http://www.stpaulswickford.org/ 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.
“Presently, my firm is redesigning the sacristy at our church which was originally built in @ 1950. This is the only article that I have been able to find on the subject although our clergy has tried to contact a number of churches for suggestions. Thank you!
One of my first big undertakings in the sacristy was to restore some old alb laces found in a suitcase in the top of a closet. The strips were tiny brown balls and looked nothing like lace. After gently unraveling the dirty bundles, the bobbin lace revealed itself in all its splendor. Old laces may never again be truly white-white, but you can come pretty close with some tender loving care and patience.
Most of the best 19th century bobbin lace came from Brussels, Venice, or England. Some convents began lace schools to teach young women a trade. Bobbin lace is worked on a cushion with fine linen or cotton thread, pins and spindle-like bobbins. Hand-made lace is highly collectible and valuable. Eventually machine-made laces proved cheaper and faster to make, but did not have the gossamer delicacy and airy-ness of handmade.
I first called Katy Kliot at LACIS in Berkely, California (see our links) who suggested using BIZ to clean and brighten the laces. I found that soaking the laces, and changing the water as it became soiled, loosened up most of the dirt and dust. Laces must be handled gently while washing so as not to break the “brides”- or the thin connecting threads which hold together the motifs. Sometimes I slipped a spatula under the laces to turn them. Never wring or twist lace, or lift it up while it is saturated- the weight of the water will snap the threads. This takes patience. When the Biz has been added to warm water, agitate the detergent to a froth with your hands , then lay in the lace for the soakings. I like to use a plastic dish pan for this process. When the rinsing phase is through, lay the lace on a clean white terry towel and gently pat the lace in an up and down motion which will absorb a great deal of the water. Gently press the lace out with your hand on the towel, smoothing the motifs into place. I then place the towel on my picnic table out in the sun where the brightening rays will do wonders for whitening the lace. When completely dry, store in acid -free tissue, as flat as space permits.
Insertion laces are easy to spot, the edges will be perfectly straight on both sides. Alb and surplice hem or sleeve laces usually have one straight edge and one scalloped or irregular patterned edge. Insertion lace was applied to hems of surplices or albs, then the back cloth was cut away to reveal the lace in front. Generally priests, bishops, Masters of Ceremony, and older altar servers wear the insertion style laces, very young servers have hanging lace on their cottas at the hem.
In the photo above I am getting the procession ready. Young Lucas has a stubborn cowlick that won’t lay down! Do you have an Acolyte Matron to assist before services? If there is a large acolyte guild, one or two people dedicated to keeping the vestments tidy and assisting with young members can be a godsend- and a lot of fun. Youngsters often need prompting to wash hands, comb hair, stand up straight, be quiet, and be ready on time. The position of Acolyte Matron is seen often in England for servers and young choirs.
Clergy always appreciates clean, laid-out vestments, ready to put on with no worries. Lace is making a comeback in the new vestment catalogues. Mostly it is detachable and synthetic on albs and easy to launder. In the good old days, nuns loosely stitched lace on so it could be removed for laundering. Now we have snaps and Velcro! All photos above are from Saint John the Evangelist in Newport, December 2000.
Yes- that is Father Douglas Burger from Woonsocket in the photo above, serving at Midnight Mass as Deacon in his dalmatic.
Sorry to be missing in action for so long. June flew by helping my youngest to relocate to Hartford. It was a busy month. In May the parish administrators gathered for our annual luncheon. This year St. Peter’s in Narragansett was our host church. St. Peter’s is one of the most beautiful churches in the Diocese with its magnificent Gothic Revival architecture and Victorian stained glass. The high altar stained glass gives a golden glow as the story of St. Elizabeth and the miracle of the roses is portrayed. When the sun shines through this East window, the entire nave is bathed in the warm hues.
Also remarkable is the Victorian stencilling within the chancel, executed in the warm terracotta, ochre and moss green palette of the pre-Raphaelites. What a blessing this remarkable decoration was not covered up with tan paint as was the “style” at the turn of the 20th century when new fads were taken up.
