Friday, May 23, 2014

Altar Frontal by Jenny Adin-Christie

You're in for a real treat today! I've been corresponding with Jenny Adin-Christie about a project she did for Inspirations magazine some time ago. In our correspondence, Jenny mentioned that she had just completed a church commission and she has since very kindly given me permission to share her photos and details of the work with you. You may recognize Jenny, a graduate of the Royal School of Needlework, as being one of the embroiderers who worked on the beautiful lace wedding dress worn by Catherine on her marriage to Prince William.

I have put together extracts from Jenny's email, together with a summary of some of the key elements taken into consideration in the development of the design for the embroidered altar frontal. Knowing a little more about an embroidery, and how it came to be, adds another layer of enjoyment for me and I hope you will enjoy this behind the scenes look too.

Jenny says, "[The commission] was for St Lawrence’s Church, Weston Patrick, Hampshire..."
You can see the church here on Flickr.
"It has a fabulous Victorian interior (although the origins of the church are much earlier), and was designed by Thomas Henry Wyatt." 

The altar before with Rubelli cloth draped over it

"Much of the hand painted wall decoration was covered under white paint until a recent discovery led to a full restoration program. The PCC commissioned me to create an All Seasons frontal for the altar to replace exiting frontals which were rapidly degrading, and to compliment the restored interior."

Later you will see these two restored design details picked up in the embroidered frontal.

Painted foliate border surrounding stained glass windows 

Starred ceiling

You can see another photo of the interior of St Lawrence's Church which shows the painted walls and the ceiling here and here on Flickr.

Just a few words about the design before we see the finished piece. The design of the embroidery was largely inspired by the bold metal work cross on the lid of the octagonal font in the church. 

Cross on metal work font lid

The cross has been combined together with a quatrefoil motif and an outer circle, signifying the circle of life. The quatrefoil was inspired by forms within the wooden arches of the church roof, and also by the tile-like pattern in the stained glass behind the altar.

Now to see how it all comes together in this stunning embroidery...

Altar frontal by Jenny Adin-Christie 

I have to say that when I saw this photo I found it difficult to believe it was actually stitched and not painted. Its an effect that Jenny says she deliberately sets out to achieve with her embroidery.

The colours for the embroidery were chosen to pick up the neutral tones of the floor and walls, the blue of the painted ceiling and the jewel-like reds, purples and jade greens of the stained glass windows. The strong jewel colours were however kept to a minimum, to ensure that the appearance of the frontal did not compete with the stained glass behind it. The golden yellows used in the quatrefoil link seamlessly with those in the stained glass above and serve to draw the eye up towards their central focus of the crucifixion.
And here is the completed embroidery in place on the altar.

All Seasons altar frontal by Jenny Adin-Christie 

Being embroiderers, we always want to know a little about the actual stitching, at least I always do, and Jenny has shared some of her techniques with us:

"I use a lot of machine embroidery over laminated layers of fabric to build a decorative and durable base for the piece. Machining adds texture and interest but with greater speed and also makes the fabrics more durable for use in a public space. This is then worked into with lots of hand stitching and use of traditional metal threads to define and highlight the key areas of the design. The stars and mini roundels are formed from pleasted plate."

Edging stained glass sections with metal threads 

Applying tile motif to the cross 

Completed gold star

One final little detail that I found fascinating is that the embroidery remains separate from the altar cloth. Jenny explains, "Once complete, the design is mounted onto board which is then attached via a special mechanism to the front of the altar, with the draped altar cloth behind. The embroidery can therefore be removed to allow cleaning of the cloth, and the church will eventually have other coloured cloths to use behind the embroidery. This solves a great many issues experienced with frontals where the embroidery is worked directly onto the cloth."

There is not much to add after seeing this wonderful embroidery except to admire the fabric of the altar cloth itself which forms a rich backdrop to the embroidery and to marvel at the expertise with which the embroidery has been mounted in front of it so that one doesn't suspect the two are quite separate. 

Thank you for sharing your beautiful work with us Jenny!

Please leave your comments below. Jenny would love to hear from you.

 To see more of Jenny Adin-Christie's work you can visit her website by clicking here.


  1. Wow I can't believe that is stitched by hand! What beautiful work!

    1. Yes its really stunning yet fits in with the church décor so well too.

  2. Jenny is amazing! I love the color choices - gorgeous! - and the whole crisp finish. But I especially love the way she has incorporated the past with the present. So pretty!

    1. Thanks for visiting, Mary! I think the separation of embroidery and altar cloth is intriguing and adds a lot to the overall crisp presentation.

  3. The embroidery is quite awesome. What an excellent idea to have the embroidery separate from the altar cloth.

  4. the embroidery is spectacular....I am in awe...

  5. The colours are just about perfect - so calming and harmonious.

    1. I love the colours too Jillian. Take care.