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I would like you to go to this link:

Thank you, Anne, for bringing this lovely article to my attention!

There is more important vestment information on the ‘Embroidery’ page – don’t miss it!

Ultimately: The beauty of our vestments is determined not by cost but by the excellence of of our design and the competence of our workmanship. The use of rich, luscious (expensive!) fabrics is only one way to achieve beauty.


Chasuble Design With Notes on the Gothic Style

I think it’s about time we had a serious discussion about chasuble design.  I’ve just spent several months doing this research and I believe I have some good stuff to report.  I’ve taken chasuble design from the ancient Greek/Roman ‘paenula’ through the very wide chasubles – in excess of usual fabric width.  My consideration has primarily centered upon the effects of angled shoulder seams.

The paenula (or its more modern adaptation, the conical chasuble) was/is constructed of one, single semi-circular piece – exactly the same pattern utilized for a semi-circular cope except that copes are left open at the center seam.  The angle of the shoulder seam in such a design is, necessarily, 45 degrees.  As anyone (especially a larger person) who has worn a semi-circle cope will tell you, wearing 45 degrees around your shoulders binds your elbows securely to your waist.  Rule #1. A 45 degree angle for chasuble shoulder seams is TOO MUCH!!

Now, here’s the thing about paenulas:  Anyone who has researched the history of the development of chasubles from ancient times has seen drawings and descriptions of paenulas – goodness knows, I have!  And, these drawings always look roomier than the descriptions say they must be.  I mean, a 180 degree SEMI-circle is going to fold in half to 90 degrees!  A 90 degree garment is NOT going to be roomy!  So, I found a piece of fabric in my stash and made one.  Here is yours truly in her paenula.  Note the degree of angle at the shoulders is a predictable 45 degrees.






And, here is a picture of a very nice conical chasuble worn by its owner, Father Bass.  The conical chasuble is exactly the same as a paenula!:

Note:  I’m a smallish person – 5 feet and 115 pounds.  My paenula does not bind across my shoulders.  This conical chasuble find across Father’s shoulders.


 Now then:  The problem with this arrangement is not just the binding at the shoulders (that you can see), it’s also that it’s hard for the priest to know how to get their hands outside.  Looking at the picture below, he’s got his hands out – notice the very curved draping folds – highly prized by those who appreciate conical chasubles.  You can see the same curved draping pattern in the statue – very characteristic of conicals.

Here’s the trick to getting the hands out:  A small cross embroidered at the best place for the hands to emerge from the edge of the chasuble.  Here’s the process for doing so (with a little help from the dog, Marigold, at his left foot):



This established for me that a 45 degree angle just won’t do.  My paenula does not bind across my shoulders at all but, I’m a smallish person – the ancient Greeks were smaller people too.  Father Bass is larger than I am and, you can see, his conical chasuble does bind at the upper arms below the shoulders.

Well, if a 45 degree shoulder seam slant is too great, what works?  So, I took a coupon over to my local JoAnn’s and purchased a 25 yard bolt of 45 inch wide muslin that had good body to it – and started making chasubles.  I am not going to expose you to any more peculiar pictures of yours truly.  While my seven chasubles were helpful to me – my shoulders are too small to give useful information.  The information you need is online on the websites of of our ready-made vestment houses.  I’m giving you only two these because the difference is so clear.  Once you understand what I’m saying, you will see it always – and make your own decisions about slanted shoulder seams and what degree of slant pleases you and works best for your clergy.  straight shoulder seams  angled shoulder seams

The problem with straight shoulder seams is – the shoulders of the person wearing the chasuble stop!  Shoulders do not continue all the way out to the edge of the chasuble!  You may not have noticed this!  Or, if you had noticed it, you didn’t realize that it makes any difference whether the shoulders come to an end or WHERE they come to an end!  I’d never thought of it – until I started in on my chasuble odyssey.

At the point where the shoulders end (the ‘point’ of the shoulder), the chasuble WILL drop off, fold down.  I guarantee this; it has something to do with gravity.  At that drop point, fabric will build up and form a bunch.

Both of these chasubles have straight shoulder seams – see the bunching at the shoulder break?







This red chasuble has slanted shoulder seams – do you see how the position of Father Hunter’s arms are causing the slant to pull a bit?  With his arms at rest, there is very little bunching – even though this chasuble is made of heavy fabric with stout lining.






I think this is all really interesting information.  The next question is: How to utilize this information – EASILY!

Because I was figuring angles, I had to refresh my knowledge of protractors (got pretty good at it too!).  I discovered that a 30 degree angle works – and is about as far as I would go; it’s better for smaller people than larger people.  There’s an easier way!  My partner in crime, Sue Newman, just drops the shoulder seam at the outside edge by 2 or 3 inches and angles down from the neck edge.  She stitches the shoulder seam all the way across and cuts and finishes the neck opening.  She marks a point on the shoulder seam that is 1 1/2 or 2 inches outside the neck opening and another mark (or pin) 2 or 3 (or more) inches down from the shoulder seam on the outside edge and cuts along that line (allowing for the seam allowance between cutting point and neck edge.  Stitch the new shoulder seam.  Beginning the slant 1 1/2 – 2 inches outside the neck edge prevents interference between the seam allowance of the neck edge and shoulder seam.

Personally?  I doubt very much that I will ever again build a straight shoulder seam chasuble.  Because:

  1. There is very little visual difference between a straight shoulder seam chasuble and one made with a moderately slanted shoulder seam.
  2. Straight shoulder seams limit who can wear the chasuble.  Straight shoulder seams may ‘work’ on large people.  The same chasuble worn by an average or smaller person will be bunchy and awkward at the shoulder points.
  3. Especially if your chasuble is designed with an exterior facing, the additional layer of fabric will bunch worse.

Quite a number of newly popular chasuble styles (St. Philip Nieri and St.Boromeo and all the ‘Roman’ (fiddlebacks) utilize slanted shoulders.  The ‘Gothic’ style, traditionally, has both slanted shoulders AND comes to a soft point at the center front and back hems (Linda Hall, in her book, Making Eucharistic Vestments on a Limited Budget gives an excellent method for forming the soft point).

Mentioning the Gothic style of chasuble also brings to mind the issue of Y orphreys (another characteristic of the Gothic style).  The arms of the Y may be placed either inside or outside the point of the shoulder.  (The point at which the arms meet the central pillar should be above the waist.)  Smaller people do better with the Y arms placed inside the point of the shoulder.  Wider shoulders can ‘carry’ the Y arm outside the point of the shoulder.  However!  Widely placed Y orphrey arms WILL be disrupted by the bunching of a straight shoulder seam!  Count on it!

I would also mention this about chasuble patterns: Seriously consider the question of whether you need one or not.

