The Broderers of St Paul'sby Selvedge Team
Wishing all our readers a very Happy Easter and a pleasant long weekend (at least here in the UK!). On this day, the culmination of Holy Week for many Christians, we decided to take a look back to Issue 92 Comfort, where we discussed textiles that are created to comfort the soul as well as the body. We hope you enjoy this extract of Patricia Cleveland-Peck’s article See You in Church: The Broderers of St Paul’s Cathedral that was published in that issue.
Of the many visitors who drift through St Paul’s Cathedral in London very few are aware that high under the eaves, in a small room just beneath the bell tower, a devoted team of women are continuing a tradition which began in the Middle Ages. These are the Broderers, talented embroiderers who create and repair the cathedral’s priceless liturgical vestments.
After quite a climb up to their eerie on the Triforium floor of St Pauls, one enters a room full of the colourful paraphernalia of embroidery: tables with boxes of scissors, needles, and threads of every hue, an ironing board, frames of varying sizes, large magnifying glasses and table lamps to illuminate the work stations and, spread out on the tables, luscious silk fabrics covered with elaborate and dazzling motifs mostly embroidered in gold and silver. Head Broderer Anita Ferrero explains that this group first met in 2006. They are all volunteers, some came by word of mouth, some via notices in the St Paul’s Magazine, some via the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace and although a number of them had trained at this renowned establishment, anyone can join if they have the requisite expertise.
Anita points out that most of the vestments, some dating from the nineteenth century, are worn regularly by the clergy and need periodic mending, but that they also create new vestments which include a new bishop’s cope which they are currently making for Dame Sarah Mullally, the Bishop of London.
Lifting a white cloth that is covering a table Anita reveals a large embroidered image of St Thomas, which had been sent to the Broderers from an outside source for restoration. It dated from the nineteenth century and was badly damaged with worn sections and even holes, but, even more troublesome according to Anita, were previous unfortunate interventions, which had done more damage than good - this is also frequently the case with tapestry repairs. St Thomas’s lovely face and splendid gold halo will make this piece worth the effort and time it will take to repair it. In the workshop, it is hard not to be dazzled by the amount of fabulous goldwork on view in the small room, though of course, in somewhere as big as a Cathedral the glitter of gold and silk has always been used to catch the eye of the congregation...
You can read this article in full in Issue 92 Comfort.