Rare Find Part II
A few days ago, I shared some new treasures with you relating to A Rare Find of Ecclesiastical Embroidery Patterns. These wonderful hand embroidery designs are always something precious to behold. They are the keys to a puzzle that has many missing pieces. They connect us with a rich past and provide inspiration for the future projects .
At the monastery near my home where I do volunteer work, I have been helping catalog the collection of Ecclesiastical Embroidery Designs from the Art Needlework Department. The department was active from the late 1800’s until around 1967. They had an Art Needlework Department that provided vestments for their parish, and a means of support for their community. The Sisters were very talented and created their own designs. The museum collection has many portfolio drawings such as this one which I received in the mail a few weeks ago. The Sister’s drawings were perhaps practice pieces intended to work out the details of a design concept, to improve their design and drawing skills, or perhaps drawing for fun and enjoyment.
I was told by the museum curator that the Sisters working in the Art Needlework Department would stitch for 45 minutes during an hour, and then they would stop for a 15 minute break. During that 15 minute rest, they would read something aloud and study. This was a routine part of their day. The Sisters had an extensive library of books on a wide range of topics which I have had the pleasure of seeing. Their extensive library collection includes books on art, drawing, and geometry, as well as many books on needlework and embroidery. They were self-taught in many subjects, but through continued study, they became masters of design and drawing. In contemplating their daily routine, I wonder what could be accomplished if we, during our busy day, could take a break after every 45 minutes and read for 15 minutes. The Sisters were very wise.
When looking at the wonderful Ecclesiastical Embroidery Designs from the Monastery near my home, it soon becomes clear that the starting point for many of their beautiful designs was an understanding of geometry, along with knowledge of drawing and design, scale and proportion. The Sisters also studied theology, knew the history and meaning of symbols, and pulled all of this knowledge together in the creation of stunning Ecclesiastical Designs.
The above design from the East Coast Monastery shows many of those same traits in this Ecclesiastical Design. There are compass marks and faint tracings and erasing marks of reference lines.
The artist of this work did a wonderful job with scale and balance. The symmetry in this design with the keys and the sword if flawless. Notice how the artist even incorporates a cross into each key. These designers were masters at their craft. (And they drew their designs all by hand, without the aid of a computer).
While working with the embroidery patterns at the monastery, we would often come across a pattern that had a note, “Holes blocked, need new pattern.” Then there would be a duplicate pattern that looked like it had never been used for transferring an embroidery design. These perforated copies as they are called at the museum have no pencil marks, only the holes from the embroidery design.
An Art Needlework Department might have hundreds or even thousands of Ecclesiastical Embroidery Designs, and of course there would need to be some logical method of keeping track of designs. They may even have had a small catalog with designs which would have a reference number for ease of ordering vestments. The Number “3” in the corner on the Rose and Vine Embroidery Design is typical of the numbering system used in the monastery I volunteer at. There might also be other notes on a design, such as which number was the match for a stole, or a burse or some other item to create a set. Sometimes a design was done in a number of sizes for use on various items. That is part of the mystery and history we are trying to recreate at the museum where I volunteer.
The Rose and Vine Embroidery pattern also has this marking at the opposite end. The number “10” is followed by some words which are from an old handwriting style that is too difficult to decipher today.
On rare occasions, vintage Ecclesiastical Embroidery Designs have color codes. This is always helpful and fun. The rose had “red” marked as the color for the center, and “Pale Pink” as the petal colors.
“Pale Green” is the color recommendation for the Thorns and Vines on this design. The other words are illegible. But these few little tips and notes on the Embroidery pattern tell us a great deal.
I know little else about these three Ecclesiastical Designs that were sent in the mail, other than that they came from a Monastery from the East Coast that closed down. Thank goodness someone recognized the value of these designs and sent them on to the bookseller.
So, the hook is baited well. Sending samples of what was in the larger box is irresistible. What do you think – would it be worth while to acquire the remaining Vintage Ecclesiastical Embroidery Designs since I was so hoping to stumble across some? Is that day today?
Solo Dei Gloria
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