Creating Orphrey Bands for Church Vestments

A few days ago the Ecclesiastical Sewing Studio announced the release of three new Latin Mass Chasuble sewing patterns.  The chasuble patterns have lots of design details with crosses and bands and trim. While describing the detail of the chasuble, we used the term “Orphrey Band.” Many of those who have been following along with our blog over the years know what orphrey bands are, but if you are new to Ecclesiastical Sewing, the term orphrey band may be unfamiliar to you.

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Orphrey band is the term used to describe the decorative strips of fabric that are used on vestments. They have a long history that dates back centuries. Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin provides this definition of an orphrey:

It signifies a band or bands of gold and rich embroidery, affixed to vestments. Its Latin name (aurifrusium) expresses accurately its meaning and etymology.

Pugin goes on to explain the ornamented ancient garments worn by the Romans with their auraclavae – the narrow purple bands or clavi. Different groups of people wore garments with different sized bands. He also speaks of the Chrysuclavus found in ecclesiastical writers as being the same word. Both words have the same meaning which is orphrey, according to Pugin. These orphrey bands were rich ornamentations with gold or silver texture that were sewn on to the Church vestments. Many old church records describe the vestments with orphrey bands in their collections and priests would bequeath their vestments when they died.

While these ancient vestments had rich and elaborate hand embroidery that cannot be matched today, we do have richly woven fabrics that create wonderful orphrey bands.

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This is the Red/Gold St. Hubert Brocatelle Fabric. It is called a Brocatelle because it is woven with metallic gold threads. These threads give a rich luster and shimmer to the fabric.

St. Hubert Red Gold Fabric Ecclesiastical Sewing

St. Hubert’s has a flowing vine motif that runs the length of the fabric. The vine creates a scrolling circle that is filled with a lattice flower motif. The linear pattern of St. Hubert makes is a great selection for use as orphrey bands on Chasubles, Altar Frontals, Copes, and many other items.

St. Hubert Liturgical Fabric Religious fabric

Using the linear design of the fabric, orphrey bands have been cut that are around 7″ wide. This width works well on larger vestment items such as an altar frontal or the column orphrey bands of a chasuble. 7-inches is a bit too wide for use on a “Y” orphrey chasuble. It makes the orphrey look thick, heavy, and clunky.

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To prepare the orphrey band, the fabric has been cut and the edges have been run through the serger. Trim options have been reviewed. Since the fabric has more of an antique gold color, the St. Paul Braid has been selected as the gold colors look well together.

St. Paul Braid is 3/4″ wide. It is a flexible narrow braid, which means it will turn corners easily, or more easily than some of the other trims. St. Paul Braid is available in a wide variety of colors including Gold, Red, Green, Blue, Violet, Rose, and Black.

Orphrey Bands Chasble orphrey bands Liturgical Fabric Religious Brocade Church Vestments Making chasubles,

To prepare for applying the orphrey bands, a ruler and marking pen or chalk wheel was used to mark a line about 1/2″ from the serged edge of the fabric. The trim has been placed along the line and has been pinned in place. Notice how close the pins are placed.  The close spacing helps to ensure the trim will not shift prior to stitching it in place. Once the trim is in place, a line of stitching is placed a scant 1/8″ from the edge.

We stitch the trim to the orphrey edge to create a unit and then apply this to the chasuble or other vestment items. There are several ways of doing this. The goal is to eliminate extra stitching where it is not needed, or where it may cause the fabric and trim to pucker. The secondary goal is to minimize the rows of stitching in case any of it needs to be removed or straightened. And yes, even we need to re-stitch trim on orphrey bands on occasion.

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Brocatelle fabrics are fun to work with. The price may be a bit intimidating the first time you cut into fabric that costs this per yard. So, before just jumping in and cutting the fabric, it helps to take time and study the pattern motifs and repeats. St. Hubert has a directional vine that travels the length of the fabric. Most of the time, we cut the orphrey bands along the length. But for this project, we will have vertical and horizontal orphrey bands which will create a “T”  or cross-shaped orphrey. The band in the above photo has been cut on the cross grain. Notice how the pattern in the fabric creates a nice diaper or diagonal effect? For this project, the orphrey bands can be matched in both directions. This is important as the fabric was not wide enough to cut the entire cross shape from the fabric without seams.

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Finally, the finished orphrey band!   And there is one more little detail to note about the St. Hubert Brocatelle. The fabric can be used on either side! You can use the color dominant side or the gold dominant side as the right side. You might even mix the two sides together!

The St. Hubert liturgical fabric comes in a number of colors including White/Gold, Gold/Gold, Red/Gold, Blue/Gold, and Black/Gold. The Red/Gold pairs well with white, blue, and gold as a few options. Now that we have spent time looking at this lovely fabric and talking about how to use this an orphrey band, can’t your mind begin to see how it will look like as the trim detail on the chasubles pictured below?

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Roman Chasuble Pattern


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Montastic Chasuble pattern.

Please visit our website Ecclesiastical Sewing for more information regarding the St. Hubert liturgical fabric, as well as our other liturgical fabrics and a full line of sewing patterns for making church vestments.

Soli Deo Gloria



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