Make yourself a cup of tea and tuck in for some good reading.
A cat for company is optional but recommended.
Sewing Church Linens
Sewing Church Linens by Elizabeth Morgan is by far the most thorough treatment of the subject that I have seen. Fortunately it has recently been reprinted. There is much useful information in it delivered at a very helpful beginner’s level. I have been working my way through the book and find that it works out many of the kinks that have been plaguing our projects. Our work just got easier. Wait until you hear about her home-made work table. We have duplicated it for our sewing room. We added blocks to lift it to a nice working height and now are spoiled for ironing/cutting/pinning any other way.
When I was 14 we moved. Two doors down from our new home lived a lovely woman named Bertha Zeering. She was 92 when I met her. When Bertha was 19 she began working full time as a seamstress for the Ransom E. Olds family (of the Oldsmobile car company) in Detroit, Michigan. She continued to sew for the family until she retired to the dear little house and 'pension' that the family arranged for her. That’s where I found her and together we began to explore our mutual interest in sewing.
Bertha taught me to love it. I liked sewing well enough before I met her but she really gave me a proper respect and affection for the craft. I remember looking at old photographs of the elaborate ball gowns that she made for Mrs. Olds. Bertha didn’t like to use sewing machines. She thought they took away her control of the stitching and made the garment feel too mechanical and soulless. She hand stitched every seam, pin tuck and gather.
One day she showed me her preferred method for hemming. I remember thinking it was a rather unusual technique that I hadn’t seen in any books that I’d read on the subject. It was an elegant and pleasant way to approach the task. I have been thinking about Bertha a bit more lately as we dig into this St. Martha’s Guild adventure. I have been thinking of her as I hem purificators using the method she taught me. Imagine the fun moment I had when I flipped to the page on hemming purificators in Elizabeth Morgan’s book and found out that the technique that Bertha taught me is called ‘Convent Hemming’.
Now isn’t that just lovely!
Get it on
Church Embroidery & Church Vestments
Church Embroidery & Church Vestments, A Complete and Practical Guide to this Fascinating Art by Lucy Vaughan Hayden Mackrille, published in 1939.
She was the Head of the Washington Cathedral Altar Guild.
I think I want to sew in this room.
Here is the book in five PDF files.
Sewing for the Sanctuary
This is a gem from Our Sunday Visitor published in 1924. Our research department head tracked it down for us. The attached pdf files are reproduced from the original held by the Department of Special Collections of the Hesburgh Libraries of the University of Notre Dame.
Embroiderer’s Book of Design
This is a sweet little book with lavish designs throughout. There are many alphabets that look like they would be really fun to stitch up.
Adventures in Vestments
Adventures in Vestments is a series of pdf files written by Judy Fradl from St. Benet's Guild in Dayton Ohio. There are many tips and helpful instructions if you’re having a go at making a vestment set from scratch.
Benziger Brothers Catalogue
This is pretty neat. It’s a catalog from the Benziger Brothers ~ Pontifical Institute of Christian Art. Order up a nice, “Chasuble, embroidered in fine gold and silk. Figures in artistic needlework on moire antique. $65”
Get a load of these sashes, ladies. Let’s make the next batch of ‘Marshall’ sashes a bit fancier.
What I wouldn't give to apprentice at this place.
All in one nice fat PDF file.
Encyclopedia of Needlework
by Therese Dillmont
This is a ginormous volume of needlework techniques. We have Youtube now but this is so very sweet and beautiful. There are over 950 illustrations which, alone, would make this worth visiting. It's a pretty fat PDF file so I’ll link you to it at Gutenberg.org below
Singer Instructions for Art Embroidery
This book is pretty mind blowing. It says, with a straight face, that you can make this with a treadle Singer sewing machine.
And here she is going at it.
There are instructions for making (hold on to your hats); shaded embroidery, art embroidery, raised embroidery, scallops-beadstitch-cording, Venetian embroidery, seed stitch, eyelet embroidery, gold thread embroidery, filet netting embroidery, Hedebo Embroidery, Richelieu Lace, Point Venise (see figure 1 above), Renaissance Lace, English Point lace, Brussels Lace, Novelty Lace, Cluny Lace, Hemstitching, Mexican Drawn Work, Teneriffe Wheels, Velvet Appliqué, and Net Appliqué.
I'll jump on the Richelieu Lace. Which one are you going to try?
Art of the Embroiderer
Charles Germain de Saint-Aubin, Designer to the King, wrote a book – In 1770 – about embroidering.
Usually, when you read a how to book, even just going back 25 years, you find yourself going, “How quaint, see how they did things before we figured out a better way?”
Not so much with this book. I’m finding that the methods and techniques for doing this work have largely remained unchanged. There is helpful information in this book with engravings to clear up any visualization issues. I like this one ( He cautions you to be careful with that stretcher adjustment, it can fly up and conk you one):
His description of the process of making a reversible chasuble is pretty fascinating. Exquisite embroidery on, say, a white that reverses to green so you get double the Liturgical use. The frame is set up vertically, and two embroiderers work on it together, one sitting on each side. They do tandem stitching, passing the needle back and forth. I would like to see that in action.
The book was originally written in French. This edition has included that original text along with an English translation and a substantial middle section with color photographs of embroidery from the late 1700s some of which Mr. Germain no doubt had a hand in.
Options – I have a pdf of the original book in French (linked below). The lovely Eva can have a go at that. You can get the hardcover English one at Amazon or Abe Books
The Art of the Embroiderer
The Art of Embroidery Series ~ A Primer
Diane Lewandowski from the Heritage Shoppe created this series of primers with much useful information.
Burse, Veil, and Stole
This small booklet by Margaret F. Johnson contains, among other things, an excellent set of instructions for burse construction.