The stained glass is worth the trip in itself, with a magnificent Tiffany angel and a seagull over the waves also from the Tiffany studio. The gull had to be back lit when the guild hall was built and covered the window from natural light. There are many fine examples of Victorian glass, some with fascinating and tragic stories. Varina Jefferson Davis, wife of Jefferson Davis, although a lady of the old South, was much admired by the ladies of the town when she would visit Narragansett in summer, and her memorial window bears her name. A striking window featuring a lovely angel and three cherubs has a sad story. Della Waters of Fall River, who had suffered from severe depression and who had recently been in a sanitarium, took her three young children and was heading on a Fall River boat from New York City back to her family home in Fall River when she, in a fit of despair, threw the children into the ocean and jumped in herself just off Block Island. Their bodies were never recovered. The Waters family had a summer home in Narragansett and dedicated this window.
The small sacristy is a model of neatness, and every square inch is utilized. Note the towel rods on the wall for storing fair linens! If cleanliness is next to Godliness, St. Peter’s must be very close to heaven. Do not miss the memorial garden on the west side, which is filled with perennials and herbs and divine roses!
In reponse to today’s post on Adelaide’s white chasuble,
“What can you do if you already dry-cleaned the vestment? Is it ruined for life? Also my fabric is more of a brocade or satin type would you use the same procedure to clean it?” YOYA
satins (usually used for linings)
100% silk damask weave (read all about it )http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damask
Good question. Yes, it is entirely possible to “set” a stain such as an oil-based neckline stain by having the vestment dry-cleaned. We are blessed in this state to have expert restoration and cleaning services by people trained in conservation at the University of Rhode Island. I call for advice if I am stumped. If you have the slightest doubt- check with someone who KNOWS what to do. It takes seconds to ruin a textile, maybe permanently. If your vestment is really in a bad state, the university (Quinn Hall, see the link on this site or click here http://www.uri.edu/hss/tmd/Test.htm) has experts who will be able to restore and refresh just about anything. I have seen the work done in the lab, and it is amazing what the right resource for your problem can do. If you ever stop by Saint Peter’s -by-the -Sea (and you should!), check out the fantastic vintage chasuble restored by U.R.I. which is in a showcase near the narthex. Amazing- you should have seen what they had to start with! You can call for an appointment to bring in your vestment for a consultation and estimate of cost for work which will restore or refresh the garment. In some cases, you may just have to live with some stains which may never entirely disappear. Others can be made much less visible. Another very helpful link to read is this one http://www.conservation-us.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=page.viewpage&pageid=634
Prevention is more than half the battle. Proper storage and practices which will reduce soiling and abrasion, insect infestation, proper ventilation, ideal humidity and temperature control, cleaning and handling procedures, etc. will go a long way toward extending the life of expensive vestments and antependia- and need not cost the earth to carry out in your little sacristy.
The way to attack stains before racing off to the dry cleaner is to know what your garment is composed of- this is KEY. There are problems and issues specific to various fiber types, animal proteins like wool or silk, plant fibers like linen or cotton and synthetics. It is also helpful to know the vestment house, and if possible, when the vestment was constructed which may give a clue about fiber content and where to go to start pinning down answers. If it is a memorial vestment, there may be a record of the donation in the office. If you have this information, a call to the vestment house which constructed your garment can often give you helpful hints on the fiber you are dealing with and how best to clean it. Try to keep the neckline tags inside the vestment or parament hem on the textile. Frontals often have dates embroidered on the lining if the set was a memorial. Of course we ALL have things in our closets which have lost all of this valuable information, and we are CLUELESS what the fiber content is. Altar guild secretaries, or sacristans might consider keeping this sort of information documented when new items are ordered, along with the inventory which ALL sacristies should have. Copies of invoices, packing lists, or correspondence when the vestment order is filled can be copied to keep in Altar Guild records. New members will be coming to the guild in the future and any information on sacristy contents, textile or metalware or other material can be vitally important.
You need to know if you have an oil or water-based stain, or a combination of both. Wet-cleaning has its hazards- watermarks, or “tide” marks may be left when using water or detergent solutions.
