Working with Liturgical Fabrics: Pattern Matching
Liturgical fabrics used for making church vestments are designed to capture the attention, to provoke a sense of wonder and awe, to beautify the worship service, remind us of the seasons of the church year, and so much more. While the list of qualities attributed to liturgical fabrics is long, liturgical fabrics, which are well made and designed, are meant to be used in making vestments, and not to be left on a bolt or roll, wondering, “Now that one has this, what does one do with it!?”
It matters not how many times a liturgical fabric is placed on my cutting table prior to beginning a new church vestment project. There is always a moment when “terror” strikes. You know that little feeling, that nagging voice that reminds you, “This is expensive stuff. What do you think you are doing? What – you are going to cut fabric that is $__________ per yard? What if you make a mistake?”
Silence! I take a moment, and close my eyes, and say a little prayer that goes something like this, “Bless this work which I am about to begin and may it bring Glory to Your Holy Name. Amen.” Then, with a few deep breathes, I open my eyes and begin the process of making a new Ecclesiastical Sewing project from a beautiful church vestment fabric.
The first thing I do is to study the pattern (if there is a pattern) of the liturgical fabric. What type of pattern is it? In the case of the red fabric above, this is Lichfield. This pattern has bold motifs that line up in alternating rows. Nothing is off set as for example the motifs are in Fairford picture below.
Lichfield Liturgical Fabric features two main motifs: a Fluer Cross and a Tudor Rose. Both motifs are roughly the same size. There is also a trailing vine that surrounds the rose. I take my time when studying the patterns, both large and small, of a liturgical fabric. I think about or imagine how the fabric pattern might look or translate into the various vestment pieces. I think about where I might like to have various motifs begin or end near a neckline or hemline. How should a motif be centered on a vestment – should a center front or back be centered between motifs, or centered on a motif. Another question would be, are there any concerns about having enough fabric, and how careful must one be in the cutting process. These thoughts are not listed to frighten one away from a project, but rather to provide a list of things to think about and plan for before the scissors begin their work of cutting. The key to success is taking time to plan plan and plan some more. Planning now can avoid a costly mistake later in a project. Sometimes I will leave the fabric on the cutting table and step away for a while (you know – laundry or meals always draw one away from a project). Upon my return, and with fresh eyes, things seem to come together, and that boost of confidence kicks in as things make sense. This stage is what I call “living” with a Liturgical Fabric.
The plan for Lichfield is to make several pastoral stoles and a chasuble. After comparing the stole pattern width to the width of the fabric motifs, I have decided to cut the stole centered on a row of motifs. I would like to cut two layers of fabric at once. This will require a few set -up steps before the stole pattern can be placed for cutting. The fabric has been placed right sides together. The first thing I like to do is to select an easily recognizable motif. In this case, the Fluer Cross has been selected. The fabric has been opened and adjusted so the patterns match up perfectly. Next, select a point on both motifs. The point of the Fluer was selected here.
This was the first attempt at getting a perfect match at the Fluer Cross tip. Notice the pins are close to being in the exact same point on both sides of the fabric, but they are not quite perfect. I will give this another try to improve slightly. The goal is to pin as close as possible in the exact same spot on both halves of the fabric. I may pin top and bottom on both motifs. Then the process continues with the next motif. This is the part where patience is a virtue. Take your time matching pattern motifs.
And finally, the motifs are lined up, and matched and ready for cutting the stole patterns. I find when working with these high quality liturgical fabrics, that the patterns usually match up quite easily, with little fuss and bother. The fabrics are woven square and on grain. The motifs are consistent in size through the entire length of fabric, making this process go along faster than it takes to describe the process.
This is one way to deal with patterns, and to ensure patterns are matched when cutting liturgical fabrics. Another option would be to cut one half of a stole out and then use that half as a pattern to match on the fabric, and to cut the second half. Either method will work. The point is to think through what you are doing, and make a plan. Then, follow the rule of carpenters who say, “Measure twice, and cut once.” It is a good and fitting rule to borrow in the sewing room when working with liturgical church vestment fabrics. As a final suggesting, when in doubt, look for a less expensive fabric to use as a “trial” to become familiar with planning motif placement, pattern matching, and all of the little nuances involved in Ecclesiastical Sewing for church vestments.
Soli Deo Gloria
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