  1. Just about every vestment maker I know has developed their own, personal neck opening shape that they use on every chasuble.
  2. The salient measurements for any chasuble are length and width (the neck opening generally is centered, right?).
  3. The shape of the curve of the outer edge can be anything you want.  A long, straight drop from shoulder seam to the beginning of the curve shortens the amount of curved hem you need to deal with.
  4. Take a look at this blue chasuble from Watts – that matches the frontal in our Cathedral Lady’s Chapel.  The front and back are different shapes.  At the shoulder seam, the front gets narrower.  At the shoulder seam, the back gets more circular.


You can see (barely) that the front and back come together at the outside edge of the shoulder seam at an angle.  This angle lies on the priest’s wrist in the shape of a V.


When people ask me for a chasuble pattern, I usually tell them to ask their priest to show them their favorite chasuble – and tell why they like it so much.  Take a pattern from that – it’s easy enough to copy off a 1/4 shape.  When I took the pattern for this blue chasuble, I copied both the front and the back.  Easy enough.

But, think about making your own patterns!  Really!  While chasuble construction takes some skill, chasuble shapes are not rocket science.


I have a customer, Barbara, who is working with a parish that has experienced a substantial change in demographics to which she wanted to be responsive.  Many parishes are having the same experience.  She has built a substantial set of vestments for this parish – with an extremely limited budget.  As you can see, this worship space is contemporary, linear and rigid with strongly colored leaded glass













Left side view

It would have been so easy for Barbara to respond to this setting with strong, vibrant colors that emphasized and expanded what is already there.  She didn’t do that.  In her own words, Barbara ‘welcomed in’ the strong colors of the windows and the linear shapes and at the same time, the vestments and paraments she designed soften this worship space.  Nothing has changed and yet the whole space has become more graceful and welcoming and interesting.  Subtle.  Handsome.

Main AltarMain ambo









This banner is 22 feet long.

22 foot side banner22 foot banner view 2








Here are the vestments:

Front of chasubleDeacon set








In all, Barbara constructed: Chasuble/stole sets for 2 priests (one is 5′ 7″ and the other is 6′ 4″)  and one dalmatic/stole set for the deacon, the main altar and pulpit pieces, the 22′ banner, two 9’ banners for the back of church on either side of the baptismal font; a piece for both the chapel altar and ambo that are similar to the main altar and ambo and a few things not yet done:  a piece for the gift table and an absolutely beautiful Creation Banner to hang on the completely blank brick side wall of the little chapel where daily Mass is said. (We don’t have these pictures – yet!)

This is a huge body of work.  I wanted you to see it because I believe it’s remarkable.


You know by now that it has been my ministry to reclaim the crafts of making our own vestments and making our own linens.  For 30 years, I’ve worked toward this goal and watched it happen.  I want to give you two pieces of information – one about neck openings for chasubles and the other about laying down orphreys.

Chasuble Neck Openings –  There are two questions here:

When do you cut the neck opening?

Do you cut the front separate from the back?

I don’t cut the neck opening until I’m ready to work the neck opening because the neck opening is bias cut and it’s gonna stretch.  Why cut it until you’re ready to work on it?  The first thing I do is stitch the shoulder seams – all the way across – and press open.  The next thing I do is stabilize the outer edge curve – because it’s bias cut.  Embroidery and/or orphreys come next.

If you’ve already stitched the shoulder seam all the way across, you mark and cut the neck opening as one piece – a single cut.

We have to have a pattern for this and the pattern is really important!  For flat neck chasubles, the neck opening circumference should be 25 – 27 inches.  Everyone who makes chasubles has a neck opening shape that is oval and 25 – 27 inches in circumference.  This pattern is usually an oval.  My pattern is made out of paste board.  The pattern should be marked with two lines – the center front/back line and the line of the shoulder seam (which tells you how much of the neck opening shape lies in front of the shoulder seam and how much lies in back).

Now then, here’s what’s REALLY important about your neck opening pattern:  The biggest mistake we make with neck openings is cut them too large.  We call this ‘the peasant blouse effect’; the neck opening is so large that it might fall off the shoulder at any minute.  This mistake happens because the neck shape pattern has been incorrectly drawn.

Do not include the seam allowance depth in your neck opening pattern.    If you include the seam allowance on your pattern, sure as God made little green apples, you will cut along that line!  The result will be instant ‘peasant blouse effect’.  Do you see the problem?  On neck openings the cutting line and stitching lines are reversed.  The outside edge of your neck opening pattern should be the cutting line.  You will stitch 5/8 inch inside of it.  It’s as though the seam allowances are ‘built in’.   (I have a lot of trouble visualizing this because I’m slightly spatially dyslectic – it makes my mind turn to mush.)

Laying Down Orphreys – There are two kinds of orphreys: Ready- made and ‘Do It Yourself’.

The ready-mades come with nicely finished edges; all you have to do is stitch each side (both in the same direction) and, voila!

DIY orphreys are cut from a handsome fabric, stitched in place (very straight) and then the raw edges are covered with decorative trim (called ‘galloon’).  Both edges of the galloon are stitched (both in the same direction.  Do the math:  That’s a total of 6 stitched seams.

Six seams, all stitched within a narrow space, is going to cause a phenomenon called ‘take-up’.  Every row of stitching ‘takes up’ a tiny bit of length – not much; one seam is not enough to make any difference.  The cumulative effect of six seams stitched close together, however, causes a noticeable amount of take-up.  Enough to be a problem!  Take-up will leave your top and bottom chasuble seam allowances scant.  On a frontal, the bottom hem will be scalloped at the orphreys.  I see this on the frontals in my Cathedral.

The problem of take-up is avoided by pre-making the orphreys – applying the entire orphrey all at once, using only two rows of stitching.  Cut the orphrey fabric and stitch the galloons on the edges (very straight!).  Stitch the entire orphrey to the vestment – using only two rows of stitching.  (Thank you, Sue Newman!)

A helpful notion in this process is Dritz Temporary Spray Adhesive (a very light spray, please!  ‘Tacky; is good.  We’re not trying to fuse).

Cowls for Chasubles – A little ‘editorial’ here concerning the cowl necks we sometimes use on chasubles – dalmatics too.  Church Linens is now offering an excellent cowl pattern – $20.  Included are patterns for both a folded cowl and a simple collar.  Both are one-piece, bias cut and have no seam allowance around the outer edge to add bulk.

Cowl necks are a fairly recent addition to chasubles brought about by the advent of the cassock-alb – first invented in the 1950s.  Prior to the invention of the cassock-alb, clergy utilized the combination of alb and amice, worn over a cassock.  The ‘cassock-alb’ replace the combination of alb and cassock – one vestment in place of two.

At issue is the question of whether the cassock-alb is adequate to the job.  I happen to think not.

First, the amice ensured that skin oils did not stain our valuable vestments.  The washable linen or cotton/poly amice served to protect the vestment fabric around the neck opening from contact with the skin – and abrasion by the beard.  I recently spent some time looking at the lovely (and very valuable) chasubles in my Cathedral and lamented the staining and wear around the neck openings.  It is my humble opinion that – if only for the sake of good stewardship – clergy should make the sacrifice of using an amice any time they vest in an expensive chasuble.  (I’m also enthusiastic about stole protectors – which Church Linens also offers.)

