Liturgical Brocades: Fabrics for Making Church Vestments
The term brocade evokes images of rich fabrics with elegant designs. It is true that nice quality brocade fabrics are difficult to find. Yet we are blessed at Ecclesiastical Sewing to have a number of nice brocades to offer for use in making church vestments. For those who may not be familiar with Ecclesiastical Sewing, or who may be new to our blog and company, I would like to take a moment and share who we are and what we are about.
Ecclesiastical Sewing is not only the name of our company, but it also describes what we do. Ecclesiastical Sewing is about sewing church vestments, church linens, creating hand embroidery and machine embroidery designs for use on church vestments, and most importantly, it is sharing what we know with our faithful readers and clients. Although our online store has only been open for a few short months, we have made great strides in expanding our product offerings. Yet, as we begin 2017, we know there is much work that still lies ahead.
The Season of Lent
Epiphany was celebrated only a few days ago, and in a few short weeks, the season of Lent will begin on Ash Wednesday which falls on March 1, 2017.
As the New Year begins, it might be time to take a quick look at the church vestments used for the season of Lent to make sure everything is in good repair. I always look at things like tassels and fringe to see if they need steaming, and it always a good idea to check each vestment for spots or stains. It might be wise to conduct a vestment count as well. Does your church have any new clergy members such as a deacon or priest? Do they have the required vestments for their roll in the worship service?
There is still time to get a few simple projects complete for this coming Lenten Season. Projects that could be undertaken would include making a stole, or things like a chalice veil, or burse. Winchester is an example of a very nice Liturgical Brocade Fabric that comes in colors suitable for Lent: Roman Purple, Rose for Laetare Sunday, and Violet. Winchester features a Tudor Rose, Fleur de Lis and vine design motif. The designs in Winchester work well for making pastoral stoles, chasubles, and chalice veils as well as larger vestments such as dalmatics and copes.
Along with the colors used in Winchester during the season of Lent, Winchester is also available in Ivory, Green and Gold. The gold is a lovely color. Sadly, Winchester Gold was out of stock when we did our original Liturgical Fabric photo shoot, and we need to get back in studio to get proper photos of this lovely fabric color.
As you take a look at the Winchester Brocade, along with the other Liturgical Brocades and Damask fabrics available at Ecclesiastical Sewing, one might wonder what is so different about these fabrics? By way of background, the Liturgical Brocades that we carry, which come from the United Kingdom, are made by the same company that has been making Liturgical Brocade and damask fabrics for over 120 years. It is a long process to create a liturgical brocade fabric. First a pattern must be developed. It must have at least one, and most likely two main design motifs. The designs must be placed on the fabric or paper in such a way so as to create a repeat. Then fill details need to be added to complete the design.
That is the easy part (well, not really). Creating a brocade design on paper or on the computer is more difficult than one might imagine. But the next part requires the skills of a true master. It is setting up the weaving pattern. The brocade design must be taken to a weaving designer, who created the pattern by raising and lowering threads at right angles. Thus a weaving pattern is painstakingly created. To be a true, high quality Liturgical brocade fabric, the weave requires a high thread count. The yarns must be densely packed in place to create a firm fabric that will withstand the rigors of hand embroidery with silk and gold threads. The high thread count ensures the fabric will not shred as thousands of stitches are taken, and gold thread tails are plunged. Likewise, in today’s market, machine embroidery is also used for church vestments. The same liturgical brocades are frequently used with machine embroidery designs which contain tens of thousands of stitches. If a liturgical brocade fabric does not have a high thread count, the fabric will pierce with the stitching and become a shredded rag.
A high thread count also allows for finer detail with the Jacquard loom. More threads, which can be manipulated to being either up or down during weaving allow more variation with the pattern design. These variations create tiny motifs within the pattern. The more detailed the pattern is, the more variation there is in the weave, resulting in more play with light and dark and texture. A higher thread count also results in designs that have clean, sharp edges.
Liturgical vestments such as stoles, chasubles, copes, dalmatics and tunics, as well as altar hangings, require a fabric that has some drape, but the fabric must also be firm to hold the shapes of these garments. The fabric can not be so limp or loosely woven or it will not hold the orphrey bands and trims properly. To create the appropriate weight and body of these liturgical brocade and damask fabrics, great care is taken with selecting just the right yarns from the yarn manufacturer. The yard must have the correct spin, as well as the correct loft and thickness. Too often a bulkier yarn is used, which fills the space quickly, gives a soft and drapeable hand, but there is no body to the fabric. That type of fabric usually does not hold up well over time. And so, with over one hundred years of experience behind them, M. Perkins and Sons continues to make Ecclesiastical Fabrics which are designs and intended to be used for making of church vestments. They have stood the test of time, and are on the cutting edge, keeping up with new fibers, yarns and weaving techniques in an ever-changing market place. In a few short weeks, we will have the pleasure of introducing a brand new Liturgical Brocade Fabric, woven exclusively for Ecclesiastical Sewing by M. Perkins and Sons. I can hardly wait to share this new fabric with you!
Solo Dei 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 designs, church vestment trims and notions and so much more. You may also find us on Ecclesiastical Sewing on Facebook , Twitter, and Pinterest. Sing 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.