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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Battenberg Lace: By Hand, Lots of It, No Seam


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Today, I thought I’d show you some photos of a large piece of Battenberg Lace and tell you a little bit about how this piece came about.

Battenberg Lace Alb

This is a large piece of Battenberg lace trimming the base of an alb, which is a white garment worn by a priest underneath the chasuble (which is the outer, more decorative vestment that most people are more familiar with).

Making albs can be a costly undertaking – there’s the cost of a goodly bit of linen for the majority of the garment, and then the cost of the lace. Decent lace, and especially “liturgical” lace, is relatively difficult to find, and when it is found, it’s often expensive. Today, most readily found liturgical lace is machine made, not necessarily too attractive, and still pretty pricey stuff. (If the words liturgical, ecclesiastical, or church are tacked onto any textile, it seems to automatically triple in price.)

Battenberg Lace Alb

About two years before his ordination date, the priest who made this lace decided he wanted a certain type of lace at the base of his alb, and instead of finding a place to buy what he wanted or tracking down someone to make it for him, he decided to make it himself. Taking an older alb with a similar lace on it, he started by drawing out the design by hand.

Battenberg Lace Alb

Then he figured out everything he needed to know to make Battenberg lace – he found a source for the tape and threads, learned the techniques and stitches involved, and eventually he achieved what he wanted to achieve.

Battenberg Lace Alb

It took him two years to finish the piece, which is about 25″ deep and just under 3 yards in length, meeting end to end with no seam. That’s a lot of lace tape… a lot of stitches… a lot of time! But the end result is quite beautiful. I think it’s admirable that he made it himself.

The moral of the story: if you want something badly enough, all it takes to achieve it is a little bit of patience and a Whole Lot of Determination!


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(27) Comments

  1. I love this story!! Goes to show that sheer determination can achieve anything. How humble he must have been when he finished it….

  2. I’m in roughly the same camp as your friend: I’m making my own vestments toward ordination–learning how to sew and embroider in the process. In the latter endeavour, your website has been very, very helpful. (The lace inserts in my square-yoked surplice are knitted, however.)

  3. What a fabulous piece of lace and a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing both with us.

    Josh, good luck with your endeavours (both the making of the vestments and working towards your ordination). I hope that you will allow Mary to share your lace and embroidery with us when it is finished.

  4. What a great story! I’d love to see the entire alb. It must be even more special for this priest to offer Mass wearing something he made himself. What a meaningful way to honor the Creator!

    And Josh, please show us photos of your finished vestments, too!


  5. Thank you for that story, Mary. We lacemakers at the “stitchin fingers” website were just talking about this type of lace on the discussion board! It is such a tempting lace to try, especially for those of us (ME)! who love bias tape and applique stitching since it basically is another form of a tape lace.It appears to be very easy, but it requires patience in order to keep an even tension. Are you going to be working on this?

  6. What an inspiring story of determination! I wonder if the priest kept all his notes to pass on to others who might want to do this?

    Josh, I would love to see pictures of your piece. Please share them with us!

  7. Dear Mary . Before I was married, I was a cabin attendant for our national airways and one of our stops was in Brussels. I have bought some special pieces of this very same lace there. Mine is still beautiful despite the use over the year and yes, but for the tape, all the rest was hand made.
    It still has a special place in things I collected over the years. In 2006 my husband and I were in Brussels again. Firstly the city has changed so much. When I was there in the 70’s, all that Brussels was known for, that it was the head quarters of NATO. and hardly a tourist in sight. Now it is just the opposite. Lots of tourists and little shops and restaurants and as with everything else, the piece with lace are very pricey. Needless to say I did not buy anything, but I was glad I bought stuff when it was still affordable.
    Love Elza, Cape town.

  8. It’s really amazing that he done such beautiful lace b himself. It-s very old tradition – nuns and noble ladies who were making vestments by the hand, but priests for me were only users. I feel very sorry about replacing hand embroidery with machine stitching. Ready-made vestments made of synthetic fibres, look a little bit cheaply.
    I don’t know how long I would learn to make such thing. It’s wonderful!

  9. i have wanted to try my hand at battenburg lace having found a wonderful how-to book on it at a library discard sale. if i was to buy any more needlework supplies at this point i think my husband would not only hit the ceiling but go through it. it is an absolutely beautiful piece. josh please send mary a picture of your’s. i would like to see one of how it looks now and then when it is finished.

  10. Thanks for sharing this great story. What a treasure this priest has. And the admiration of so many lace aficionados.

  11. Wow Mary that is determination and to think that instead of talking someone into doing this for him he did it himself is fantastic. I know that a lot of people have ways of talking people into doing things they want or need done.

  12. I can’t imagine anyone making lace who isn’t already a lace maker. And a ‘student priest’, a man, who decides to do a huge piece of lace for himself. Unbelievably beautiful and unbelievably wonderful.

  13. Oh my goodness, that is a lot of work–and coming from someone who tats large doilies, that’s saying something. I am really impressed that he went so far out of his way to learn the techniques just to make this lace, and not made it already knowing how. I am even more impressed that it took him only two years–I’d have expected longer. It is beautiful!

  14. That may be a bit sexist, but I’m always surprised and amazed when I see what some men are capable to achieve. My husband has big hands and big fingers and when he tries to use a needle, it is a disaster.

  15. Thank you Mary! Perhaps this priest would visit a local guild meeting & share his story. It would make a wonderful program & members could see the work up close before trying a small motif for themselves. White gloves of course!

  16. WOW! I would love to see the entire alb! I am a cradle Catholic and never knew that there was lace on an alb! Josh, much love and luck to you in your journey – allow us to see the finished vestments, ok? I will keep you in my prayers!

  17. Oh my goodness, he made the lace himself! I am totally impressed and would love to see the entire alb. I repaired an alb last month that has antique lace that while beautiful is quickly deteriorating. I told Fr. it really will not last much longer.

  18. HI,
    I am trying to find a supplier that sells battenburg tape. Do they come in different sizes of width. What I would like to do small projects that this would go on a greeting card. Will be you be able to help me? Thank you.

    1. There are many sizes and types of tapes. You can find them at Lacis.com (www.lacis.com) in their catalog under Techniques, then Lace then Battenberg. Hope that helps!

  19. I have a friend who is looking for a supplier for Battonburg Lace, I’m trying to help locate them a great quality she is making priest vestments and needs this lace. Could you help us!

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