A second function of the amice was to attractively ‘finish’ the chasuble neck opening – the same way a lovely scarf ‘finishes’ the neckline of a dress or jacket or coat.  The puffy folds of the amice fill the chasuble neck opening.  Without an amice to finish at the neck, the chasuble neck opening looks ‘gappy’.  We’ve become so accustomed to open neck openings that we don’t see this gappiness.  (Now that I’ve mentioned it to you, you’ll see it all the time!)  The stole doesn’t fit well in the neck opening.  There really is no way to structure a chasuble neck opening so that it contains the stole properly.  I am seeing open-neck chasubles with an invisible zipper inserted into the inner edge of the shoulder seam – which allows the neck opening to be made smaller.  This looks very nice!  It helps!

Cowl collars do not protect the chasuble from skin oil staining.  Cowl collars do, however, deal with gappiness at the neck.

One would think that a cowl collar involves inserting a cowl into your 25 – 27 inch chasuble neck opening shape.  Nope!  Adding a cowl collar requires a larger neck opening.

Which brings up the issue of neck openings – size and shape.  There are at least 8 million different neck opening sizes and shapes!  At least!

Size: It’s my experience that the circumference of an open chasuble neck should be no more than 25 to 27 inches.  (The most frequent chasuble construction mistake is the too-large neck opening – which makes the chasuble look like a peasant blouse that might slip off the shoulders at any moment.)

Shape: How much of the neck opening goes in front of the shoulder seam and how much goes in back?  Should the front dip way down?  Or not?  Should the neck opening be more circular or more oval?


Our Liturgical Colors

Our liturgical colors are a significant consideration for vestment makers. The more we understand about our color traditions, the richer our designs will be. As we begin to speak about vestment construction, I’d like you to take a few minutes to visit an excellent website that discusses our liturgical colors. This site was put up by a priest in my diocese and I think he did an outstanding job with it. I hope you enjoy it and find it as useful and informative as I have.

If you are thinking about learning to make vestments, I’d recommend that you ‘surf around’ and look at the designs that are available ‘out there’. I’d suggest that you pay particular attention to the vestments you DO NOT like! Figure out WHY you don’t like them. You might even begin a file of vestments you find of interest – and a file of vestments you don’t care for at all! You’ll learn a lot very quickly.


Robes, Albs, Amices and Surplices


The two most frequently seen robes are the Roman cassock (the one with 33 buttons up the front) and the Cassock-Alb – sometimes called the Anglican cassock.  The pattern for the Roman cassock is available from Butterick.  I think I am the only one offering a pattern for the cassock-alb.

The Cassock-Alb – Pattern – $40


It used to be that our clergy wore a black cassock as their street clothes. For religious services, a surplice and stole were worn over the cassock. Or, if the Eucharist was to be celebrated, in place of the surplice, clergy vested in an alb and amice.

The alb is a white ‘night-gown’ sort of a vestment with a simple neck opening that either buttons or ties. The amice is a ‘scarf’ made of a white linen or cotton/poly. When properly put on, the amice settles around the neck in puffy folds that give an attractive ‘finish’ to the neck of chasubles. The amice also serves to protect beautiful vestments from being stained and damaged by skin oils, make up and beard abrasion.

Then, in the 1950s a new invention appeared!  The Cassock-Alb!  Now, we all know how strongly the Church resists new inventions!  But!  Because the cassock-alb was a such a huge convenience, it instantly became wildly popular among the clergy!  This popularity was so instantaneous that the alb and amice vesture disappeared almost over night.  To demonstrate to you how completely the alb and amice disappeared, I recommend that you go to your web browser and look up ‘Alb and Amice’.  While you’ll find lots of sites, you will not find any pictures that clearly show what the two look like when worn properly together!  Nor will you find the simple directions telling how to put on an amice.

I find this amazing!

The cassock-alb replaces the alb and amice combination.  It serves as a cassock. The finished neck (badly) replaces the amice.  One, single vestment takes the place of two vestments. Cassock-albs are convenient.

Cassock-albs were invented in the 1950s. The first pattern appeared in Beryl Dean’s books. Cassock-albs worn by clergy are usually white or off-white but are sometimes seen in gray or light blue. The same pattern made up in black fabric is called an ‘Anglican Cassock’ (as opposed to the Roman Cassock with the 33 buttons up the front).

Its convenience literally catapulted the cassock-alb into instant success and has gone on to be utilized not only by all manner of clergy but also by servers, acolytes, lectors, vergers and choir – just about everybody wears a cassock-alb (except Dean Kriss who calls them ‘the dreaded cassock-alb’).

Because just about everybody wears a cassock-alb, my pattern is a ‘Master Pattern’, containing 4 patterns: Child’s medium, two adult sizes and an extra-large. My intent is to allow parish seamstresses to generate a suite of patterns to fit everyone – from smallest acolyte to largest server.

This Master pattern set gives you the information you need to adjust the size properly. Children’s patterns aren’t just smaller than adult patterns; the proportions are different. The same is true of extra-large. You need to see how the proportions vary and my patterns give you that information – as well as patterns for both hood and stand-up collar.
As you can see from the pictures, the cassock-alb pattern is double-breasted: There are two fronts; one of which crosses under and attaches inside the opposite shoulder; the other front crosses over and attaches outside of the opposite shoulder. The outside attachment may be Velcro or two covered buttons – for a more ‘custom’ appearance. Cassock-albs may be worn straight, with a rope cincture or with a wide ‘cummerbund’. (People who wear a large jacket size are ill advised to use a rope cincture or cummerbund; better to leave the slimming pleats to hang freely.) The cassock-alb neck opening may be a stand-up clergy-type collar or a hood.

The cassock-alb fashion statement is the four pleats that extend from the shoulder seams all the way to the hem. (Actually, there are only 3 pleats; the front edge placement gives the appearance of a fourth pleat.) Slender people wear a cincture well. Cinctures tend to make us larger or hippy folk look like bags tied in the middle. Good liturgy does not require that we use cinctures that cause us to not look our best!

The cassock-alb pattern is so useful within our parishes that I should think these patterns would be given out to clergy upon graduation from seminary.

Keep in mind that the cassock-alb does not give the protection from skin oils, make up and beard abrasion given by the alb and amice combination. If you have valuable vestments, it’s advisable for clergy to set aside their cassock-albs when those important vestments are used.

Fabrics for Cassock-Albs:

My 60 inch polyester ($17/yard) works well for cassock-albs. It’s wrinkle-free and holds a crease nicely (I do prefer top-stitching those pleats). Colors are white, off-white, deep blue, violet, Roman purple, rose, dark green, medium green.

