Friday, February 12, 2016

A Reader’s Home Oratory (Updated)

Reader Richard Seto sent us these photos of a small oratory space which he set up in his home, along with a description of how he made it. The decorations seen here are an example of the classic Lenten array which was commonly used in the Middle Ages, a more or less simple pattern of crosses on undyed cloth. As Mr Seto notes below, one could certainly make frontals and dossals for such an arrangement, with various colors depending on the liturgical season. Our thanks to him for sharing this with us.

UPDATE: Mr Seto sent in some photos of his oratory decorated in different ways for other seasons,w which I have added below.

“This easy project began by creating a niche between two tall bookcases. The set up involves:
- a corner-leg table
- a curtain rod
- a pair of curtain panels for the Lenten array
- dark red/navy fringe and/or matching fabric paint or embroidery thread
- strip of linen for the fair linen
- a pair of candlesticks
- a Crucifix

I spaced the bookcases so that there are a few inches on either side to fit the table between.

A corner-leg table where the legs come right to the edge serves best to create block works. The Lenten array is made from a pair of curtain panels. One entire panel forms the dossal, which can be painted, embroidered, or left plain.

The frontal is made by matching one edge of the remaining panel to the table and measuring the width so that the panel will cover the front with a seam allowance. I ironed the seam and sewed the entire piece the length of the panel. A frontlet can be made by measuring the height from floor to table top, adding about 4-6 inches, and cutting the panel horizontally into two pieces. If any sort of embellishment is desired, it can be either painted or embroidered onto the body of the frontal. It can be very helpful to make paper cutouts and pin them to the cloth to get a sense of scale and the effect of the final design. The fringe is sewn on the bottom of the frontal and the bottom edge of the remaining piece.

To mark the placement of the frontlet required a little trial and error, so I laid the remaining piece over the top of the frontal to get the overlap and pin the pieces together, then draped them over the table to see if the proportions looked right. Once the correct placement of the frontlet was fixed, I sewed the two pieces together. Rather than trimming off the excess at the top, I let the remaining fabric fall behind the back of the table; this makes it much easier to adjust and gives the fair linen a surface to grip.

If small children or pets are a consideration, shoe laces can be sewn to the top corner of the fabric and used to tie the fabric to the table’s back legs. Hint; purchase the fringe and match the paint / embroidery thread to it.

I prefer a simple candlesticks; the pair shown are made of wrought iron ($1.99 each). I would avoid church candlesticks that can be found in antique shops since they tend to be overly ornate and draw too much attention. The focus should be the Crucifix not the candlesticks.

This entire project was executed by someone with zero sewing experience; basically it required sewing a series of straight lines. If one wishes to make this a permanent fixture, different sets of frontals can be made with damask fabrics, braid and fringe. The dossal need not match although it should harmonize with the frontal.”

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