Recently we heard from Maureen who completed this beautiful altar linen using one of the patterns here on our website. Congratulations! It took her over 500 HOURS of work. Elizabeth Morgan, author of Sewing Church Linens, helped with the making up of the fair linen. This is magnificent- thanks for sharing your photos, Maureen. Christmas was a perfect time to present this wonderful gift at the altar.
We have a request for a Sacred Pelican embroidery motif. There are numerous transfers which I can send which would have to be applied by tracing on the cloth using transfer paper if you can do your own embroidery. St. Jude’s has a more contemporary machine embroidery banner in several sizes featuring the Pelican at http://www.stjudeshop.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/product.detail/_/Pelican-on-a-Purple-Tapestry-/productID/2cc818b0-2394-4247-8d4d-c75c729bdfbe/categoryID/5e927507-614f-41e1-971c-83c94206561d/
The hunt is on for a new motif or a “recycled” on which has been removed from an old vestment. If you see one, let us know!
It has been a busy month going through boxes of redundant and unused vestments and linens which have arrived from other churches for relocating. It is like Christmas when these things appear in my office. I have quite a number of chalice pall inserts in various sizes and a good deal of linen remnants in various lengths. If your altar guild would like to make a new chalice pall, I am able to send you the insert (either cardboard, plexiglass or metal) and enough linen with an iron-on transfer and making directions to make a pall. They are really not very hard to do. (Revdma@aol.com )
I will be putting up a slideshow this weekend of some of the pretty embroideries I have seen over the summer and of some of the vestments I have relocated. My project for the autumn is documenting needlepoint in the Diocese of Rhode Island. Back in 1995 I did a program on this fascinating topic for the ECW but now we have digital photography, I think I can get better results. Rhode Island does have some LOVELY kneelers and other needlepoint items. Please let me know if your sacristy is in need of something in particular- I may just have it-and my husband will be delighted to see more “church things” exit our burgeoning front parlor!
What beautiful weather we are having! – just the right time to air out our sacristy closets and drawers after the muggy August we endured. September is a time for starting the back-to-church season with all its many programs on a fresh note.
A few years ago I happened upon a great series of little books about decorative arts in the Church, textiles and church architecture which was printed by A.R. Mowbray and Co. of London in a series spanning the first decade of the 1900′s. “The authors will write for the average intelligent person who has not had the time to study all these matters, and they will therefore avoid technicalities, while endeavoring at the same time to present the facts with a fidelity which will not, it is hoped, be unacceptable to the specialist.”- as the Editor’s note proclaims at the beginning of each slim volume.
I am not certain exactly how many volumes there are in the series as I possess only four to date, but here is one of the later editions with a list. You will note the estimable Rev. Percy Dearmer, author of The Ornaments of the Ministers (a must-have history of vestments for sacristies) and The Parson’s Handbook, has forewords and contributions in many of these little books. For everything about The Rev. Percy Dearmer visit this Project Canterbury link http://anglicanhistory.org/dearmer/index.html You may read the entire Parson’s Handbook (full of great information) free at
Ornaments of the Ministers with all of its amazing vintage vestment photographs can be copied and viewed using several formats here http://www.archive.org/details/MN40293ucmf_4
If you know of any other volumes in this series, I would be delighted to know of them. My particular favorite is Church Embroidery by Alice Dryden which was published in 1911. The great period of Church embroidery was from the twelfth to the middle of the fourteenth century (opus anglicanum) and this little book offers many plates and photos of extant pieces of ecclesiastical embroidery of this period. Method and execution are also included with a particularly excellent chapter on couching and stitches.
These little books may be found on ebay, A Libris, Bibliofind, and other out of print online dealers in the 30-50 dollar range. I have had the most success in finding them in England. Well worth the investment!!
I am delighted to promote the studios of Details in Design of Williamsburg, Virginia. After so many years of depending upon Mary Moore linens through the Almy company, I believe the quality of the linens of Details in Design is superior, and the service is spectacular. Not only can linen be ordered by the yard in Belgian or fine Irish linen, but the studio offers restoration and repair for old fair linens, workshops, needlework classes, and many other wonderful services for church altar guilds. You will enjoy exploring their website at www.communionlinens.com Please call for additional workshops not listed on the card above at 1-800-905-9556 Their catalogue is a MUST HAVE for every sacristy and features useful laundry tips and linen history.