A number of my customers have used the Sew Classic Amaretto from JoAnn’s. I find that it pulls a bit. There is another fabric which a number of my customers are trying out. This is a 45 inch 100% silk broadcloth! Go to Enter the product #019C-000 for the winter white or #019C-154 for black. Take notes and report back.

I offer the heavy cotton insert lace to place above the cuffs and hems.


Albs + Amices: Patterns – $5 – for both

But, some clergy prefer the alb and amice combination (and our clergy really should use them to protect important vestment sets). Not only does the alb-amice combination protect valuable vestments, it gives a ‘finished’ look to chasubles at the neck – the same way a handsome scarf ‘finishes’ a jacket or coat.

The information about albs and amices is contained in my reprint of a 1945 pamphlet put out by J.& P. Coat’s-Clark’s O.N.T. Threads. It was written for the Roman Catholic Church (and high-church Anglicans). Other instructions include cincture, stole, maniple, chasuble, burse, chalice veil, cope and humeral veil. The full title is ‘Vestments required for Holy Sacrifice of Mass and other Sacred Functions’.



Broadly speaking, there are two styles of surplices:  Those with round yokes and those with square yokes.

Round yoke surplices are much easier to construct and are widely variable.  The best collection of surplice patterns is found in Vincent’s book (see below).  Simply by adding additional fabric to the body, surplices may be widely varied in their fullness – from very full to not so full.  Surplice length may be from just below the knee to ankle length.  Made hip length, a surplice pattern becomes a cotta.  Surplices are also varied by their sleeve length and fullness.  Surplice sleeves may be only slightly wide with a simple 2 inch hem at the cuff.  Or, the sleeve may be larger, rounded and elongated at the bottom sleeve seam – these hems are narrower.  Surplice sleeves may be made to come to a point and fall to ankle length – just above the hem of the body.  Surplices often – but not always – utilize an underarm gusset.

Square yoke surplices are the very dickens to put together and finish!  The four-piece yoke (8 pieces with lining) is awkward to work with; while the outside can be machine stitched in place, the inside must be hand stitched.  (I have a friend who says that the yoke can be stitched like a pinafore but, she’s mistaken.)  As well, the fabric used is a mid-weight cotton or cotton-poly.  The seam allowances show through and must be precisely cut to 1/4 inch in order to look tidy – or the yoke must be lightly interfaced to conceal the seam allowances.  The body of square yoke surplices may be gathered or pleated.  If pleated, I would suggest that you leave a 3-4 inch space between the two center pleats.  Embroider a white symbol in that space.  The black cassock behind the symbol shows up the symbol – a very lovely look!


Round Yoke Surplice – Pattern – $20

This is a full, formal ‘Cathedral Surplice’  with long sleeves. I took this pattern from Vincent’s book (see below).  Vincent’s Cathedral Surplice pattern is excellent.

I offer the deep, scalloped heavy cotton lace to put at the bottom hem and the insert lace to place above the bottom hem.


Square Yoke Surplice Pattern – $20

While this is an old and traditional pattern, I don’t like it at all BECAUSE it is extremely awkward to construct the four-piece yoke. This is, however, a popular pattern because the gathering can be replaced by wide pleats – which many clergy prefer.


Altering Ready-Made Shirts and Blouses to Take a Clergy Collar – $5

It is generally felt by our clergy that the selection of shirts and blouses offered by our commercial vestment houses is lacking in style. And yet, there is no selection of clergy shirts and blouses in the pattern catalogues either.

It is possible to remove and re-make the collars of ready-made shirts and blouses so that the shirt or blouse will take a clergy collar. This method does not work with all ready-made shirts and blouses. Nor does it work with all types of clergy collars.

It does work though! And, when it works, it’s wonderful!

This is a small pamphlet written by a friend, Noel, who is clergy. Noel is about a size 3 and is a stylish person. She shops for pretty blouses and converts to collars to take her clergy collar. She always looks like a million dollars!

I used to have a male priest in the next parish north of me who preferred Brooks Brothers shirts – often striped. He took his shirts to a local seamstress who converted the collars to take his clergy collar. He always looked like a million dollars!

Here’s how I work this pattern: Because it doesn’t work with all types of clergy collars, I send it to you as an email attachment upon request. You look it over. If it’s what you want, you pay me $5. If it’s not what you want, you delete it and we’re square. Fair enough?


Vestment Patterns, Instruction and Information

The Girls and Vincent – $12 each or all five for $55

During the 3 decades 1890 – 1920, a number of books written about linen and vestment construction. Of the five books I have, four were written by women and one by a man.  While the authors may never have met each other in person, they were contemporaries; they knew of each other and refer to each other from time to time. Lilla Weston’s patterns use Vincent’s pattern method. They all were aware of the Embroidery Pattern Catalogue and use the patterns from it.  I think of this group of five books as ‘a set’.

From the beginning of my ministry in 1985, I’ve been a collector of ‘The Old Books’. As you begin – or continue – constructing vestments, you may want to begin a library and so, I offer the reprints. The pamphlet I mentioned under Albs + Amices is one of them. The Embroidery Pattern Catalogue is another. My Church Laces book is another. The Girls and Vincent are five more.

Vincent is the great pattern-maker of the period. Vincent was a British tailor who lived during the 1890s during the time when we were trying to figure out how to transmit clothing patterns. The most amazing inventions came out of these attempts – fancy rulers and such. Lacis carries some of the books –and gear. Vincent successfully invented a method for transmitting vestment patterns accurately. He went on to publish many specific books of patterns – men’s and women’s outerwear (and underwear), children’s clothing, military uniforms, men’s suits and shirts, women’s dresses and blouses, servent’s uniforms. I highly recommend Vincent’s vestment and clergy-wear book. He gives many, many vestment patterns. (Vincent also took himself very seriously and so is often very funny.)I use his patterns today. My cathedral surplice pattern is a Vincent pattern. 120 years later, Vincent is still a great and useful resource. I recommend him highly.

The Girls: Lucy Mackrille, Hinda Hands, Lilla B.N. Weston and Maude R. Hall. Among vestment makers, these are historic names. (Lucy Vaughn Hayden Mackrille was the first Altar Guild Directress of our National Cathedral).  I drew heavily upon the information in these books as I was learning. They gave me an appreciation of how much fabrics changed after the Second World War: 45 inch wide fabric was the maximum width. There were no man-made fabrics. Of the four, Lucy and Lilla are the most widely useful – with Vincent, of course.

The Embroidery Pattern Catalogue: It used to be that embroidery was one of the skills commonly taught to young girls.  And, as they came to adulthood, women often embroidered for their churches.   The embroidery may have been white-work on the altar linens or, it may have been gold and silk work on the vestments.  It stands to reason that embroidery patterns were available – somewhere.  In the late 1800s a catalogue of liturgical embroidery patterns was available in fabric stores – similar to the pattern catalogues we have today – except embroidery patterns.  This Embroidery Pattern Catalogue was put out by the Thomas Brown & Son Company; it contained 148 pages and thousands of patterns.  This pattern book is considered to be a great treasure and resource; it’s often referred to as ‘The Brown Book’.  I was given an original copy, found on the basement shelves of an historic church in our diocese.  (Thank you, Holy Spirit!)  I have made copies of this book and offer them for $18 each.  The pages are loose so they are readily available for copying, enlarging and reducing.


