Church Needlework A manual of practical instruction
A MANUAL OF PRACTICAL INSTRUCTION
HINDA M. HANDS
G. J. PALMER & SONS, 7 PORTUGAL STREET, W.C.
TO OUR DEAR MOTHER, THE HOLY CHURCH
THIS LITTLE WORK IS DEDICATED
BY ONE OF HER FAITHFUL DAUGHTERS
WITH THE HOPE THAT HER HUMBLE SERVICE
MAY BE ACCEPTED
‘To the Glory of God’
Miss Hands reminds me that it was at mysuggestion, as Editor of ‘The Treasury,’that she undertook the writing of the articleswhich form the basis of this volume. Myconfidence in her fitness to write such paperswas more than justified by the result. Amere man, indeed, cannot presume to offeran opinion of a book on Embroidery whichwill carry much weight; yet the letters receivedby me during the serial appearance ofthese papers showed unmistakably that theywere supplying a real want. In their newand revised form they cannot fail to be yetmore widely useful. Moreover, the beautifulwork executed by Miss Hands for my ownand other churches is ample proof that sheis as skilled in the practice as in the theoryof her art.
So with much willingness I contributethese few words of introduction. Theremust be many ladies to whom such a bookas this—lucid, compact, and inexpensive—willbe most welcome, enabling them to usetheir needles for the highest of purposes—theservice of the Church and the beautifyingof the Sanctuary. We all feel, I think, thatsuch work, when fashioned by the hands ofworshippers, has a worth and a significance,apart from its intrinsic value, which noready-made article purchased from the‘Church Furniture’ shop can possess. Itis the concrete embodiment of love, self-denial,and reverence. It brings before oureyes an example of human talent consecratedto the highest ends. And it continues atradition characteristic of the ChristianChurch throughout its history—one datingback, indeed, to those more ancient dayswhen, in the language of the Book ofExodus, ‘All the women that were wise-hearteddid spin with their hands, andbrought that which they had spun, both ofblue, and of purple, and of scarlet and offine linen,’ for use and adornment in theTabernacle of God.
|II.||ON MATERIALS, ETC.||3|
|III.||ON MOUNTING FRAMES AND TRACING DESIGNS||6|
|VI.||ON OUTLINE AND APPLIQUÉ||21|
|VIII.||ON LITURGICAL COLOURS, FRONTALS, ETC.||39|
|IX.||ON THE COPE AND MITRE||49|
|X.||ON EUCHARISTIC VESTMENTS, CHALICE-VEIL AND BURSE||53|
|XI.||ON BANNERS, ETC.||65|
|XII.||ON THE PRINCIPAL STITCHES USED IN LINEN-WORK||73|
|XIII.||ON ALTAR LINEN||79|
|XIV.||ON THE ALBE, SURPLICE, ETC.||85|
This little book (founded on a series ofarticles on Church Embroidery written forthe ‘Treasury’) is intended for the use ofthose who are desirous of learning bypractical experiment how to make the bestuse of such time and skill as they have attheir command; and who, while they areunable to go through the long courses ofinstruction which are generally indispensableto the attainment of perfection, are yetanxious to devote their ‘labour of love’ tothe service of the Church.
There are many Guilds and Associationsof such workers rising up all over thecountry who are ready and willing to betaught, and it is with the hope of assistingthese efforts that I am offering the result ofmany years of study and practical experience.
It is quite beyond the scope of such amanual as this to go into the History ofembroidery in general, or even of thisparticular branch of it. On this point thereforeI will say no more than that it is anundoubted fact that from the thirteenth tothe fifteenth century English embroiderytook a leading place throughout the wholeof Christendom, and that from the fifteenthcentury onward embroidery began to declineas an art till it might almost be reckonedas lost to England until the middle of thenineteenth.
With these few facts in view it is notdifficult to determine where to look for thebest examples of Church embroidery. Itmust be among Museums, Picture galleries,and Collections of art treasures of the bestperiods that one must study to improve thetaste and cultivate the intelligent perceptionof the best ways of doing things, not somuch by actual imitation (although thatmight prove an education in itself!) as byabsorbing the spirit of the work and seeinghow and why it was done.
I cannot too strongly recommend thismethod of learning, and it is to this end Ihave used, wherever possible, such examplesas are to be found in our Churches, PublicMuseums, and Libraries rather than those inthe possession of individual collectors.
Embroidery may be defined in a generalway as an ornamentation of textiles bymeans of the needle.
