Saturday 26 December 2020

Handmade Christmas at St Philip's Priory, Chelmsford

 Fr Stephen writes: "If it's red, and not a flower, then I've sewn it this week (the last week of Advent)...Getting good at upcycling old bits!"

Fr Stephen has a remarkable gift for making beautiful new altar furnishings out of crumbling old bits of vestments: I hope he'll give us a tutorial one day soon!

Friday 25 December 2020

Hand-stitched Christmas presents

It's the time of year when our sewing efforts are directed away from vestments and embroidery, and towards the children on our present lists. This year I enjoyed myself enormously, making felt crowns and more stuffed animals, with clothes to go with them. James Sharpe has also taken a break from Royal School of Needlework homework to make a felt cat. 

Luna and Alfie, made by Lucy

Felt crown, made by Lucy

Another felt crown, also by Lucy

James's marmalade felt cat

Friday 18 December 2020

Completion by our 2020 sponsorship winner of the Jacobean Crewelwork module

 Regular readers will remember that our Royal School of Needlework Sponsorship was this year won by a religious, who because of the hidden nature of the vocation prefers to remain anonymous. Despite the difficulties posed by the lockdown, our winner has already completed the first module of the Certificate Course: Jacobean Crewelwork. This is a beautiful piece of work, admirably executed, which already displays the skill and imagination which the RSN exists to foster.

The colour scheme is charming, and shows a real feeling for colour.

I particularly love the use of trellis stitch in this piece: it's perfectly even, and the patterns are original and fun.

The unnamed embroiderer of this piece comments: "I was trying to figure out how long it took in total and know it's over 100 hours and probably somewhere around 150 hours or more...The romantic in me likes the idea of the sacrifice of hundreds of hours in making, say, a vestment and imagines the holy Angels adding this offering up to God at the Mass whenever the vestment is worn. 

"In meeting other broderers I was amazed at how talented others are; though it is also a little saddening when this talent is not used for God's glory, which is why it is very pleasing to me that the Guild of St Clare exists."

We are delighted to see the award in such hands as these, being put to such good use. Congratulations to our winner, and thanks for all you do to promote the use of embroidery in the service of God. 

Wednesday 16 December 2020

December Vestment Mending day in Oxford

Thanks to the exemptions relating to instruction and training, our vestment mending day in December was able to go ahead, despite the restrictive Covid 19 tier system. 

We had a lovely day of sewing, mince pies and generally setting the world to rights: it was a delightful island of normality in this rather peculiar Advent season, which is usually so full of sociable festive preparations.

I hope we will be able to hold further sessions in the New Year, when mince pie eating will continue at least up to Candlemas.

Monday 14 December 2020

Completion and gift of faldstool covers to Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane

 Many members will recognise these faldstool covers, which have been under construction for many months. They were completed during lockdown, and when lockdown 2 was lifted, we were able to take them in person to Maiden Lane to present to Fr Alan Robinson. They were needed for the Second Sunday in Advent, when the parish was expecting a visit from Bishop Robert Byrne of Hexham & Newcastle Diocese.

To my relief they fitted the faldstool as they ought, and looked beautiful in the magnificent setting of Corpus Christi, which Fr Robinson has lovingly restored. He has been spending his lockdown in making as many improvements to the church and its furnishings as possible, and the church is a fitting place for pontifical liturgies for which the faldstool is needed.

We have enjoyed making these covers enormously, and many Guild members have learned a lot about the traditional methods of vestment making in the process. I know that Fr Stephen Morrison OPraem, of the Chelmsford Norbertines, is particularly looking forward to assisting at a Pontifical Mass at which the black set will be used, as he himself contributed largely to the making of it.

Our next commissions involve making stoles, maniples, chalice veils and burses to complete Low Mass sets belonging to the Latin Mass Society. This will make use of the same skills that we have honed in the making of the faldstool covers: after this, I hope we'll make short work of them.

Thursday 3 December 2020

Sewing and lace-making lessons in London

 Claire Fitzgerald, one of our generous and dedicated volunteers, is offering sewing classes for children and adults: for more information or to get in touch with Clare, click here.

Thursday 26 November 2020

Vestment Mending in December

We are happy to confirm that our vestment mending day on 12th December will go ahead as planned, at the church hall of St Gregory & St Augustine, Oxford. For further details, including our Covid 19 protocols, or to book a place, please email Lucy at . 

Monday 23 November 2020

Claire's Carickmacross Lace

One of our skilled members, Claire Fitzgerald, has recently completed work on some Carickmacross Lace, a technique new to her. Carickmacross is a needlepoint lace which was introduced to Ireland in the early nineteenth century. It's often used in making communion and wedding veils (including that of HRH the Duchess of Cambridge whose Carickmacross wedding gown was made at the Royal School of Needlework).

Claire used the harp and shamrock pattern designed by the Carrickmacross Lace Gallery in Co. Monaghan, Ireland.

Claire says: "The base layer is a net, with organdie laid on top. The design is then applied using a series of couching stitches and then the organdie is cut away in the background areas to expose the mesh. A fine thread is weaved in between the net to create a lacy look. This creates an illusion of depth and layering of the design (i.e. foreground, middle-ground and background). It’s finished off with a few eyelets in the mesh and loops around the edges to give it a nice finished border."    

