August - Just last evening I received a much awaited shipment of linen from Belgium. And so, this morning, I have 50 yards of linen that is 120 inches wide laid out on my 4' X 9' work table. Even though I've done this many time before, I always wonder if it's possible to bring so much fabric into an order that I can use!
This is such an exciting process! This is the first run from last year's flax harvest - brand new and dedicated to our altars!
And, I know that it will be somewhat different from last year's linen - I'll be able to tell that as I work with it and handle it. So far, it feels just a bit firmer than last year's linen. The threads are drawing more readily (this is good!). It takes a lot of time to draw a thread across 120 inches of linen!
The first task is to cut off one yard so I can figure out what the shrinkage factors are. Because I never cut linen off my bolt except upon a drawn thread, this will also give my first squared and tidy end.
The next step will be to measure off 15 yards of the full width and set it aside. I always have a few customers who want some of the full 120 inch width. The remaining 35 yards will be cut to 60 inch width, folded and rolled onto two bolts. I should be able to get this process completed in one day.
So, that's the news from the beautiful Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York - on another gloriously beautiful summer morning in early August.
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!
Church Linens for Altar Cloths, Mass Linens, Credence Cloths and More!
This medallion was done on the back of a white linen chasuble circa 1915. Still in good condition!
By the middle of the last century the craft of sewing our own church linens had become nearly extinct. During the same time period, ready-made linens became extremely costly. It is a privilege and pleasure to have been involved in the revival of the graceful and grace-filled craft of sewing church linens.
I import the linen I offer from Belgium. I've been purchasing the same linen from the same manufacturer for 25 years. The linen is the perfect weight and quality for our fair linens, Mass linens, Communion veils, altar cloths, credence covers - for all liturgical purposes that require the use of fine linen.
If you wish to see a sample, I am happy to provide it to you. You may write or call me - or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Linen has three characteristics that should be of interest to you: quality, weight and density. These characteristics help you evaluate the suitability of a particular type of linen for your project.
Quality is not determined by weight. Linen of substantial weight may be very high quality. Linen that is sheer may be of low quality.
Weight and density are related characteristics. Batiste (sometimes called handkerchief linen) isn't just lighter in weight because its threads are slimmer; the weave is less dense.
'Batiste' is the name we give to sheer linen. 'Cambric' is the name we give to sheer cotton.
Back when I was still attending the conventions of the National Altar Guild Association, there was a lady named Hattie from one of our Florida diocese. Hattie worked primarily in shadow work embroidery on batiste. She made the most lovely chalice veils. (Chalice veils are used instead of the burse and veil. At the offertory, the chalice is brought to the altar vested in purificator, paten and pall with the chalice veil folded on top. The chalice veil is set aside until after Communion. After Communion, the chalice is covered with the chalice veil as an indication to the Altar Guild that the chalice requires tending. The chalice veil is made large enough to cover the chalice completely, with some crushing around the hems.)
I have an old stole protector with a small cross at the center done in shadow work. I've sometimes used this same little cross on purificators. It's simple to work and very light and lovely. It's a four-petaled floral cross. On the front, the outline of the petals are tiny stitches. On the back, are the characteristic criss-cross threads that give the 'shadow' effect. I must get that out and put it up here for you.
If you ask me for a sample of the linen I offer, I'll be happy to send you one. Remember as you compare my sample to the linens in your sacristy, elderly linens become sheer over time. They were heavier when they were new.
My linen contains 141 threads per square inch and weighs 4.4 ounces.
This piece of embroidery is at least 50 years old but is perfectly fresh! It was intended to be used as a chalice pall but was never made into one! The padding of the satin stitch and the detail is remarkable.
As Yardage: $35 / yard - 60 inches wide.
While I have offered the same linen for 25 years, during those years the width has varied. The linen I have available for you today comes to me 120 inches wide. Unless you have an extraordinarily large project, that's too wide for convenient use. The linen I will send is half of that - 60 inches wide.
