Books: The Next Best Thing Part III

The past two days have been spent sharing information relating to the Giants.  No, not the football team, or some creature from ancient mythology.  These Giants are the Ecclesiastical Giants from the past two Centuries who designed some of the most spectacular Ecclesiastical Embroidery and Vestments imaginable. The list starts with such notables as Pugin, and continues through Comper, with many in between.

The Victoria and Albert Museum is hosting a seminar this weekend that promises to be fantastic.  Knowing travel across the Atlantic is impossible, at least for now, the next best thing to attending the conference is to seek books on the topics.

Thread of Gold The Embroideries and Textiles of York Minster
Thread of Gold The Embroideries and Textiles of York Minster

This book was stumbled across quite by accident several years ago.  Entitled Thread of Gold The Embroideries and Textile in York Minster edited by Elizabeth Ingram, this slim volume is packed with stunning photographs of Ecclesiastical Embroidery and Ecclesiastical Vestments.

Historical Account of Vestments Prior to the Reformation
Historical Account of Vestments Prior to the Reformation

Beginning with a Pre-reformation history of the textiles in the Minster, there is an account of how church vestments were documented for inventory.  For example:

  • ‘iij alterclothis of twyll and ij of playne cloth’
  • alterclothisson of diaper and a noder of playn cloth’
  • ‘pulvinar de panno lanio operis tapistre’
  • ‘duo panni de blodio tartari’ (silk from Tartary/China)

Sometimes, but not always, the name of the fabric would provide insight as to the vestment’s country of origin. Rich fabrics were used and were often highly decorated.  The historical account continues with photos and texts up to the present day. This brief historical account sets the stage for the event that unfold in the 1800’s.

Beautiful Photography Throughout Thread of Gold
Beautiful Photography Throughout Thread of Gold

The second half of the book contains photos of  stunning examples of church embroidery used on Ecclesiastical Vestment pieces and Altar Frontals  in the Minster’s Collection, along with history relating to the piece.  One vestment set was tied to a length of Chinese silk given to Queen Victor as a wedding present in 1837.  Originally made into hangings for a bedchamber, the fabric later disappeared. After some discovery and changing of hands of part of the fabric, a piece eventually ended up in the care of the Minster. The story continues in 1948 when Watts and Company was able to match the silk to Queen Victoria’s Wedding silk and complete a low mass set.

Great Processional Banner York Minster
Great Processional Banner York Minster*

Many other fascinating stories abound in the book. My favorite story is that of the Great Processional Banner originally made by Watts and Company between the years of 1914 to 1916. The banner was returned to Watts for restoration in 1983. During the repairs, a linen label was discovered containing the signatures of the embroideresses  who made the banner, along with the section they stitched. An additional label was added to include  the names of those involved in the restoration.

While not a “how to” book, this volume documents the history of many wonderful Ecclesiastical pieces of beauty.  It incorporates and brings together the names of many of the “Giant” designers as well as vestment houses and monasteries, and the roles they played creating these beautiful works of art. There are several pieces from the book that now top my “Must See” list when I finally am able to visit England.

Solo Dei Gloria

Be sure to visit our online store front Ecclesiastical Sewing where you may shop for Liturgical Fabrics, altar linen fabrics, church vestment making patterns, liturgical machine embroidery designschurch vestment trims and notions and so much more. You may also find us on  Ecclesiastical Sewing  on Facebook , Twitter, and Pinterest. Sing up for our mailing list  at the bottom of the page on our online store front and receive a free copy of our Small Linens Booklet as our way of saying thank you for following along.


*Great Processional Banner Photo courtesy of:

By Andrewrabbott (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


Filed under: church vestment, Ecclesiastical Embroidery, Ecclesiastical Sewing Tagged: altar frontals, banners, church banners, church embroidery, Church Vestment, Ecclesiastical Embroidery, Ecclesiastical Sewing, Great Processional Banner Your Minster, Thread of Gold, Thread of Gold The Embroideries and Textiles of York Minster, Victoria and Albert Museum, Watts and Company, York Minster


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