Ecclesiastical Embroidery Designs A Starting Point
Lurking around the edges, but not quite ready to take the plunge. That is what many of us do, often for years when it comes to Ecclesiastical Sewing and Embroidery. There is a fear associated with taking on this wonderful and rewarding work. Perhaps it comes from reading a Biblical account of the craftsmen of old, the best craftsmen in the land who undertook the task of making the furnishings for the Tabernacle of the Old Testament.
Or perhaps one has read of the beautiful and renowned Opus Anglicanum embroidery, prized and sought after by Popes and clergy in days of old or Byzantine work, such as the coronation dalmatic worn by Charlemange . The work, which was so detailed and elaborate, can make one hesitate because we fear we could never create something of this caliber.
Fast forward to recent times of the past century. The French did stunning work with figures and floral designs, often covering much of a vestment. With images and a rich history of thousands of years to live up to, no wonder many of us fear trying our hand at Ecclesiastical Sewing.
Sometimes a simple hand embroidery design can be as stunning as an elaborate embroidery. It’s knowing the key to beauty that can turn something very simple into a masterpiece.
A simple humble cross design, well stitched can indeed be a thing of beauty. What makes it beautiful? A design that has flawless symmetry, balance, a sense of movement, and correct proportions is a thing of beauty. This cross is part of the museum collection at a monastery near my home. The design, which dates from around the 1930’s, was created by the Sisters. They repeated this lovely design in many sizes, on many vestments over the years. The Sisters created variations of this cross such as a long and narrow cross. The cross could have the addition of a Quatrefoil Frame, an oval frame, or a diamond frame like the one used here. This design could be done in long and short stitch, it could have padding and goldwork, or many other options.
Are you at a loss for design ideas for Ecclesiastical Embroidery? To spark you imagination, there is a reprint available of the book Designs for Church Embroideries by Thomas Brown from the late 1800’s, now being reprinted by Lacis. The book is also available from Hedgehog Handworks. This was a pattern book, with each design having its own number. The patron would order the numbered design for a full size pattern and after transferring the design, she was ready to stitch.
The book has a wide range of designs from borders to monograms to crosses. The designs as reprinted in book might take some work before they would be ready to stitch. The border designs represent a single repeat, or a portion of a repeat. Some designs might need to be enlarged, and some might simply need to be photo copied.
These are examples of Vintage Ecclesiastical Embroidery Transfer Patterns that I shared with you a few weeks ago. Perhaps these would be similar to what would be purchased after making a selection from the Thomas Brown and Sons catalog.
For those interested in vestment making, but not so interested in the hand embroidery, you might also enjoy the expertise of machine embroidery. Windstar Embroidery has digitized many of the designs from the Thomas Brown and Sons catalog. For the hand embroiderer, looking through the Thomas Brown Designs on Windstar offers valuable suggestions as to color selection.
For the truly gifted and talented, there is yet another option – DIY designs. Many artisans have the ability to create their own Ecclesiastical Embroidery designs. While some struggle to draw a straight line, don’t rule this option out. It may be easier than you thought possible to come up with a design. There is nothing more rewarding that a well planned and beautifully drawn design that is well executed with the work of our hands.
The biggest hurdle to over come with taking on an Ecclesiastical Sewing or an embroidery project for the church is to actually start. How, where and what is a good place to actually begin? Perhaps a stole is that good place to start. There are some tricks to making a stole, but with care, it can be a rewarding first attempt at Ecclesiastical Sewing and Embroidery. The best part is that stoles can even be made without embroidery. But more on that later when we will review the different options available with making a stole.
Solo Dei Gloria
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