‘A Stitch in Time’ at our Arts Festival

Posted: 11th July 2017

A community embroidery project

During our Arts Festival, on Wednesday 28th June, a wonderful display and demonstration of the creativity achieved throughout the year by our students, one of the displays was of our ‘A Stitch in Time’ project, started in 2015.  We now have some examples of finished kneelers on display, and at the Arts Festival there were posters on the designs for all the kneelers in the project with explanations of the symbols and words sewn on to each kneeler.  For those who were unable to attend the Arts Festival but who would like to know who was responsible for the kneeler designs and what they all mean, here is a reproduction of the boards!

‘A whole school and community project begun in 2015, ‘A Stitch in Time’ is St Augustine Priory’s celebration of 100 years of Catholic faith on the Hillcrest Road site.  Students, parents, teachers, Governors and the wider community have collaborated in groups to design and hand embroider twelve kneeling cushions for our own Chapel which celebrate our shared values.  We are now more than half way through our project, producing items which will be of use and beauty for the years to come.

Design sessions were led by our Head of Art, Ms Eng.  We looked at the Catholic symbols already present all around the school, which helped us to formulate the twelve designs for the kneelers.  We also visited the V&A to look at     examples of tapestry and embroidery, and the work of William Morris, from whom we are drawing inspiration for patterns and style.  Our kneelers are sympathetic to the Arts and Crafts style of the school Chapel, which was         designed by the architect Barry Peacock in 1915.  The colours chosen for the kneelers: pink, red, gold, blue, green and purple are important symbolic colours in the religious year, and have been chosen in shades that will match the interior of our Chapel.

Once designs were finalized and drawn onto canvasses, we were then visited by tutors from the Royal School of  Needlework, who led sessions for students and parents on different embroidery techniques.  As time has progressed, the stitchers have become more independent, and have passed on their knowledge to other students.  Seeing     students of different ages learning from one another has been a great highlight of the project.

Students have been sewing on a daily basis during their lunch breaks and teachers and parents have been taking the frames home during the holidays, when stitching sessions have included school alumnae who have had many tales to tell about the school.

We have worked with a company which produces kneelers to have our completed designs transposed into a digital format stitch by stitch, forming the printed kneelers.  We are very proud to exhibit a printed cushion and a few of our fully upholstered original cushions today.  The cushions show the patience and love of our school community, and we look forward to unveiling our full set of 100 kneelers in the Michaelmas Term.  Of this final set, 12 kneelers will be stitched, and 88 printed.


Group 1: Sevannah Hazarian, Agata Krynska, Haranya Yogananthan, Eve Burgess-Maloney,   Josephine Hoesel, Isabella Ju, Banu Ali, edited by Miss Eng

Two goldfinches representing the passion of Christ perch on the letter “V”, the first letter of “Veritas”: our school motto meaning “truth” in Latin. Oak leaves are a representation of strength, and the lily represents St Joseph, the husband of Mary, the Mother of Our Lord.

This motif fans out from the centre, suggesting that our faith and Jesus are at the centre of our school life.  Around the edges, “bravery”, “peace”, “strength” and “wisdom” are words that sum up our school.

Group 2: Miss Eng with input from Ms King

Our Arts and Crafts building takes centre stage in this design, with our motto “Veritas” and the letters CRL, which stand for Canonesses Regular of the Lateran, the religious order which founded our school and remained until the middle of the 1990s.  This reminds us of the continuity of the nuns one hundred years after they moved the convent and school from France to our current site. The words “école” and “église” in French suggest the dual purpose of St Augustine’s Priory as both church and school, whilst the Welsh translation of the same words is a tribute to the Welsh community within the school.

Group 3: Mrs Collins, edited by Miss Eng

The central point of this kneeler is an image of a ciborium displaying the Blessed Sacrament, taken from a banner in our Chapter Room. The fleur-de-lys motif indicates the school’s origins in France and also features imagery from around the school buildings. The repetitive leaf pattern was inspired by works from the Arts and Crafts movement from our visit to the V&A. The words are from the Magnificat, Mary’s prayer to God – ‘My soul does magnify the Lord’, chosen in echo of the Marian devotion of the nuns who would have said countless  prayers to Mary and prayers in praise to God, in our Chapel. The Greek letters are Chi and Rho, for the first two letters of the word ‘Christ’; and Alpha and Omega, meaning the beginning and the end.

Group 4: Toluwani  Sangosanya, Naomi  Jeffries, Kashish Mittal, Mehru Mittal, Noor  Mahmood, Charlize  Miradi, Madeson Miradi, edited by Miss Eng

Jesus said “I am the true vine, you are its branches”, and like the grapes on a vine, our community is held together and entwined by our roots in the Catholic faith. Red grapes make wine, which in the Mass becomes the body and blood of Christ, The symmetrical pattern of the vines strongly references the Arts and Crafts period and the looping patterns suggest that there is no beginning and no end to our faith. The Chi Ro sign, one of the earliest forms of Christogram, at the centre of the vine reminds us of Christ once again, and around the edges, the words “way”, “truth” and “life” remind us of Jesus saying “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”.

Group 5: Jonelle Esprit, Mahi  Kapadia, Amelia Phillips, Mia Simpson, Emilie Walsham, Athena Sproten,   edited by Miss Eng

Our school logo is emblazoned upon this cushion, with the Sacred Heart at the centre. The cushion celebrates the 100 year period from 1915 to 2015 that St Augustine’s Priory has been on this site in Hillcrest Road, and the blue of the background becomes water in which four fish swim, a reference to the ‘Icthus’, once a secret symbol of Christianity. Fish are  also significant in the feeding of the five thousand, where Jesus said “go and feed them yourselves”, a value which is very much reflected by our outward-looking students. A member of staff commented that all the students of St Augustine’s Priory are like little fish, swimming freely in our school – a school of fish!

