Wednesday 19 June 2024

Sewing Kits for Sale

The Guild of St Clare is excited to announce the launch of a new venture: the sale of our exclusive Sewing Kits online, through the Latin Mass Society shop.

Pocket Shrine kits featuring the Sacred Heart and the Madonna & Child

The Guild has been producing and selling kits for a few years, but only at our workshops and retreats, or by special request. Now for the first time they are available to a wider audience.

Our perennially popular Embroidered Scapular kits

At the moment, the LMS is stocking five of our kits: the Embroidered Scapular kits, the Pocket Shrine kits, the Rosary Purse kits, the Travelling Stole kits and the Vestment Mender's Sewing kit. As our range expands, we hope that the LMS will continue to stock the full range.

The Vestment Mender's Sewing kit: everything you need to get started

More kits are under development already, and by Christmas we hope that an even larger number of our kits will be on offer.

The Travelling Stole kit, including damask from world famous Papal outfitters Gammarelli

All our kits come with all the materials you need to make each item, and full instructions. For further information email Lucy on .

Sunday 16 June 2024

Chapter Leaders' Outing

 Lucy writes: Guild of St Clare Chapter Leaders convened at the office of the Latin Mass Society yesterday, to enjoy a light lunch and a chat before embarking on a tour of some of London's best sewing shops.

Lucy and the Guild Chapter Leaders, next to the LMS Vestment presses

This is the first occasion on which we have all met together in person. Our Northern Chapter Leaders had the furthest to come, travelling from Durham and Manchester to be with us. The prize for the longest journey went to Clare Megarity, also one of the leaders of the Northern Chapter, who came straight to the meeting from a conference in Sweden.

The Northern Chapter leads the way in commitment both to work and recreation

One of the biggest challenges in vestment mending is finding appropriate materials. The braids, damasks and trimmings aren't widely available and can't easily be found using internet searches. However they are stocked in some places in London, and I was thrilled to be able to share the fruits of my researches with the other Guild of St Clare volunteers.

Buttons at Macculloch & Wallis

I was pleased to have the opportunity to buy some of the materials I will need for the sewing project for the St Catherine's Trust Summer School: a special Marian bag, which I hope also to sell as Guild of St Clare kits once I have completed the preparations.

Shopping was of course followed by cream tea, and readers will be delighted to hear that we have settled the vexed question of whether to put the jam or the cream first on to the scones. The answer is, of course, jam first, but we experimented exhaustively in order to verify our data.

Cream tea at the Ivy Café, Marylebone Lane

I am so grateful to the Guild's Chapter Leaders who pour so much of their precious time, skill and resources into organising the vestment mending effort, helping to build a prayerful community around the traditional Mass.

Chapter Leaders at Liberty of London

N.B. We keep an updated list of suppliers on our website, to help others find the materials needed for vestment mending.

Tuesday 11 June 2024

Launch of the St Mary Magdalen Chapter

I'm delighted to announce the launch of a new Guild of St Clare Chapter at St Mary Magdalen, Wandsworth. The Chapter will be led by Ola Smalley; please email her if you would like to be involved on .

Ola at the Guild of St Clare vestment mending workshop, June 2024

St Mary Magdalen has been home to the Traditional Mass for many years. Canon Martin Edwards, the parish priest there, has done a great deal to restore it and also to build up the vestment collection, always with an eye to maintaining the artistic coherence of the furnishings and interiors.

Mass for the reunion of the Chartres pilgrims, 2014

 I attended a Requiem there on one occasion and was dazzled by the remarkable early twentieth century black High Mass Set which Fr Edwards had acquired. It will be an honour for the Guild to assist Fr Edwards in the work of preserving and maintaining his vestments.

Solemn Requiem for Remembrance Sunday 2010 at St Mary Magdalen

The Chapter Launch will be on Saturday, 20th July at 12 noon. For more details, or to join, please email Ola.