Finally, vestments usually have more than one type of fiber involved in one garment, maybe a satin lining under silk damask, maybe rayon, cotton, “polyester, vicose, or blends. Trims are loaded with metallic threads, silk embroidery. etc. I would certainly seek out a reputable dry cleaner for silk, silk damask, and satins if the vestment is heavily soiled, or a conservation resource such as found at the university or a museum. Wet-cleaning is not for amateurs and it can weaken some fibers (as I have sadly learned over the years- yes, I have ruined a few things on the way to gaining knowledge!) 🙂 If you would like to send some photos of your damask chasuble, it would be very valuable to see the stains and the vestment.
Thanks for the photos, Adelaide. (scroll down to see the photo slideshow) I am glad to see the hanger is not one of the wire variety. You might consider padding the ends of the hanger with a little foam or batting to ease the stress on the shoulders. Wow- the neckline IS grime-y! Hard to believe that chasuble ever saw the front door of a professional dry cleaners. First, let’s look at those reddish spots. They appear to be rust. Your fabric looks like a light wool in a twill-like weave. I think we will have to attempt spot cleaning on this chasuble. You will need a Q-tip and a bottle of WINK rust remover. First, apply WINK to the Q-tip and test a drop on the inside hem of the chasuble to see if any discoloration occurs. Then with cold water, blot out all traces of the WINK with a white cotton rag (Carbona is another brand of rust dissolver). Now check in a few minutes and see if there is any discoloration. Then proceed to try the WINK on one of those red rust spots. The red should come out very quickly. Apply the cold water once the red is gone and blot out the WINK residue. Blot with a white terry towel to dry . This will be a bit time consuming but worth it. Work “small” with as little product as possible for spot cleaning. Hence the Q-tip!
The grime around the neckline is unbelievable! Oh if we could only convince our beloved clergy to wear an amice again! It costs about 30 dollars for a cotton amice which you can wash in a machine- and $800-$1200 PLUS to buy a new chasuble! Here is what I would try first. Line the neckline with a fluffy white cotton terry towel so it fits all around inside the neck opening. Grime around the collar is oil- based, human sebum attracting and holding the dust and dirt. Summer is the time perspiration and body oils are even worse. *Note to amice-less clergy – wash your necks with soap and water with special care! 🙂 Get a close shave on the beard under the chin, and make-up and perfumes are not kind to chasubles. So we approach this as an oil-based stain. Read more about oil-based stains here http://www.si.edu/mci/english/learn_more/taking_care/stains.html
This will take plenty of patience and multiple applications in most cases. Let’s start with a couple inches of the grime first. Take one cup of luke-warm water and add two DROPS of “ALL free and clear detergent”. ALL free and clear has no dyes and perfumes and is an excellent detergent to always have on hand. Do not use a sponge. A linen or cotton cloth (white) is the tool to use to apply the detergent. Blot on the detergent/water solution. Blot in one direction, don’t rub back and forth, this will cause abrasion to the threads. You may need to do this procedure several times to get the grime out. Be sure to rinse in clear water to finish and remove all the detergent. Blot up excess water with a clean white towel, patting dry. Let’s try this first and if you do not get the desired result, we will go on to more drastic measures! Keep us posted.
At our church ‘Saint Paul the Apostle’, we have a beautiful chasuble which has not been cleaned for a very long time. How do I go about cleaning it? Someone has tried dry-cleaning, and the chasuble looked like it had not been touched. I dare not put it in the washing machine or use ordinary powder / liquid to clean it. Would you please advise me? I have been reading your very interesting info re: church silver and wine stains: all very helpful.
Thank you very much.
Dear Adelaide, Thanks for your email. Yes, most altar guild members can share a similar story. Dry cleaning is frequently NOT the answer. Before answering, there are a few things I need to know: 1. What is the fabric (synthetic, nylon, rayon, damask, cotton, blend, silk damask, etc.) 2. Can you estimate how old the vestment is, that often gives a clue. 3. Are there spots like rust or grimey stains around the neck? 4. Is the chasuble trimmed with any ornate or metallic threads worked in the gallooning or vesica? 5. Is there lace or any applied or appliqued trim? 6. How is the vestment usually stored? (flat in a drawer, on a hanger, in a closet, etc.). 7. What is the primary liturgical color? Is it possible you can send us a photo?
