• Julie S.

Meet Our New Best Friend

Updated: Mar 3, 2019

This is a 1950s Cornely chain stitch machine.

I think we’ve named him Cornelius, and he has already stitched his very first project (a restoration) as a new member of the Saint Martha’s Guild.

Here Michele is stitching a traditional edging for a vesperale. What’s a vesperale, you ask? Picture flaming wicks at the end of long brass poles, dripping beeswax, dust. These are things that don’t go with pure white linen altar cloths. A vesperale covers the altar between Masses to protect all of that pristine whiteness. And, of course, they must be embroidered because, God. We will be making these. We want to produce beautiful stitches when we do and initially this machine tends to bring out the drunk driver in all of us. What better way to achieve Cornely skills than embroidering the edge of an ironing board cover. Our table is 4' x 8'. Plenty of practice.

This is a totally crazy machine. Steering happens underneath with a rotating handle. A hook replaces the needle. Frequent oiling is required. We had to purchase pliers, wrenches and other weird tools. You have to get down on the floor to thread the machine. The patent for this machine is French from 1874 so originally the lovely nuns had to pump a treadle. Ours has a hopped up, digital, variable speed motor to keep everything moving.

He looks like a cross between a meat grinder and some kind of transformer tank from an action movie. One wants to keep one’s hair tied back securely.

But! He embroiders vestments, just like things were done old school. This is the machine responsible for all of that lovely chain stitch embroidery that we find wandering so gloriously over our vestments. We are so getting on that bandwagon.

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