If you specifically want the 120 inch width, I can usually provide it for you. The cost is $75/yard. (I charge an extra $5/yard because cutting along a drawn thread for 10 feet is very, very time consuming!) All linen yardage comes to you cut along a drawn thread.
Shrinkage varies from bolt to bolt. Any time you order linen from me, I will supply you with the shrinkage factor for the linen - both across the width and along the length. Using these two factors you can determine with great accuracy the amount of extra fabric you need in order to allow for shrinkage. If you know exactly how much the linen will shrink, shrinking before cutting is not a necessity - which makes things much easier!
Just for your information, the shrinkage factors on the bolt I'm using right now are: Width: 1.02 , Length: 1.11. If you want to cut a corporal that is 21 inches square (before hemming), do this:
Width: 21 X 1.02 = 21.42 Round this off to 21 1/4 inches
Length: 21 X 1.11 = 23.31 Round this off to 23 1/4 inches
You would measure the corporal to be 21 1/4 inches along the width of the fabric and 23 1/4 inches across the length of the fabric. When you shrink the piece, it will be 21 inches square.
It's much easier to work with linen while the size is still in it. You need to shrink the piece before hemming, however. If you don't, your stitches will be loose after shrinking.
Purificators - 13" square - $4.50 each
Note: While the pre-cuts will never be smaller than these dimensions, they are sometimes larger.
The skills that we need in order to prepare fair linens for stitching are difficult to acquire - for a couple of reasons: First, the process itself is fairly complex and, as few of us have the opportunity to make more than three or four fair linens in our lifetime, we don't have much opportunity to practice. Second, the laying out process really needs a large, padded surface and the dining room table is too slippery. Not many of us have access to such a work surface. And yet, it seems a shame to deny ourselves the pleasure of sewing fair linens just because we haven't either the skills or the type of work surface we need.
I have the skills and I own a large padded worktable. And, I'll do your preparation for you. Of course, I charge for this service. The cost is $40 for the first two yards (the two ends and mitering the corners) and $12 for each additional yard or portion thereof. Plus the cost of the linen required.
Preparation includes cutting the linen to size (including allowance for shrinkage), turning the hems, mitering the corners and basting. The linen comes to you ready to shrink (simple instructions included), stitch and embroider.
I also prepare credence cloths. The minimum preparation charge is $25.
I used to offer pall kits that included the Plexiglas insert. It's not necessary for me to offer pall kits any more because inserts are readily available, cut to your size, at your local Home Depot-type stores. You'll want to order the .06 thickness. There are instructions for making palls in my book, ' Sewing Church Linens'. The 'trick' for making nice tight palls is not to shrink the linen until after you've completed the pall.
Linen sufficient for a 9 inch pall is $10.
While many of my customers are able to work satin stitch, many more cannot. This outline design for Advent - The rose and Christmas star - demonstrates that a finely worked chain stitch can also produce very lovely designs. This pattern is given in my book, Sewing Church Linens - $18.
The Golden Ruler - $20
This is a must-have item. A couple of years ago, I did a small linen workshop for a Lutheran parish in Grand Island, NY. When I had finished showing the ladies how to use the Golden Ruler, there was quite a bit of comment about how well it worked - except for one lady, who sat there staring at the sample she had just completed. I finally asked her if anything was wrong? Was there something she had not understood?
She looked up at me and said: I've been making the linens for my church for 35 years. Where has this Golden Ruler been all that time?
I recently recommended the Golden Ruler to a customer. A couple of weeks later, she called to tell me: "The Golden Ruler is not a 'product'; it's a public service!"
I have to tell you the story of the Golden Ruler. If you're interested in making linens, it will make you chuckle. When I was just starting to teach, I didn't know how to make linens; I had to teach myself first. And, as I made my first purificators, I discovered that turning up those little hems by hand was TEDIOUS!! And, getting those little hems straight was nearly impossible. And, I thought to myself: "Women have been hemming linen for 10,000 years. Women are too smart not to have figured out a better way than this!" So, I began researching. I looked in the library. I looked is specialized libraries. I contacted textile museums. Although I knew there had to be a helpful method for turning up hems on linen, I could find nothing.