Group 6: Mrs McDermott, Niamh McDermott, Enya McDermott, Mrs Koh, Primrose Phang, Mrs Farmer, edited by Miss Eng

The oil lamp in the centre of the cushion symbolises the continuity of our faith. The cushion celebrates our love of learning, through the flame of knowledge, and the words “knowledge”, “savoir”, “cognitio” and “eolas” – the word “knowledge” in English, French, Latin and Celtic. This cushion is a true reflection of community, where parents, children, students and teachers have all come together to design, sew and learn.

Group 7: Isabel Upcraft, Sennen Powell, Mrs Powell, Mrs Upcraft, Poppy Powell, Mrs de Rozarieux, Yvie de Rozarieux, edited by Miss Eng

Christ is at the centre of us all, and he is King. The crossed swords represent the protection and defence that the school and education give us, and wheat represents the body of Christ, bread being consecrated during the Mass, becoming the body and blood of Christ.  This is once again a truly collaborative cushion, where three families have come together to design and sew. The colours represent the House colours of the families involved.

Group 8: Meritxell Brennan, Prisha Pathak, Mrs Kerr, Lucy Kerr, Annice Kerr, Maki Mizunoe, edited by Miss Eng

Wheat is ground down to make bread, representing the body of Christ. Sheaves of wheat stand together, showing strength as a team, and the four Houses of the school: St Gabriel, St Michael, St Raphael and St George are the teams to which we belong, as well as the whole school team. The sheaves of wheat are blown gently by the wind, a representation God our Father, and form semi-circles, a key shape in the Arts and Crafts movement.

A dove flies from the centre, an emblem of the Holy Spirit and of peace.

Group 9: Lucy Williams, Daisy Hardey, Maryam Kamar, Milan Dhillon, edited by Miss Eng

This cushion celebrates our 100 years of Faith on the Hillcrest Road site, from 1915 to 2015.  Oak leaves and acorns recall Jesus’ saying that the acorn grows into the strongest of trees, reminding us that each child however young, can realise their full potential. The Sacred Heart situated with the cross in the centre reminds us of Jesus’ sacrifice.

Group 10: Lucy Lennon, Ananya Sharma, Victoria Shloyk, Marie-Anne Rutter, edited by Miss Eng

Different aspects of the Church’s year are celebrated in this cushion; joy, everyday, feasts and Lent. An Arts and Crafts depiction of pomegranates on their vines symbolises the hope of an immortal life, eternity, and resurrection.   The church is guided by the Holy Spirit, represented by the dove in the centre.

Group 11: Mrs Tippen, edited by Miss Eng

Blood red poppies on a white background remind us poignantly of the First World War one hundred years ago, during which women took on multiple jobs in the war effort. In 1915, as we moved to our Hillcrest Road site, our own nuns were some of these women, laying down the foundations of our current building and community. ‘Courage’ was the St Augustine’s Priory theme of 2015, linking our past to our present. Although the world has changed immeasurably since 1915, courage is still hugely relevant in the lives of our young women today who continue to push boundaries and show all of which they are capable.  English oak leaves around the edges of the cushion remind us of strength in difficult times.

Group 12: Miss Eng with input from Mrs Raffray

The cushion takes inspiration from the poem ‘Burnt Norton’ from T.S Eliot’s ‘Four Quartets’ (Mrs Raffray’s favourite!), featuring a curious little bird, the garden, and past, present and future. The roses represent Christ’s Passion, and the Virgin Mary, and were drawn from our school rose garden. The bird on this cushion also represents our Upper VI      fledging from St Augustine’s Priory, and celebrates 2017, their final year, and the 2016-2017 school theme of ‘Memory’.


What Next?  The Long Kneelers Project

As the 100 small kneelers near completion, the second part of the project will see 30 long kneeling cushions being designed and upholstered to fit the Chapel pews, using imagery designed by each year group significant to the school’s journey of faith from 17th Century Paris to London today.

Many different ideas for the long kneelers were suggested by the community at our exhibition in 2015, which was  attended by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, including Bible stories such as Noah’s Ark and the feeding of the five thousand. The ‘Journey of Faith’ idea was selected as there are so many different events since 1634 which have coloured our school’s history, and which gave the opportunity for each year group to take part and create a timeline deeply personal to the school.

From the Nursery to Upper VI, during January 2016, each class was given one historical event from the school’s history, with the task that they would design a motif inspired by it. With the support of Miss Eng, Head of Art, and in close collaboration with their RE Teachers, students from the whole school researched the emblems and artefacts around the school, such as the portraits of the founders of the order and the school, Lady Mary Tredway and Fr Thomas Carre. They also drew pictures including of the nuns, Cardinal Vincent Nichols and our first building in Paris and then translated their research into pictures (sometimes in glorious technicolour!) Each image was then entered into a competition judged by Mrs Raffray.’

Miss Eng comments on the process so far:

“I was so pleased with the response to the icon designing for the Long Kneelers project! Every Form from the Nursery to the Sixth Form took part and many entries across the school were beyond my expectations in their creativity.  Notable entries so far are the Veritas balloons from the Sixth Form and a recusant coat of arms from Lower V.  I was  delighted by a Nursery student who insisted the he wanted ‘beige not white’ to draw the Cardinal’s face! Thank you to all the teachers who helped to lead the project and had such meaningful discussions with their students.”

The winners from each Form have now been chosen, and collated into one long design which tells the story of our school since 1634. The next step is to digitally add colour to it in order to match the short kneelers, then to send it off to be printed and upholstered.  Watch this space!’



Categories: Faith Life Junior Nursery Prep Senior Sixth Form The Association Whole School