Tuesday 16 November 2021

Sewing Retreat at Douai

Our most recent sewing retreat took place at Douai over the weekend of 12th-14th November. Douai has reduced the maximum number of retreatants, so we were a small gathering of twelve, including our chaplain Fr Stephen Dunn, who very kindly travelled all the way from Glasgow to be with us. 

We achieved a huge amount of work: two maniples and a chalice veil were among the new pieces which were made, as well as significant repairs to the LMS violet High Mass set, and the patching of the Guild's own green Low Mass set. 

It was a pleasure to welcome several retreatants who were new to sewing, as well as old hands whose skills were very much needed. 

We were also delighted to see both winners of the Guild of St Clare sponsorship scheme to the Royal School of Needlework: the advanced skills they are developing are of material use to the Guild of St Clare.

Our next retreat is 4th-6th February 2022, at a new venue: Park Place Pastoral Centre. Our chaplain is Fr Stephen Morrison, a great friend of the Guild of St Clare. Click here to book online or email Lucy at lucyashaw@gmail.com for more details.

Many thanks to Michael Dennison for the photographs

Wednesday 6 October 2021

Online Stole-Making Course with the Royal School of Needlework

We are delighted to announce that the Guild of St Clare is collaborating with the Royal School of Needlework to provide a special online one day course in stole-making.

This is a unique opportunity to learn the skills necessary to vestment-making. The tuition will be provided by RSN tutor Heather Lewis, who has led previous Guild of St Clare courses at the Royal School of Needlework in ecclesiastical goldwork and burse-making. 

Heather Lewis at the Guild of St Clare burst-making day, February 2020

As this course is taking place virtually, students will need to provide their own materials. Please email Lucy at lucyashaw@gmail.com for more details.

The date is the 30th October 2021, and the course will run between 10am and 4pm. Thanks to our long-standing relationship with the RSN, we are able to offer this course at a reduced price which, excluding the materials, is £108. Online booking for this event is now open: click here to register.

Sunday 5 September 2021

Sewing is for everyone

The publication of Traditionis Custodes has given rise to a great many attacks on those attached to the Old Mass: the most recent, in this country, is published this weekend in the Tablet, by Austen Ivereigh. The focus of his assault is Mass at the parish at Ledbury, and he makes many grievous accusations, none of which stand up to scrutiny, but which nevertheless have caused distress and division not only amongst the faithful at Ledbury but in the wider community.

The Chairman of the Latin Mass Society assisting in sewing labels into vestments

Perhaps the least of his broadsides was the one aimed at the Guild of St Clare. Here it is:

'LMS Chairman Joseph Shaw explains in the new edition of Mass of Ages how "traditional Catholics" must respond to the "new attitude of the Holy See" of "official hostility towards the traditional Mass". He asks his followers to steel themselves for mockery and persecution, to suffer for the "spiritual treasure" that they are "under a duty to preserve". He suggests they read his books and attend classes for vestment-sewing (women) [sic] and altar-serving (men).' Parentheses are Austen Ivereigh's, not Joseph Shaw's.

Fr Richard Biggerstaff repairing a burse at the very first Guild of St Clare sewing retreat

Joseph, in fact, made no such arbitrary allocation of sewing to women: nor is it likely he would, as all our children have been taught to sew, irrespective of their sex. Our oldest son has twice won prizes in quilting competitions. However this enlightened attitude is in fact nothing new. Sewing has never been the exclusive preserve of women: consider professional embroidery and tailoring, for which England has for many centuries enjoyed (and continues to enjoy) an international reputation. 

Detail from a fourteenth century Book of Hours

The nineteenth century revival of English needlework was also spearheaded by a man, William Morris: and men continue to dominate the highest levels of the sewing professions here in Britain, most obviously, but not exclusively, in tailoring. It's ironic that Austen, in attacking traditionalists for their sexist attitudes, accidentally reveals that the outdated prejudices are all on his side.

Br Isaac Wharton O.P. with Aileen Seymour at our sewing retreat at Douai

The work of the Guild of St Clare is almost entirely concerned with vestments, a special charism which has a profound appeal that speaks to men and women of all backgrounds who love the Church and want to serve her as well as they can. We have welcomed many men, including priests and religious, to our sewing workshops and retreats; the first winner of the Guild of St Clare sponsorship scheme for the Royal School of Needlework certificate course is a man, James Sharpe. And our first chaplain, Fr Bede Rowe, was a noted needleworker.

To misquote Cardinal Ratzinger, it is clear that, in vestment making and mending, men find an encounter with sewing particularly suited to them. Our mission at the Guild of St Clare is to support priests who celebrate the Traditional Mass (and goodness me, they need all the help we can give them right now), and we are very happy to be able to spread our skills as widely as possible so that every Mass can be celebrated with as much dignity as possible, for the glory of God.

Fr Stephen Morrison OPraem at our last sewing retreat before the lockdown

We are all struggling our way to heaven, and doing our best to help those around us to get there too. In the end, that is the goal of all our efforts. In trying to beautify the vestments used for the liturgy, in as prayerful a manner as possible, we at the Guild of St Clare make our small contribution to the nourishing and spreading of our beautiful Faith. For "there are diversities of ministries, but the same Lord." This work is for all: and all are welcome to join us.


