My grandma made an altar cloth once. We are catholic, so maybe some patterns are specifically catholic.
I believe she used cotton, but I'm not sure. Just plain white fabric from a fabric store.
She drew on certain christian motives, like a fish and a cross, and also added hymns and prayers in Latin. It's beautiful. My aunt has it now. She just drew these on the fabric and embroidered them, I don't know if she traced existing patterns or not. Probably she did.
The colour .. in the catholic church every event has a colour. In liturgy, the colour purple means acknowledging Jesus as a king, and it's used during the forty day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter. I'm not sure about other churches though.
I tried google to search for images of altar cloths, you can find some beautiful ones but you'll also find a lot of wiccan altar cloths.
Thank you for understanding the purple season... it seems silly, but I can't imagine not having the color-coded liturgy.... just feels right, but then I'm a cradle Episcopalian, which is similar to Catholic in a lot of ways.
I'm really thankful for all your thoughtful comments and suggestions, and really freakin' excited to get started with the embroidery... I've been testing out some designs and my skills, and it should be a doozy of a project, but I think I'm up to it....
I like the idea of linen as the base- it is not too tightly woven that it would be an issue to sew, and also always looks classy. I'm still a little iffy on the "assembly" ie should i just seam the edges, or make it double sided?
As to the design, googling some images has really helped, and I think this project should shape up nicely, and I have plenty of time before purple rolls around
(We're snug in Green right now)
If anyone happens to come upon some interesting religious imagery that would translate nicely to embroidery, please post it here!