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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Ecclesiastical Embroidery Project Underway


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Last week, between the relative chaos of ending another school year, I managed to get out to the studio and set up this ecclesiastical embroidery project. The project is another pall, this time with a different design on it.

The design for this piece of embroidery comes from a book called Designs for Church Embroidery by Thomas Brown & Son. I’m lucky enough to have an old copy of the book – it was a catalog at one time, actually – but it has since been reprinted by Lacis, and you can find it in their online catalog. Just search the title, and it’ll come right up.

I altered the original design a bit. It was originally just a circle with the “M” that you see in the middle. I added the tips and the little fleur de lys to it, to make it a bit more decorative.

Ecclesiastical Embroidery: Hand Embroidered Pall

The Bohin ceramic pencil came in really handy for the transferring of the design. I used the greenish-blue ceramic lead, and it worked quite well. The pencil gives a crisp, fine line. Before I used it, I tested it on a piece of scrap linen, writing with various amounts of pressure on the linen, then trying out the eraser – which worked fine on the light to medium pressure lines – and I also rinsed the fabric, which took out all but a trace of the heavier pressure lines. I was satisfied that it would work ok for white-on-white embroidery.

Ideally, when you’re working white-on-white embroidery, it’s a good idea to use blue for your transfer. The dressmaker’s blue pencils work fine, for example, as does dressmaker’s blue carbon, both of which are available in the notions section at most sewing stores. You see, white absorbs the blue, so even if a trace is left on the linen, it isn’t normally noticeable, and with time, it goes away. When you use grey or red for a transfer in whitework, the thread will pick up the color and will be tainted grey or red. But with blue, even if the thread picks up the color, you don’t see it – it absorbs into the white, making it seem brighter.

I don’t really know why this is, but I’m sure there’s some sort of scientific reason!

Anyway, I liked the Bohin pencil. I haven’t started stitching yet, but I think the transfer will be fine for white-on-white.

Ecclesiastical Embroidery: Hand Embroidered Pall

Here’s the design, transferred. The pall is a 6.25″ square piece of linen, made like a pocket, with the top side decorated. I cut the fabric 16″ long and 9.5″ wide to give plenty of room for seams and for mounting on a stretcher bar frame. The fabric will be folded in half, to make the pocket, then the two sides of the pocket will be sewn up, and a 6.25″ square piece of mat board inserted into it. Then the last side is hand stitched closed. Lace of some sort is generally applied to the edge by tacking it on after assembling the piece. I like to use hand-tatted lace, as I think it looks quite nice on a pall. Tacking the lace on allows for removal of the lace for cleaning purposes, in case of need.

One of the most frequent questions I get asked via e-mail is how to transfer an embroidery pattern after it is printed or drawn. I do have a list of links that deals with this question in various ways under the Tips and Tricks for Hand Embroidery section. For this project, I’m using a light box to trace the design. You can use a sunny window with equally good effect, though it is sometimes a bit harder on the arms if your pattern is complicated and takes time to transfer!

My next step after transferring was the frame up the piece, which I’ve already done, and then to pick out threads, which I’ve already done as well. Now, it’s just a matter of stitching! I’m going to use #30 coton a broder on this, in white. I think. I’m oscillating between #25 and #30, actually, though I don’t think there’s that much of a difference between the two sizes to justify hesitation!

This will be the project I’ll be stitching on for at least the next week, I figure. I hope to have it done by the end of the upcoming weekend, if all goes well. Once it’s done, I have one more to do, too. Although I like doing this kind of work, I have to admit that I don’t normally like making two of the same things in a row, so for the second one, I’ve chosen a design I’ve done before, but not for a while.

And then, once these two projects are finished, I can move on to something that involves color – and I can’t wait to show you what that is! I’ll tell you tomorrow!

Coming up this week on Needle ‘n Thread: a special give-away. Once you see tomorrow’s article, you’ll probably be able to guess what the give-away is!

Now that the school year is officially over, I’ll be able to devote a little more time to embroidery projects, tutorials for the website (in various forms), and some other projects, all of which I’ll be keeping you up to date on!

I hope you’ve had a great weekend!


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(5) Comments

  1. Thank you again for these posts. I love watching step by step. I fantasize about having any time for involved projects (something that can’t be thrown over my shoulder haphazardly when chaos breaks out).
    Would you please tell what a pall is for? Thanks!

  2. Use for pall: a linen cloth or a square cloth-covered piece of cardboard used to cover a chalice.

    I will be very interested in seeing how you stitch this design. I always use a padded satin stitch but can see that would take a long time. Thanks for the step by step coming for this project. PS How’s that 15 minutes a day working for you Mary?

  3. This pall is going to be beautiful as always. I love watching your stitching very much. And every time you write that you will show something (especially your ecclesiastical embroidery) I am waiting, waiting, waiting. And one day you show something great… Thank you for that 🙂

    1. Hi, Marilyn – Lacis.com (search their online catalog for “floche”) or Vaune.com – I like Vaune, especially, because she’s very helpful with picking out colors, if you need some personal help.

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