It all started with a piece of silver lace.
Updated: Oct 12
Don found it online somewhere and brought it to us. "What can we do with this? It fits Blessed Mother’s altar.”
The lace was unfinished at each end and rather jaggedly torn. In a glorious moment of serendipity, we actually found the same antique silver flat metal thread to match the material used to create this lovely stuff. It was tucked away in our supplies cabinet just waiting for something to do. Super helpful.
After staring at all of this shimmering glory while finishing off the ends, a full frontal began to take shape, you know, just to have a proper setting for the pretty lace, kind of like making a kitchen to match your snazzy measuring cups.
Mary's altar simply must have her “Auspice Maria” monogram, and a tasty fleur de lis or two.
Here is Anna pouncing the design onto our base fabric. We are stitching on white bengaline moire fabric backed with linen.
Makes that black charcoal powder a terrifying substance. We found that packing tape lifts off any stray smudgy stuff quite nicely after the dot-to-dot tracing. Wiggle the pricking needle a little in any holes poked in the scotch taped areas so the powder goes through (found that out the hard way).
The pieces are rather large which allows us to use our favorite antique stretcher frames. We could have finished the center monogram and reloaded to do the fleur de lis panels, but there was a line of stitchers, shifting from foot to foot, fiddling with their needles, waiting for a turn. We opted to spread out our sewing tables and bridge them with, not one, but two frames. The center stitchers have to limbo into their seats, but we're not finding that to be a problem.
We have so many interesting materials that we can incorporate into this embroidery, and some of those decisions will be made once we get the main colors laid down.
New additions to our guild are three high school apprentices who are very new to this work. I don't think they had any idea how addictive it was going to be. Beautiful embroidery from beautiful girls for their beautiful Blessed Mother.
Watching the monogram emerge is so satisfying.
We are stitching with four colors and a silver metal thread sprinkled throughout.
We also happily demystified one of our mysteries. This large set of stretchers seemed to have a mistake in the attachment of the ticking which is used to fasten the fabric to the frame. There is a definite right way to orient the long bars in order to insert the spreaders, however the ticking is tacked to the wood so that on both of them it rolls around the bars in the same direction (counter clockwise from this angle). We would have guessed that they should roll in opposite directions so that they would come up over the top toward the middle of the frame. We prudently decided that the wise nuns knew something we didn't, we just didn't know what that something was.
Well, now we do. Our first project with this large set of stretchers was a vesperale with a single layer of felt. This time we have two layers of fabric, the bengaline and a layer of linen. When you roll both of them around a wooden stretcher bar, the outside layer has more ground to cover than the inside layer which means the two layers of fabric would not lay together in the center after it's rolled. But, if you roll one over and one under, that sorts the problem out perfectly. Much of church embroidery is structured to be stitched on a face fabric backed by linen, so naturally the nuns had a way to manage the physics of it all. Here's Em outlining the fleurs on the this-way-that-way loaded frame.
We also figured out what to do with that long roll of unused wedding runner which was pawned off on the St. Martha's Guild (because what else will the brothers do with it). It makes a perfect protective covering for terrifyingly white embroidery fabric.
We will post more progress photos here as we move along.
What an unbelievable blessing it is that we get to do this!