I recently learned, while reading the Summer 1966 issue of Embroidery, that embroiderers have their own patron saint. She's St. Clare of Assisi, an Italian contemplative known for her hand-sewn altar cloths as well as for her extremely austere way of life. In 1966, the members of the Embroiderers' Guild, an impressive English organization responsible for the publication of Embroidery, embarked on a shared project inspired by the saint as part of the Guild's Diamond Jubilee Year celebration.
The project was to create a single, simple design that individual Guild members could adapt to their own aesthetic using their preferred needlework techniques. The resulting variety of St. Clares (pictured here as they appeared in the article), includes versions incorporating couching, cutwork, inlay, applique, and more. This endeavor shares much with today's sew-alongs and knit-alongs, and I like to imagine English stitchers all taking needle and thread to their St. Clares at the same time in a shared experience that simultaneously encouraged individual creative voices.
This feature on St. Clare is just one of many articles exploring religious embroidery arts in Embroidery. Want to learn more about modern embroidered vestments, Romanian Church embroideries' use of gold, Jewish ritual textiles, embroidered bindings on 16th century books of hours, hand embellished pulpit falls, and needlepoint sanctuary kneelers? Or how about an inventory of Vatican embroideries taken in 1295 that revealed more English work than any other type, or the mid-twentieth century revival of English ecclesiastical embroidery? It's as easy as coming in to read back issues of Embroidery.
Interested in seeing other kinds of handmade works on the theme of faith? Then don't miss Three Faiths, the Library's newest exhibition, with its illuminated manuscripts, hand press era books, and unique handmade artifacts. Want to learn more about St. Clare? Then visit Oxford Reference Online (just search for "St. Clare"), where you will learn that St. Clare is also the patron saint of television.
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Explore the Library's exhibition, Three Faiths, on display October 22, 2010 - February 27, 2011 in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 5th Avenue between 40th and 42nd streets.