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Topic: Altar cloth?? Design stumper  (Read 1675 times)
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allerby
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« on: August 07, 2007 08:30:10 PM »

Hey needleworkers Smiley  My priest is looking to add a new altar cloth to our very small collection (it is basically a table runner for an altar).  She asked me to work on it for the Purple season (I don't really know what that means, but she said gold, purple, blue... those all work).  I am using this as an excuse to delve a little into embroidery (don't worry, I'll be honing my skills on lesser projects before tackling the altar cloth).  So, my quest for you all is to help me figure out 2 questions:

1) What material would be good, and how should I assemble?  I have seen a few large pieces of what seems to be a "ready made" embroidery cloth, but I don't think they are large enough, quite.  Can anyone point me in a good direction for that?  I don't really want to tear my fingers up working with it, but it also needs to look nice for an altar

2) Design?  I would obviously like to incorporate some religious symbols and motifs- does anyone know of a good pattern company/website, or book or anything.  I seem to be hitting a wall with the florals, teapots, kitschy, and "country" type items.... not much religious imagery.  (BTW we are Episcopalian- that's Christian)

Any help would be greatly appreciated!
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« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2007 08:54:51 PM »

I saw a rather large book of "well loved hymns" in cross stitch that had some religious motifs incorporated into the designs at the local Joann's, but if you're not looking for cross stitch (my eye tends to prefer crewel work, but it requires more precision than cross stitch), you may find it easier to find a book of clip art, trace it onto something and embroider around it.  Dover Publications has a clip-art book of Christian Symbols.

Joann's also used to sell evenweave fabric by the yard, so you can possibly get a piece the right size.  If I were you, I'd ask to look at the other altar cloths, to get an idea of what your priest has in mind.  I, personally, would also prefer more direction (and more clarification about what the "Purple Season" is, and what it might possibly symbolize).  If she's thinking about a purple velvet altar cloth with gold braid trim fashioned into crosses at each end, and you produce a white linen evenweave embroidered cloth with purple motifs, you could both come away disappointed. 

As a Baptist, I haven't specifically seen altar cloths up close, and have never heard of a Purple Season for Christianity, so I can't be much help as far as that goes.  Good luck with your project!
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« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2007 07:22:47 PM »

You might want to check the shared pattern thread. I seem to recall there being some religious patterns there.
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« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2007 03:23:10 PM »

I've studied medieval altar cloths a bit. (medievabeads.com)
silk is typical, but linen would be a good choice as well.

as you are doing an altar cloth you are not making a table cloth. Tablecloths have a design on top, no one will see this on a altar. So you decoration should run largely just on the front vertical fall of the cloth. the tops can and are usually plain. at most you'll do three or four of the edges.

as him to see some of their others, and what he's looking for, would they want a seasonal theme or one for some holy day? if you google for religious supply you will find some commercial ones.
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« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2007 02:18:31 AM »

I suppose you've already done this, but you could ask to have a look at the older cloths and see what they've done.
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« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2007 03:13:50 PM »

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.
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« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2007 09:16:18 PM »

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 Smiley (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!

Many thanks Smiley
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« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2007 12:44:13 AM »

This one has a few simple cross patterns ect
http://crossstitch.about.com/od/christianthemes/Free_Cross_Stitch_Patterns_Christian_Symbols_and_Themes.htm
www.holyneedle.com used to have some really cool stuff but I don't know if they site is still in business.
If you type in Christian Cross Stich on Google sometimes you can find some cool things.
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AidanNia
« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2007 08:50:20 AM »

I got a link off of Crafster a while back (sorry, don't remember who posted it), but it has some eccleiastical patterns that you might find useful: http://www.needlenthread.com/

Good luck!
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SpottedFrog
« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2007 02:09:48 PM »

My dad is an Anglican minister, I've done some sewing for him & his church.

The thing that is hardest about doing an altar cloth is the scale. What looks great in your hoop will look like a colorful smudge from the last pew unless your church is tiny.

Linen is most affordable considering your average altar cloth takes at least 5 yards of 60" wide fabric. Take lots of measurements and measure the design size of a couple existing cloths your church already has. My dad's fairly small church the altar is 7 feet long with a close to 4 foot drop down the front- the design is roughly 2 1/2 feet by 3 1/2 feet- that's a lot of stitches by hand. I did applique instead of hand sewing and it still took several days. I did a special cloth for babtism & confirmation days.

Two books I have & like very much, both are fairly small, should be under $20 each.
Sewing Church Linens by Elizabeth Joseph, 1991 Morehouse Publishing
Church Needlepoint by Louise A. Raynor and Carolyn H. Kerr, 1976 Morehouse-Barlow Co.
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