Simple + Beautiful Kit – $8

This little kit teaches you a method for decorating vestments and banners. The method is both simple and beautiful. The method fuses decorations to the fabric. Here are two pictures from Cheri:

Vestment Vestment

Years ago now, I was asked to produce a HUGE laudian frontal to be used at the consecration of a Bishop. This celebration took place in a large rented hall. An altar was made just for this celebration – only for this celebration. The HUGE laudian frontal would be used just this once and never again. Hmmmmm.

Understanding that this HUGE laudian frontal would never be used again, I went into ‘simple’ design mode. I cut a separate flannel lining that was simply thrown over the altar. The frontal itself was of 60 inch white Dupioni, seamed along the selvedge edge to make the HUGE laudian. I cut 36 large stylized crosses and cut them out of gold lame’. I cut many, many yards of 1 ½ inch wide gold lame’ and many, many yards of 2 inch gold lame’. I fused the 1 ½ inch lame 24 inche above the bottom edge and then fused the 36 crosses below that line – evenly spaced (sigh) and then fused the 2 inch lame along the line of the hem. Lots of math and careful measuring in this HUGE laudian frontal! Then, I cut ½ inch off the bottom lame strip. The fusing sealed the bottom edge of the frontal – no hem necessary!

This HUGE laudian looked wonderful – for which I thank God! And, don’t you know, that one-time altar went over to the Cathedral to become the nave altar – and the HUGE laudian went with it and was used until it fell apart 8 years later. Sigh.

This Simple + Beautiful Kit, while it isn’t for everything, is a really good trick to have up your sleeve.


Constructing Chasubles and Dalmatics

Instruction booklet – $15

Unlike stoles, chasubles are not ‘tricky’. As long as you have a good set of instructions that also make you aware of the ‘issues’, your first chasuble will turn out just fine. In my booklet ‘Constructing Chasubles and Dalmatics’, I make every attempt to tell you what those issues are.

What are some of those issues?

Because the single biggest error is cutting the neck opening too large, I’m going back to that again: I think we’ve become so accustomed to ‘the cassock-alb look’ that we just do not see the really unattractive gappiness at the neck opening. The problem is that chasubles go on over the head. A neck opening large enough to fit over the head is too wide to contain the stole – there is a gap on both sides where the stole does not fill in the open area. The back neck of the chasuble almost always falls below the back of the stole so there is another gap. You don’t see this gappiness in the commercial catalogues (I suspect a clothes pin in there somewhere). If you make the stole wider to fill the gap, the stole doesn’t fit smoothly. It’s this ‘gappiness’ that the amice covers – nicely.
Another alternative is to make the neck opening smaller and insert an invisible zipper in the shoulder seam at the neck edge.

There are more considerations but that list is long enough. My point is this: It’s really helpful to know about these things BEFORE you begin the design process. A chasuble is not a household item. If it doesn’t turn out just right, you can’t, sort of, ignore the short-comings. This chasuble is going to serve in the church and be worn by a priest at God’s holy altar. Many chasubles as I have made, I still find that constructing such a thing is scary. (It’s scary if you are making the chasuble out of inexpensive fabrics. It’s REALLY scary if you are using expensive fabrics!)

Thirty years ago, when I made my very first chasuble, my priest had purchased pure silk damask at $100/yard (an unheard of expense back then). Scared me half to death! Did I make mistakes? You bet! Gracious!

And, as I struggled with that first chasuble – knowing NOTHING – I vowed that, if I could help it, nobody would have to struggle like that again.

That vow became the beginning of this ministry I have now. The moment that chasuble/stole/maniple set was installed in the sacristy, I began to write. And, I never stopped writing – every problem I faced, everything I learned has been written down. At least once every week, some nice person calls or emails me with more good information. And, I knit that information into my booklets.

Vestment Vestment

I admire this very simple chasuble/stole set because of the obvious excellence of workmanship – smooth, even, graceful. This chasuble is unlined which means there must be a way to finish the neck opening so that it is both attractive and smooth. Sue has used single-fold bias tape. Nicely done!

Chasuble Pattern – $15

My chasuble pattern gives you an infinite number of widths and lengths.
A pet peeve of mine is the sacristy that contains only one size of chasuble. That’s a pet peeve for me because it limits our design expression. Wide, long chasubles say one thing – heavily penitential or highly festal. Narrow, shorter chasubles say something else entirely – less formal. In their simplicity, smaller chasubles are perfect for the hot days of summer. I like a chasuble that goes from the crook of the elbow to the crook of the elbow with nicely pressed cassock-alb showing – like French cuffs showing below the sleeves of a jacket.
If you surf around looking at chasuble designs, you will see many chasubles with yokes around the neck and shoulder area; these ‘yokes’ are an alternative to finishing the neck opening with bias tape or cut bias fabric. These ‘yokes’ are external facings! They allow you to build an unlined chasuble with an (relatively) easy neck finish (the necks openings of chasubles cannot be finished with a facing). Using a bias binding as Sue did on the chasuble above, gives a very nice finish; a yoke is another alternative – more festal.

Cowl Neck Patterns – $5

Cowls and other chasuble neck treatments are designed to be another method for dealing with the gappiness around the neck opening.

There are many cowl styles and special collars; surf around and you’ll see them. There is no single ‘standard’ cowl pattern – I wish there were! What I have to offer to this confused state of affairs are some basic parameters. As long as you understand that you’re going to have to do some mock-ups, you’ll do just fine.

Dalmatics Pattern: $15

Patterns for dalmatics (and tunicles) are simple; the patterns are front and back; sleeves are not set in. The only difference between front and back will be the size and the shape and placement of the neck opening. Variations in style are mostly in size – width and length – and either straight or flared through the body. Sleeves may be widely flared or straight and simple.

It’s my experience that the most helpful thing a deacon can do is to look around to find a dalmatic they like. If they can also find a pattern that FITS them, that’s the best. The pattern for dalmatics is so simple that you can usually take a pattern right from the existing vestment.

The Dalmatic pattern I offer is designed to be as simple as possible. Changes can easily be made to this very simple pattern.

Elizabeth Smith brought to my attention a new ‘wrinkle’ in dalmatic design (actually, it’s not a NEW wrinkle; it’s a traditional design that’s been around for centuries). This ‘wrinkle’ leaves the entire side seam of the dalmatic open. When Elizabeth told me this, I thought she was nuts! I could not feature such a thing! Wouldn’t the dalmatic get crooked – or fall off??? Here is a photograph of two dalmatics with open sides.


