Books: The Next Best Thing Part III

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Books: The Next Best Thing Part III

Books: The Next Best Thing Part III: The past two days have been spent sharing information relating to the Giants.  No, not the football team, or some creature from ancient mythology.  These Giants are the Ecclesiastical Giants from the past two Centuries who designed some of the most spectacular Ecclesiastical Embroidery and Vestments imaginable. The list starts with such notables as Pugin, and continues through Comper, with many in between.

The Victoria and Albert Museum is hosting a seminar this weekend that promises to be fantastic.  Knowing travel across the Atlantic is impossible, at least for now, the next best thing to attending the conference is to seek books on the topics.

The Book of Thread of Gold

Thread of Gold The Embroideries and Textiles of York Minster
Thread of Gold The Embroideries and Textiles of York Minster

This book was stumbled across quite by accident several years ago.  Entitled Thread of Gold The Embroideries and Textile in York Minster edited by Elizabeth Ingram, this slim volume is packed with stunning photographs of Ecclesiastical Embroidery and Ecclesiastical Vestments.

Pre-reformation History

Historical Account of Vestments Before the Reformation
Historical Account of Vestments Before the Reformation

Beginning with a Pre-reformation history of the textiles in the Minster, there is an account of how church vestments were documented for inventory.  For example:

  • ‘iij alterclothis of twyll and ij of playne cloth’
  • alterclothisson of the diaper and a node of playn cloth’
  • ‘pulvinar de panno lanio operis tapistre’
  • ‘duo panni de blodio tartari’ (silk from Tartary/China)

Sometimes, but not always, the name of the fabric would provide insight as to the vestment’s country of origin. Rich fabrics were used and were often highly decorated.  The historical account continues with photos and texts up to the present day. This brief historical account sets the stage for the event that unfolded in the 1800s.

Photography Samples

Beautiful Photography Throughout Thread of Gold, The Next Best Thing Book
Beautiful Photography Throughout Thread of Gold

The second half of the book contains photos of stunning examples of church embroidery used on Ecclesiastical Vestment pieces and Altar Frontals in the Minster’s Collection, along with history relating to the piece.  One vestment set was tied to a length of Chinese silk given to Queen Victor as a wedding present in 1837.  Originally made into hangings for a bedchamber, the fabric later disappeared. After some discovery and changing of hands of a part of the fabric, a piece eventually ended up in the care of the Minster. The story continues in 1948 when Watts and Company were able to match the silk to Queen Victoria’s Wedding silk and complete a low mass set.

The Great Processional Banner

Great Processional Banner York Minster
Great Processional Banner York Minster

Many other fascinating stories abound in the book. My favorite story is that of the Great Processional Banner originally made by Watts and Company between the years of 1914 to 1916. The banner was returned to Watts for restoration in 1983. During the repairs, a linen label was discovered containing the signatures of the embroideresses who made the banner, along with the section they stitched. An additional label was added to include the names of those involved in the restoration.

While not a “how to” book, this volume documents the history of many wonderful Ecclesiastical pieces of beauty.  It incorporates and brings together the names of many of the “Giant” designers as well as vestment houses and monasteries, and the roles they played in creating these beautiful works of art. There are several pieces from the book that now top my “Must See” list when I finally can visit England.

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. Sign 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.


*Great Processional Banner Photo courtesy of:

By Andrewrabbott (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Holiday Break

Sir Ninian Comper: Ecclesiastical Embroidery Designer

Books: The Next Best Thing : Part II

Books: The Next Best Thing

A Journey Through the History of Church Banners

Fit for a King: Richard III Project

New Books, New Information

Old Books Make Great Reads