Altar Linens: Linen Fabric Choices

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Preparing Altar Linens for the Upcoming Liturgical Season

As many of us return to our respective church sacristies following the sporadic nature of summer schedules, there is often a bit of housekeeping needed to put things in order. It is a good idea to take inventory of the altar linens, and put a call to all members of the altar guild to return everything to the sacristy for a linen “check-up.”  The small altar linens should be checked to ensure there are no stains, holes, or tears, no hems coming loose, and no embroidery-looking worn.  The color should be checked to ensure it still looks crisp, clean, and white.  If anything is less than perfect, it should be set aside to determine what it might need in the way of restoration, or if any altar linens that are beyond their ability to continue in use.  If some of the altar linens could be brought back to a serviceable condition with a bit of mending, stain removal, or other care, assign someone from the altar guild to the task, and set a deadline for completion.

Once those tasks are complete, it is a good thing to review the inventory of items in good usable condition.  Compare those numbers to the linens required for use per service on a daily or weekly level to determine the potential shortage or replenishment need.  Once these or similar steps are taken to determine the needs for the altar linens, the fun can begin!  It is time to shop for altar linen fabric.

Renaissance Linens

Linen Fabric

There are many things to consider when shopping for altar linens.  Will your church purchase ready-made altar linens or is there someone within the congregation able to sew the altar linens.  Will the linens be custom-made to meet specific or unusual design or size requirements?  While there is much to consider, we have talked about some of these concerns in previous posts on Ecclesiastical Sewing. So we will only bring a few of these concerns and questions up here because our goal is to talk about linen fabric used for making altars linens.

A quick glance through any vestment supply catalog quickly reveals the fact that purchasing ready-made altar linens can be a costly investment. Altar linens are used for the sacrament of Holy Communion, and so it is fitting that they be the very best a church can afford.  Yet, the reality is, that may pose a serious challenge for many churches. So what can be done?

Pre Cut Linens 3 Piece Set

Making altar linens sounds like something that would be a challenge. And yes, there can be a few little challenges that occur along the way of making altar linens, but when one thinks about them and breaks things down into the most basic steps, making altar linens is really quite a simple task. It is a wonderful gift that can be offered to a congregation, and to the Lord when a church takes on this task with willing hearts and hands.

My goal with this and a few upcoming posts is to talk about the different types of linens I use and those that are available for your use here on Ecclesiastical Sewing. There will be four to six types of linen fabrics ranging from 60″ to 120″  wide. The first we will be looking at is the Renaissance Linen pictured above and below.

Renaissance Linens

Characteristics of Renaissance Linen

Renaissance Linen is a medium-weight linen with an even weave.  It is a 100% Irish Linen that is one of my go-to favorites.  The nice even weave of this linen makes turning hems an easy task. It is easy to see the weave, and on occasion, one can even follow the weave and cut it on by the thread without the necessity of pulling a thread.  (Note I said “On Occasion” but not every time). There are times when it is best to pull a thread to ensure things are straight and even when cutting. This is always recommended when it comes to working with linen fabrics.

Uses of Renaissance Linen

Another thing that makes this Irish Linen a favorite is that it has fibers that are easy to pull if one wants to hemstitch linens. It always takes a bit of patience and care when pulling threads for hemstitching, but this linen works well for those needs.  This is also nice linen for working hand embroidery with the even weave and even fibers in the weave to support an embroidery design.  Renaissance is available in a 60″ width from our Ecclesiastical Sewing Storefront under Linen Fabric yardage. Renaissance Linen is also the linen of choice for many of our pre-cut small linen kits. We will have more on that at a later date.  Renaissance Linen is suitable for use in making Fairlinens, corporals, labavo towels, purificators, credence table covers, and linen albs to name a few of its many uses.

Characteristics of Opalescent Linen

The second line we will look at this evening is the Opalescent Linen.

Opalescent Linen

Opalescent is a fine linen lawn-weight fabric. This 100% Irish linen fabric has a sheer quality making it the perfect selection for sheer chalice veils. Many churches use a sheer chalice veil as a post-communion veil to cover items after completing the communion service. Opalescent has a soft drape and hangs in gentle folds. This linen would also work for a sheer bishop rochet as is seen in many vintage photos. Opalescent Linen is 60 inches wide.  It would work well for delicate hand embroidery using some of the finer cotton broader floss, and single-strand embroidery floss worked in delicate patterns.

Opalescent Linen 3

A Variety of Fine Linens

Although our focus is on Vestments and altar linens at Ecclesiastical Sewing, those familiar with heirloom sewing would find opalescent a lovely choice for baby items such as Baptismal gowns, Christening gowns, shadow work, and other heirloom sewing projects. Consider this linen for making fine baptismal towels as well.

Fine linen fabrics are the first step to review when considering making new altar linens for your church.  At Ecclesiastical Sewing, we offer an assortment of fine linens, knowing that one linen does not suit all needs.

Thank you for following along here on Ecclesiastical Sewing as we take you through a journey that is the beauty of pristine white linens.

Soli Deo Gloria

Be sure to visit our online store front Ecclesiastical Sewing where you may shop for Liturgical Fabrics, altar linen fabrics, church vestment-making patterns, liturgical machine embroidery designschurch vestment trims and notions and so much more. You may also find us on  Ecclesiastical Sewing on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Sign up for our mailing list at the bottom of the page on our online store front and receive a free copy of our Small Linens Booklet as our way of saying thank you for following along.

Here’s a short video that shows how to press linen.

Inspiration for a Lazy Sunday Afternoon: Small Altar Linens

Altar Linen Fabric Selection

Altar Linen Embroidery Designs

Altar Linen: Where Linen Comes From

Red and Gold Liturgical Brocade Fabrics






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