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  • Writer's pictureJulie S.

We’ve been framed! And it’s so wonderful!

Updated: Feb 27, 2022

When Fr. P mentioned that he had some embroidery frames for us to use whenever we got around to embroidering bigger things, all of this loveliness was somehow not what we expected.

Talk about delicious patina

These embroidery frames were retired a number of years ago from the embroidery house run by the Sisters of the Precious Blood in O’Fallen, Missouri. These beauties churned out a river of vestments in their day. When the 1970s blundered in shunning all things beautiful, these workhorses slowed down and finally tipped up in a corner until Fr. brought them to Saint John Cantius.

I’m noticing a few interesting things about these lovely stretchers and one big mystery. The nuns used that beloved ticking fabric for attaching the project to the frame. The square frames have ticking on adjacent sides and it is full of little threads from multiple projects. They feel like small sacramentals to us and we are loathe to remove them.

The largest pair of stretchers was missing the separator bars. Karen’s wonderful husband made us a new set to replace them along with a classy mallet to hammer these into submission if necessary.

What’s that skinny stick for? It came along with the big pile. It feels important, because nuns don't usually have extra junk sitting around for no reason. Or maybe it was used to play with the convent cat.

I can't wait to blow off the dust and put these ladies back to work. First project – a burse for that purple velvet low Mass set. And just because these are so very beautiful, I present a glamour gallery of their awesomeness.

Update ~ November 3, 2016

This is so neat. I have some back story on these delicious embroidery frames. They came from the convent of the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood in O’Fallon, Missouri. Sister Mary Hiltrudis ran the Ecclesiastical Art Department. She and the 20 nuns who worked with her are the ones who originally made the purple velvet low Mass set that we are refurbishing. I have just un-retired one of their frames for the gold work embroidery needed to recreate the burse that went missing from the set.

The kids caught me staring off into space over that one.

1938 image of one of the embroideresses from the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood.

And check this out. Here is a photo of one of the good sisters using what is quite likely our medium slate frame. How fun is that?!

Update #2 ~ February 19, 2019

We have a deep affection for this small embroidery frame. After fighting with saggy linen in the standard hoops, we thoroughly enjoyed the solid drum of our linen laced into this antique frame.

In fact, we enjoyed it so much, that we were always waiting in line for a turn with it. We have some other new slate frames that work fairly well but they’re usually a bit larger than needed, plus we were really digging the throw-back vibes from this one.

That got us thinking about just making more like it. This size is perfect for many pieces that will come up regularly; stoles, maniples, chalice veils, ciborium covers, burses, apparels. So we made six frames with canvas stretchers from Blick Art Supplies. They’re super inexpensive. Buy four sides and just slide them together at the corners. We found that they were tight enough that you didn’t need to worry about them slipping apart – in fact we had to use a hammer to get them settled all the way. Fabric and pretty tacks, a sharpie marker to add a little decoration, sand paper to take the sharp edges off and a little stain and these were ready for action. Our frames are made with heavy duty stretchers. They had a little quarter round edge along one side to keep the canvas off the wood. That seemed overly thick so I ran the pieces through my husband’s planer and shaved them off. Perhaps the regular weight stretchers would work fine. An added benefit is that you can exchange sides to make different sized frames if needed I can see an orphrey band up through the middle of a long skinny frame.

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Agnes B. Bullock
Agnes B. Bullock
Feb 24, 2022

I have a box of the wooden frames the Sisters used for their chain stitch and zig zag machines! I apprenticed with them for three years before they finally retired for good- Sister Marcella started out as a hand embroideress back in 1949.She taught me how to make stoles and while my embroidery was all machine wmbroidery, I basted by hand. Loved every minute of my time in O'Fallon

Julie Streeter
Julie Streeter
Mar 02, 2022
Replying to

Oh, Dear Agnes! I would so love to hear your stories about that place and the work you have done. Can you send pictures of the frames? That is a piece of the puzzle that we've been seeking. I have Sister Mildred's treadle machine, and many pieces of their embroidery. If you can reach out on our contacts form I can send you our direct email address and cell phone number.

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