You can see that the open sides would allow these dalmatics to fit people of widely differing sizes! This would be an excellent design for a parish that has two dalmatics and four deacons – of various sizes. (If you get concerned about shifting, a simple small tie may be placed at the underarm.)

Whether we’re talking about chasubles or dalmatics, a major consideration is the stability of the chalice; that the chalice containing the consecrated wine should not be tipped over – an important concern! Chasubles that are very wide have an awful lot of extra fabric being waved around near the chalice. Dalmatics with wide – and often stiff – sleeves can easily knock over the chalice.

These photographs show the significant advantage of these ‘open side-seam’ dalmatics – the sleeve does not place the chalice at risk. You can see how the deacon’s arm is disengaged from the dalmatic sleeve as he reaches for the chalice.

(I would mention here – and this may be a fussy point – that the sleeves of those two dalmatics should have been pressed flat before the service. The sleeve crease causes the dalmatic sleeve to break badly, disrupting the line of the vestment. As I say, a fussy point.)

If you’ve never made a dalmatic before, I would mention that your biggest surprise will be the cost of gallooning (the narrow banding trim that covers the raw edges of orphreys). The traditional orphrey arrangement for dalmatics is two narrow orphreys from shoulder seam to just above the hem with one band across the upper portion and one or two across the lower portion (these bands may be called ‘clavi’). The orphrey arrangement is the same for front and back. When you add up the number of inches of galloon required to edge all these various orphreys and then multiply that by the cost of gallooning – you will be quite surprised. Having said this, please know that there are other orphrey designs that are perfectly proper for use on dalmatics and tunicles – that require far less gallooning! I just don’t want you to design a dalmatic using the ‘traditional’ orphrey arrangement only to be surprised by the cost of the galloon – and have to re-do your whole design.


Verger’s Gowns (Chimeres)

Pattern and Instructions – $30

Vestment Vestment

This pattern – which is new to my website – has an interesting story attached to it. It was designed by Bidwell Drake (a multifaceted lady who specializes in needlepoint Bid’s Verger’s Gown pattern was originally available from The Vergers’ Guild of the Episcopal Church ( There came a time when C.M. Almy decided to offer ready-made verger’s gowns – using Bid’s pattern.

Go to and enter ‘verger’s gowns’ in the search box. Almy’s verger’s gowns are beautifully made of high quality fabrics AND their ready-made price is quite amazing! Well worth the money! I highly recommend that you purchase this excellent vestment ready-made from C.M. Almy!

This sounds like a success story for everyone involved! However, it doesn’t suit Elizabeth Morgan whose ministry is to reclaim the vestment making crafts and to maintain the availability of the patterns! For this reason, and with Bid’s approval, I’ve picked up this pattern and offer it here – for a couple of reasons:

First, because the Verger’s gown pattern is also the pattern for a priest’s or bishop’s chimere – to be worn over a rochet (Lilla Weston’s book gives a pattern for the rochet).
Second, because it is not unusual to see verger’s gowns in a wide variety of colors and ornamentation – individual and custom designs which require a pattern.


Copes: Pattern and Instructions – $30

A cope is a long cape; usually dramatically ornamented – but, often quite plain. While I don’t know that I would be quite comfortable watching this cope process up the aisle of my Cathedral, I do love it! It doesn’t matter whether I, personally, am ‘comfortable’ with it or not. What matters is that I am capable of identifying the quality of Nancy Jane’s design and the excellence of her workmanship. This cope is called ‘Creation’.

I love this cope!


This striking cope from the Holy Rood Guild is very plain and very narrow. Note that the shoulder shaping:


As with chasubles and dalmatics, I recommend that you surf around. Go to and look at their copes – magnificent!

Go to this website: They show – and offer the pattern for – a nice cope that has a ‘capelet’. Also shown is an interesting mitre shape – with pattern and instructions.

In my opinion, the very, very best fabric for copes is Dupioni silk (perhaps not for a plain and narrow cope). Dupioni silk has a characteristic ‘crispness’ that lends itself beautifully to copes – it causes the cope to flare and to move gracefully – it doesn’t just drape and hang there – it really moves! It’s active! And, the colors are jewel tones – luscious. And, I highly recommend that Dupioni silk copes not be lined; lining only damps down the crispness. Dupioni silk copes are light to wear and cool – so very different from the usual copes that are heavily lined with satin and oppressive to wear.

Some people like a cope to have a hood. I don’t care for hoods because they crush when hung in the closet. Pressing is very awkward on such a large vestment. I much prefer a gracefully shaped shield which may be elaborately embroidered or made of a brocade or tapestry. Here’s a perfectly lovely cope decorated with pieced quilting. I love this cope! Do you see how it flares?

Cope Cope

There are quite a number of ways to construct copes; the commonest being the semi-circle cope: you piece together three lengths of fabric to form a large rectangle and then cut a semi-circle out of it. The two outer selvedge edges form the front of the cope. The problem with this pattern is that it cannot be made to fit people who have wide shoulders – unless you use a very, very long morse (the connecting piece between the two fronts).
My cope information contains descriptions for several cope construction methods. The one I like the best is the shaped-shoulder cope pattern – like the white one.

An inevitable problem with copes is that within the first three minutes after leaving the sacristy, they have slipped and gone crooked. The shaped-shoulder cope stays where its put – even if the morse is not fastened, the cope remains stable. This is very good!!!! The shaped-shoulder cope is a five-piece pattern. Any width of fabric may be used; the pattern adjusts readily from being extremely full to being very slim.


Mitres: Pattern and Information $30

Mitres are special liturgical hats worn by bishops. While many people believe that every bishop’s cope must have a matching mitre, that’s not liturgically correct. Bishops need a simple white linen mitre for ‘every day’ and a single ‘golden mitre’ to be worn on special occasions.  However!  Once you’ve figured out how to make mitres, most of us enjoy the process so much that we simply ignore this rule and make as many mitres as we want.  And, I’ve never had a Bishop turn down a mitre so, I guess they don’t mind if I ignore the rules!

The special bishop’s hats are spelled ‘mitre’. The diagonal seam that joins two hems is a ‘miter’.

Ah, mitres! You know how, when your priest asks you to make something, you say, “Sure!” thinking, “How hard could it be?” And then you go to do it and it’s enough to make you crazy? Have you had that experience yet?

I said ‘Sure!’ to the request for 6 mitres…Made me crazy! When I finished them, I called a mitre-maker friend to tell her about my odyssey. She let me go on for a minute or so and then interrupted me: “Wait a minute! You’re telling me that you made SIX mitres all at the same time, one after another? Are you INSANE? I’m going to come up there and slap you!” She’s a really good friend! And, she’s right. Once again I was caught doing something I didn’t know how to do and, although I had a good friend who would have given me good advice, I didn’t think to ask her. Don’t do that!