Our sacristy has a set of vestment drawers. The bottom drawer is for the purple set - that we don't use very often. That drawer always made a loud scraping sound whenever it was opened. I always meant to find out why that drawer made that sound. One day, I lay down flat on the floor, pulled the drawer out and reached way back in there. I felt some paper lapped over the back edge of the drawer. When I pulled it out, I discovered that it was a pamphlet, published in 1945 by The Spool Cotton Company . I remember sitting there on the sacristy floor with the sun streaming in through the stained glass windows, reading that pamphlet and thinking: "Thank you, Holy Spirit!"
The technique that makes the Golden Ruler work was in that pamphlet!
What I think happened is this: Linen used to be a commonly used fabric - just like cotton. Women knew how to work with linen. This technique for folding linen hems was so basic that nobody thought it necessary to write it down. That old pamphlet is the ONLY place I have ever seen an explanation of this method for turning hems on linen.
The Golden Ruler not only measures small linen hems to a correct depth, it makes the hem creases. All you have to do is fold and pin and they're ready for stitching. Furthermore, the hems are straight! What a concept! Easy, efficient, excellent!
Thread - $3
Look in your local store before ordering. This is Coats Extra Fine cotton-wrapped poly. It's a very high quality thread; you'll feel it when you use it. And, it's the equivalent of #100. It has a hot pink label on the end. You can probably get it right there in your own town.
Needles - $3.50 per packet.
These are embroidery/crewel needles - you can actually see the eye, so threading is easy! Well, I take that back. It's easy to thread the #10. But, even the very fine cotton/poly thread above is tricky to get through the #12. Order in size #10 or #12 (The #12 is VERY slim!).
Embroidery Floss @ $1 each. This is your basic DMC floss. You can probably get it at your local sewing store.
Pins - 25 for $1.50.
I've offered these pins for years because they have not been available locally. Just recently, Wal-Mart has begun carrying them and so, after I've sold out my inventory, I'll not be offering them anymore. They're made by W.H. Collins, Inc. They are wonderful for use with this linen because they slip right through those little stacked corners without distortion. I wouldn't use anything else.
Here's another 'line design' I like a lot - and use often because it's fun to work. I use it on fair linens, corporals and chalice palls. This pattern appears in my book, Sewing Church Linens, but came originally from the Embroidery Pattern Catalogue.
Sewing Church Linens, by Elizabeth Morgan (that's me!) - $18.
I've tried to include in this book EVERYTHING you need to know in order to construct church linens. It's written for beginners. By that, I mean, I take nothing for granted! I presume that you are as much in the woods as I was when I began this lovely craft.
When I was starting out, there was one author writing about the construction of linens and vestments. Her name was Dame Beryl Dean. So, of course, I purchased her book, expecting to learn everything I needed to know about making linens. Her instructions were pretty much 'Turn up and stitch the hem'. I've found again and again that while 'the experts' may know a lot, they're not real good teachers because they've forgotten what it's like to be a beginner. I haven't forgotten.
In this book, I re-introduce a hemming technique called 'Convent Hemming' that allows us to construct the very small stitches we associate with our communion linens.
Embroidery Pattern Catalogue - $18 each.
This is an historic book It's a copy of a catalogue published in the late 1880s by a British company that manufactured iron-on ecclesiastical embroidery patterns for white work, gold work and satin work. While we can no longer purchase the iron-on patterns, we can use copiers to enlarge or reduce the designs and then trace them or transfer them onto our linens and vestments. There are 150 pages in this catalogue with, literally, thousands of designs - many old, very traditional favorites that we have all seen many times before. (Also good for parish secretaries to use for clip art in bulletins and newsletters.) For easy use the pages are not bound. You can put them in a notebook. I keep mine in a hanging file. This is a remarkable resource. When you open it, I'll be able to hear you squeak all the way to upstate New York! This catalogue is also known as 'The Brown Catalogue'.
