Last weekend was the Autumn Retreat of the Guild of St Clare. These are 'sewing retreats': with daily Mass and other devotions, and spiritual conferences from the retreat-giver each day, the participants mend vestments. This retreat took place in Douai Abbey.
The number of man-hours which goes into some of these vestments is immense. In addition to two annual Sewing Retreats (Friday to Sunday), the Guild has a 'Vestment Mending Day' in London every two months, and occasionally one in Oxford. With all these opportunities to make progress on various sets of vestments, mostly belonging to the Latin Mass Society, worn places are patched, linings replaced, embroidery repaired, braid stitched back down, and missing items are replaced. The Latin Mass Society has been given a great many sets missing a maniple, stole, chalice veil, or burse, or (usually) some combination of these.
The Guild accepts help from people of all levels of skill: there are always tasks to match what you can do. These occasions are also opportunities to learn new things, and the Guild also arranges training sessions with professionals and is sponsoring two students through the Royal School of Needlework Certificate Course. Both of these took part in the Retreat.
After the repeated cancellations of the Covid epidemic it was good to be back in a face-to-face event. The next sewing retreat, which is already almost fully booked, will be 4th-6th February, in a new venue: Park Place Pastoral Centre in Hampshire: full details and booking on the LMS website. The one after that will take place 4th-6th November in the same place: booking is now open.
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