3/30/12: I have begun to stock an inventory of the damasks, brocades and tapestries.
This means that the fabrics I have in inventory are HERE! In the United States! We don't have to pay UPS to ship them to us from England! Oh, joy!
Here's the list:
Venetian Tapestry - green predominant
Aragon Tapestry - red predominant
St. Nicholas - blue
St. Nicholas - gold
Fairford - black/silver brocade
Winchester - rose
Winchester - violet and violet/silvery
Winchester - green
Ely Crown - black
Ely Crown - deep red (Holy Week red)
Ely Crown - green
Fleur Rose - white/gold
Wakefield - white/gold
Wakefield - green/gold
That's 'The List'. It's interesting. What this list cannot tell you is what I see! I bought these fabrics because of their potential. Every single one of them is particularly useful. There are others that I'd like to have - and will get, when I can. But, this group pleases me a lot.
For instance! That green Winchester? You cannot BELIEVE how wonderful it is combined with the green/gold Wakefield!!!!!! The colors meld - that's the best word I can think of! And then, I was going through my trims and the PERFECT galloon popped out. And then, I was going through my fringes and the PERFECT shade of green was right there! I love it when that happens! If a green set is a coming project for you, I suggest you take a look at these samples.
But, here's the important thing: A set of vestments made with the green Winchester as the major fabric is going to be fairly expensive - Winchester is $80/yard. But! That green/gold Wakefield is ALSO beautiful with the green polyester that costs $15/yard. Is that good?!
Once again, let me remind you of my belief that the beauty of our vestments depends upon excellence of design and the quality of our workmanship. I don't care how much money you throw at a set of vestments, if your design isn't right or your workmanship is shabby, the quality of the vestments will suffer.
How skillful do you need to be in order to construct vestments competently? Intermediate. For the most part, vestments are simple garments and paraments are simple hangings. The actual sewing is not difficult or complex. You need to know how to adjust your sewing machine's tensions - both upper and lower - to allow for various thicknesses. The other thing you need to know are 'the tricks of the trade'. That's what my books and patterns are all about: telling you the tricks of the trade; helping you to see the orderly progression from design through construction to completion of each project. That's my ministry - to help you with that.
I want you to keep this in mind as you look at this page titled: 'Fabrics'. I know all these fabrics; I've worked with them and have been pleased with the way they handle and the results they have produced for me. I offer only the liturgical colors and I offer them in a wide range of shades. My fabrics are designed to span the price spectrum for you. The cost of these fabrics range from $15/yard to $200/yard.
I want to help you produce lovely, handsome, high quality vestments that are financially suitable to your requirements. So, let's begin looking at fabrics and how they can be used to meet our needs.
I offer three types of fabrics: Polyester ($15/yard), Dupioni Silk ($15 and $20/yard) and the great damasks, brocades and tapestries ($40 - $200/yard).
Polyester ($15/yard) - This is a simple, plain-weave fabric, 60 inches wide that has never let me down - it's my 'work-horse' fabric. Absolutely dependable. It comes in white, off-white, Pentecost red, dark forest green, medium grass green, Roman purple, violet and rose. All these colors are the true liturgical shades.
Using a moderately priced base-fabric and then shooting the moon on decoration is often done. I think of this good polyester as 'the little black dress' that can be dressed up or dressed down. It will support embroidery or cross-stitch well. Orphreys of pieced or appliqued quilting are wonderful and require talent and skill - but not much money. The cotton velveteens are not expensive and come in wondrous shades (I've always thought that the J.B.Martin upholstery weight cotton velvets are great).
Or, you can take the polyester all the way up and decorate it using one of the great tapestries for orphreys. In addition to the tapestries, there are any number of damasks and brocades you can use: St. Margaret gives wide, seven-inch, orphreys centered on roses and comes in luscious deep green/gold, red/gold, black/gold and blue/gold. For almost half the cost of St. Margaret, Evesham is one of the most useful of the brocades, coming in white, red, green purple blue and gold. And now, of course, I have both the green/gold and white/gold Wakefields. There's the lovely violet/silvery Winchester. The deep red Ely Crown is perfect on the bright, Pentecost red polyester. (I could go on and on and on and on!)
Sometimes we need to produce vestments quickly - without spending huge amounts of time on them (for our children's camps that haven't a sacristy or for a special Sunday School production, or Christmas pagent for instance). While my Simple + Beautiful techniqe works well with most fabrics, it works especially well with the smooth surface of this polyester. If you use a metallic lame', the effect is of painted-on liquid gold or silver. We needed a glorious mitre for St. Nicholas a few years ago. I reached for this polyester and did amazing things with golden lame'! Simple + Beautiful.
This good polyester is a solid starting point if you're thinking about your first chasuble or super-frontal or chalice veil. For your first effort, there's no sense scaring yourself half to death by using expensive fabric (as happened to me all those years ago!).
I recommend this fabric to you.
