QUAERITUR: I can sew, embroider, make – how do I make vestments?

From a reader.   Perhaps some of you can help her:

Hello Father Z,

Before I call the parish office and volunteer, I wondered if you or your readers could recommend a reliable source on doing the fancy sewing for Mass vestments.  Google didn’t help a whole lot because I don’t know what’s reliable and what’s not. If there were generic instructions on your site, I missed them.

FWIW, my grandma and mother taught me to tat (make lace) before I was school age.  I can embroider; and am interested in Ren Faire stuff — can make period gowns and (blush) corsets with elaborate trim and boning.  Also know how to do tablet weaving – a kind of trim from earlier periods, mostly Northern European.

I’d like to thank our priests who have been spending their own days off learning the Latin and rubrics of the EF by donating some nice, new, beautiful vestments.  Plus I enjoy sewing – it’s relaxing and fun.

But I don’t know where to start.  I have some nice brocades, silks, and laces stockpiled away, but don’t want to waste them (and my time in making the wrong things in the wrong way.  I know absolutely NOTHING about vestment making and it isn’t covered in my  costumery/fabric art books.  Are there rules/rubrics about what fabrics, trim, etc. should be used?  We’ll eventually have both the Dominican and Tridentine Rites in our parish.

Do I sense the rise of a small business?

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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29 Responses to QUAERITUR: I can sew, embroider, make – how do I make vestments?

  1. Fr. BJ says:

    The seamstress that regularly came to the seminary I went to told me that the normal threads that one buys in stores like Walmart are not strong enough to withstand the test of time; they unravel or break easily with repeated wear. So she bought a special, stronger thread for her vestment work. I don’t know what it was called but thought I would share that in any case. She demonstrated for me the difference — it was fairly easy to pull apart a standard sewing thread; grasping both ends and giving a good tug, it broke. But this thread that she bought was pratically impossible to tear apart by hand.

  2. MSM says:

    I read an article in The Confraternity of St Peter’s booklet by a lady in Phoenix who makes vestments. If you google Latin Mass Phoenix,(Mater Misericordeae Mission) you can get their web site and they might have a contact for you.

  3. Coletta says:

    Ebay had listed ( and I bought one- though it has not yet arrived ) a book
    of patterns etc. you may want to see. I would appreciate any direction you may
    have to some good textile sources for the fine brocades, trims, etc.

    Follow this link to see the pattern book and ten pages from it:

    How to make Traditional Vestments
    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&item=270314580041

    They have an Advent free shipping offer too.

  4. VexillaRegis says:

    At first glance, this appears to be a very good site:

    http://www.everything-vestment.com/index.html

  5. Eric says:

    Try St. Benet’s guild

    http://stbenetsguild.tripod.com/

    Use the “contact us” link and they will probably be able to help you.

  6. Rose of Lima says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for posting this. For a while now I have been looking for books, manuals or patterns to help me make vestments. I am still looking for a good book on embroidery for vestments. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions for a beginner I would appreciate the help. Thank you again. God bless.

  7. Matthew says:

    I would like to second Rose of Lima’s thanks for this post!

    On this topic, since I do not know how to embroider, I would any recommendations of good sources for ready made appliqués for vestments as well as ophrey bands.

  8. Derik says:

    Embroidery, lace-making, sewing etc. are treasure skills. May God bless the ladies (lads) who make beautiful vestments.

  9. mysticalrose says:

    This is a great post. I, too, have been looking on the web (without much luck) for instructions on how to sew priests vestments. The gift of handmade vestments would be such a wonderful encouragement for our priests. Would it be tacky to ask to borrow a priest’s vestments for the purposes of making a pattern?

  10. Agnes B. Bullock says:

    I checked the ebay listing that was posted above, and the seller does have a second copy of the booklet on how to make traditional vestments

  11. Greetings,

    As you parish appears to be Dominican, you might ask them to put you in contact with Fr. Anthony Patalano, O.P., in the Western Province, pastor of Holy Rosary Portland OR, where the Dominican Rite Solemn Mass is regularly celebrated. He has a background in tailoring and has, I am sure, all the information you need. He can also give you information on vestment items unique to the Dominican Rite like the mappula.

  12. Fr Fenton says:

    When Mrs Fraidl of the St Benet’s guild made my alb, she told me that the would be glad to teach other women how to do these things. I highly recommend contacting her.

  13. Franzjosf says:

    I have a book at home with everything you need to know about the basics of traditional vestments (gothic style chasubles). Everything from burses to miters. Alas, I am away from home for three weeks, and I can’t remember the title. Please e-mail me, and I will send you the information when I return home in early January.

    chruhl@aol.com

  14. Franzjosf says:

    Nevermind: I found the book at amazon.com. And it is in stock.