Photo credit: Joseph Shaw,

Sunday 9 June 2024

Vestment mending at St Mary Moorfields, 8th June

We had another pleasant (and productive) day at St Mary Moorfields on Saturday. A white chalice veil for use at Guild of St Clare retreats has been completed;  

fraying fabric has been reinforced and carefully patched on a Roman Purple dalmatic;

a lace protector has been stitched on to the exquisite goldwork chasuble belonging to Canon Mark Hackeson of East Anglia diocese which completes repairs to the set;

and work continues on a deep red velvet chasuble belonging to the Latin Mass Society.

Sometimes volunteers bring along repairs from their own parishes for advice and support on materials and approach, and I'm always very happy to help with these. On this occasion we hosted some splendid things from the vestry of the London Oratory. 

Our autumn dates will be announced shortly; we'll meet again in September.

Monday 13 May 2024

Running for the Pelican Cope

 Lucy writes: On Sunday I completed the Oxford Town & Gown 10k, in hot and humid conditions that saw a lot of runners in difficulties. I decided to sacrifice pace to safety, and made it round in the extremely underwhelming time of 1:07:30.  

Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of our donors, we have exceeded our target of £1500 by more than £250, and we will shortly be putting into execution the restoration of the Pelican Cope. Names of all the benefactors who contributed to the fundraiser will be stitched inside the lining, and a label asking for prayers for them will be under the maker's mark.

Tuesday 30 April 2024

Visit to Luigi Bevilacqua, Venice

Following the advice of several friends intimate with the small world of vestment making, I paid a visit to the workshop of celebrated textile manufacturers, Luigi Bevilacqua. It is one of the most ancient working weaving mills in Europe, and is still run by the Bevilacqua family.

I was very grateful for the kindness of the staff there in giving me a brief personal tour of their magnificent looms, on which they hand weave their extraordinary fabrics.

This velvet, known as "soprarizzo", featuring the heraldic Bevilacqua lion, is woven by hand. It takes a whole day to make just 30cm. The width from selvedge to selvedge is only 60cm, because it's impractical to hand weave fabrics any wider.

Bevilacqu also produce machine woven fabrics, and these are much wider, and also less expensive.

The fabrics aren't designed specifically for ecclesiastical use, but a number of them are silk brocades, very suitable for church furnishings and vestments.

I particularly loved these leopards, depicted guarding the tree of life.

The small shop attached to the mill has a number of exclusive products made out of these unique fabrics, uncluding bags and notebooks. I satisfied myself with a book of the history of the Bevilacqua company.

I was excited to discover, during my perambulations round Venice, a remarkable shop: Banco Lotto no 10. This outlet sells clothing made to the highest standards by women prisoners on the Giudecca island. Bevilacqua are collaborators with this charitable work. As a a result some of the exquisitely made clothes inside are made from the distinctive Bevilacqua fabrics, such as this patchwork jacket.

In this brief YouTube video, Alberto Bevilacqua movingly describes himself and his colleagues as "the last guardians of an ancient Venetian textile art", a melancholy phrase that will strike a chord with lovers of the Traditional Mass.

Luigi Bevilacqua offer regular tours of their mill; you can email them for details. Their fabrics are also available to order through their British agent Alton-Brooke at Chelsea Harbour.

Monday 22 April 2024

Fundraising Appeal for our White Cope

Following the launch of our fundraising campaign last week, and thanks to the kindness of our supporters, we may raise enough funds to tackle a project especially close to my heart: the restoration of a beautiful white Cope, given to the Guild of St Clare by Fr Mark Swires of the diocese of Brentwood.

The Cope has a hood, embroidered with a Pelican in her Piety, and orphreys with complementary embroidered floral motifs. The embroidery (mainly stem stitch worked with a chenille thread) is in almost perfect condition. The Pelican has evidently been re-mounted on the fabric, so I think it may originally have decorated an older Cope.

Since the fabric of the body of the Cope is mildewed (the hood and orphreys have miraculously escaped damage), I think the best thing will be to make a new Cope and apply the old hood and orphreys to it. As it happens, at our most recent Sewing Retreat, for the first time we were unable to have Benediction, because there was no white Cope in the sacristy at the retreat centre, and we didn’t have time to find one we could borrow. This therefore seems like an excellent opportunity to expend some of our precious resources in bringing this fabulous white Cope back into use.