A careful vacuuming of a textile is the FIRST STEP in removing dirt. This is done with gentle suction. You can stretch the toe from panty-hose over the nozzle of any vacuum to make it slide smoothly and break strong suction. This takes patience and always vacuum in one direction so as not to catch and break any threads. Usually this does wonders to restore a textile. Dust and grime are by far the most common enemies. I always cover a vestment layout on a counter with a clean white cotton dust cover. Dry cleaners use chemicals- and chemicals must be used with great care and knowledge. Wet-cleaning (washing with water and detergent) can ruin your vestment and is seldom recommended unless you know the fiber content without a doubt. Cottons and linens can stand up to wet-cleaning. Silk can be tricky. You must also know if dyed fabrics are colorfast. Dyed trims can “run” into the ground fabric. I saw the MOST exquisite cope at Wallsingham Shrine in England which had been worn in procession on a rainy day. The ground fabric was creamy white and it was heavily embroidered. The cope was ruined when the embroidery work got soaked and the bright dyes “bled” into the fabric. The nuns were desolate!
Tell us more about your chasuble so I can steer you in the right direction. It is so important to air and rotate vestments regularly, change the folds if they must be folded, and never to store long term in those plastic hanging bags.
I am back from vacation! The weather has been so humid and muggy the past few weeks. Does your sacristy smell musty? So few churches are air-conditioned in New England and most sacristies are closed and airless during the week. This can be deadly in the summer months-but what can you do? If you do not have an air-conditioned sacristy, there are a few measures which can be taken to help prevent damage to vestments, mildew, and that musty odor.
Textiles like to be comfortable at about the same temperature human beings enjoy. Ideally, 50% humidity and 60 degrees farenheit is the dream climate for textiles- but highly unattainable unless you have a museum set-up. You can however, remove vestments from those big plastic storage zip-up bags. These have their own mini-environment which is not good in summer months for long-term storage. A de-humidifier is a cheap and effective device for removing moisture from the air. It’s a good idea to leave tight-fitting drawers and closet doors open so air can circulate. Simple standing fans placed at each end of the room can keep heavy air circulating, which is important. Recently I found at the Christmas Tree Shop, those dehydrating crystals which come in a small plastic tub. These absorb excess moisture in the air and can be placed in the closet. Although it is a strong temptation to open and leave open sacristy windows, street dust and pollutants and insects can enter and cause problems.
If you store wine in the sacristy, be aware that it may turn vinegary if stored where the temps rise high. There’s nothing worse than Taylor Tawny Port from under the sink in a hot sacristy! What a terrible “bouquet” and flavor! Keep your wines cool, even if it means storing them elsewhere in the church during the summer months. Pita, and other types of made bread for the altar will mold very fast. It is best to keep these refrigerated during the week and remove just before use. Even wafers become gummy and softened. You may try keeping wafers dry and crisp in a tight plastic container in the refrigerator instead of in a sacristy cabinet.
Finally, do remove all flowers and foliage from the sacristy trash can. Left for even a couple of days, the smell of rotting cellulose is very unpleasant, and becomes a source for mold and mildew. If flowers are left on the altar from Sunday, the water will need to be changed frequently during the week as bacteria grows fast inside the vases and the smell is horrific- something that must not be countenanced for altar flowers! Summer is a challenging time to keep things fresh and odor-free. The good news is that September is coming soon!
Chances are most altar guild members have heard of the late Beryl Dean (1911-2001) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/beryl-dean-729136.html who was the last word in contemporary design in embroidery and vestment-making in the 1950’s-80’s and whose many books on ecclesiastical embroidery line book shelves around the world. Her work reflected the times, and was fresh and innovative, if not just a bit difficult to follow if you were at home alone trying to follow her directions and diagrams!
But it is the late Elizabeth ” Betty” Hoare 1915-2001 whose praise I loudly sing, for her exceptional effort in rescuing amazing embroidery and church textiles from pre-1840, Victorian, and Edwardian periods from sacristies all around England. Thanks to Betty, examples of remarkable work can now be seen at the Liverpool Cathedral Embroidery Gallery http://www.liverpoolcathedral.org.uk/content/Visiting/EmbroideryGallery.aspx
I often refer to her company, Watts and Co. of Tufton Street (in the shadow of Westminster Abbey, London) as one of the “Three Sacred W’s”- Wippel, Wareham and Watts!! The Warham Guild, alas is no more- but all three companies produced some of the best quality vestments anywhere, and Watts and Wippell are happily still on the job! In fact, both London stores are cheek and jowl side by side on Tufton Street today in London and a must-see stop if you ever find yourself near Big Ben, St. Margaret’s or Westminster Abbey.
