Ecclesiastical Sewing

Mary Mulari’s husband, Doug, is Mayor of Aurora, Minnesota. In February 2019, Mary went with him to a Regional Minnesota Mayors meeting up north, in a small town called Baxter.

While Doug was attending seminars, Mary was free to explore the town. Much to her surprise, she stumbled into a very unique sewing business. It wasn’t a charming quilt shop … or a sewing machine dealer. The sign said Ecclesiastical Sewing. Hmmm…

Mary’s has a pretty amazing career in the sewing industry, AND she’s a lifelong Lutheran. But she never thought about a mash-up between sewing and religion becoming a viable business.

So, whose idea was this?

The heroine of this sewing story is Carrie Roberts.

Like many of us, Carrie learned how to sew when she was a child. By the time she entered college, she was working part-time at a fabric store. She loved making display garments, and she became an accomplished seamstress. In 1982, she was accepted into the costume design program at the University of Minnesota. The classes in costume, fashion history, design, tailoring, draping, and flat pattern design took her skills to a whole new level.

Her first attempt at sewing religious vestments came during those college years. She was attending a church on campus, and the pastor asked if she could create a stole for him.

Remembering that first effort, Carrie says, I said yes, but I had no idea what that might entail. There were no stole patterns. So I created a pattern from one of his other stoles. I didn’t know what was used on the inside, so I selected a lambswool interfacing. There were no embroidery machines, no designs, and not much to work with. I saw an image of a lamb in an old vestment catalog, so I traced that lamb and using a combination of hand embroidery and machine satin stitching, created an emblem. The stole turned out okay, but I didn’t really know how it should be. My pastor wore that stole for years. Later that summer, I also created a chasuble for him. There were no clear patterns, no instructions, and finding fabrics in the correct colors was impossible. This was 35 years ago, there was no internet, no access to worldwide shopping, vintage books, designs, or patterns. I knew nothing of shoulder slant or how the shape should be.


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