However! I learned a lot. Here’s a picture of my 6 mitres (and one of my cats – Lucy.  Lucy serves as my Quality Control Sargent.):


The fabrics here are the ‘wedding ring gold’ Dupioni silk and the orphreys are Perkins’ cloth of gold. Simple and inexpensive. I wish I had asked Sue to put embroideries at the bottom of the lappets. Next time!

If you have any interest in making mitres, I’d recommend that you give it a try.  While mitres are picky and fussy, a simple mitre can be put together in a few hours.  You’ll learn a great deal very quickly.

We lost the skills needed to make mitres.  There’s information out there but it presumes skills we no longer have.  Reading the  instructions in the old books is kind of like stepping up a stair that isn’t there.

During the spring of 2014 I gathered up all the written information in our old, historic books and the anecdotal information that has come to me over the years and wrote it all down.  I also made up two sheets of full-size patterns.  This is the material I have ready for you now.  I think you’ll find it of interest and helpful.

Two considerations about mitres: First, innards – what do you put inside to make the mitre stiff?  Second, which pattern?

There are three strands of information about innards: Books written in the early decades of the 1900s, books written in the 1950s and information available today.  The major difference is what materials were/are available.  Up through the 1950s, the only stiffening materials were cardboard or variations on the theme of horsehair.

At this time, (while cardboard is still being used)  there are two stiffenings: Plastic/Styrene in .03 thickness or the heavier interfacings.  In my 6 golden mitres, I used the .03 Styrene – which can be cut with stout scissors.  I like it!  Styrene is good.

Sue Newman recently completed a mitre commission using one of the heavier interfacings:  Two layers of iron on Pelltex #70 – which has adhesive on one side.  (#72 has adhesive on both sides – which Sue does not recommend.)  This also produced good results.

So, there are two good choices.  Try them, take notes and report back.

I recently had a report back from a lady who used two old xray films washed, bleached and put together with contact cement.  The options are nearly infinite!

As to patterns: Not until I got into writing the instructions and drawing up (a choice of many) patterns, did I realize that Beryl Dean had made an immense break-through in the mid-1950s.  

At issue is the number of pieces required to construct a mitre.  The usual number is 5 (two face fabric pieces, two lining pieces and the canopy).  Our friend, Beryl, has a one piece mitre pattern!  I call her pattern ‘The Origami Mitre Pattern’

Just as I was realizing this, I was working with a young woman – Lucinda – who makes dance costumes for young children.  Lucinda developed a ‘skull cap’ pattern that makes lining the mitre unnecessary.  As well, the ‘skull cap’ can be readily removed for washing (the inside of mitres get very messy.). As well, the size of each mitre can be made smaller by opening up the basting on the skull cap and inserting a layer of fleece behind it.

What we’re doing here is opening up the mitre skills.  I’ve gone as far as I can go with my instructions and group of patterns.  I’m now turning it over to you and hope you will ‘take notes and report back’.  Between us, we’ll bring mitre construction back into our own hands.

Here’s a picture of a lovely mitre made by Amy. It may have been made using the Origami Pattern. You can just see the center front seam that she’s covered nicely with embroidery.


What a lovely mitre!

I wish I could gather a symposium of skilled mitre makers and close them up in a room for two or three sessions!

Ready-made mitres are extremely expensive! Mitres – by their very nature – easily become soiled and stained. Few mitres are designed in such a way that they can be washed or dry cleaned successfully. We need to get out of this box! We need reliable mitre patterns and instructions.

I’ve done my best to bring together both old and new information.  I urge you to give mitre-making a try.  You can easily work up a simple mitre in a few hours – and learn a lot in the process.  I request that you make notes as you go along – and report back.


Vestments for Hot Climates – $8

At least half of our Christian parishes are located in hot climates. At least half!

Some years ago, I was blessed to be asked to travel to a parish in a very hot climate to present a seminar in linen construction. While there, I was invited to attend the blessing of a new parish church. For this event, I wore a light cotton dress and pretty sandals. The day was very hot. The new church building hadn’t the walls put on yet so, it was open (mercifully). The building was jam-packed with people standing all around the outside of the building. It was very, very hot!

The Bishop wore his civilian clothes, a cassock-alb, chasuble and stole and his cope and mitre (all made of white damask with heavy gold silk lining). I cannot imagine how he stood wearing all that gear – and, the service was fulsome! Every verse of every hymn was sung – with great joy! One hymn was sung – all the way through – twice (during the offertory).

The Bishop had to have lost 10 pounds that day. Dehydration to that extent is dangerous. I felt so sorry for him, as well as much impressed by his stamina.

There has to be a better way. And, there ARE better ways!

But, my experience is that we’re pretty inflexible about how vestments SHOULD look. And, never mind that our clergy are suffering.

Before we can begin to discuss ‘a better way’ to vest our hot climate clergy, we – and our clergy too – need to get our minds into the mode that will accept a better way.
That’s what this little pamphlet is about – liturgically sound – albeit ‘unorthodox’ – alternatives to heavy, hot vestments.



Vestments are the handsome liturgical garments worn by our clergy, servers and choir. Paraments are the handsome liturgical hangings that add depth and beauty to our sanctuary appointments: Pulpit falls and Bible markers, burse and veil sets, frontals and super-frontals, Jacobean and Laudian frontals, dossals and riddles.


Constructing Pulpit Falls Instruction pamphlet $8

Pulpit falls are constructed exactly like frontals – same principle. This little pamphlet is like a primer for constructing frontals. If you know how to make a pulpit fall, you know the basics for making a frontal.


Constructing Bible Markers

Bible markers are two handsome lengths of decorative fabric that decorate the lectern holding the Bible. Bible markers usually match the pulpit fall and any other sanctuary hangings. Sometimes the lectern is in the shape of an eagle and the eagle holds the Bible, between its outstretched wings; the Bible markers fall between the eagle’s body and its wings. Bible markers are made the same way we make stoles; if you know how to make stoles, you know how to make Bible markers.


Burse and Veil Sets – Instruction pamphlet – $5

The tricky piece – of course – is the burse which requires two pieces of Plexiglas or styrene of the correct size. ¼ inch Plexi is too thick – it will make your burse clunky. Lighter weight Plexi is often available at Home Depot. If you can’t find it there, contact Pat Crane Pat provides both burse boards and chalice pall inserts, cut to your size – 7”, 8” and 9” square.

Many people begin the construction of a burse and veil set without first looking carefully at the chalice the burse and veil is to serve. Too often we just ‘make it like it was last time’. The size of the burse should be in scale with the size of the chalice – just as the size of the chalice pall should be in scale with the size of the chalice. A large chalice with a too small pall or burse looks awkward. The same is true if the pall and burse are too large for a smaller chalice. Your eye will tell you whether the proportions are correct – or not.
There are many ways to make burses; this is an easy way.


Constructing Frontals and Super-Frontals – This book is still in the not yet.

A ‘frontal’ covers one side of an altar – the front. The fair linen covers – either entirely or partially – the two ends of the altar.