Lent has traditionally been a time when convents and guilds repair or create vestments and linens, antependia, and laces. With the cost of buying ready-made vestments from catalogues, creating your own vestments from patterns may be a good option if you are blessed with a person in the parish or guild with sewing skills. It is possible to find good quality fabrics, of traditional pattern from sources other than the usual catalogue suppliers. If only one set of vestments and paraments can be afforded, you may wish to consider a tapestry pattern which utilizes a palette of colors for most of the liturgical year.
When making a Low Mass set ( chasuble, stole, burse and veil, and maniple) keep in mind that they will be worn by many shapes and sizes of clergy. In general, the Gothic or modified Gothic cut is flattering to all body shapes. Good design, quality fabric, and simplicity are guidelines to aim for. Chasubles are much-enhanced by a Y orphrey or a simple center orphrey rather than left plain. Certain patterns which feature a very large motif like St. Nicholas may be wonderful for a cope or frontal, but does not work at all well for smaller items such as a stole or burse.
Before making a final hem in a cope or chasuble, let the finished garment hang on a hanger for about a week, allowing the fabric to “drop” before making the final hemming. A damask, brocade or tapestry chasuble should have a lining to make it hold a shape and drape properly. Below are some excellent links which will be very helpful if your altar guild is considering making paraments or vestments. All offer fabric and trims for sale by the yard.
St. Benet’s Guild http://stbenetsguild.tripod.com/index.htm
(highly recommended) for patterns and fabrics
http://www.mperkins.co.uk/ (United Kingdom source)
Here are three from Coats and Clark’s 1956 The lily and chalice would be lovely for Easter Sunday.
Remember to right click the image and save to your computer to print out at full size.
This week’s filet crochet pattern 1956 from Coats and Clark’s
Save this photo by right clicking on the diagram and saving it to your computer. It will print out full-sized.
Here is an hilarious poem I came across on a UK website about a church needlewoman with problems! Free patterns at the link below in red.
An embroiderer’s lament
The fringe on my frontal looks frightful,
The bulge in the burse is much worse,
The tunicle’s less than delightful,
And the vicar’s becoming quite terse.
He tripped on the verge of a vestment,
And strangled himself with the stole
And, somehow, the size of his chest meant
My bold cope had no hope at all.
The alb and the orphrey are awful
My motif misfires on the morse,
The tassels are tatty – a drawerful
Had tarnished and look very coarse.
The maniple lining is sagging,
The veil for the chalice too small,
The dalmatic’s dramatic but dragging
And I don’t like the kneelers at all.
I cannot be ready by Advent
It’s all such a terrible strain
But unclerical things that were said meant
(Thank God) they’ll not ask me again.
Opus anglicanum (‘English work’) employed silk and gold thread and often included jewels. English embroidery had been famous since the 11th century – the Bayeux tapestry (actually an embroidery) was probably made in England. Both wealthy noblemen and church dignitaries gave commissions for garments to monasteries and convents but by the 13th century embroidery guilds and freelance artisans were producing amazingly intricate and beautiful embroideries for sacred and secular use. English work was the best and provided the country with one of its most prolific artistic exports in the medieval period. The English Work adorned the Popes of Rome and the courts of Florence.
The English maintained a reputation for high-quality embroidery right up until the first world war, with many of the needleworkers being men who specialized in metallic thread work couching and subtly shaded silk floss long and short and satin stitches on silk damask. Catalogues were published of very detailed patterns of vines and flowers, symbols, figural representations and all manner of naturalistic foliage in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. The designs could be ordered from the catalogue and worked on a frontal or textile of choice. Brown’s was one particularly amazing English turn-of-the-century catalogue which offered banners, paraments, vestments and every possible textile for church use, all heavily embroidered with silk and metallics.
The selection of chalice veil, burse, stole, and lectern hanging motifs in the slideshow below are from the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Newport. The black velvet veil is part of a requiem set made for Mrs. Sidney Webster for the memorial chapel of the Blessed Sacrament (designed by Ralph Adams Cram) in 1915 by the Sisters of St. John the Baptist which at the time had a convent in New York. Today the order is in Mendham, N.J. and still maintains an embroidery room. The Sisters offer regular embroidery workshops. You may visit their website at http://www.csjb.org/SpecialEvents.html All needlework in the slide show done by the Sisters is notated with SSJB.