Wednesday 1 September 2021

The LMS Walsingham Pilgrimage: or Any time is a good time to do some sewing

 Lucy writes: I was privileged to assist the volunteers at this year's Latin Mass Society Walking Pilgrimage from Ely to Walsingham, in the capacity of cook. The numbers were enormously increased since our last outing, in August 2019: we were cooking for 124, including ten non-walking volunteers. The sight of so many pilgrims undergoing considerable penances for the conversion of England was indeed a moving sight: Our Lady of Walsingham will surely look kindly on them.

I found time to put in a little work on the maniple I'm making to match the LMS Violet High Mass set. There's never a bad time to get out some sewing!

Sunday 15 August 2021

The Latin Mass Society AGM

 Lucy writes: It was a great joy to attend the LMS AGM this year. The friends I meet there I see very rarely, because most of us don't live in the capital: this year, we had the feeling of shipwreck survivors who have safely gained the shore as we greeted each other and exchanged news. 

Me making a burse during the AGM

Fr Whisenant's talk was excellent and paid tribute to the faithful attached to the Old Mass: he drew a comparison between the suppression of the Jesuits by Clement XIV and the suppression by Pope Francis of the Mass of Ages in Traditionis Custodes. 

Fr Whisenant at the podium

The High Mass afterwards, celebrated by Fr Whisenant, was attended by unusually large numbers, and I believe some of the congregation had never before come to an Old Mass. After the sufferings of our community in the weeks since Traditionis Custodes, it was so consoling to attend Mass together in our home cathedral: the atmosphere was extraordinarily prayerful, and I think everyone there felt the same. We were comforted and reassured not only by the presence of so many lovers of tradition, but by the deep spirituality of the Mass itself: it has the power to nourish and sustain us and will continue to do so as we continue the struggle to preserve it. 

Friday 13 August 2021

Guild of St Clare, Oxford chapter: meetings resume

Fortnightly meetings of the Guild of St Clare's Oxford chapter have now resumed, and what a happiness it is to see each other again and sew together!

Clare Auty is an accomplished lace maker and is making 100 metres of lace to edge a mantilla

Clare's beautiful roller pillow

Not sure if Emma altogether approves of this internet lark

Emma's ecclesiastical embroidery sampler

If you'd like to join our meetings, email Lucy at lucyashaw@gmail.com. New members are always welcome!

Esteemed guest in the sewing room

Lucy writes: It's always a pleasure to have company in the sewing room: today I was joined by Sophie Carter, who has taught me so much over the last few years about her own specialism. Sophie is an elite long distance runner who has competed for England. Not long after I first met her, she came second in Race to the Stones, one of the UK's toughest endurance running events, a 100km route following the ancient Roman road along the Ridgeway: this year she has won the Newbury Racecourse Half Marathon only a year after giving birth to twin babies. Her undoubted talent linked to great strength of will are a remarkable illustration of what can be achieved when we test what seem to be the limits of our powers.

On a rare half-day off, Sophie sat down with me for some stitching R&R: she is making Luna Lapin, from CoolCrafting. Regular readers will know how big a fanbase of Luna we have here at the Guild of St Clare!

Monday 19 July 2021

Vestment Mending this Saturday

 The Guild of St Clare is holding a vestment mending workshop at St Mary Moorfields, Eldon Street London this Saturday (24th July) between 10.30 and 3.30. As usual, tea, coffee and cake will be provided, but please bring a packed lunch (or you can go out for lunch locally).

Sewing Retreat Spring 2020

In view of the new restrictions on the Old Mass, announced last Friday, it is more important than ever that we continue to support the priests who say it. The Guild of St Clare will therefore press on with our schedule of events, including vestment mending days and the bi-annual Sewing Retreats. You can get in touch with us through our blog, which we keep regularly updated with forthcoming events.

Saturday 5 June 2021

Completion by our 2020 sponsorship winner of the Canvaswork module

 The winner of our 2020 sponsorship to the Royal School of Needlework (an anonymous religious) has completed the second module of the Certificate Course, Canvaswork. This piece of work was awarded almost perfect marks: it's a beautiful piece of work, executed to the very highest standard. 

We at the Guild of St Clare take enormous pride in the success of both our sponsorship winners: we feel we are playing a very small part in building the restoration of the skills that made the English church famous throughout the world in medieval times.

We look forward to seeing the next piece on which our winner is currently engaged: Goldwork.

Friday 7 May 2021

Sponsorship for the RSN Certificate Course: apply now!

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 (RSN), and in 2020 we made the second. Our two sponsored students are, despite the epidemic, progressing through the course, and we are now inviting new candidates to apply for the scheme.

The deadline for applications this year 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, subject to satisfactory progress in the Certificate course, and their attendance (for free) 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.

Tuesday 26 January 2021

Christmas sewing lesson

Lucy writes: Despite the stringent restrictions over Christmas, I was able to see some close family, and it was a particular joy to spend time in the sewing room teaching my Goddaughter, Agathe, how to make a patchwork scarf for her Luna Lapin to wear.

I was impressed by how quickly Agathe got the hang of the sewing machine. And Luna will be grateful for this beautiful handmade accessory in the cold weather we're having.

One of the things I'm looking forward to most when restrictions eventually lift is a return to spending time sewing with friends and family. Who knows when that will be?- but when it does happen, Guild of St Clare workshops and retreats will come roaring back into the calendar and I hope I will see many Guild members once again.