A ‘super-frontal’ is a short frontal – usually about 9 inches long. The super-frontal may stand alone or it may cover the top portion of a floor-length frontal.

A ‘Jacobean frontal’ covers three sides of an altar – the front and the two ends – leaving the back open. Jacobean frontals give the appearance of a laudian frontal without the bulk. The fair linen used with a Jacobean frontal covers only the top of the altar – the ‘mensa’. A fair linen that hangs down at the ends interferes with the graceful draping of the frontal.

A ‘laudian frontal’ is a huge throw-over cover. The operative word is HUGE!!! As with the Jacobean frontal, the fair linen covers only the altar mensa.

Of course there are variations on the frontal theme:

Altar cloths’ that cover the top of the altar and hang down on the two ends – but not in front.

Belts’ of various widths that hang down the front of the altar – part-way or all the way to the floor. There can be one centrally located or as many as four or five. (‘Belts’ are such a new invention that the Church hasn’t developed a Latin term for them.)

Both altar cloths and belts are pretty self-explanatory – face fabric and lining with an appropriate interfacing as necessary (not fusible).

Over and above the construction issues, the major issue with frontals is storage. Frontals and super-frontals present no storage problem at all – there are many ways to store frontals and super-frontals so they take up very little space.

HOWEVER!!! Jacobean and laudian frontals are THE VERY DICKENS to store! Mostly, they can only be stored folded – which means that SOMEHOW they’re going to have to be pressed before they are put on the altar.

If I may be so bold as to offer some opinions here: Don’t use a Jacobean or laudian frontal unless it is to be the only frontal used on that altar. Or, unless your parish has a space large enough to store them without folding them.

My Cathedral of All Saints has a Lenten laudian used on the nave altar for Holy Week; it was constructed by the most wonderful European vestment maker. It’s made of the very finest light brown linen fabric with handsome applique work. It must be stored folded. The fabric is linen. The altar is 39 inches tall, 36 inches wide and 120 inches long. Do the math: This laudian frontal measures 114 inches wide by 198 inches long. Over 3 yards wide by 5 ½ yards long. It is both lined and lightly interfaced. I repeat: This laudian frontal is stored folded. The fabric is linen – it wrinkles badly. It must be pressed before use! There is a large oriental carpet at the bottom of the steps up to the high altar. This oriental carpet is barely large enough for me to lay out this entire laudian frontal (lined and lightly interfaced). Armed with my steam iron and 25 feet of extension cord, I crawl over this laudian frontal on my hands and knees with my steam iron huffing and puffing – in front of the high altar. Perhaps you can understand that doing this – in front of our Lord’s high altar – feels incredibly inappropriate!

Storage of Jacobean and laudian frontals is a huge problem!

St. Paul’s Church in Albany also has a very large altar and has many laudian frontals – at least one for each season. St. Paul’s is a very large, modern church. For reasons I don’t understand, there is a huge ‘back stage’ area – a very large space behind the lovely rood screen that stands behind the large altar. In this space is a very large table – the same size as the altar. The laudian frontals are neatly stacked up on this table – rather than being folded and stored on a shelf or in a drawer. St. Paul’s laudians are stacked on this table, one on top of another. They never need pressing. Good idea! It is a fact, however, that whichever laudian is wanted next is always at the bottom of the stack.

What I’m saying here, folks, is this: When your priest comes to you and suggests that a laudian frontal would look nice on your altar, ask him/her how it will be stored, where is a large enough space to press it and who did he/she have in mind to do the pressing?

The single most important thing to know about making frontals is that they are generally so large that you must have a large worktable to handle them. And, you must have a wall space long enough and tall enough to hang them so they can hang out or sag as much as they are going to. There’s no sense spending all that time and effort only to have the frontal sag against its weight and go crooked within two weeks of completion.


Refreshing Tabernacles

In my many years as an Altar Guild member in the Episcopal Church, I have had some experience with the tabernacles – in many parishes. I have participated – under clergy guidance – in the tradition of emptying the tabernacle of consecrated bread and wine on Maundy Thursday. At this time, the linens and hangings in the tabernacle should also be removed for washing and ironing.

Some tabernacles are designed to be cleansed once each year. Some tabernacles are not designed with cleansing in mind. It is my sad experience that these tabernacles become decidedly unclean. Which, of course, is unacceptable.

In the early months of 2013, Sue and I began working with a lovely man named Al. Al is a member of a large – and very handsome – Lithuanian Roman Catholic parish in New York City. Al is a doctor and a lay person. With the delighted support of his fellow parishioners, Al set about making all new vestments and paraments – still an ongoing project. Part of this effort involved setting their large and ornate brass tabernacle to right – which had not been cleansed for decades.

After the careful removal of the Blessed Reserved Sacrament, Al removed the tabernacle to a work space and completely dismantled it. The walls had been pieces of wood to which silk fabric had been glued; those were discarded. Al removed the old varnish, polished the brass within an inch of its life and re-varnished all the sections.

Construction of interior fittings – walls and hangings – came next. Al carefully made light-weight cardboard templates for each tabernacle wall – one of which is curved. Using his templates, I cut pieces of .03 styrene and sent them to him to verify the fit. They fit perfectly. When I got them back, I covered each one with – washable – silk. (Linen is my preferred option but his priest specified silk.)

These pieces simply snap into place. The ceiling and floor pieces hold the wall pieces secure.

These pieces can easily be removed for cleaning. They are soaked in a basin of sudsy water, rinsed under the tap, patted with a towel to remove excess water and set to dry in a sunny place. Easy! Al even ordered an extra set to have in reserve.

There are also new silk curtains for the inside of the ‘front door’. Here are some pictures:

Tabernacles Tabernacle Case Tabernacle Case Tabernacle Case Tabernacle Case Tabernacle Case

There’s a similar tabernacle in my Cathedral sacristy waiting for the same care.
I was contacted last summer by a young man – a fine carpenter – who had accepted a commission to build an altar, Bishop’s chair and tabernacle for a new Episcopal church in Texas. He contacted me to purchase linen for the interior of the tabernacle. He had cut pieces of wood for the walls, ceiling and floor of the tabernacle. He planned to staple or glue the linen to the wood pieces (which would, of course, make cleansing impossible). You may be quite sure that this nice young man and I had some discussion about his plan! This wise young man changed his mind and agreed to use Plexiglas instead of wood. He had the Plexi cut to size and sent it to me. I covered the Plexi pieces with linen and sent them back to him. He called me after he had delivered the altar pieces to Texas and told me that the priest was particularly delighted that the interior of the tabernacle was designed to be kept immaculate.

The process of covering the Plexiglas or white styrene pieces is not difficult; it’s essentially the same process we use when we make chalice palls. You cover the pieces with un-shrunk linen. After construction, you wash the piece. The linen shrinks to a tight, even fit. Easy. Any embroidery is done before construction and must be washable. The next time we do this, I’d love to see a gold sunburst cross centered upon the back wall.

Tabernacles really should be clean.