Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Embroidery Course Sponsorship Scheme 2020

Crewel work completed by our first sponsored
student, James Sharpe
In 2019 the Guild of St Clare made the first award under its Sponsorship Scheme to help a student through the Certificate Course at the Royal School of Needlework. Our sponsored student has made good progress, and as he enters his second year of part-time study, we can start sponsoring a second.

The deadline is 22nd June.

The RSN Certificate Course takes between one and four years, depending on how intensively students wish to do it. Its great flexibility makes it ideal for those who can only spare limited time, or whose availability fluctuates over the year. The Certificate gives its graduates a thorough grounding in a range of traditional hand-embroidery skills, skills for which the RSN is renowned, and which its experts apply to historic restoration projects and important commissions.

Sponsored students will be able to reclaim half the cost of their tuition days, up to a maximum of £2,000 a year (September 1st to September 1st), subject to satisfactory progress in the Certificate course, and their attendance at least one of the Guild’s two annual Sewing Retreats. Students at the RSN have to pay for tuition days when they book them; they would be reimbursed at that point. Progress will be monitored by reference to the successful completion of each module, and the reports which are provided by RSN tutors on each piece of work.

More information, and how to apply, can be found here.

Friday, 20 March 2020

Vestment Mending Days

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The Vestment mending day in March will be our last until further notice, due to the Corona virus. The one we were planning in May will not take place.

Assuming the Autumn Sewing Retreat at Douai Abbey is not affected, you can book that here: 20-22nd November, to be led by Fr Timothy Finigan.

We will be back with more vestment mending days as soon as we can.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Guild of St Clare Retreat: report

The Guild of St Clare held its sixth sewing retreat on the last weekend of February, and we were delighted to welcome Fr Stephen Morrison, OPraem, as our chaplain. We tackled a wide variety of repairs and commissions, including ongoing work on the Latin Mass Society's red High Mass Set, the re-lining of a much-loved chasuble from Fr Stephen's own community in Chelmsford, and the making of three faldstool covers in different liturgical colours for Fr Alan Robinson at Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane.


Fr Stephen gave us three allocutions on the meaning of the Mass, and the spirit in which we should participate in it; they were thoughtful and full of insights which made a most helpful start to our Lenten devotions. Fr Stephen also took a very active part in the sewing side of the retreat; he learned to use the Guild sewing machines and assisted us in the making of the black faldstool cover. There is a piano in the room we use for sewing at Douai Abbey, and Fr Stephen played to us on this instrument in his rare moments of rest, which gave us all a great deal of pleasure. 


In addition to Mass on each day of the retreat we had morning Rosary, and, on Saturday evening, sung Compline before the Blessed Sacrament exposed, followed by Benediction. We were also invited to attend Douai Abbey's own community vespers, which is sung in Latin. These devotions are central to the work we do at the retreat, reminding us of the spiritual importance of the vestments we are handling and the vital need to treat them with care and respect; and to give them the best possible repair that we can.


It is a great source of delight to me to see the progress that is made in repairing the many old and damaged vestments that we deal with during the retreats. It is an additional joy to see the number of people who take part in the retreats, all making their contribution to this work.



Some of the chasubles and dalmatics we have repaired have needed dozens of hours of work to be done on them, and have therefore passed through the hands of several different retreatants. 


These vestments, though in heavy use, have often not been well treated in the past, probably simply because of the lack of anyone to mend and care for them. This lack is handsomely compensated for by the love and attention that is lavished on them during the Guild of St Clare sewing retreats, when time and thought are not considered too great luxuries to expend on them.



Douai Abbey was as comfortable and hospitable as ever, and we look forward to our next retreat there, on November 20th- 22nd, to be led by Fr Tim Finigan. Online registration is now open: book online here.




Thursday, 27 February 2020

Guild of St Clare Lenten Challenge

There's no better way of supporting your Lenten devotions than by giving up some time to mending a vestment during the penitential season. This is a beautifully practical way of assisting our priests and deepening our devotions. If you'd like to take up the Guild of St Clare Lenten challenge, but don't have anything to mend, do come to the vestment mending day on 14th March at St James's Spanish Place.





Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Burse-making day at the RSN

The Guild of St Clare held an exclusive burse-making day at the Royal School of Needlework last Saturday, tutored by Heather Lewis. The lesson took place in the RSN's teaching apartments at Hampton Court Palace.

Heather Lewis, the RSN ecclesiastical specialist, led the course

Burse-making is tricky because it combines cutting and sewing skills with mounting. For many of the people attending it was their first experience of mounting fabric on to board; by the end of the day we'd all mastered the essentials.

The damask is pinned to the mount board before being laced on the back
I'm very grateful to Heather for putting this course together especially for us. This particular skill is rare but essential for anyone wanting to make a traditional set of vestments.


One of the highlights of the day was making cord by hand to stitch to the edge of the burse

The Guild of St Clare is often asked to make stoles, maniples, chalice veils and burses to make up incomplete sets - I'm delighted that we are slowly acquiring the expertise we need to do this to a high standard.

Antonia lacing her damask on mount board
Heather showed us the beautiful half-size burse
she uses to teach burse-making to the RSN's
full-time students
Following the success of the occasion I plan to organise a stole-making workshop next year. It will be splendid to see the gradual building of vestment-making skills among the dedicated people who attend our retreats and vestment-mending days, and I hope to see as good an attendance as we had last Saturday.