Friday, December 7, 2012

Mitering Corners on Altar Linens

Ah.  Just completed serving on a jury here in Orange County.  Not the best of times, to be sure - but it could have been a whole lot worse.  It did take up a whole lot more time than I was expecting, though.  Just as I was getting called up for duty, my client had an order that needed to be finished up for that weekend - she is expecting her second child any day now, and didn't want to take any more orders after December 5th.  So I was working after going through the jury selection process, staying up until 11 pm to finish.  On the days off from jury, I cranked out what was left of the orders and delivered them to the client on Sunday, right before having to get up on Monday morning and head back to court.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree......

I was recently in a car accident, and my car was in the shop for more than 10 days getting repaired.  I also (ahem) got a traffic ticket about two weeks before that as well (if you are my insurance agent, can you please pretend you didn't see this post?  I opted for Traffic School so the ticket would remain "invisible".....whatever that means according to the new California laws), so we had to pay for that, plus the repair deductible.

In the middle of all of this, my firstborn turned 21 years old.  And it's edging toward Christmas, and I didn't have any decorations up or cards ready to send out.

Sigh.  It never rains, but it pours.  

The Sewing Assistant was happy I was home when the trial was over, though - he really did not understand why I kept leaving the house and staying away until dinner time for so many days.  He ended up snuggling all day with the throw blanket I have on the couch throughout my absence.

If I sits here in her lap, then Mom can't go anywheres.  It's da law.

Client's order done & delivered?  Check.  Deductible paid and car repaired?  Check.  Ticket paid?  Check.  Traffic School scheduled?'ll have to tune in later for that one.  21 year old celebrated?  Check.  Jury duty completed?  Check.  Final band potluck attended?  Check.  Rehearsals underway for the spring percussion competition season? Check and check.  Laundry caught up?  Check.  Christmas tree up?  Check.  Sewing Assistant mollified?  Check.  For now, anyway.

I do have some hemming/mending orders here at the house that I'll get started on after tomorrow, but I needed to do something a little more meditative to alleviate the pressure I've been feeling lately.  I have been sitting on an order for the church that I've been trying to get to in between client orders - and I'm totally NOT telling you how long it's been sitting here waiting to be taken care of.  They are incredibly patient - or maybe just a little forgetful - no one has mentioned it for awhile.  Since I don't have any orders coming in from my steady client until after the start of the New Year, I decided that the church project would be the perfect thing to do to set my head back on straight.  

The Catholic church uses small cloths during the Mass, for cleaning out the ceborium and the chalices used during communion.  This particular cloth is known as a purificator (purificatorium or more anciently emunctorium).  When not being used, it is draped over the chalice like this:

                                File:Purificatorium on chalice.JPG

I belong to a very busy church which holds about 8-10 Masses each weekend - so when you add in the two daily Masses they have every other day of the week, you can see that they go through a lot of altar linens.  These linens get washed frequently, and eventually they start showing a fair amount of wear and tear.  The head of our Altar Guild knew that I do sewing & embroidery, and so I was asked if I could produce a quantity of purificators & some finger towels with an updated look to replace a stack of the older ones.

I had to take the Liturgical Coordinator with me when I went to Joanns to get the fabric - we have a pastor who is a bit on the finicky side and we knew he would want high quality, absorbent, high thread count fabric.  100% linen is the ultimate choice - only at Joanns linen runs around $20 to $25 a yard, which was well out of the budget.  The head of the Altar Guild had chosen some fabric (and unfortunately had pre-cut it as well) that was far too thin and not white enough.  I had picked up some white Kona cotton at Joanns to show the Coordinator, but even though it was thicker and white enough, it wasn't sturdy enough.  While shopping, the Coordinator and I finally settled on some cotton blend fabric that has the look & feel of linen without being quite as coarse, and with a coupon I think we brought the entire 3.5 yards in under about $30.  Not too bad when you consider a set of three of these purificators (cotton) can run about $18 from some supply companies.  The pure linen ones cost about that much apiece!  And that's before embroidery!

So today I decided that this would be my meditative project to clear my head and to do something for others.  It's kind of like a prayer shawl - I can pray while I'm are making them.  The purificators don't get blessed before use like some of the other types of altar linens, so this is typically the only prayer (if any) that would be said over these.

After washing and drying the fabric we chose, I cut them out to match the size of the existing purificators (finished size about 12" x 14" - but the size of these can vary quite a bit by manufacturer):


The final approved embroidery, on a sample piece.  It's about 3/4 inch high.

I was able to cut about 27 cloths from the 3.5 yard length of fabric.  I did a little research on the interwebz, and came up with a hybrid way to miter the corners of the cloths so they would look nice & sharp & even.  This process can be used to hem cloth napkins for the home as well:

I started by pressing a scant 1/4" on each side.  I made the mistake on the first
one of pressing and sliding the iron - this can make the corners skew out, which
you don't want.  On the corners especially, just press with the iron and then lift
to move the iron across the cloth so the fabric doesn't warp.

Fold another 1/4" and press again.  Follow the same procedure as above (don't slide the iron).
Here you can see the resulting square (made of 4 smaller squares) in the corner. 

Carefully cut the square in half diagonally, leaving the one small square intact.

Fold the trimmed corner in towards the center at the innermost corner of the smaller square.
If you do this right, you should be able to match up the lines created by the pressed double folds.
(The corner lifted up a bit, which is why it doesn't look like it matches - but it does.)
Press this in place. 

Now fold the first 1/4" hems in toward the center again along the pressed lines.

And then fold the second 1/4" hems along the pressed lines.   Press the corner to secure the new
fold lines in the corners.  If you skip this step, by the time you get the cloth to
your machine the corner will have popped back out again, like bad origami.
Begin your stitching in the middle of a side - it's a lot easier to start and stop
there than it is to start in a corner - they have a tendency to get stuffed into
your machine's throat plate.  Stitch close to the inner foldline.

The fabric stays folded pretty nicely, which will allow you to stitch to the corner
and pivot, then stitch down the next side.

Stitch until you meet up with your starting point, then backstitch a couple of stitches
to secure, and cut your thread ends.  

Tomorrow:  finishing the hems of all 27 cloths, then on to the embroidery!

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