I recently had the wonderful opportunity to hand-embroider linen towels for two new Antiochian bishops. These towels are traditionally linen and used for the bishop to wipe his hands after washing them during services. They are about 15 inches wide and 52 inches long, typically with some kind of decorative embroidery at each end.
While most people know me for my vestment work, I also have a fair amount of experience with hand- embroidery, so I thought I would provide some photographs of these towels as well as the sources I used for the designs.
For each of these towels, I used a 60% linen/40% cotton ecclesiastical linen. I used the linen/cotton blend so that the towels wouldn’t be as prone to wrinkling. Ecclesiastical linen is a very fine, evenly- woven linen and the choice of many embroiders due to its quality. For my floss, I used Soie D’Alger silk, 7- strand floss, my preferred floss due to the wide color range and smoothness of the floss.
Bishop John’s family wanted his episcopal ordination vestments to have some kind of
blue accent because
his priestly ordination vestments were blue. I wanted his towel to match the ordination
vestments, so I used
gold threads with two shades of blue. For the design, I used a vinework motif found on
an epigonation from
the collection of the Arkadi Monastery in Greece.
Here is the original:
Here is a close-up of the portion I used:
Here is the finished towel:
Here is a close-up:
For the stitchwork, I used a single-strand of the floss and worked Pekingese stitch for the vinework (this is a running stitch that is then whipped in a circular fashion) and satin stitch for the flowers and leaves.
For this towel, I wanted a very historical motif since I know Bp. Anthony appreciates this kind of design. One of my favorite resources for early Byzantine designs is a Dover Publication book entitled “Treasury of Byzantine Ornament 255 motifs from St. Mark’s and Ravenna”. It is filled with black and white sketches of stonework, columns, altar fronts, architectural details, and other decorative miscellany. Here is the initial design from some stonework detailing that caught my eye:
Monograms were a prominent feature of Byzantine design, so I wanted to include the following monogram for Christ, commonly known as the “Chi rho”. I particularly liked this one since it also had a minor alpha and omega monogram:
Here is my design, incorporating the two elements and confronting the vinework:
Here is the finished towel and a close-up:
For this towel, I use a single-strand Pekingese stitch again, since it gave me maximum flexibility and kept the vinework smooth. For the monogram, I used single-strand satin stitch.