Simple Ecclesiastical Embroidery Patterns - $4.
If you don't feel real sure about your embroidery skills and need a bit of support, here are several line designs that will help you. Line designs are meant to be worked with line stitches such as chain, stem and back stitch rather than fill in stitches such as satin stitch (which few of us can do anymore!). Both the IHS and the star and rose design on this page were worked with chain stitch. Both these patterns are included.
Another 'fill in' stitch is called 'seeding' which consists of many, many tiny stitches laid close to one another and at varying angles to each other - sort of like random dots. I've never been good at seeding (mostly because I'm not good at 'random' - my mind wants things in neat rows). I also had not - until recently - realized that each 'seed' contains two stitches. How did I miss that?
Ecclesiastical Crochet Lace Patterns - $12
I've gathered this collection of ecclesiastical lace patterns from a number of crochet pattern books dating from 1906. It's unusual to see so many collected together in one place. I'm glad that I have it to offer.
In the event that your parish prefers to purchase their linens ready-made, may I suggest that you
purchase them from St. Margaret's Convent. These linens are constructed by Haitian women and your purchase helps support St. Margaret's ministries to children and aged women in Haiti. I recommend these linens to you as being beautifully constructed and embroidered using the same quality linen that is offered here.
Please keep in mind that Haiti has undergone - and continues to undergo - severe trials and tribulations. You order will mean a lot to them. Please be patient; it may take a bit longer than usual for your order to be filled.
To place an order, write: St. Margaret's Convent, 17 Highland Park St., Boston, MA, 02119 or call: (617) 445-8961 . Ask to speak to Sister Claire Marie and please tell her that Bunny sends her love.
November 2011 - I'm sorry to tell you that this project has been discontinued. The trials and tribulations became too great to bear. I am in hopes that we can start it up again.
This is one of the hundreds of patterns for whitework shown in the Embroidery Pattern Catalogue.
I would like to draw your attention to a wonderful supplier called Lacis. Lacis carries EVERYTHING to do with fiber crafts. I recommend that you visit this link and that you acquire their catalogue - fascinating reading and you'll want to keep it around as a useful resource. The people at Lacis are a joy to work with. If you are one of those rare people who are actually capable of doing satin stitch, Lacis supplies all weights of floche. If you've been trying to learn how to do satin stitch and wondered why it is so difficult, try using floche rather than the 6 strand embroidery floss. Floche may not solve all your difficulties but, it will help.
I wish I were a more professional photographer for you! Both of these embroideries are exquisitely done. The one on the left is a pall. The work is highly skilled and highly sophisticated. The one on the right is a corporal. The work is also highly skilled but delightfully unsophisticated. These two embroideries hang on the wall over my desk. I can't decide which I love more!
Throughout my 30 years of enjoying this ministry, a major, driving concern has been that we should not lose these crafts. I've always had that concern. Years and years ago, I taught myself to spin - not so much because I wanted to make my own yarn (although that's wonderful!) but because I could not bear the thought that we might lose the knowledge of how to use these lovely and fascinating machines - spinning wheels! Of course, now-a-days, the craft of spinning is alive and well without any help from me! (And, because I didn't have anyone to teach me the 'finer points', to this day, I still spin backwards - but, my yarn works just the same. So, that's ok.)
The people I've worked with all these years have, from time to time, been kind enough to pay me the compliment of saying that I'm so 'artistic' or that, I'm so 'creative'. I've always been very uncomfortable with those kind complements because I know, for sure, that I am neither artistic nor creative. And then, I realized that the Holy Spirit - all those years ago - wasn't looking for someone who was artistic and creative - that would come later. The Holy Spirit clearly wanted these crafts revived. At that time, He didn't need someone who was artistic and creative; He needed someone who is a competent artisan and wildly inventive. That's me!
But, that work is done now. Today, we have the lovely linen we need; we've found the beautiful patterns again; we've reclaimed the techniques and methods. Now we're ready for the creative artists! That's you!