Violet – when we mention that color a host of images may come to mind. I often think of beautiful summer days hiking under clear blue skies in the beauty of Glacier Park. Wild flowers of every color paint the landscape. Violet flowers such as these are a favorite.
Violet is also a favorite color that is used once or twice during the church year. The seasons of violet are Advent and Lent, the Penitential Seasons. Many other colors fall under the “umbrella” of the Penitential color Violet. These include Roman purple, rose, and blue. Black and scarlet may also be included in the group of colors.
Violet has been used for a long time as a color for church vestments. The Violet Wakefield chasuble is certainly an old vestment. How old is hard to tell, but other vestments in the collection at St. Helena Cathedral have labels dating back to 1883. This vestment certainly fits within that time period. What stuck my attention is the use of the Wakefield fabric. I have always enjoyed this pattern which is still available today. It features goldwork threads woven with deep violet colors. The weave has a lot of texture in the pattern. Would this be something suitable for use in Advent or Lent vestments? I thought about it for a brief second as I reviewed the photos from a recent trip. There were too many other things in the works to begin thinking or planning a set of violet vestments.
So with no plans to make violet vestments, how is it that I find myself ankle-deep in yards of violet fabric? The Lent project really came about quite by accident. I was enjoying a visit with a friend who came to sew. Work ran overtime last week, and I did not have time to lay out a new project before she arrived. When she arrived, we talked and chatted about what we should work on. I had mentioned the last time we were together that she should make a Lent stole for our Pastor. Yes, that was a great idea. Then we thought and talked some more. “Wouldn’t it be nice to someday retire our existing Purple Vestment set?” “Yes, that would be wonderful.” “It is so close to Lent. There isn’t really enough time.” “Do you think we could do it?” Well, maybe…..” “What do we have in purple?…………….” You get the picture. Wheels are turning. Ideas are formulating. Possibilities are being explored.
The above fabric was out on a work table waiting to be put away. With a turn of our heads, it caught our eye at almost the same time. The wheels started to turn even faster than before. I had been thinking of this fabric for several days wondering what would team up with it. It is lovely. What catches my attention with this fabric is the rich surface texture created by some excellent work from the weave design. The gold trellis has a highly textured weave. A deeper color accent is created by the satin weave in the flowers and leaves. Yes, this might work nicely. More conversation and discussion ensued as to whether this could be done. The next question loomed, “What shall we use with this?”
As violet fabrics were pulled from the rack, one beauty quickly stood out as being the correct color compliment for use with the Violet Wakefield. Yes, the often overlooked Ely Crown Liturgical Fabric out shown everything else as the best compliment for Violet Wakefield. They were made for each other! Ely Crown was recently rewoven in a yarn-dyed weave. The new color is vibrant, deep and striking. It is a deep violet that almost leans toward a blue. It is a great selection for churches that use blue during Advent and Violet or Purple during Lent. The Violet Wakefield has almost a Periwinkle hint to it. Yes, these two fabrics are nothing short of perfect when teamed together.
Ely crown brocade is designed to be an all over multi-directional pattern. That means that the pattern has no up or down. The fabric could even be railroaded (but we do not recommend that). Railroading means cutting a wider piece of fabric along the lengthwise grainline as one continuous piece. This is usually not recommended because the cross grain can tend to stretch over time which may result in sagging vestments. Where possible it is best to use the length-wise grain as the vertical grainline it is stronger and less likely to sag.
The Ely Crown pattern, designed after the style of Augustus Welby Pugin, was first produced circa 1890. This religious fabric uses two motifs: a Tudor-Style Rose and a Crown. Select one of these designs, then move up or down, left or right, and it is surrounded by the opposite motif. This design style for motifs, which is sometimes referred to as “diaper,” also places a motif in a repeating pattern along the diagonal of the fabric. The above image shows Ely Crown cut and prepared for making a chalice veil. The veil pattern was cut with the crowns as the center motif. A Wakefield orphrey will be placed down the center.
Liturgical fabrics today are much wider that the fabrics of the past. But they often still require seaming. Here is a neat little trick that a well-designed liturgical fabric will have to make that process easier. This is the selvage edge of the fabric. Notice that the selvage edge is not at the exact center of the motif. It extends slightly beyond the center of a motif. That is a wonderful thing! Liturgical fabrics are woven to be 48″, 55″ or even 60″ wide. Many altars, chasuble or other vestments are wider than the fabric and need to be seamed. That means two selvage edges could be placed together, stitched, and turned into a complete design (with a seam in the middle). The selvage can be used to match a repeat at any other point in the design as well. It can really save on fabric, making even the edges usable.
For our project, the simple altar hanging items are cut, but the altar frontal needs some extra preparation. Because the full frontal for the Lent set is 72 inches wide, the fabric will need to be seamed. To match patterns for seamlines, I will use the selvage edge. With right sides together, the selvage edge is placed over a complete motif, which in this case is the crowns. I fold back the edge of the selvage to position things. The crowns have a nice little point at the end which is perfect to use as a matching point. I usually select a design detail that is easy to locate, specific, and will not be confused with another similar design feature. Once the motifs are in position, I place a pin through the exact point on the top layer matching exact point on the bottom fabric. Ely crown is a perfect pattern for a beginner to practice with. It is a moderately priced religious fabric with clean, simple and easily discernible design motifs. Once one gets the hang of this, it is easy to transition to a more complex pattern such as Fairford or Florence, and then continue to develop the skills to handle more complex patterns such as Perugia or Truro.
It is important to take my time and be careful and accurate with this process to ensure accuracy in the finished product. My goal is to have a perfectly matched pattern once the seam is sewn. It is not difficult but is does require care and patience. I refer to this as the contemplative side of the liturgical art of vestment making. It is thoughtful, careful work that gives the great satisfaction of a job well done. And isn’t that why I do what I do because I want to give my very best love, care and attention to the work being done for use in the Lord’s House and to help others create vestments of beauty for their places of worship.
Soli Deo Gloria
Filed under: Ecclesiastical Fabric, Ecclesiastical Sewing, Liturgical Fabrics Tagged: Church Vestments, Ely Crown Fabric, Liturgical fabric, Religious Fabric