I have been getting a few questions on the making of altar frontals over the past few weeks here on Ecclesiastical Sewing. I have some good news: written instructions are in the works. But it will take time to put those together, as I am traveling a great deal over the summer months. While the travel is fun, and much of the travel is related to Ecclesiastical Sewing, it disrupts work on current projects.
But traveling also presents a great opportunity for the study of Ecclesiastical Sewing and Ecclesiastical Embroidery. On my recent trip to St. Louis, Missouri, several side trips were planned to visit different locations and see their collection of Church Vestments and Church Altar Linens. Knowing many readers are interested in making altar frontals, the above Superfrontal photos might be helpful. The Superfrontal was part of the Church Parament Collection at the Concordia Historical Institute on the Campus of the Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Louis.
This retired altar superfrontal (Latin: Supra which means above – a piece of fabric above) is designed to fit the top of an altar while allowing for an overhang on the sides. The above photo shows the simple concept for the construction: a small square has been cut out from each corner and is used to create a space for the end to hang down on the side.
The Ecclesiastical Fabric has been used as the base fabric for the entire Superfrontal. The Superfrontal is designed so that is extends to the back edge of the altar with no overhang down the back side. This same style of superfrontal could be created using a cotton duck or dowlas fabric for the decking (the part that is on the top of the altar) and using the Ecclesiastical Brocade on the front and end pieces which would reduce fabric costs.
There were several altar superfrontals of this style in the Concordia Historical Institute collection, and I noticed there was nothing visible to be used as a means of keeping the frontals in place. Usually frontals have a rod pocket or some means of securing themselves in place. Then, noticing that several other vestment pieces in the box kept sticking together when they were moved, the method of keeping these superfrontals in place reveled itself: Heavy Magnets. This was something new and interesting to discover!
Magnets were placed in a small fabric square and sewn to the back edge of the superfrontal. It’s a clever idea, and must have worked well.
The other interesting feature on this Altar Superfrontal is the fringe. Sadly this type of fringe is a challenge to come by today. Perhaps some of you might be aware of sources for this fringe, but most vestment houses do not have anything like this except for use on Bishops’ garments.
This vestment set is not a great work of Ecclesiastical art, but is served a purpose. It was nicely made, was well used in its day, and can give an idea for a design style for Superfrontals.
Gathering these little bits of history makes for fun adventures when it is time for traveling and seeing Ecclesiastical Sewing Treasures.
Solo Dei Gloria
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