Back Online!

Dear friends and blog readers,  Yes, it has been a LONG time since a new post has appeared.  We now have  a new bishop for the diocese and I will be staying on as Diocesan Director.  Joan Scofield, of St. Barnabas, will be the new Diocesan Altar Guild treasurer.  Many thanks to Barbara Read, outgoing treasurer, for her many years of dedication and service.  It was a pleasure to meet with Barbara and our new Bishop, the Rt. Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely two weeks ago at the Cathedral.

bkMany plans and projects are underway in the Diocese and it looks like exciting times ahead with a rejuvenation of the Diocesan Altar Guild.

One question which I am asked often concerns the return of the gold cross Diocesan Altar Guild pins which were presented for many years to altar guild members in the state of Rhode Island.  The manufacturer has been located and it would seem that soon we will once again have them in stock for Rhode Island church guilds.  The pin, designed for Rhode Island by Fr. Washburn some years ago, is a beautiful one, and was for a time sold all over the country to non Rhode Island guilds. The question is under consideration now as to whether or not to reserve it for the state for which it was created.  If you have one of these pins, continue to wear it and become an “honorary” member of the Diocesan Altar Guild of Rhode Island. It is most probable that we will revert to the original use of these pins to churches within our state, for which the pin was designed. I will post any updates on this site.

It’s good to be back, and my thanks for the many emails and prayers which were sent winging my way over the last difficult year of family health issues.  The photo at the top of the page comes from a flower festival. Such lovely entries to see here


Offensive advertising

I have just been made aware of the fact that some readers are finding advertisements on this site which contain offensive material.  Depending on which browser and settings you are using, you may not be seeing this.  I use an AOL browser and have never seen these ads, and I apologize to anyone who has been subjected to this material. I have learned that WordPress, which powers this web site, randomly selects sites on which to display ads to help defer operating cost without having to contact the blog administrator to inform them of such actions.

I have been in touch with the support team at WordPress and hopefully I will not have to pay the additional No Ad fee to guarantee no ads will appear again. Once again, I am very sorry this happened, and glad someone called to make me aware of it.

Mail Call

Our pall needs urgent change. Do you still offer instructions and material for a pall including the insert? Would appreciate the help. There are very little resources and finding this information in your site has been miraculous!!!Wanda

Thanks for your email!  If your chalice pall has an acrylic square insert, you can easily wash the whole thing without taking it apart. I like to soak palls in BIZ laundry powders.  Rinse thoroughly and lay the pall on a white towel after blotting out most of the water. Then let it dry on a sunny window ledge and the linen will shrink tight around the insert again.

If you have a cardboard or oak tag insert, just open up the pall seam, remove it and wash the pall in the same manner other small linens are washed.  I like the acrylic liners. You can order linen, inserts, embroidery floss and instructions from Bunny’s book, Sewing Church Linens is available at Amazon and on Ebay and is a must-have for every sacristy. Pall making is not a difficult task and a simple central motif can be done by even new embroiderers.

February Mailbox Requests

Please send responses to these two requests to

I volunteer at Catholic Campus Ministry at Missouri State University & we also service Drury Univ. & Ozarks Technical College. The Claretians run it & they truly take a vow of poverty. So our church could use some decor. Also, any suggestions for altar plants that are hardy indoor plants would be greatly appreciated. Any ideas for attractive but reasonable stations of the cross? Thank you & God Bless, Sharon

 I have been searching the internet for an appropriate edging for an altar cover which I promised to crochet for a priest friend. On Tuesday I went to a Greek Orthodox Monastery in Pleasant Prairie, WI and I saw a very beautiful edging with a cross design. I left a voice mail message with the sisters but I haven’t heard from them. Well anyway, can you please suggest a good pattern for me to use?   Thank you very much. Lou

Our Mailbox

This item in last week. The reader wants to know why the lower part of this fiddleback chasuble is “whited out” I have seen albs with rectangular “apparels” attached by thread or snaps. These apparels are usually on the cuffs or hem (front and back). Amices may also have apparels and they are quite a beautiful addition, being made of silk damask in the liturgical colors. 

