As a designer, I love to create. Creating something can take on many forms. It can be creating a vestment from scratch or creating a design for a vestment. It can be created with color or materials or trims. It can be a single item or a group of items that need to work together. It can even be creating a company such as Ecclesiastical Sewing.
Over the years, I have designed a great many things ranging from clothing, bridal, evening wear to household furnishing. I have designed for babies, children, teens, and adults. My favorite medium is textiles: working with fabrics, trims, and notions. I have always had to be content working with fabrics that were already prepared for use. Designing a fabric is something I had never done. Oh, there have been a few occasions where I wished a special fabric was available, but I have always had to be content with what was on hand.
Yet, once I started designing Church vestments, and started seeing vintage vestment fabrics, thoughts started to drift through the outer edges of the imagination. Yet nothing took form or shape, as there was no burning desire or need to create something unique. Most of what was needed could be had from the current vestment fabrics available, at least for now. After all, creating a unique fabric would be expensive.
Then one day, I showed my fabric supplier several designs I had created for use as embroidery designs for vestments.
He immediately suggested that since I was Lutheran, the designs should be arranged in a pattern for weaving a Brocade vestment fabric. I instantly loved the idea but felt I was not up to the challenge of designing a fabric. I had done some reading and knew designing a fabric was a complicated thing.
I first approached Edward Riojas, a wonderful liturgical artist, in the fall of 2016 about creating embroidery designs for use on vestments. We talked about many things and what might be a great first project. Yet surprisingly, our first joint project was to create the Luther Rose Brocade fabric instead of embroidery designs. I had created the Luther Rose emblem and the Patonce Cross and had all of the spacing for the desi the Brocade worked out. I had the concept of the basic design elements for the vine pattern but the pieces did not work quite the way they were intended. That is where Edward came in. His artistic talents quickly created a vine worthy of the task and the result is stunning!
But the story does not end there. Having a design is only a beginning. The next challenge is to create a weaving design. One can have a fabulous design on paper but it needs to be translated into warp and weft. The quality of the weave and fibers needs to be determined as well as the density. That is where a weaving designer comes in. Their task is to take a design and create every join of fiber to bring it up or down to create the lights and darks, smooth and shiny surfaces that allow a pattern to be visible. I spent a great deal of time working with my weaver and we decided that the Luther Rose Brocade needed to be a nice quality fabric. We did no want to use a piece dyed fabric. Piece dyed fabrics are nice, but they are not the same as the yarn dyed fabrics. Yarn dyed brocades within our collections are lovely fabrics that have a high thread count. They are designed to withstand the rigours of of goldwork and hand embroidery. Goldwork entails plunging of heavy gold threads through the fabric with a large needle. This can quickly damage a fabric unless it has been designed with a higher weft so the yarns do not separate as thread tails are plunged to the underside. Likewise with machine embroidery. A fabric is punctured thousands of times as a design is stitched out. While having proper backing is helpful, the weave quality of the yarn dyed brocade is an excellent choice to compliment beautiful embroidery designs.
With all of these decisions made the weaving proceeded. The first pattern came back but required a few refinements. The second design came back and looked even better. With a few revisions, the design was ready to send off for a test weave. Test weaving can be done with any color. The first weave was done with a warp and weft for home decorating fabric. Everyone held their breath for the moment of truth. One really has no idea how a fabric will look until it is woven. Everything is done ahead of time to get the pattern and weave as close as possible to how it will look when completed. Yet there comes that moment of truth: will the pattern look good when it is woven? It was surprising how well the pattern looked after a first test weave. I discussed a few ideas with the weaver and we had a second sample woven in a brocade that was on the loom.
I remember when that first email came from the UK with the weaver stating his pleasure with the design. Of course he always is cautiously optimistic, awaiting affirmation from the person commissioning the weave. The package was shipped. We waited for the sample to arrive. It was surprising how well the pattern looked after a first test weave! I discussed a few ideas with the weaver and we had a second sample woven in a brocade that was on the loom.
Red Luther Rose Brocade was the first color to be woven, followed by Green. Today, Luther Rose brocade is available in Red, Green, Blue, Violet, White and Ivory.
It in no small undertaking for a company to create their own fabric. Ecclesiastical Sewing is pleased to offer the Luther Rose brocade as well as all of our other liturgical fabrics for those who desire to create beautiful church vestments and hope you come to love the fabric as much as we do.
Soli Deo Gloria