Monday, 11 February 2013

Alter Linens

Have you sewn alter linens? This is one of the projects that I have coming up.    

I'll admit that I'm quite nervous about this project. I was asked to sew purificators. This is a new sewing adventure, I never sewn alter linens.  

A purificator is one of the alter linens used in the Catholic Church. It is a linen napkin which the priest uses to wipe the chalise after the Communion of the Precious Blood.  

Linen napkins sound simple enough. Purificators, not so simple. There are rules and I have to admit that I had to do some research to settle my nerves. I found an online copy of The Art of Making Linens first published in 1920.  

First rule alter linens must be made in natural fibre, a medium grade linen. For the thread, 100% natural cotton thread will be used. Since these are going to be made out of 100% linen, the fabric must be pre-treated. 

And there are rules about laundering, "alter linens should not be dried in the drier except to preshrink before cutting new linens" (The Order of Saint Veronica 22). 

So far, I'm on the right path. The fabric has been pre-treated and ironed. I hope that I'm scoring brownie points with the big boss upstairs since ironing is my least favourite domestic chore.   

I'm stumped with conflicting instruction for sewing the hems. According to The Art of Making Linens the finished purificator should have a 1/4" side seam and 3/4" end hem. This does not match the sample that I was given. Hence, the nervousness around this project. Even though the linen is pretreated and ready to cut, I've held off until I know for certain the proper size and seam finish.  

I have to stop with the research despite how fascinating I find it and start sewing.

But first, I have to finish off that McCall's 9264 dress that has been hanging around my sewing table for weeks now.  

Happy Sewing!  


  1. Although I am Catholic, I was not aware that there were rules regarding the alter linens. Did you volunteer for this project? Great way to give of your time and talent!

  2. Yes, I did volunteer to do sewing for the church many years ago but I wasn't asked to do any until recently. I was given a sample and then I asked some more questions. I was told then that it had to be made in natural fibre fabric and thread. Something that I wasn't aware of, good piece of info to know so I picked up appropriate thread. The rest I found out through research on the net. The book mentioned above I found a fascinating read as a historical document and discovering info that I did not know.

  3. I have made the altar linens for our church years ago. Once I got over the nervousness everything went well.

    I just finished some towels to use with Baptism. Toweling material was on sale, and I had a blast using my embroidery machine to personalize them.

    I was very nervous when I was asked to make the new funeral pall. That scared me half to death (no pun intended).

    God bless.


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