Dupioni Silk (44 inch - $15/yard, 54 inch - $20/yard) - Entirely different fabric. It's nubby and, instead of being a bit drapey, Dupioni has a crispness to it. Being silk, it has a soft 'glow' - not shiny like satin - a real 'glow'. The colors tend to be 'luscious'. Many of the colors are woven of one color along the warp and another color along the weft; this causes the fabric to change shades, depending on where you're standing. It's an odd sensation. If you piece this fabric length to width, the difference in shade is often quite dramatic. Here's a photograph of a prototype stole:
You could cut a chasuble along the length of the fabric and cut the orphrey along the width. Interesting effect!
Dupioni makes wonderful stoles! The colors are so true and the lovely sheen is just right.
My inventory of Dupioni Silk is quite wide: Dark green, medium green, moss green, a vivid blue, rose, Pentecost red, Holy Week red, white, off-white, magenta (Roman purple), violet, black, silver, wedding-ring gold, old gold.
To my mind, there is no fabric better suited for copes than Dupioni Silk - the crisp body cannot be beat because it makes the cope 'alive'. (You should not line a Dupioni cope because the lining will damp down the crispmess.) For orphreys, again - there's almost no end to your choices! Here's a picture a customer sent me of a perfectly lovely design - look at the quilting for the orphreys! Is this lovely, or what?
For chasubles, Dupioni is a bit too crisp. Chasubles need to be drapier. We handle this by rinsing or washing the Dupioni; which takes some of the crispness out. I had one customer who simply put the whole piece of fabric through the washer - and it did just fine. I'm not quite that brave! I rinse it in the sink. Of course, it wrinkles but irons out easily. The color will run but the change in shade is barely noticeable. The thing I like most about Dupioni chasubles is the the way those luscious colors work together. Last year, I had a customer design and construct a powerful Holy Week chasuble in the deep, wine red Dupioni with black orphreys and lined it with the old gold. Amazing! Elizabeth Smith embroidered a crucifix with a border of thorns. I was fortunate to have that chasuble in my workroom for a few days. It was a powerful presence.
Dupioni is a good thing - as Martha would say.
My polyester and silk samples are sent on request - without charge.
I want you to see a photograph of a lovely stole that was sent to me by the customer who designed it -
I love to receive photographs of your work!
Why is it that we value the liturgical damasks, brocades and tapestries? Where do they come from? Who is manufacturing them? What is their fiber content?
Because these fabrics have been known and loved for generations, they have come to be accepted by all our Christian denominations as our 'traditional liturgical fabrics'.
Over the years, many, many patterns have been designed. Some have been discontinued, some that were discontinued are being woven again. To my knowledge, M. Perkins offers the largest selection of traditional liturgical patterns - in a full range of repeat sizes - from 4 inch to 20 inch.
The traditional fabrics I offer are all imported from the manufacturer, M. Perkins & Son, in England. I invite you to visit their website: www.MPerkins.co.uk.
This collection of Perkins fabrics is extrordiary because of their high quality. but also because there are so many. Usually, you see only a few. And, for the most part, the few that you are shown are of similar repeat sizes.
Let me define what I mean by the terms 'damask', 'brocade' and 'tapestry': A 'damask' is all one color with the pattern woven in. A 'brocade' is the same thing except that the pattern is picked out in a metallic thread - gold or silver. A 'tapestry' is a multi-colored fabric.
While the photographs shown below show what the patterns look like, they cannot represent the actual colors. Wonderful though the Internet is, it does not transmit colors accurately. The green I see on my screen may be entirely different from the green you see on your screen.
Also keep in mind that most of these fabrics come in all of the liturgical colors. Just because Ely Crown is shown in green doesn't mean that Ely Crown comes ONLY in green. Ely Crown comes also in a great wine red, a creamy white and a rich violet. The same is true of all the other patterns.
Some of the photographs are deceptive. A good example is the fabric 'Wakefield'. This fabric contains a great deal of gold (which does not show in the photo). Wakefield is a truly gorgeous fabric - and you'd never know it from the photo. Wakefield is reversible and the two sides look entirely different. One side is mainly gold with a soft appearance. The other side is literally brilliant with the dominant color of the fabric vibrant against the gold.
The photographs also cannot show the differences in repeat size. While the size of the Chelmsford pattern appears to be similar to that of St. Nicholas, the Chelmsford repeat is 7 1/2 inches and the St. Nicholas repeat is 27 inches.
You also cannot see the shades of the colors in these photographs. The St. Nicholas shade of green is very different from the Fairford shade of green and the St. Margaret shade is different from both.
If you want to see better pictures of these fabrics, go to the M. Perkins & Son website at: www.MPerkins.co.uk
Now that I've told you what these photographs are not good foor, let me suggest what they are good for:
It's my experience that we've become accustomed to seeing only a few ecclesiastical fabric patterns - the 'standards' of Agnus Dei, Ely Crown, Tudor Rose, Normandy and the Coronation tapestry. These photos give you an excellent opportunity to view many other handsome, traditional liturgical patterns.
