This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
For church work, whether the embroidery be on velvet or silk, it should always in the first instance be worked in a frame (on linen or holland) and afterwards transferred to the richer material. Alter it has been transferred the enrichments in gold thread round the edges, the little spiral and radiating decorations, should be "laid" on to the ground and the whole work finished off neatly. In making up, a stout interlining of strong, even linen should be used. This is better than buckram, which is too stiff and is apt to crack and make ugly marks in the velvet.
The best materials should always be selected for Church embroidery. Unlcss a really good velvet be used it will soon become shabby and discoloured. The same may be said of the silks. Filoselle ought never to be used, as the colour cannot be depended upon for standing under the influence of damp. As lor the gold thread, it ought, of course, to be the pure metal, such as was used in olden times, and which in ninth century vestments has been preserved as bright as if only worked yesterday.
Designs for church embroidery should always be emblematical, and the forms which ancient custom has allowed are so numerous that there should be no difficulty in producing good designs with a sufficient fidelity to tradition and yet with a certain amount of freshness. Thus, beside the well-known trefoil, fleur-de-lis, Rose of Sharon, Star of Bethlehem, and the numerous forms of the sacred monogram, there are the fish, the peacock, the pomegranate, the vine, the passion flower, which may all be used in ecclesiastical designs, as well as the conventional artichoke, found in almost all the old 1 woven stuffs used for church decorations. With regard to the sacred monogram itself there is a curious amount of misunderstanding. Its best-known forms are I. H. S., I. H. C, X. P. C, or the equally familiar X. P., the sign which Constantine saw in the heavens. All these are forms, more or less allowed, of the chief letters of the name of Jesus written in Greek. The sign of Constantine was simply a monogram composed of the first two Greek letters of the word Christ. In early times the name of Christ preponderated, and this must have been the emblem in use at the time, from the tradition that it was the sign which appeared to Constantine. Later on the tendency was to give greater prominence to the name Jesus, and the Greek letters became Latinized, or perhaps taken to represent Roman letters. The monogram I. H. C, afterwards commonly changed to I. H. S. (the C and S being interchangeable), was undoubtedly formed either from the first three letters of the Greek word "lesous," or the first two and the last, which were frequently taken to form a monogram in ancient times. The Greek letter eta (H) was evidently mistaken for H in the Roman character, and as the old sigma was much more like C than S, it was taken for emblematical purposes as equivalent, and the monogram was written in Roman lettering I. H. C. or I. H. S. That it ever signified "Jesus Hominum Salvator" appears to have been a delusion which some interpreter more ingenious than learned set afloat. It is, of course, of very little importance which form is used, except that when introduced into mediaeval decoration it should be spelled in black letters, and in Renaissance work in Roman letters. The alpha and omega of the Greek alphabet are also frequently used in church decoration, and may be introduced into designs with good effect.
IN giving directions for working an antepedium tor an altar, we may altogether disregard the purple cover used for Lent, and only consider those designs suitable for ordinary use or for festivals. The amount of work must, of course, chiefly depend on the sum of money to be expended; but very effective altar coverings can be made with a comparatively small amount of work. There is first the frontal, which hangs from the top of the altar to the ground, and the superfrontal, a border of about eight inches in depth, which is joined to the cloth which covers the altar top, and hangs over the top of the frontal. In some cases the covering for the altar is carried round the sides, but the superfrontal only hangs in front. It is usual to trim both frontal and superfrontal with fringe, which is in all cases laid on the velvet or silk, never at the edge. In placing a design on a frontal, therefore, it is always necessary, in finding the centre, to allow for the space to be occupied by the overhanging of the superfrontal and by the fringe at the bottom.
Where only a small amount of outlay can be allowed, a very effective altar covering can be made with a superfrontal only, and a medallion with the sacred monogram or some other device in the centre. This may be very much enriched, if there is money enough, by putting two embroidered orphreys, one at each side of the centre medallion, placed about twelve to eighteen inches from the extreme ends of the frontal. Where money is no object, the whole frontal may be covered with embroidery; but it is doubtful whether this is any real gain, as some of the handsomest altar coverings are also the simplest.
