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Hand-Sewn Christian Religious Vestments



Linen Seminar!

In Davenport, Iowa – home of Mary Moore Linens!

September 19th – 23rd.

Contact: Kathryn Amato

I hope to see you there!

You can email me too, if you have questions.


I’m adding information to this seminar invitation day by day as Kathryn and I watch it come together.  Here’s my information for today!


During the mid-90s, I traveled 4 or 5 times each year to teach linen seminars.  I haven’t done that in over a decade.

The Internet, search engines and email were invented in the mid-90s.  My website went up in 1997 (ChurchLinens is one of the oldest websites on the internet). My website didn’t get much response until about 2000 because it took about 5 years before we became comfortable using computers, search engines, websites and email.   But, by 2000, people had become (fairly) comfortable with their computers and I was doing a lot of teaching by email.  As well, my books and pamphlets were available by then.  In short, it became less necessary for me to travel to do seminars.  (Although, I’ve always had a few people each spring and summer who have come to me for individual seminars.)

So, this 5-day seminar in September is sort of an ‘experiment’ that asks the question: “How important do people feel personal instruction to be?”  Is there any need for personal, experiential instruction?

So, over the 16 years of this century, I’ve done most of my teaching using (voluminous) written instructions with specific questions being answered either by personal phone calls or email.  And, this has worked well.  Many people have learned from me how to work both large and small altar linens (and have especially appreciated the Golden Ruler!).

But!  There has been a flip side to this ‘one-step-removed’ teaching/learning method.  I’ve noticed this flip side when I work with the people who come to me in the spring and summer for individual seminars.  They come to me having learned all the basics from my writings and from phone calls and emails.  They’re not beginners!  What I see happening is that, in our personal work together, they pick up the ‘subtleties’; those little ‘tricks of the trade’ that make all the difference.

I worked for three days with a sweet girl this summer.  We’d go along together doing some simple thing (turning up a fair linen hem for basting) and she said, “Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  I understand those steps.”  And then, suddenly, she’d say, “Wait a minute!  Stop!  What did you just do there?  Show me that again!”  There was some little thing that I do naturally, without thinking (running my fingers under the turned hem so I can see the underside), that, because my instructions are so voluminous, I decided this was just too subtle to spend another half page discussing it.  And, as it turned out it was what this sweet girl had traveled 1200 miles to find out!  (She had been having trouble with her hems running off the crease and this tiny maneuver solved the problem quickly and easily.)

And, this should not come as a surprise!  This is the way crafts are taught – should be taught; person to person, mother to daughter, friend to friend.  This is the difference between learning from (voluminous) written instructions and experiential teaching/learning.

And, this is precisely why we lost the linen craft in the first place!  The process of experiential teaching/learning the linen craft was broken by the First and Second World Wars.  The Wars destroyed the European linen industry.  During the decades it took to rebuild the mills and bring the flax fields into production again, we had no linen with which to make our altar linens.  The women who knew how to do this craft went to their rewards.  By the time linen was again available, we no longer had anyone to teach us (we had no way to find those who were still alive because the internet had not yet been invented!).  That’s what I’ve been about all these 30 years – reclaiming the linen craft – how to stitch and handle linen.

Think about this!  Man-made fibers were not invented until after WWII.  For all the millennia prior to 1945, human kind had 4 – and only 4 – textiles:  Cotton, silk, wool and linen (well, animal skins too and some local fibers).  The use of these 4 textiles had been embedded in human minds throughout history.  So much so that there was no need to write any of it down – and so nobody did.  When we began to try to reclaim the linen craft, we had no writings to fall back on.


What I’m saying is that the effort that Kathryn and I are making here is meant to provide you with an extraordinary learning experience: experiential learning.  I want to urge you to take advantage of it.

I am blessed to be strong and healthy.  I’m also 80 years old.  Committing myself to 5 days of two serious seminars each day is a substantial undertaking for me.  I’m delighted by this wonderful opportunity!  If your response to this opportunity is sufficient to tell me that personal, experiential teaching/learning is useful, I’ll keep doing it.  If not, I’ll stay home and get my gardens put to bed for the winter in an orderly fashion.

