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Liturgical Brocades: St. Aidan and Cloister Brocade

Fabrics for church and academic use…that does sound rather odd on first thought doesn’t it? When thinking of fabrics for church use, depending on a particular faith, one or two images usually come to mind. The first may be of textured fabrics that are somewhat loosely woven and bulky. The second may be of heavy tapestries and brocades or richly embroidered fabrics that are stiff and very ornamental. Both types of fabrics are frequently used in a large number of churches.

Today let’s take a look two fabrics that are slightly different from the usual thoughts that come to mind.

StAidan_Red copy

This first fabric is St. Aidan. It is a piece dyed brocade which is available in a variety of colors suited for both church and academic wear. The colors of blue, green, ivory, red, violet, Roman purple and white correspond to the various seasons of the church year. They also relate to academic degrees and college colors used in academic robes and gowns.

Doctoral Gowns and Hoods
Doctoral Gowns and Hoods

The gowns and hoods are made in colors as determined by the college degree and academic field being bestowed. Just as the church has a long history of traditions supporting various uses of colors, so does academic wear.

St. Aidan_Green_Detail copy

St. Aidan and Cloister are quite popular for academic use, especially in the United Kingdom.  The fabrics are not a “heavy” brocade, and so they drape well for use in doctoral hoods and academic gowns, as well as in church vestments such as a chasuble. St. Aidan features a  vine and floral design that swirls across the surface of the fabric in a diaper (or diagonal) pattern. Although these patterns are not seen as often in academic wear in the United States, they might offer some alternatives to the more costly velvets and other fabrics available through commercial companies.

StAidan_Blue_Detail copy

St. Aidan has one additional advantage over many other religious fabrics. It is one of the few liturgical patterns available in this lighter shade of blue. This is a nice blue for use in Mariam vestments as either trim or an entire garment such as the chasuble or stole.

Cloister_White_Detail1 copy

Cloister is another favorite fabric for use in vestment making and academic gowns.  We have talked about Cloister  Brocade before with its thistle and rose motive. Cloister and St. Aidan, as piece dyed brocades, are priced as an “introductory” brocade. That means they have a more affordable price point of under $45 per yard.  The design of both fabrics is subtle when compared to some of the other brocade fabrics.  These liturgical fabrics, as with all fabrics, are suitable for some things and are not as suitable for others.

I would recommend both fabrics for use in making pastoral stoles that do not have a great deal of heavy hand embroidery or goldwork embroidery.  Small or moderate amounts of either hand or machine embroidery would work fine. It would be a good idea to do a test sample to see if additional support or backing fabrics are needed for either hand or machine embroidery.  Use of light weight orphrey bands and trims or galloons would provide nice design details for stoles made from these fabrics.

Cloister Roman Purple stole

Chasubles would work well made in both fabrics, again keeping in mind the weight and amount of various trims, embroidery, and orphrey bands. An orphrey made from another color of the same fabric might provide design options, too.  Careful planning is the key to success when deciding the use of these fabrics.  It is always a good idea to make small test or trial pieces to be sure various fabric weights work well together.

Because Cloister and St. Aidan are both lighter weight brocade fabrics, the use of a lining fabric for chasubles and other vestment items would be a wise idea.  And did I mention chalice veils? Both fabrics would work well for chalice veils with linings. I hope this might provide inspiration for future vestment making ideas, or even perhaps taking on the challenge of making academic gowns.

Soli Deo Gloria





Filed under: Ecclesiastical Sewing Tagged: Ecclesiastical Sewing
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