Ecclesiastical textiles provide a glimpse into the incredibly rich history of European embroidery styles. Many of these religious needlework pieces feature beautifully elaborate and labor intensive embroidery art which was made possible through the wealth and power surrounding the church.
Convents, monasteries as well as the talents of noblewomen were the primary sources of production and the techniques used were vast. The metallic embroideries were often stitched over whatever was available to provide the raised effect. Over the years we’ve found all kinds of mediums like paper, cardboard, felt and even leather or wood to achieve the effect.
“Sometimes I’ll find that the design was drawn on old newsprint, book or Bible pages, or ledgers with beautiful calligraphy. The metallic stitches are so perfect you can only see the human touch by looking at the backs of these creations” (Once Upon A Pillow, 2015)
Upcycling is not new to the ecclesiastical world, in fact many aristocratic houses donated their unwanted clothing to the church to be recycled into magnificent liturgical pieces. As the styles changed over time, ecclesiastical apparel was also disassembled and reworked to meet the current trends.
Museum-worthy pieces dating as far back as the Middle Ages are extraordinarily rare but you can sometimes find tattered vestments or banners from the 19th or 20th centuries in flea markets around the world. As more and more churches are deconsecrated in rural Europe, their property is being sold. These historical treasures should only be handled with the utmost reverence.
For those pieces that are well past their prime, we like to salvage the beautiful gold or silver work from their distressed grounds and reapply them by hand to a sturdier back like velvet or linen for our pillows. Because we’ve been working with these types of textiles for decades, we’ve amassed a collection of metallic threads which can be used to restore any worn stitches to their original glory.
Shop our collection of Ecclesiastical textiles (LINK)
Shop our collection of embroidered antique textile pillows (LINK)