I look forward to seeing you in September and doing some good work!

In Christ –



Five days is a long seminar!  It’s important to me that I give as much information as possible during that time; that I cover as many needs as possible.  I will be giving 3 lectures, teaching each one twice during the 5 days I will be in Davenport.

I place a high value upon your valuable time and so I’m very much concerned with efficiency – as were the women of yesteryear who were at least as busy as we are today.  Anything we can do to increase efficiency – without any sacrifice of quality – is desirable.  My emphasis upon efficiency causes me to work linen differently and to teach differently.   The responses I get from my students are different too!  I hear a lot of: “Aha!” and “I never knew that!”  “But, that’s so easy!”

For instance: The process of working linen has two very strongly held traditions:

  1. Straight linens can only be achieved by drawing threads.
  2. Linen must be shrunk before it is worked.

Both these traditions require a great deal of time and are wildly inefficient.  Neither is necessary.

Drawing a thread does not guarantee straight linens.  Drawing a thread is only the first step to achieving straight linens.  My altar linens are noticeably and reliably straight and square.  The only time I draw a thread is when I cut yardage from my bolt.  Stick with me and it is possible that you will never draw a thread again – seriously!   Aha!!!

The amount of shrinkage in a bolt of linen is constant throughout the bolt.  If you know the amount of shrinkage, you can allow for it, making preshrinking unnecessary.

Everything I plan to teach you is specifically directed toward making best use of your valuable time – without any sacrifice of quality.  In fact, you’ll find that the quality you achieve will be increased.

I want to address two groups of people who are different from each other only in respect to the amount of time they have available:

  1. Persons who enjoy hand sewing and feel called to help provide altar linens but whose time is limited. These people are of great value and much needed to stitch linens that have already been prepared for stitching.  Every parish Sewing Group needs these people!
  1. Persons who have the time to work fresh linen – right off the bolt; who understand the process of laying the linen out to produce straight linens – both small linens (purificators, lavabo towels and corporals) and large linens (credence cloths and fair linens).

I plan to teach three classes:  The first class is designed to be stand-alone.  The other two classes will build upon it and upon each other.  The major difference between class #1 and the other two is handling fresh linen – linen right off the bolt.  You don’t need to know anything about laying out and cutting to do the stitching!

  1. Stitching Our Small Linens: This class is for people who enjoy hand stitching and would like to support their church by stitching the linens – that have been pre-cut.  I will be teaching how to put up straight hems using the Golden Ruler, squared and mitered corners, light shrinking (and when to do it), Convent hemming and simple embroidery. If time permits, we can also learn to make chalice palls.  Practice linen will be provided without charge.  Lavabo towels, purificators and corporals will be available for purchase.
  1. Laying out and Cutting Small Linens: This class is for people who want to know how to handle fresh linen – right off the bolt.  The class will cover establishing straightness, why drawing a thread is only the first step in achieving straight, square linens, shrinking and shrinkage factors, drawing up standard small linen layouts so that a supply of small linens may be kept on hand to be stitched as needed.  This class will not cover the use of the Golden Ruler as the use of the Golden Ruler was covered in the first class.
  1. Cutting out large linens: This class is for people who want to learn how to work with large pieces of fresh linen – right off the bolt.  The class will cover the process of laying out large linens, uneven miters, the use of a large Golden Ruler and the use of stay-pinning and pinning by centers.  We will prepare a fair linen.

I  am really up for this seminar!  We can get some good work done here!  There’s a possibility that we can sneak in an afternoon to make stoles too!  I’ll bring some and we’ll see.

In Christ –



Patterns, Design and Instructions For the Clergy and Laity of All Our Denominations

Vestment PatternBeginning 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!

Vestment Pattern

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 is Nancy Marie Marquette. 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):

Sue's Cassock



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:

I hope you enjoy this website!

Vestment Pattern

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.