From the Beginning in The Tale of Two Lambs

One Ecclesiastical Embroidery project times two, in large and small. That is The Tale of Two Lambs. What started as a small Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) hand embroidery design ended up being two Agnus Dei hand embroidery projects- in sizes small and large.

How did that happen one might ask? When this Ecclesiastical Embroidery project first started, there was a lack of Ecclesiastical designs at my disposal. Embroidery Designs and Embroidery Patterns for use in Ecclesiastical projects are not readily available. The few resources with Ecclesiastical Designs are repetitions on the same or similar themes.  So, selecting a traditional design seemed to be about the only option available.  In the posts Never Ending quest for Ecclesiastical Designs  and The Tale of Two Lambs one soon realizes the void there is in suitable designs for needlework artists wishing to ply their trade creating lovely works for the church. Perhaps with continued searching, more designs may become available or more artists will create designs for use in the church.

Angus Dei in two sizes
Angus Dei in two sizes

Now, with two identical hand embroidery projects underway (identical designs in differing sizes to be more exact), there were little things tried on one embroidery design such as threads or stitches.  Sometimes embroidery stitches and threads worked very well; other times, changes were needed.  The trials from the first design often resulted in subtle changes being made on the second embroidery design. The Littlest Lamb was the starting point of the project.  At 8 1/2″ in size,  it is neither too big, nor too small for its intended use on the back of a chasuble. It will be centered at the intersection of the “Y”  orphrey trims.  Orphreys are decorative trims, ribbons or bands placed on an Ecclesiastical Vestment. Intended as a way to hide seams,  orphreys add color and texture, and create focal points on a vestment or altar hanging. The smaller Agnus Dei will be used on the back of a chasuble and the larger Ecclesiastical Embroidery Design will be used on the Altar Frontal.

For today, let’s look at a few features on the smallest Lamb design.

Agnus Dei Hand Embroidery Design for Church Vestments
Agnus Dei Hand Embroidery Design for Church Vestments

This was the very start of the Agnus Dei Vestment Set. The hill was done using a stem stitch while frequently changing colors of greens, with a few tan colors thrown in for variety.  This stitching soon created doubts as to the final appearance, and bravely  I stitched on, hoping it might grow more appealing as time went along.

Agnus Dei Ecclesiastical Embroidery Pattern
Agnus Dei Ecclesiastical Embroidery Pattern with a start on Blue background

At this stage of the Ecclesiastical Embroidery, the green was really starting to look like a field of camouflage. It did not blend well; the colors were not working well together.  It was time to step back and try the blues and see how they went. The blue floss used for the sky is Soie Ovale from Au Ver A Soie.  Soie Ovale, a flat silk, is being worked as a laid stitch that floats on the surface of the linen. The Blue Soie Ovale starts from the back side, comes through the linen to the front, goes across the width of the entire design (which can range from a fairly normal stitch width to very wide widths).  Then the thread goes to the back side, and comes up right next to the spot the thread went down, and floats back across the surface to the opposite side. There is only a minimal amount of the embroidery floss visible on the back side because the stitches end up looking like tiny pin prick stitches.

Stitching using a laid thread can be rather challenging, as one has to be careful to keep the edges very neat and even with the design lines. The stitches must also remain straight as they travel across the width of the design area.

Flat Silk Used for Sky on Agnus Dei Design
Flat Silk Used for Sky on Agnus Dei Design

So far, so good. The flat silk was stitching well with the Soie Ovale Thread. The only challenge was the available color range of blues which tended to be on the muted side.  In consulting with other embroiderers, I was warned about using Soi Ovale as the choice of flat silk. But, as there was nothing else readily available in a flat silk, I decided to give the Soie Ovale a try and hope for the best.

Sky filling nearly completed on small Agnus Dei
Sky filling nearly completed on small Agnus Dei

The sky was progressing. There were some nice variations in the placement of the blue colors.  The silk was staying nice and even, and looked shiny, just as it was supposed to.  But that green hill! The more of the blue sky that went in, the more the green became a problem. What to do? It had taken hours of work to get that much green stem stitching competed.

Complete Blue Sky Background on Small Agnus Dei Embroidery Project
Complete Blue Sky Background on Small Agnus Dei Embroidery Project

At last the laid stitching in shades of blue Soie Ovale was finished!  Not too bad given the limited availability of blues.  The original design inspiration for this Ecclesiastical project came from  Lucy Vaughan Hayden Mackrille’s book which I talked about  a few weeks ago.

Agnus Dei from Lucy Vaughan Hayden Mackrille's Church Vestments and Church Embroidery Book
Agnus Dei from Lucy Vaughan Hayden Mackrille’s Church Vestments and Church Embroidery Book

Although I liked the way Miss Mackrille uses variations of color in the background, it proved too difficult to make that work.  I opted to take the strands of flat silk across the entire width of the design area rather than trying to stagger the color in various areas.

Gold Passing Thread over Flat Silk on Agnus Dei Embroidery Design
Gold Passing Thread over Flat Silk on Agnus Dei Embroidery Design

Once the strands of Soie Ovale were in place, the fear of snagging the flat silk became a concern. It was time to get a few  strands of a gold passing thread stitched in place  to hold everything down.

Goldwork Passing thread completed on Sky of Agnus Dei Embroidery Project
Goldwork Passing thread completed on Sky of Agnus Dei Embroidery Project

What about that green on the hill? It finally had to go. It took a while, but every last stitch of that camouflage hill was removed. Thank goodness the linen held up under all of the ripping out.  Removing stitching that was not pleasing was the best thing I could have done for the project.  Sadly, I got to the point where I did not pull the camera out very often to keep up with stitching as this Angus Dei project moved along. The photo above shows the littlest lamb with the sky completed, his Banner waving victoriously, and the nimbus stitching underway.

Having gotten this far on the project, there was much that had been learned. Later on, I will take you through the largest lamb in The Tale of Two Lambs to show how that project varies from this one. I will also provide a list of materials and the selection embroidery floss colors used to date on the project. Until then, happy stitching!

Solo Dei Gloria

Be sure to visit our online store front Ecclesiastical Sewing where you may shop for Liturgical Fabrics, altar linen fabrics, church vestment making patterns, liturgical machine embroidery designschurch vestment trims and notions and so much more. You may also find us on  Ecclesiastical Sewing  on Facebook , Twitter, and Pinterest. Sing up for our mailing list  at the bottom of the page on our online store front and receive a free copy of our Small Linens Booklet as our way of saying thank you for following along.

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