Heritage Open Day Event: Turvey Abbey – The Studio

At the time of our move to Turvey in 1981, part of our income came from hand-embroidered and hand-woven vestments, and wall-hangings both large and small. Our work was commissioned by many different Christian groups.

Some wall-hanging designs were popular with customers and the work-tracing would be reinforced to make it last longer. Sr Regina drew out the design, Sr Paula and those working with her copied it onto the material and cut out the various pieces—there was a large stock of material of various colours and textures to choose from. The pieces were laid out on a backing fabric (muslin or cambric) and tacked into place. Then the raw edges were covered with a couching stitch. Areas were then embellished according to the design.

At Turvey Abbey there wasn’t a suitable place for this work, and after our move to the Abbey one of the priorities was to create a ‘studio’. In the meantime, the heavy equipment like sewing machines and weaving looms were near the windows in the big hall—the dark-red flock wallpaper and carved ceiling made lighting a challenge. The large frames used to embroider vestments were set up in a room with good light on the first floor.

By the end of 1982 the new studio, with plenty of space and light, was ready for use. Sr Paula was in charge of the studio, and worked there tirelessly, Sr Zoë was in charge of the weaving. Other community members had work-times in the studio, or helped out when needed.

Work in the studio carried on at full speed until well into the 2000’s when changes in the economic pattern in the UK, and in the community membership, slowly made it more difficult to continue such work.

This sort of work is no longer done by the community, other forms of work having taken its place.

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