Another mode of decorating an altar frontal is to scatter detached ornaments all over it, at regular intervals ("poudre" as it is called), with either a cross or monogram in the centre from which rays issue. The embroidery must in all cases be clone on linen, and transferred on to the velvet or silk. As for the colouring used, that must, of course, depend on the ground. For a white festival frontal the embroidery may be of any colouring that best suits the decorations of the church; but gold greatly preponderates as a rule, and in some cases only gold and white are used, without any colour. Velvet or plush is never satisfactory in white, as it invariably has a dirty appearance. Damask silk of a rich cream shade is best, and with embroidery of delicate shades of blue, red or green, with good gold enrichments, is very handsome. In a red or green frontal rather stronger colours may be used, but they must be so selected and well considered that no appearance of gaudiness is given. Perhaps a design of passion flower for the superfrontal is most pleasing of all, on account of the delicate colouring.
Feather-stitch is most suitable for church embroidery, as being more durable; the gold work is of course all "couched" work, in one of its many forms. For instance, in a pomegranate design the outside of the fruit is sometimes worked in basket-stitch; in the same manner the cross or the letters of the monogram may be in raised gold work, or a simple diaper-stitch may be used. It is very usual where there is a central medallion bearing the monogram or cross to have it on a ground of silk, and transfer the whole medallion on to the velvet of the frontal. This saxes the working-in of the ground, and has much the same effect.
On a velvet frontal the orphreys also are generally of silk, and if the frontal itself is damask, a plain silk or velvet is used for the orphreys. A handsome altar covering may be made by using damask silk for the frontal, with velvet for the superfrontal, orphreys and medallion. This applies, however, best to a red covering, as it is difficult to get a green velvet that will not look gaudy, and white velvet is never pleasing.
It is generally best to cover the top of the altar with cloth or with plain silk of the same shade as the frontal. A good cheap altar covering may be made of cloth or of Utrecht velvet, where the means are limited. A good effect can be produced, at a moderate expenditure, by outlining designs in thick cord of gold-coloured silk, with a single line of Japanese gold twisted in with it.
For alms-bags a variety of emblems may be used. The pomegranate, in raised gold work, with the open centre in embroidery of feather-stitch; the conventional artichoke in silk and gold mixed, or outlined with gold; a single spray of passion flower, or any of the usual forms of the sacred monogram are suitable. Where it is possible to have alms-bags in only one colour, it is better to have them of red velvet.
Embroidery Designs for Borders:
(For suggestions ry Motive. By M. L. Macomber.
ee page 155.)
Simple Panel Design for Embroidery.
The burse, the purse-shaped cover for the paten, is generally made of silk over strong cardboard, the design, commonly, a simple Maltese or other cross, and monogram. The ancient chalice veils appear to have generally been of silk to match the vestments and altar fittings, but it is usual now to have them of finely embroidered cambric.
For church-kneelers and communicants' cushions nothing is more suitable than tapestry work on canvas, as being more durable than any other kind of embroidery. Any kind of design may be worked in this style, the ornament in feather-stitch on the canvas and the ground in any of the many forms of tapestry or cushion-stitch. If this is not liked they should be worked on dull-finished cloth or Utrecht velvet. Pede-mats should also be worked on thick felt or cloth, or on canvas in tapestry-stitch. There are usually live in a set - three large and two small.
The stole should always be of silk. It should be about two and one half yards long, the ends not wider than rive inches, narrowing to two and one half inches in the middle. The ancient stoles were frequently embroidered over the whole length, or, at any rate, for a great distance, but they are oftenest now used with only a cross at each end. or a design running up a short distance. In any case, there is always a Greek or Maltese cross in the centre of the stole at its narrowest point. Stoles are, of course, made in the four ecclesiastical colours; white, being for use at festivals, is the most elaborately embroidered, and purple, used in seasons of mourn-or penitence, is the simplest. A very good effect may be produced by working the device in gold-laid work, outlined with fine red silk cord, the sewings of the gold thread being done, of course, in silk of the same colouring.
Tied fringes are the richest for altar-cloths, but to be handsome they must contain a large amount of silk, and they are consequently very expensive.
The instant a needleful of silk begins to appear either dull or distressed it should be discarded, and a fresh one taken. It is false economy to persist in using up every inch of silk at the risk of producing unseemly work.
Ivory Black is invaluable for qualifying colours which would be crude without it. Most of the best French painters use it in a very careful way, mixed with silver white and other colours to produce the charming greys seen both in landscape and figure paintings. Blue black is cold in quality for flesh, though useful at times; but noire d'ivoire (ivory black) is the French painter's great stand-by to give the tone and quality to colours which otherwise would be hard and lacking in quality. It should always be modified with white, yellow ochre, and perhaps a little red, blue, etc. When once a painter learns its value, his palette will never be without this colour.