I love vintage embroidery designs – looking at them and admiring the hand embroidery worked in stitches of silk and gold threads. I love researching and seeking out vintage embroidery designs, too. That is how Ecclesiastical Sewing came to be.
On occasion, a collection of vintage embroidery designs grabs my imagination and it won’t let go. It is as if the set is waiting – begging – for a chance to be brought back to life for a new generation to enjoy, for a new generation to use in worship, to use as a means to fill the eyes and mind with beauty.
The Evangelist Collection which we originally called “The Gospels” comes from a vintage book in my library that dates back to the late 1800’s. There is one thing unusual about the set, though. It only had two of the Four Evangelists as part of the design. Two of the Evangelists were missing!
I knew if this collection was ever to see the light of day again, the missing designs would need to be recreated and that it would be no small task to accomplish this. It would take the skill of an artist to capture the look and feel of the original set and talent beyond measure to create the missing pieces so that is looked once again as the entire original set must have looked back in time.
At Ecclesiastical Sewing, we have been blessed to work with several talented artists from our beginning. Yet there was only one person that I felt comfortable entrusting this project with. I had made the decision and now it was a matter of timing – waiting and wondering if the artist would consider the undertaking.
When I first approached Edward Riojas about “The Gospel Project,” I gave him the background of the designs, and what my vision was for the missing pieces. I usually do not have to fill in too many details. Edward has the talent and ability to grab hold of an idea, see what is needed, and he usually has a concept back to me before I have a moment to catch my breath. When a project is based on something that is solid, beautiful, and firmly rooted in the Gospel and our faith, Edward never hesitates to take on a challenge.
Yet this project was unique. It was branching into a new area for both of us. This set has a historical look which must be captured and correctly interpreted with the new designs. There can be nothing about the new images which would create the impression that they were modern interpretations added to a vintage set.
The concept drawings came back from Edward in what seemed to be a few hours. I knew then that we were onto something with that first set of line drawings. They were good – looking almost as if they were missing pages from the original book. Looking at the drawings with a critical eye, we decided that a few changes were needed to create consistency between the designs. Those changes were talked through, and more drawings were forthcoming. Yes! The second round of images were looking like real possibilities. And now, on the next challenge. It was time to add color and bring the designs to life. The color is a very important step in the design process. It is what determines how the machine will stitch, and what stitches are needed to create a look and to add texture to a design.
Adding color is the point where a design is taken out of my hands. It is where the artistic eye, the style, and talent of Edward takes over. It is a time of waiting and anticipation on my part. Thankfully there are usually a thousand other things vying for my time during the waiting process and I become fully absorbed in them, which takes my mind off what may some be coming in the next email.
When an email comes through with the final designs there is always a sense of anticipation and excitement. It is the moment when designs come to life! There is color, line, texture, detail, flow, movement, depth, richness – it is all there in the final design. It often takes a few days or even weeks for a new collection of designs to sink in.
And finally, the most difficult part of my task begins. The final artwork must be interpreted into stitches. The ideas, thoughts, emotions, textures, colors, and life of the design must be understood and interpreted by the digitizer so that we can achieve the desired result.
It has been a steep learning curve both for the digitizer and myself. The digitizer’s usual task is to create a corporate logo or a similar type of image in a little time as possible, using a limited palette of stitches. Not so with our designs. They require exacting detail. Positioning, accuracy, and placement of stitches must be precise. Some designs have a few thousand stitches and 3 to 5 colors. Other designs have 30 or more color changes and hundreds of thousands of stitches. Several designs require 8 to 12 hours of machine time for a stitch out. There is no room for errors or problems with these enormous undertakings. As with all things, it has taken a long time for foster the relationship with my digitizer and it has paid off. He understands the level of work we are doing, and he continues to excel with the quality of the designs he produces for us.
We are pleased and honored to have so many people help us bring “The Gospels” which have now been renamed, “The Evangelist Collection” to life. Thank you to Edward Riojas, Travis who makes the magic happen with the machine, our digitizer, our seamstresses Stacy, Ellie, Karla, Rebecca, and to those special few who fell in love with the collection before it was begun – Jim and Kevin. We thank you all for your support and dedication in our mission and life together as we serve our Lord and Saviour in this calling.
And now for a final question – Which of the two designs were original, and which were recreated by Edward? Can you tell? Have your say!
Soli Deo Gloria
Please visit our website at www.ecclesiasticalsewing.com to see our complete line of liturgical fabrics and church vestments. You may also contact us through the online webpage to inquire about custom orders or vestments.