Early Struggles in Ecclesiastical Sewing

Do you ever spend your days worrying about not having a great idea? Have you ever worked yourself into a frenzy by forcing your brain to concoct a new design? I can relate. It seems as though I never come up with a great idea to allow myself the time to get it done without pushing it into the final hours before the curtain goes up. Hence the wows of my first Ecclesiastical Sewing Project of an Altar Frontal and Pulpit Fall set.

In the early days, before I knew much of anything about Ecclesiastical Sewing (not saying I’m an expert now, by any means), I used the methods of modern materials to make an Easter Altar Frontal and Pulpit fall.  The designs were drawn out on paper; traced in reverse image on the fusible webbing with a paper backing; and carefully cut and ironed into place. Tear-away stabilizer was used as the backing. And I happily machine satin stitched around everything. The technique was applique and machine embroidery.

The fabrics of choice (the ones most readily available) came from a local chain fabric store.  Did I mention I live in a small town, and we are lucky to at least HAVE a local fabric store?  I knew from many years of sewing experience, that the bridal shantung fabric being used as the base fabric for this project needed something to give it body and support.  The only thing that came to mind was to use the standard fusible interfacing.  It was not the preferred choice, but what else was available?  My  biggest fear was the  dreaded “bubbles” that would appear in the interfacing as it was applied to a shiny surface.  But, ahead I forged.  The deadline was looming….

The fusing went a little better than expected, so boldly I fused the orphrey and gimp trim in place prior to machine stitching.  That was when the noticeable mistakes started creeping in – puckers!  I pressed, and pulled, and stretched to keep things pucker-free.  There; it did not look so bad lying flat on the ironing table.

There is nothing like trial and error. The finished results (see below) sent me scurrying off  search for techniques that would give a better outcome.  Years later, I’m glad I made that first set with more mistakes than can be counted.  It taught me what I did not know, even after sewing for almost 40 years.  It was time to learn and seek out new skills. There must to be better ways to make vestments and Altar Frontal hangings out there – somewhere.

I did finish that first set in time for Easter, and thought, “How beautiful it will look, hanging on the altar for Easter Sunday Morning.”  The altar guild set everything up late on Saturday evening before service, and oh, how disappointing!  I saw every pucker and wrinkle that one could ever imagine.  The altar frontal looked like an unmade bed quilt.  Of course, those who do not sew marveled and thought it looked wonderful.  Compared to the old, dis-proportioned antependium with tattered fringe, this new set did look glorious in the eyes of the parishioners.  The church is still using the pieces today, many years later, and they still think the set is wonderful. I smile and say thank you, and know the pieces need to be replaced with a properly made set.  I am in the process of redoing that first Easter set with a hand embroidered Angus Dei  symbol and Ecclesiastical Fabrics imported from the United Kingdom. I hope to share some of those pieces with you when completed.

Below is that first pulpit fall, made quite a few years ago. This piece displays all of the mistakes that launched my search into the field of Ecclesiastical Sewing!  Perhaps by sharing what I have learned over the years, others might avoid the same mistakes with a little knowledge up front.

Easter Vestments Sets
Easter Vestments Sets


Soli Deo Gloria

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Filed under: Ecclesiastical Sewing, Pulpit Fall Tagged: altar frontals, Angus Dei, church embroidery, ecclesiastical fabrics, Ecclesiastical Sewing, ecclesiatical embroidery, paraments, Pulpit Fall, pulpit falls, sewing, the process of design, vestment making, vestments


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