A wonderful trade paperback book on the Liverpool Cathedral collection is also available with many colored photos which are simply breath-taking.
For many years Betty trudged in all weathers across the United Kingdom, rescuing piles of magnificent but unwanted ecclesiastical textiles at a time when these things had fallen out of favor. Many churches literally threw piles of things into Betty’s arms just to make room for the NEW stuff. Imagine THAT! Liverpool Cathedral, recognizing the importance of what Betty had saved, offered gallery space to display some of her treasures. Beautiful fragments and motifs were photographed to make Christmas and greeting cards which you can purchase on the Cathedral website (I had to buy an extra suitcase to stuff full of them on my last trip to Watts).
We owe so much to these women, and also to the many devoted conservationists of historical textiles, many who remain nameless and behind the scenes, as well as convent nuns who produced remarkable work for the altar in centuries past. But one name all altar guild workers can give thanks for and remember- Betty Hoare. Bless you Betty- for all you have done for us now and future generations!
I am happy to report that many parish altar guilds in the Diocese still follow the custom of laying out the Eucharistic vestments for their clergy. It is a thoughtful and lovely effort which is appreciated by priests everywhere. I was first taught this service by Father Burger at St. Stephen’s in Providence. The diagram below will illustrate the order in which items must be placed. The easy way to recall the order is to remember what gets put on LAST and this will be laid down FIRST. The chasuble in the diagram is an old fiddleback. The top edge at the bottom hem is flipped up slightly in the layout for ease in grasping to put over the head.
I am not sure just WHO decided maniples were too much trouble and not required these days. I might have a bone to pick with this individual as I think maniples are quite beautiful, and lend an elegant and finished touch to the complete traditional ecclesiastical vestment ensemble. Maniples were once a favorite field for exquisite embroidery. In the diagram below the maniple is the second item to be laid down, vertical on top of the chasuble to form the “I” of the sacred monogram I.H.S. Then comes the stole with the ends forming the vertical bars of the “H” and finally the girdle or cincture coiled into the “S”. A snowy alb is laid down on top of this (front facing downward with buttons undone), and finally an amice is laid on top, open and flat with the two long strings crossed diagonally over the top.
I have invented a “layout pad” to cushion the vestments on the flat surface of the table or shelf by measuring the space, cutting two damask rectangles and one rectangle of quilting batting to fit the layout space. Then make a “sandwich” of the damask with the batting in the middle. This is done by sewing the batting to the wrong side of one damask rectangle, then with both right sides together, stitch around the perimeter, leaving room to turn the rectangle inside out. Finish the opening with a slipstitch by hand. I add tassels and sometimes welting around the edges, and try to find a pattern with an ecclesiastical look. When the vestments are laid out, it is an excellent idea to cover them with a clean white cotton cover -which can be made from an old linen or cotton sheet to cover the vestments entirely. This will keep dust and hands off the vestments as they lay ready in the sacristy. I once found lovely vestment covers in a sacristy in Newport, labelled as such, made of linen with a small cross worked in the center. This was a sacristy which had once been kept by nuns-who spared no effort in sacristy-keeping.
Alas, with the advent of cassock-albs and belt cinctures, disappearing maniples and other modern notions, it is getting harder to do a proper vestment presentation these days- but do make every effort to have the Eucharistic garments, clean, pressed, and ready for each service. And for priests out there reading this- the altar guild takes great joy in preparing for the services of the church- it is not “too much trouble” to expect your guild members to lay out vestments. Handling the beautiful textiles used in the celebration of the Eucharist is a privilege and joy- and what a blessing to come into the sacristy to find everything in readiness!
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.
Here’s a great video which shows a tidy way to keep a drawerful of cinctures from turning into a tangled web! Just click on the video arrow to view the how-to segment.