole community to celebrate Steyning Grammar School’s 400th anniversary.

Some of the quilt group with two of the panels in the final stages of completion

Some of the quilt group with two of the panels in the final stages of completion

Made possible by a £5,600 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, it is designed to leave a lasting legacy of the school and town, with each square telling a personal story.

Project manager Amanda Duke said: “All ages have been involved. It has been a real community effort.”

Started back in October 2012, the quilt is in four panels, representing the town’s natural and built environment, clubs and societies, the school and Steyning Downland Scheme.

The learning and resource centre will be the quilt’s permanent home but it will be available for tour. Hever Castle, for example, has already requested the quilt but it was not ready in time.

There will be a celebration for invited guests on November 21, then it will go on show to all at the school’s winter fayre on Saturday, November 22, from 10am to 4pm. All the plans and the stories behind the panels will also be on show.

Mrs Duke said the basis of the quilt was individual squares but it had become a much more fluid, three-dimensional piece.

“I wanted to get something rhythmical. It was an organic flow of thinking and I wanted to empower people to come up with their own ideas,” she added.

One late addition was a steam train, made only on Sunday night by Jill Herson, after it was decided the railway should be represented.

Elements of the school panel include the faces of students, enhanced by their own stitches.

Elisabeth Harden explained: “The children were asked what the school means to them and one of the things that came out of it was the community feel and their friends.

“So, instead of having maths and science, say, the students’ photographs were printed on material and each child did their own stitching to add to it.”

The town centre and the school’s 100 square mile catchment area are represented within the panels, as well as many of the 80 to 90 clubs and societies in Steyning, and the natural environment.

There is also a memorial square for Maggie Kiefer, a teacher at the grammar school for many years who ran after-school classes to keep textiles going when it was removed from the curriculum.

She was part of the inspiration for the whole project but died unexpectedly soon after it was started, having attended the first steering group meeting.

Mrs Duke said: “Maggie’s influence and a visit to the V&A quilt exhibition were pivotal in the decision to go with textiles.”

The square depicts the bag of equipment she always carried around and the creativity that came out of it.