Designing Vestments Using the Traditional Fabrics:
Please remember what I believe: The beauty of our vestments depends upon excellence of design and the quality of our workmanship; not upon how much money we spend.
The process of designing vestments follows an orderly and useful progression. The early part of the design process involves knowing the answers to three questions:
3. Scale/repeat size.
Budget: The first thing you need to do is determine how much you want to spend: How much the entire project will cost. There's no sense looking at $200/yard fabric if your budget is telling you $40/yard. That's just silly.
Color: Once you've set your budget, you need to decide which color you'll be using. Our liturgical colors are a significant consideration for vestment makers. The more we understand about our color traditions, the richer our designs will be liturgically. As we begin to speak about vestment construction, I'd like you to take a few minutes to visit a very special website that discusses our liturgical colors. This site was put up by a priest in my diocese and I think he did an excellent job with it. I hope you enjoy it and find it as useful and informative as I have.
Scale: This has to do with the size of the repeat and its relationship to the vestments you will be constructing. If you are designing only a stole, you'll want to settle on a pattern that is small (Chelmsford or Ely Crown, for instance). But, if you're also making the chasuble to go with the stole, you'll want to choose a pattern that is larger because a small pattern on a large area will tend to look busy - the scale will be wrong and the vestment will appear unbalanced. In this case, you might consider Fairford or Winchester or St. Margaret or Florence. If you're going to construct a large frontal (and you can afford it!), you'll want to look at St. Nicholas with its 27 inch repeat - or, Florence is wonderful for frontals.
So: Long before you even think of looking at fabric samples, you should have made these three decisions - Budget, Color, Scale. When you can give me that information, I know immediately which samples you need to see.
(I not infrequently receive a request to 'Send me a sample of every fabric you have in all the colors available'. Gracious! I can't do that! The expense quite aside, I'd spend half my life cutting!)
What are samples good for? What should samples tell you?
1. Shade: Samples will show you the shade of the color. There are many shades of most of the liturgical colors. White is not white. Green is not green. You need to see the shades available to you so you can decide which shade of the color will work best in your worship space. A large, brightly lit worship space will respond differently to the shade of a color than will a more intimate space that is softly lit. This is an issue you cannot consider until you have samples in your hands. (And, of course, you can only make these decisions standing in the middle pews. You can't 'see' how the shade will 'work' if you're looking at it from 12 inches away - or sitting at your kitchen table! People forget that.(
2. Hand: Samples will let you feel the 'hand' of the fabric. I probably don't have to tell you how important it is to really 'feel' a fabric. Not being able to hold the fabric in our hands is a major problem with purchasing over the Internet.
I do request a sample deposit of $25 for samples of these traditional fabrics. This deposit will be refunded to you when my samples come home to me. Or, you may put the deposit toward a purchase.
Cost: Let's talk a bit more about cost: These traditional fabrics cost more than my polyesters and silks. The prices begin at around $30/yard and top out at about $200/yard.
In addition to the cost of these fabrics must be added the cost of importing them from England - which is an interesting experience, what with bank transfers, bank fees and Customs. I find I know a great deal more about this area of life than I ever thought I wanted to know! But! Where there's a will, there's a way!
In order to reduce the cost of importing, I have begun to develop an inventory - bringing over 20 yards of fabric at a time.
Obviously, I could spend (easily!) $100,000 stocking a bolt of every color of every fabric! I cannot do that. I can, however, choose fabrics that answer a spectrum of needs in as many of the liturgical colors as possible. I'm doing that.
(I am also blessed to have access to bolt ends and seconds.)
As you come to consider your vestment projects, I'd like you to know what fabrics I have here, in the US; fabrics you can purchase without having to pay the cost of bringing fabrics over in individual orders. At this time (3/29/12), I have these fabrics:
Many parishes are able and happy to spend a great deal of money on their vestments. Many are not - and yet, would love to use these fabrics. And, this is possible! I often help people design lovely vestments in which the major fabric is one of the silks or polyesters and a small amount of one of the traditional fabrics is used for decoration. The effect is excellent! You will see this design used often in the ready-made vestment catalogues.
For more information about the individual fabrics, please contact me at email@example.com and request the Online Fabric Catalogue. I will send you this catalogue by email attachment. This catalogue will allow you to go back to the photographs and examine them with better information. From here, we can go forward to consider which samples are appropriate for your project.
I know my fabrics. I've used these fabrics for decades. They're good friends of mine. Let me help you with your decision making process. If you will give me your decisions about these three things, I can make your fabric decision so much easier - and, a great deal more efficient.
Budget, Color, Scale
Here they are! I hope you enjoy them!
Click on any thumbnail image to view an enlarged
photo of the pattern
Keep in mind that I often have remnants and, when I have something that may be appropriate for your project, I will suggest them to you.
From time to time, I also have substantial short bolts of fabrics available. The good thing about them is that they are already in the United States; you don't have the shipping costs from England. At this very moment in time, I have yardage of red St. Margaret and red Ely Crown.
Also keep in mind that I can help you with trims and fringes too.