Dalmatics and tunicles have “clavi” ( a costume element from the Roman Senate) or rectangles of contrasting color and usually matching orphrey work on the vestment, sewed along the front and back center hem. If the dalmatic has one clavus, the tunicle will have none. From time to time you may see a tunicle with one clavus and the dalmatic to the Mass set with two clavi, although this seems to be pretty rare in the recent designs. The sub deacon wears the tunicle, the dalmatic may be worn by the Crucifer and/or Deacon. A pair of matching dalmatics is often seen for these purposes in a sacristy closet.  The Crucifer, in years gone by wore white gloves while bearing the processional Cross.

  In the illustration provided by our reader below, I am not sure why the rectangle at the bottom is whited out. It may be simply that the design illustration was not finished. I have purchased line drawings for old vestment catalogues over the years, some hand-tinted, which have been unfinished. Please write in if you have any other thoughts on this illustration.

Elizabeth Bradley Needlework

Do you know about the beautiful needlework kits and supplies of Elizabeth Bradley?  Tired of those coloring book-like cartoon patterns for kneelers? Visit the home page at to see the beautiful floral, fruit, and animal needlepoint kits, fine wools in 154 muted  colors of four-ply tapestry wool.  There are also border patterns and mini kits of 6- inch motifs.

Low Mass Sets

Michelmas is upon us- where did the summer go?  Some of us are still cleaning up after Hurricane Irene, and many church yards lost venerable trees and plantings in the big wind.  September brings everyone back from vacations, and at church, ministries and programs are getting up and running again as a new year starts.

Now is the time to have a good look around the sacristy to see what the humid summer months have done.  This is a good time to replenish supplies, air out cupboards and drawers, and have a good look at what needs repairing or cleaning.

I enjoyed visiting Grace Church last month, and meeting Marty, the directress there. She graciously showed me around the sacristy and showed me some of the wonderful textiles in inventory. I will be putting up a slide show very soon. 

A question arose as I was looking at inventory to relocate to other parishes.  Should low mass sets be broken up?  The answer is simply, NO!!

 A low mass set is comprised of chasuble, stole, burse, chalice veil and maniple. Although many churches have stopped using maniples, chalice veils and burses, should the set ever be either sold or relocated, a COMPLETE set is more valuable, and might be used in another parish. If the humeral veil, tunicle, dalmatic, cope, frontal and stoles and maniples are added to that list above, you have a Solemn High Mass set of vestments.  A few years ago we located such a set in the inventory of the textile school at URI- and how exciting it was to see every single piece still there! So, before you toss out or give up individual pieces of a set, be sure the rest of the set is beyond repair, sale, or relocating.

* Blessed vestments and linens, of course, must be burned when they are no longer fit to be used.

Summer and the toll on stoles

Very few churches have the luxury of air-conditioning in the humid months, and vestments take a beating in the weeks of high humidity.  Always be sure every vestment is completely dry before putting back in the closet or drawer.  The necklines of vestments, especially chasubles and stoles receive the most damage.  At one time stole protectors were seen on every stole in inventory.  Some were very fancy linen affairs, heavily trimmed with handmade lace.  A stole protector can be plain and serviceable or ornate.  It should be applied with a basting stitch so that it can be removed for laundering.  Even a wide bit of cotton lace can be used as a protector. In this age of seldom-seen amices, the neckline of expensive vestments can be prolonged in good repair by the use of stole protectors.  Here are a few from St. Veronica’s Guild. Remember to keep your sacristy extra spotless, well-aired, and dehumidified during the summer months when all manner of mildew, pollen, mold spores and other pollutants are in the air.

Soot Removal


In today’s mailbox:

“We have soot on the White fair linen. There are approximately 4 spots. I am tasked to clean this and am fearful of leaving a ring around any spot that I may attempt to remove. We would appreciate knowing what product to use and how to use it. Thank you very much. This web site has been most useful.  Blessings, Patricia Collins Larkspur CO”

