Learning from Ecclesiastical Needleworkers

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in progress

Needleworkers of the Anglican Diocese of Toronto gather on Mondays to work on hand-made embroidery for churches across Canada. I was lucky enough to spend a few Mondays with them and learned a lot about traditional techniques – like how to transfer a pattern without using an erasable fabric marker, and how to steam the kinks out of silk thread with a tea kettle! These needleworkers create new pieces and also restore antique ecclesiastical embroidery. They recently celebrated their 100th anniversary with a special exhibit at St. James Cathedral Archives & Museum – you can read about the group’s history on page 11 of The Anglican, Summer Issue.

I normally use an embroidery hoop – which can mark the fabric with a big ring if you leave your embroidery ‘hooped up’ for too long. Ruth showed me how to mount my fabric onto a wooden frame by hemming the edges and lacing it around the frame. This takes a bit of time to set up – but once the piece is in there’s no need to remove it until you’re done. To transfer the design onto the fabric, I printed out the pattern and then sewed right through the paper with green thread. Then I removed the paper and stitched over the green thread until the pattern lines were completely covered.

This was my first time using silk thread and I think I’m in love. It’s so lustrous! I did a bit of subtle shading near the tips with split stitch and outlined the cross in navy with stem stitch. Unfortunately I ran out of navy thread – so I’ll have to ship an unfinished cross back to the group. Hopefully they’ll finish it up and attach it to a vestment!

Here’s what other members of the group were working on:

– Shannon Quigley

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I'm a dye hard fan of textile history and come from a family of crafters. I'm interested in learning more about embroidery by trying out age old techniques with a contemporary twist. I hope you enjoy looking through my projects and that they inspire you to give stitching a try!

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