Scriptural threads make a beautiful gift for a new generation

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Youngsters at St John the Baptist’s Church, Perth, were presented with a unique resource, inspired and created with the support of Younger Conservation Ltd (YCL), Perth. Four exquisitely painted and embroidered quilts, based on the idea of the Jesse Tree, as described by the Prophet Isaiah, ‘A shoot shall come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.’ The trees are illustrated with images representing the stories form the Old and New Testaments, reflecting the liturgical year and the cycle of readings.

The original idea for the project came from the parish and was enthusiastically supported by textile conservationist, Sophie Younger, director of YCL also a parishioner at St John’s. She was responding to an appeal by the congregation for ideas of how to engage its young people more in the life of the parish. Mrs Younger, always enthusiastic to encourage the next generation to like sewing brought in her team of professionals, to work with the Children’s Liturgy Group, to create the design framework on which the young peoples’ ideas developed. At the start, the work involved children in the parish youth group. Next, it was the turn of pupils from St John’s Academy and Kilgraston School who were working to achieve their Pope Benedict Caritas Award, for service to the Church and finally the wider community, both groups and individuals in the parish were soon needed, due to the scale of the project.

“It definitely became a labour of love and of faith,” said Sophie. “Old and young were working together. The completed project will provide an excellent resource for the parish’s Children’s Liturgy Group as well as full filling my desire to introduce and encourage youngsters to try sewing.”

“During the early stages, it was the job of the young people to help source the biblical images and symbols, which could be found around their church and beyond, to illustrate the scripture stories Then Lorna Pirrie of YCL interpreted the themes into a design. The shields were later painted up onto fabric by the older children and the Jesse Tree and fruits embellished by crewel wool stitching.”

With school holidays and exams, the project looked likely to fall into abeyance until Perthshire graphic designer, Aleksandra Mołoń, volunteered to step in. Aleksandra is final year student at Perth College (UHI). Alexandra’s unstinting time and talents brought the project to a fitting conclusion.

For Sophie it was not only a matter of passing on the Christian message to a new generation, but also the opportunity to share her traditional skills of needlework, restoration and conservation. Sophie’s Perth based company offers a wide range of services in textile conservation and she has carried out work on many historic items, like the upper valence on Mary Queen of Scots’ bed at Holyrood Palace as well as salvage work on the fire damaged Glasgow School of Art.

Anne Mitchell, Children’s Liturgy coordinator at St John’s, was delighted to see the project reach fruition. “There has been a great amount of work and commitment behind this project,”, said Anne, “not least from young people. We are deeply indebted to Sophie Younger for her generosity, not just in time and materials, but in developing and sharing a great idea and seeing it through to its fruition.”

“The simple but bold designs make the ideal starting points for telling the scripture stories. The shields take the form of very practical pouches that will allow us to store a treasure trove of resources, supporting the work we do in bringing the scriptures to our children.”