Beginning in 1985, I served the Episcopal Diocese of Albany for twelve years as the Diocesan Altar Guild Directress. As it is the prerogative of the diocesan Bishop to oversee the ministry of the Diocesan Altar Guild, the Bishop established our ministry: To reclaim and re-establish the crafts of vestment construction and linen construction within the Diocese of Albany. I did this by offering classes, all materials and support. This project was very well received and we soon had Sewing Groups that met every month established in each of our seven deaneries. I did quite a lot of driving during those years!
Perhaps you don’t understand that, by 1985 the crafts of linen and vestment construction for our churches had been lost. How that happened is a long – and interesting – story that I’ll not go into here. Suffice it to say, when I started out, I had no patterns, no instructions, no nice person to guide me. It was my ministry to reclaim all that information. That’s continued to be my ministry all these years.
At first I carried out this ministry within the context of our diocese. And then, following the publishing of my book, Sewing Church Linens, the ministry became national. While I (somehow!) did not anticipate this consequence at the time I wrote the book, the experience has been a very great blessing.
Although I am retired as the Diocesan Directress, I have continued the ministry here – on line beginning in 1997. I’ve chosen to continue this ministry for a couple of reasons: First, because the people with whom I work are such a joy.
The second reason I’ve continued this ministry is that I believe in good stewardship. I believe that giving of our time and talent is as important as the giving of our treasure. I believe that the ministry of the Church is to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. I believe that our Church could perform this ministry more effectively if we would spend less money purchasing expensive, ready-made linens and vestments that we could just as well make ourselves. I believe that almost every parish has people who are competent sewers, who are perfectly capable of making handsome linens and vestments – if only they had access to proper, reasonably priced materials, instructions and patterns. I believe that these people would gladly give of their time and their talent – if only they had a bit of guidance and support. I believe my ministry is to these people; to provide materials, instructions and patterns and to give guidance and support. I am an outstanding problem solver!
I believed this when I began this ministry in 1985. I believed it in 1997 when I opened this web site. I believe it today in 2014 as I celebrate my 75th birthday and my 29th year of this graceful and grace-filled ministry.
I have a funny thing to tell you: Some of us have intermediate sewing skills (I’m one of these); other’s of us are experts! Sue Newman is an expert seamstress; so are Nancy Marie Marquette and Carrie Roberts. Experts are people who are comfortable undertaking to build Roman style cassocks (the ones with the 33 buttons down the front).
Some months ago, Sue accepted a commission to build a Roman cassock – with capelet and cincture. Here’s her finished cassock (the first one Sue had ever made):
Now, here’s the funny thing: Sue used the Butterick Pattern #6844. The pattern has the pockets facing backwards. When Sue contacted Butterick and asked why the pockets were facing backwards, she was told, ‘that’s the way the clergy like them’. After a bit more research, Sue found that, indeed, clergy did like their cassock pockets facing backward – IN THE DAYS WHEN THEY GOT AROUND ON HORSEBACK! Backward pockets prevent stuff from falling out when you’re bouncing around on horseback! Sue solved the problem by inserting pocket slits so the clergy can get at their inside pockets. I tell you what! The lore that lies behind our vestment patterns is worth the price of admission!
FYI – Sue also mentioned that the location of the seams makes alterations very difficult.
Please note: For the pattern for the capelet, go here: http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/costumes/
I hope you enjoy this website!
In Christ’s Love -
We are not human beings going through a temporary spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings going through a temporary human experience.