Church Vestment Fringe: is there a difference?
Fringe for Church Vestments: It can be short and sweet, or long and elegant. It can have shimmer and shine, or have a perfect matte finish. There are solid colors and multi-colored styles, with headers to match that are plain and simple, or complex like a braid trim. What makes a fringe an Ecclesiastical fringe, suitable for use on church vestments and altar hangings? This is one of those questions that can be a bit challenging to answer.
When I first started making church vestments and altar hangings, the only type of fringe available was this style, found in the home decorating department of the local chain fabric store.
The fringe is about 1 7/8″ wide, which is on the narrow side for altar hangings. The fringe is a group of yarn, bundled together and held in place with several rows of stitching at the top edge.
The lower edge has a chain stitch which holds all of the cut ends in place until the fringe is applied. Once the project is finished, the end of the chain stitch can be located and pulled, and the chain stitch on the lower edge is removed so the cut edge hangs free. The use of a chain stitch to keep the lower edge of the fringe neat and tidy until it has been applied to an altar hanging or other liturgical vestment project is very useful.
This style of fringe is or at least used to be) available in a few colors such as red, gold, whited, and maybe black. It was never stocked in my local fabric store in colors of blue, green, rose, violet, or purple for use with other times of the church year. The default color was most often limited to using gold.
The one challenge and difficulty with using this fringe for liturgical vestments or altar hangings is the wide heading at the top edge of the fringe. Notice how thick the bundles of threads are. While that thickness of threads may or may not be desirable on the finished piece, it can create a few challenges when being applied to a project. That thickness can be a challenge to keep neat and straight when sewn by machine. The fringe will require a few extra steps, such as basting in place by hand to ensure everything will remain even and straight. Basting before stitching may also help prevent puckering in the fabric during the stitching. For those who like using spray adhesives, that method of application may be helpful. There have even been times when I have hand sewn the entire piece of fringe in place to ensure it is applied straight and even, and that there are no puckers in either the fringe or base fabric.
One other challenge with sewing this type of thicker fringe has to do with computerized sewing machines. My lovely, expensive, but now aging computerized sewing machine detests sewing through anything with bulk. On the occasions it is forced to sew through these thicker materials and trims, it makes a horrid, grinding noise, and abruptly comes to a halt after providing a lovely warning message: “the item is too thick to be sewn through, check the needle and fabric.” On a rare occasion, the stitching can be restarted, and the machine can be coaxed along, ever so painfully, protesting every few inches until the project is sewn. (Never had that issue with my old machine). Of course this gamble with coaxing the machine along, trying to make is sew through thick layers of fabric and trim, runs the risk that the needle may also cause a snag or run in the fabric. The end result is, the sewing machine often wins the battle when using this type of thick fringe from the retail chain store. I usually opt to hand sew it in place on the altar frontal, pastoral stole, or vestment.
With limited time for making vestment project, alternatives had to be sought.
This is a lovely fringe, made and designed by a manufacturer that has been making this type of fringe since the early 1800’s. Notice that this fringe is longer, at 3″ in length, which perfectly balances out long altar frontal.
Notice how thin the header is on the top of this fringe. Applying this type of fringe to a vestment, pulpit fall, or other liturgical project is much simpler. Now, I still prefer to baste the fringe before machine sewing it in place, but this fringe may be basted in place very quickly. The thin header causes no complaints with the sewing machine, and therefore no grumbles, growls, scowls, or snarls from yours truly during the construction. This type of fringe has been designed specifically for this application for use on vestments and other church sewing projects. While it may cost a little more, the end results in ease of construction, and appearance in the final look of the project.
When it comes down to the use of fringe as a trim on church vestments and altar hangings, there is no right or wrong answer. But, there are certain styles and types of fringe that are designed to make the application of fringe you your church vestment sewing project simpler. There are several other types of fringe to look at, but alas, this evening has run out of time. Until next time, may all of your fringe applications be smooth and pucker free.
Solo Dei Gloria
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