    Vestments and How to Make Them, by B. Lilla
    .

  15. Audrey C. Amberg says:

    A most talented and generous lady in Warren, MI, makes beautiful traditional vestments. She made special light weight vestments for the late Fr. John Hardon, S.J., (RIP) for his trips to India when he would visit Mother Teresa. As is true of all generous people, she is always busy, but would certainly be an excellent source of materials, styles, etc.

    Audrey Amberg

  16. Maureen says:

    I was popping around the links, and saw some stuff about linen albs.

    Linen is a very cooling fabric. Presumably, this is how priests and servers in the past could stand the heat while wearing heavy vestments — something that a lot of people wearing modern, non-breathable fabrics seem to complain about.

  17. Anne Gomes says:

    Fr Z, thanks so much for this post. I have made several altar cloths, one is in Vienna, Austria and another in Guatemala, but my parish here is not interested. Neither are my priests. They wore bubble gum pink last Sunday.
    I have several books that I have collected over the years on constructing various styles of vestments and would be happy to share the names if you email me. I also have several books with embroidery designs for vestments and have done several. Since nobody around here is interested, I’ve started embroidering icons. Contact me at freddieflea@gmail.com

  18. Charivari Rob says:

    I think it’s marvelous that you can do all those things! I can barely sew a button back on a shirt!

    I’m hesitant (or should be, anyway) to add anything to all the advice that’s already been posted.

    Perhaps ask at your parish if there are what at one time were high-quality vestments that are now disused, in need of repair (or that are being discarded). Taking apart and/or repairing good vestments might give you the additional information/ideas that you seek.

  19. Anna Maria Rueda-Barrie says:

    I would like to suggest a visit to the Holy Needle website: http://holyneedle.com . Many different patterns, as well as a .pdf book available for purchase: http://holyneedle.com/store/customer/product.php?productid=97&cat=20&page=1 (Church Embroidery And Church Vestments: A Complete And Practical Guide To This Fascinating Art). I have not looked at this “book”, but my curiosity is piqued.

  20. Margaret Collins says:

    For readers in England, I would suggest that the Royal School of Needlework might be the best place to learn traditional embroidery skills to the highest standard. The School runs courses, and also accepts new commissions and undertakes restoration work: http://www.royal-needlework.org.uk/index.html

  21. Flo says:

    I make traditional vestments for Priests. I’d like to chat about your skills. I don’t make any money…I usually just ask the Priest to offer Mass for the Priest who had to ‘suffer’ through all my ‘first tries’. I think I’ve improved…you can see the rose vestment I made on Fr. Z’s blog posted recently worn by Father Parkerson in Dunn, NC. Maybe we could ‘collaberate’. OremusNow@gmail.com

  22. Audrey C. Amberg says:

    Good grief! I was so careful in not including my talented friend’s name, that I neglected to give her e-mail address! She can be reached at “maever@wowway.com.

    Audrey Amberg

  23. Judy Fradl says:

    Hi

    I have been making traditional vestments and teaching vestment making for almost 30 years. I currently have 3 cd’s available that I have been using to teach this craft: one on making small altar linens, one on making albs and a third on makings vestments. I am more than willing to teach anyone who would like to learn. You may contact me for more information at: holyfrocks1@yahoo.com.

    Judy Fradl
    website: stbenetsguild.tripod.com

  24. Judy Fradl says:

    A blog for those wh are interesting in making vestments is sew4church
    On this blog there are women & a few men who sew for their churches including a number of those do traditional vestments.

  25. If you do do begin making vestments, particularly the ample “gothic” or “European-cut” chasubles, *please* develop a pattern for making them in smaller sizes! I am very short, and have trouble finding vestments that are suitable.

  26. isabella says:

    Thank you to Father Z for posting this and thank you for the good suggestions. I’m going to put a lot of the links in a folder and I have the next month off to think about it. I’m actually not thinking of doing it as a business, but as a thank you. I only charge money for secular clothing and SCA type stuff.

    I may e-mail a few of the people who posted contact information – just wanted to let you know who I was first so you didn’t think you were being spammed.

    And asking the priests (I am from a Dominican parish) was so obvious it didn’t occur to me. Thank you for that one.

    Thank you,

    isabella

  27. Gwen says:

    I would like to recomment vestment maker Pamela Bressette
    Saint Clare Studios
    http://www.saintclarestudio.com/page/page/4746083.htm

    Her restoration projects are beautiful. She can create new embroidery to match old pieces! Check out her site and drop her a line. Her work is fantastic!

  28. AngelaBarbara says:

    Matthew, this site: http://www.sewvestment.com/site/822866/page/45029 has beautiful embroidered appliques for those of us who don’t have those fancy embroidery machines.