Today’s mail

“We are looking for suggestions on storing our altar hangings in a closet rather than folded in a drawer. Any names of companies who make that type of storage closet for churches? We are located in Bucks County Pa. Thanks.”

The photo at the left is a vestment storage press and cupboard unit currently on Ebay for 2500 dollars.  Flat storage is a preferable method if the vestment can be laid out flat with no to few folds.  Completely flat is ideal for obvious reasons.  Vestments which must be folded will develop weak spots in the fabric on the fold. We have all seen slits and creases in fair linen and silk from longterm folding in the same places. This situation can be helped by constantly changing the place where the fold occurs and/or padding the fold with acid free tissue.  Fair linens which must be stored due to their length, should be rolled on acid-free tissue covered rollers if they are to be stored for any length of time.  Purificators should not have folds ironed in, rather fold gently and pat into folds with your fingers when ironing. You also do not want to use starch or sizing as it will leave a residue and can turn yellowish over time.

The great danger of hanging chausables and copes in vertical hanging situations comes mostly from the choice of hanger. Unpadded conventional hangers will put enormous stress on the shoulders of these garments. Soon the necklines and shoulders will show wear if left unprotected. Plastic hangers are too flimsy to really support heavy vestments.  Wire hangers can snag, rust, and have sharp ends which can really destroy fine damask and silk vestments on the shoulder curves. Vestments which hang vertically for a long time also suffer what is known as “creep” where gravity simply causes the inner lining (which is often taffeta or satin) to droop below the hemline of the outer fabric.  There is nothing special about vertical storage closets or cupboards. Any carpenter can build these, and indeed can build horizontal storage drawers as well.  These are sometimes called a chasuble “press”.  Use hangers for vertical storage which are manufactured for vestments with sloping contours to accommodate the shoulders such as the one below. Almy sells these in a resin, and all vestment companies offer various styles- many are hardwood and will last forever.


Good air circulation is a must in sacristies, and in summer it is very helpful to have a dehumidifier if the sacristy is not air-conditioned.  Vestments should never be zipped up in big plastic storage bags long term.  These garment bags have their own little micro-environment where mold and mildew can thrive. Never leave or use common or safety pins or clothes pins in any vestment for temporary repair or to hold a vestment on a hanger. The ideal temperature for textiles is one where most human beings would feel comfortable- 60-65 degrees, with 50% humidity. Cold is less of a threat than heat.  Sadly, very few sacristies can provide these ideal conditions, but we can use proper hangers, store very heavy tapestry vestments flat when we can, and always handle all textiles with impeccably CLEAN hands.  Vestments should not be laid out near open windows or in bright light due to pollutants in the air and fading potential.  Vestments laid out for the next service should be lightly covered with a clean cotton cloth until ready for use.  Never return a damp chasuble or alb to the closet or press drawer-this is a problem in the summer. Allow it to dry before hanging or returning to the drawer. 

If you have recently renovated your sacristy and can recommend a company where chasuble presses or cupboard units may be bought pre-made- please write in and tell us all about it! I find that churches which are closing are often selling their sacristy equipment at a good price.  You may have a carpenter in your parish who could build cupboards or a cabinetry store which may have just the thing in stock. Here is one company which sells  simple, pre-made furnishings http://www.churchproducts.com/Furniture_Sanctuary-Sacristy_Furniture.html