Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Hoovering Angels' Wings

Yes, you did read that right. Hoovering - not hovering - angels' wings. That's what I've been doing today.

Let me explain...

A couple of years ago, the church I worship at went through a time of reordering. We took out the old organ and choir stalls to give us a much more flexible front worship space, as well as giving the entire church building some much needed TLC after over 125 years of hosting a community.

Before the reordering, we had various hangings in church; these were taken down and stored until such time as the stonework dried out (it was all power-washed to show off the beautiful colours of Swithland stone) and they could be effectively cleaned. One of the hangings was always referred to as The Three Angels.

Three Angels

Now, there is some dispute about exactly who is on the banner. The central figure is holding a lily, so it has been assumed by some to be a representation of Mary, after whom the church is named. (Although again, we're not sure which Mary the church is named after...mother of Jesus? Magdelene? Mary of Mary and Martha fame?)

Anyway, I've always taken it to be a tapestry of three angels, because there are four wings; one for each of the figures standing side-on, next to the central figure who has two wings.

As a child, the tapestry captivated me. I wasn't interested in the remarkable needlework of Stella Edwards, the lady who made it in the 1960's. And it is remarkable needlework. The base fabric, a sort of black/green satin depending on the light, with gold and silver lurex threads running through it, measures roughly 5' x 6' (1.52m by 1.90m ...ish. I work better in imperial than metric!) and the stitching covers a vast amount of that area. The base of the lily is felt, but everything else is embroidered with tapestry wool in shades of green, gold, orange-brown and off-white. The stitches are so even - just take a look at these close-ups...

The little 'flowers' are the patterns made by the
lurex threads in the base fabric

I always loved the angel in the middle, because I thought she was beautiful. Still do. The angel on the right came a close second, especially as she had a lovely face (shame about the green hair) and a patterned dress. The poor angel on the left - the one with the wonky face and dodgy hairdo, who always seemed to be admiring the other two - always got my sympathy vote. I can remember thinking, as a short, black-haired, bespectacled 8 year old, that she'd ended up with a bum deal in the looks department. But I was slightly happier that she'd been given a decent dress to make up for it...

See what I mean? 

I love this banner so much, I took it as my inspiration for a flower arrangement back at our 'Fabric and Flowers' Flower Festival in 2008...

Three lime-green 'angels', 'holding' a central lily,
with glass and gold nuggets on a black background

Personally, I have missed having the angels hanging in church - though you do get used to the fact they're not there, if that makes sense? They've been a part of St. Mary's almost as long as I have.

Anyway, today I hoovered them. Sixty-odd years of accumulated dust and a few cobwebs sucked up by the vacuum... Unfortunately there are a couple of problems; I noticed some small holes in the base fabric and a handful of stitches which have perished, but the banner is in remarkably good condition otherwise.

I reckon it's good to hang for another sixty years at least...


  1. Interesting story. I love the connections you make. Beautiful tapestry.