Next to lily pollen, soot has to be the next worst thing to remove.  Of course the best thing is prevention. Keep your candle wicks trimmed, and the candle burn -well free of debris.  Use a glass or brass candle follower.  In some cases bobeches can catch waxy soot before it hits the linen. ALWAYS use 51% pure beeswax candles for the altar. They burn cleaner, drip less and smoke less.  Keep the INSIDE of your candle “snuffer” bell SPOTLESSLY clean.  After cleaning it out, give it a light spray of PAM and wipe out residue. If the candle snuffer bell is clean inside when it goes over the candle, there is less chance of sooty drips falling onto the linen. If there is a heavy build up inside the bell, soften it by using a blow dryer to heat it up, wipe out with a paper towel. Repeat until clean.  Teach the acolytes to merely hold the bell over the flame to extinguish it. They do not have to cram the snuffer over the flaming candle. The idea is to deprive the flame of oxygen by “smothering it”, not mashing the flaming wick into the brass. (This happens more than you would guess and it makes such a sooty mess inside the snuffer).  Use a fair linen protector at ALL times when an altar is not being used for a serviceThis will save your linen! Fair linens are so expensive.  Pale blue is the usual traditional color for protectors in Episcopal churches, and they may be made out of plain cotton , even a twin -sized bed sheet works beautifully when cut and hemmed to fit. An embroidered cross is not needed on the protector.

All that being said- the damage is done and there is an ugly black spot on that snowy white linen. Before laundering it, treat that spot!  Once soot has been washed into the linen, it is harder than ever to get it out. Treat as soon as possible.  First thing is to vacuum up as much as possible. If it is just carbon, and powdery from a candle wick, vacuuming should get most of it out.  Then try a soft toothbrush. Flick in short, one-way strokes.  If there is still some residue on the spot, cover it with baking soda and let that sit for an hour.  Dump off the residue and try the flick method with the soft tooth brush  to get all of the baking soda out.  Be patient and work slowly. You have now exhausted the “dry method”.

There are several remedies to try using the “wet method” when all else fails.  Take a white hanky, cotton ball or cloth and dab it into rubbing alcohol.  With a blotting  motion, up and down, apply to the spot.  You may wish to put a paper towel behind the spot.  More of the soot should come up. Rinse out with cold water. Still seeing a spot?  Now bring on the big guns!  Sadly, soot frequently has wax mixed in it. If you can actually see the wax sitting on top of the linen, you may be able to gently scrap it off before you start to treat the soot stain. I have had luck using the edge of a credit card, pushing in one direction in short strokes. You do not want to break the threads, so knives can be risky. If the wax is too soft, pop the linen in a plastic bag and put it in a freezer for awhile until the wax gets hard and easy to scrape away.

Finally, if you have exhausted all of the above tips.  Try a laundry stain remover (liquid) on the spot.  Be sure to rinse it out.  I have had some luck using  a solution of two cups cool water and one tablespoon dishwashing liquid(I like DAWN).  And finally, give a tough case an overnight soak.  I am a big fan of TIDE or BIZ.  Launder as usual.  Sometimes you may have to go to a professional cleaner’s when you have done your best.  Let me know how it turned out!!

*  On Ash Wednesday, keep a piece of soft French bread ready for the priest to wipe ashes off the fingers. After wiping the soot on the bread, a cleansing of the fingers across a slice of lemon will then leave the fingers pristine and spare your purificator!  This little preparation looks dainty in an attractive glass saucer handy nearby on the credence table.

The New Curate

A charming steel engraving of the painting by Victorian British painter David Wilkie Wynfield (1837 – 1887) it first made an appearance at the London Royal Academy in 1876. Wynfield was also a prolific photographer – his early work is sheer genius.  He once aspired to the priesthood himself. Quite a story going on in this picture!  The new curate has been put under the microscope  by Mamma- and the young lady with the fan may be predicting a future scene with herself as Rector’s wife!

A Visit to Saint Paul’s in Wickford  I hope you will enjoy this slide show made today on a visit to historic St. Paul’s in Wickford.  The afternoon winter light was just right for viewing the wonderful contemporary and Victorian stained glass.  The sacristy is a real treat, with pale cabinetry and a good deal of natural light.  There is lots of great storage and room for tall vases.  Be sure to check out the last slide of frontlet storage which is suspended from rods in a pull out drawer access- very clever!  A little jewel box of a sacristy.  Do visit the website above for the history of the parish.  The views of the water out of the windows are breath-taking.

O how amiable are thy dwellings: thou Lord of hosts!
My soul hath a desire and a longing to enter into the courts of the Lord