This being the case, one ought to expectfrom it something different from what canbe attained by weaving, or something whichcannot be done so well or so readily by thatmeans.
Some of the earliest forms of embroiderywere, it is evident, direct copies of wovenpatterns, but these were quite appropriatelyplaced, either on material which did not lenditself happily to being woven into patterns,or where the surface so decorated was toosmall to be worth while weaving; or again,where the ornamental material (such as goldand silk) was too precious to be lost on theunder-side of the work, as would be the casein all woven work wherever the ‘ground’shows between the patterns.
The superiority we expect to see in needleworkas compared with woven decorationconsists chiefly in three points:—
1. The more harmonious gradation ofcolour.
2. The absence of mechanical repetitionof pattern.
3. Freedom of line in the drawing.
It is this very freedom from mechanicalrestraint in all these three respects of colour,design, and treatment which has provedsuch a pit-fall to the unartistic Englishneedlewoman.
Much of the beauty of the foreign peasantwork is due to the restrictions imposed bytheir traditional style and limited range ofcolour.
There is practically no limit to the numberof shades available in the present day, andwithout a cultivated ‘colour-sense’ an embroiderercan run riot among an embarrasde richesse with most disastrous results!
A good colour-scheme is even morenecessary in embroidery design than in anyother (except, perhaps, stained glass) becauseof the brilliance of its possibilities—at onceits highest merit and its greatest danger.
The colour-scheme, then, being anessential part of the design, must be decidedupon in accordance with it; and the actualmaterials with which the work is to becarried out should be chosen all at the sametime if possible.
It is necessary for the designer of Churchneedlework to have a very clear idea of thecapabilities and the limitations both of themethods and the materials by which thedesign is to be completed as a work of art,and also a fair knowledge of the traditionsof ecclesiastical art from early times up tothe present day.
It is equally necessary for the embroidererto be able to enter into the ideas and intentionsof the designer. It adds considerablyto the interest of the work when it is carriedout by the person who designed it, but Imust protest against the notion gainingground largely in certain educational circles,that the embroiderer ought to design her ownwork. There are very many women capableof executing perfect stitchery and of enteringinto the highest ideals of beauty and devotionwho are not fitted by nature or training toartistic design. The designer for ecclesiasticalart may be compared to thecomposer of sacred oratorios—he needsthe co-operation of many minds, hearts, andhands to perfect the realisation of his idea,and the many count it a joy to be led byhim. The more entire the sympathy throughout,the more perfect will be the result. Andthey will consider their time and labour well-spentin practising for this. Even so theembroiderer with patient stitches will endeavourto express the ideal set before herby a master of the craft and will meet witha like reward. This is the utmost that themajority of us can hope to attain, and Icannot insist too strongly upon the statementthat it is better to work from the designs ofgood artists, and to do again and againwhat has been proved excellent, than toattempt an originality which may be attractiveonly by its novelty.
Whether the worker be her own designeror not, too much care and attention canhardly be bestowed on the choice andarrangement of the design. The principalrequirements to be fulfilled are Beauty,Fitness, and Practicability.
Beauty comes first as it is simply theraison d’être of embroidery. If decorationdoes not really add to the artistic value ofthe thing it is applied to, it is worse thanuseless as it destroys a certain real kind ofbeauty which exists in simplicity.
Fitness comes next, as it almost amountsto an axiom that without fitness a thingwhich is beautiful in one place may be quiteridiculous or improper in another.
And Practicability is essential becauseit is in vain to draw a beautiful design whichcannot be carried out by the needle andthread. In embroidery the finished workought always to be more, not less, beautifulthan the coloured drawing.
Then there is the position it is to occupy—thestyle of architecture, method of lightingand amount of light, size of the church,&c. A large church and a dark chancel,for instance, require bolder design andbrighter colour than would be suitable fora small church or one so lighted that everydetail is evident at a glance.
ON MATERIALS, ETC.
After the design, or rather in conjunctionwith it, comes the choice of the materialswith which to carry it out. The only pointone can insist on is this—let them be the bestwe can offer. The best does not necessarilymean the most expensive—but the mostgenuine and the most suitable. Whether ofgold or silk or linen, let there be no pretenceabout it.
If silk DAMASK is chosen for the groundof the work (and there is nothing pleasanterto work on, or more satisfactory as a backgroundif the design of the damask be broadand flat-looking), let it be a good rich damaskwithout any suspicion of cotton about it.
Satin is too shiny and too difficult tokeep from puckering to make a reallyartistic background for large pieces of embroidery,although a great deal of the oldwork was done on