Friday 13 November 2020

James completes his Jacobean Crewelwork

James Sharpe, the first winner of the Guild of St Clare sponsorship to the Royal School of Needlework, has finished his first piece of embroidery for the Jacobean Crewelwork technique, and will submit it in December when the mounting is complete.

James already had a background in art and design when he began the RSN Certificate course, and his design is laden with symbolism. The top represents the kingdom of Heaven, the thistles the pains of Hell, the central vine the vine of Christ and the narrow way, and the oxen the determined disciple. This exciting piece combines the English tradition of embroidery for upholstery and domestic furnishings with familiar liturgical symbols, using it to tell a story.

Many congratulations to James on this achievement: I am sure the assessors will be as impressed as we at the Guild of St Clare are!

Tuesday 10 November 2020

Fr Stephen makes a tabernacle veil

Fr Stephen Morrison has used some of his rare leisure hours to make a new tabernacle veil, upcycled from an old one, to match the priory altar frontal. It's backed with moire, and Fr Stephen has added some couched work down the front.

Not just beautiful, but thrifty!

Sunday 8 November 2020

New member's project: Platinum needles and needle boxes

James Sharpe, the Guild's first winner of the Royal School of Needlework sponsorship, has discovered these fabulous platinum-plated needles (which he describes as "the best £2.62 I have spent for a long time") - for a Rolls Royce sewing experience, they are highly recommended. 

To single them out among his other needles he has created these special needle boxes, using Russian matchboxes.

It's all about the sewing stash!

Friday 23 October 2020

Cancellation of the November Sewing Retreat

 Much to our sorrow the autumn Sewing Retreat at Douai Abbey has been cancelled. This is because the community at Douai have decided not to re-open the retreat centre until after Christmas. Booking is open for our retreat in February and also for our retreat in November 2021. I am very happy to be able to say that Fr Tim Finigan, who was to have been our chaplain at this autumn's retreat, is able to come next November, so we have less to regret in this year's cancellation than might otherwise have been the case.

Thursday 22 October 2020

More Luna Lapin

James Sharpe, our RSN sponsorship winner, has caught Luna Lapin fever (it's even more contagious than Covid-19) - here is his beautiful rabbit.

If you feel the incipient symptoms of this yourself, you can buy the books and kits from Sarah Peel's wonderful website, Cool Crafting.

Monday 5 October 2020

Coronavirus and the sewing retreat

Our autumn retreat is scheduled for 20th-22nd November, and, under the current restrictions, we are still able to go ahead although with reduced numbers to allow for social distancing in the refectory. We are now limited to twelve, all told. The booking page is open here: there are five places currently available. The well-known Fr Tim Finigan has very generously agreed to be our chaplain. 

If you have any questions about the measures we are taking to prevent the spread of the virus during the retreat, or indeed any other questions, please do get in touch and I will be happy to fill you in.

Thursday 20 August 2020

Luna Lapin

 Lucy writes: I've recently discovered the wonderful world of Luna Lapin, created by Sarah Peel. The lockdown has provided time for me to make the full set:

From left to right: Wilhelmina Woodmouse, Luna Lapin, Freddie Badger, Reynard the Fox & Clementine the Cat

We were fortunate to meet Sarah at the Knitting & Stitching Show (in the days when such mass events were still possible and legal): she was so encouraging to the children and they invested heavily in kits and fabrics! We have also visited her shop in Kendal. You can also buy the Luna Lapin books, and the kits to make the animals, at Sarah's website.

Wednesday 29 July 2020

Royal School of Needlework Sponsorship Award

The Guild of St Clare and the Latin Mass Society are pleased to announce that an award has been made for their Sponsorship Scheme which assists students in doing the Certificate in Hand Embroidery at the Royal School of Needlework. 

The recipient is a religious who prefers to remain anonymous. We are delighted that the skills offered by the Royal School of Needlework will be joined to a vocation of hidden prayer and service to the Church.

The Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Fr Stephen Morrison makes a travelling stole

Lucy writes: I was honoured by a visit from the multi-talented Fr Stephen Morrison last week. While he was with us he made a violet travelling stole, to replace the one he had dropped while visiting Covid patients in the Intensive Care Unit and which was consequently incinerated. 

The stole was made using New Ely brocade and trimmed with Ecclesia braid.

This is Fr Stephen’s second foray into vestment making - he assisted in the construction of faldstool covers during our last Sewing Retreat. The quality of his workmanship is extremely high so that it looks like the creation of a much more experienced maker. I hope the Guild of St Clare will benefit from his skills in the future!

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


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.

Saturday 18 January 2020

Advanced Silk Shading

 Lucy writes: Advanced silk shading is one of the techniques studied for the diploma at the Royal School of Needlework. The subject should be a photograph of an animal, bird, fish or butterfly. I took a risk by using a photograph not of a live bird, but of a model: a recreation of the dodo, which is exhibited in the Oxford Natural History Museum. All Oxford dwellers have a great affection for the Oxford dodo, mummified remnants of which are in the keeping of the museum: it inspired the dodo in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and is said to be a caricature of the author himself. This is my embroidered tribute to the long-dead bird, the author and the book.