We will need approximately 5 metres of fabric, and also 10 metres of braid. The cost of materials will be in the region of £700, and it will take around 25 hours to complete the work. This is a significant outlay for our small apostolate, but by the same token it will be a fitting and permanent memorial of the benefactors who have made it possible. A commemorative label will be stitched inside, asking for prayers for the donors.

To join the fundraising effort, please visit our GoFundMe page. Thank you so much to all our benefactors; you are assured of our prayers.

Friday 19 April 2024

Invitation for applications for the RSN Sponsorship Scheme

 The Guild of St Clare is delighted to announce that we will shortly be making our annual award of sponsorship on the prestigious Royal School of Needlework Certificate Course. The course teaches four embroidery techniques, and is extremely flexible. Students can study it intensively, or spread it over as much as four years, and the skills learned are essential to the art of making and mending vestments. As a condition of acceptance, successful candidates must take part in at least one Guild of St Clare Sewing Retreat each year.

The Guild of St Clare Dalmatic Making class at the RSN, March 2024

The deadline for applications is 23rd June; we will hold interviews in July. More information, including details on how to apply, can be found here. If you have any questions email Lucy on .

Wednesday 17 April 2024

Running to raise funds for the Guild of St Clare

 Lucy writes: The work of the Guild of St Clare is growing rapidly, especially through our network of local Chapters; we need money for materials and equipment, and to this end I am running the Oxford Town & Gown 10k on 12th May. 

After the Oxford Half 2023

I last ran this race in 2021, when I managed a time of 58:28; this time, I'm aiming for 60 minutes. If all goes well, I will start preparing for the Oxford Half Marathon in October. Those interested can check my stats on Strava!

Many thanks indeed to all those who support us, both financially and spiritually; we pray for you.

Benediction at the Sewing Retreat, November 2023

Monday 25 March 2024

Passiontide veils at St Bede's

The London Chapter has recently completed Passiontide veils to be used at St Bede's, Clapham Park.
One is for a new statue of St Anne, and the other for the Sacred Heart. A wonderful Lenten alms from the Chapter to the parish: special thanks to Verena Windsor, Chapter Leader, for organising this special seasonal project.

Saturday 23 March 2024

Online booking opens for the Autumn Sewing Retreat

Booking is now open for the Guild of St Clare Autumn Retreat, taking place between 8th and 10th November 2024. We are delighted to be able to confirm that our chaplain will be Fr Stephen Morrison OPraem of the Peckham Norbertines, a great friend of the Guild of St Clare and keen needleworker.
As usual, there will be plenty of vestment repairs to do, as well as the option of making a new vestment for those interested in practising the art of traditional hand construction. As well as the liturgy we will have spiritual conferences, given by Fr Stephen, and plenty of opportunities to drink tea and eat biscuits. The Retreat will take place at St Joseph's Centre, Ashurst, near Southampton. Places are strictly limited so don't delay in registering.

Thursday 21 March 2024

Miniature Dalmatic Making at the Royal School of Needlework

The Guild of St Clare annual class at the Royal School of Needlework took place last Saturday, 16th March; this year we tackled a new skill, learning miniature Dalmatics.

Our class was led, as in previous years, by Heather Lewis, an RSN graduate Apprentice who specialises in ecclesiastical needlework. The Guild of St Clare is enormously indebted to Heather for her expertise which she has shared with us over many years, and her generosity in travelling from York, where she now lives, in order to tutor us at Hampton Court Palace.

She brought her own exquisitely made miniature Dalmatic to show us.

Making a Dalmatic is relatively complex in comparison with other vestments, and even the quite experienced vestment makers amongst us had to concentrate hard to understand the instructions.

The course was extremely popular, despite the rather esoteric subject, and it sold out online before the close of registrations. I was pleased to see several faces new to the Guild of St Clare.

The annual RSN class is always a sociable occasion, and the weather was sufficiently clement to allow us to lunch outside in the beautiful grounds of Hampton Court Palace.

Heather and I are already planning next year's course. As it happens, Heather has a book coming out within the next few months (it is hoped!), on the subject of vestments and ecclesiastical embroidery, and we are thinking of taking a project from that. More details to follow!