Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Church Embroidery Book Online


Amazon Books

I’m a huge fan of historical needlework. One of my greatest interests is historical ecclesiastical or church embroidery, which is worked on vestments or vesture for the church. I’m always on the look-out for old books and any instructional materials, patterns, and whatnot for ecclesiastical embroidery.

What captivates me is the intricacy of the designs, the beautiful materials used, the symbolism, and the variety of techniques employed to create what are absolutely amazing works of art. Most textile museums of worth will feature ecclesiastical embroidery as a noteable – and even vital – part of the history of textiles.

Angel on a Miter, from Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Clyde, MO

The above is a photo I took of a gorgeous miter in the museum of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri. It was apparently made in the early 1950’s, the last piece worked by hand by the nuns in Clyde.

New ecclesiastical embroidery like this is hard to find these days. Even books detailing techniques and patterns are hard to come by. I’m an avid collector of such books, and have many from the turn of last century (early 1900’s) in my collection. They can be pricey – I paid arolund $100 for one book, which is in perfect condition except for the slight discoloration from age. I grimaced at the price, but it was a rare find, and I haven’t seen it (in good shape) available for less since then. I have found photocopies of it, but a photocopy is never as good as the original, especially when it comes to detailed pictures. So I saw it as an investment, bit the bullet, and paid the price.

But guess what? It’s now available online! This particular book is by Lucy Vaughn Hayden Mackrille, and it’s called Church Embroidery and Church Vestments. It’s available on the Digital Archives of Weaving and Related Topics, a project of the University of Arizona. It comes in five parts, in PDF. You can find them here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

I’m still glad I bought the book. I’ve poured over it for ideas and for inspiration many times. I’ve replicated some of her patterns, like the one I used for this embroidered pall, worked in white on linen – though in the book it was worked in color, red on white, and in satin stitch and stem stitch:

Hand Embroidered Pall design from Mackrille's Book

Lucy Mackrille also has an image of it worked in white on linen, though the stitches used are slightly different. But this is where I took the overall concept for the pall I made.

Hand Embroidered Pall design from Mackrille's Book

I was really happy to find the book online, in case others are interested in browsing through it! I’m going to add it to my list of Needlework Books Online – I think it’s a gem of a book for people interested in historical textiles or church embroidery.


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(8) Comments

  1. Mary your work and dedication to all forms of needlework are so graciously shared with us who do not have the ability to go out to classes or leave our small areas of residence. God Bless you for all that you do for the preservation of needleart.

  2. apreciada mary infinitas gracias no sólo por motivarme y guiarme en el bordado a mano que me apasionada, también por tamarse las molestia de de inv estigar sobre el mismo, y tramitirme la informacion,
    agradecida infintamente con mi corazon en cristo jesus

  3. This old post reminded me of something I had forgotten. When I was about 12, my mother was asked to sew a new set of white Easter altar cloths, hangings, etc., for the church. It turned the household upside down for several months. The dining room door closed, the archway blocked off,.. and the family diet changed to reduce the chance of getting air pollutants on the heavy satin. She was given a sort of ‘kit’ to assemble using a sewing machine, but it still required many hours of hand work couching the golden threads down for the lettering. I recall three layers — back, padding, top, and gold braid rectangle at the top of the draped sides, and a braid fringe. I wish I had photos of her work. My hat is off to Mom, and others who regularly contribute their talents with no expectation of even recognition.

  4. Dear Mary,
    Belated Easter greetings – sorry for the delay.
    Ah, I see there are a few of us revisiting this post. Yes, the book is marvelous and well worth downloading.
    Best wishes,

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