Feeling the Need

5 banners in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation


Have you ever felt called to do something, regardless of the fact that you had little or almost no free time?  And when the nagging feeling would not go away, you just rolled up your sleeves and got to it?  There is a whole backstory to this endeavor at the end of the post.  That story is not about sewing, but about the need  to sew.

That’s what pulled me from my busy-ness to make these five banners.  Five hundred years ago on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the  door of the Wittenburg Castle Church in Germany.  This launched the Reformation, the essence of which is expressed by the five “Solas”  which are illustrated in the five banners.

One side of our sanctuary has 4 stained glass windows, in shades of blue and gold.


wall opposite the new banners


But the opposite wall is common to the Fellowship Hall so no windows could be installed.  It was just blank, except for two lights and some electrical devices.

So what called me?  Firstly, the blank wall which begged for some visible inspiration.  Secondly, a gut feeling that I had to sew more for my church.  We are commanded to share our talents, but I can’t sing so the choir was not an option.  Sewing is my best gift and I had done some other sewing for the church.  So sewing is what I needed to do.

As I rolled up my sleeves, our dynamic young pastor suggested that a banner for each of the 5 Solas would perfectly match his plan to preach one Sola on each of the 5 Sundays in October.

Okay, now I had a plan.


The Celtic “S” in Sola is from Martha Pullen’s  Celtic Alphabet from the 2014 Internet Embroidery Club.  The Bible is a design from Embroidery Library and the text, ” Thy word is truth.”  is curved and abbreviated.  The original cross was removed and replaced with a smaller one from my design library. The original design has 80.093 stitches!  So I converted the Bible into an applique’ with ultrasuede.  That  reduced the stitch count to 60,000 which is still a lot of stitches.  Those roses are very dense.  The gold corners are from Urban Threads.

But after starting, I felt like poor Sisyphus rolling that boulder up the hill only to have it fall back on him again and again.  I had rushed out to purchase the fabric and settled for what was available, not what was ideal.  The fine white cotton twill was lovely but it puckered terribly.


“..faith as small as a mustard seed.”  The magnifying glass was an applique design. I used clear vinyl for the “glass” and inserted a small yellow bead for the seed.


So I widened my search and bought a heavier twill.  But the results were hardly any better.   I realized that the enormous font I chose was making some satin stitches almost 3/4″ long.  The banner and the font were just too large.  And no matter how much starch was applied nor how many layers of stabilizer were used, the twill still puckered.


“It is the gift of God.”   Gratia was another major challenge as I could not find an applique’ gift that was appropriate. Finally, in my design library, I happened upon a  basic square applique’ from Embroitique.  It was just what I needed.  “Grace” was first embroidered so that it was inside the gift box.  Then old gold organdy was applique’d  over that text. The bow was extracted from another design and added to the box.


Ultimately, I dropped back and punted to the heavy cotton duck that I had used for interfacing on the stole I made for our pastor.  I was concerned that cotton duck was not dressy enough, but flat and unpuckered  trumped the more elegant fabric.


“Salvation in no one else.”  The applique’d Celtic cross is from one of my favorite sites for church embroideries, Windstar Designs.  I’ve raved before about their incredible customer service, flawless designs and huge selection, But I can’t say it often enough.


The background piece is royal blue cotton duck.  It hangs free behind the white embroidered piece which is joined only along the top edge.  Both pieces are fringed rather than hemmed.


“…do all to the glory of God.” This is another beautiful design from Windstar Designs.


Information about the banner is embroidered on the sleeve of each one.


information embroidered on each banner’s sleeve


The “back story” begins with the 2009 lightning strike that caused the church to burn to the ground.



At the time, finances were tight.  A year before the fire, the Session felt the church could no longer afford insurance and proceeded to drop coverage.  One devout church member  anonymously stepped up to pay the annual  premium.   So coverage continued.  Thank God for that member’s generosity and foresight!

By 2012 both the separate preschool building and the church itself were rebuilt. While the insurance payout helped pay for the construction, the membership felt the need to leave their current denomination in order to join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC). Separation from the previous denomination incurred a very large exit fee.  The amount due has been paid down significantly, but there is still a large balance due.  Thankfully,  the church is growing in leaps and bounds so the financial and spiritual future of the church is bright.



Therefore the sanctuary is without many visible, tangible items of personal church tradition found in older houses of worship, items which were lost in the  fire.  Now we are filling in those blank spaces, like the sanctuary wall.  The Sola banners are one small step toward beautifying God’s house.



29 responses to “Feeling the Need

  1. What a wonderful way to give back with your sewing talent! The banners are beautiful!

  2. Thanks, Judy. I certainly learned a lot about choosing sturdy fabric for large, stitch intensive designs. It was nice to see that blank wall filled with these banners as we celebrated the Reformation.

  3. A work of such love! The banners are magnificent! Your church family is blessed to have you. Janice!

  4. The Holy Spirit sure was busy working through you!! Good thing you were listening!! LOL Your banners are “from the heart” beautiful!!

  5. Janice, how wonderful that you listened to God telling you to sew these beautiful banners. Your sewing is a beautiful talent God has given you. I love reading about these banners and also the history of the reformation; something I did not know about. A question: did you embroider your name on the back of the banner so future church members will know who made the beautiful banners?

  6. Alicia, this was a work of love. We are the ones blessed by our church family. The congregation and pastor are loving and kind and God centered. We are so fortunate to be at River City Church in DeBary, FL.

  7. Thanks, Karen. I really tried not to hear the call, but it was a shout! It’s very satisfying to see that blank wall covered with God’s word.

  8. Betty, I’m so glad I listened, and shudder to think of what I would have missed out on by ignoring a call like that. The Reformation history is fascinating. As a history minor in college, I had a class on the Reformation. I wish I remembered more of what I learned then. No, I did not embroider my name on the banners. No one needs to know who made them, they just need to read and know Who wrote the Scriptures.

  9. from Martha Pullen forum: Such inspiration! Thanks, Janice, it was great to see.

  10. from Martha Pullen forum: Beautiful, Janice!

  11. from Facebook: Did you make that! It,s beautiful

  12. from facebook: Beautiful. What a nice contibution to your church, especially during this time of rebuilding. Your work is part of its new foundation.

  13. from facebook: You are so dedicated…these are beautiful !

  14. from Martha Pullen forum: Those are wonderful, Janice!!

  15. from Martha Pullen forum: So pretty, Janice!

  16. from Martha Pullen forum: Awesome, Janice!!! You are such a blessing to your Church family!!!

  17. from Carol Martha Pullen Forum: Janice, I’m just awe struck by your talent. You have made beautiful items for your church which are not on lovely to look at but lovely reminders as well. Your combination of designs is truly inspired as symbols of the Solas.

    On a construction note, I’m surprised at problems with twill, I would think that this fabric’s weight would eliminate puckering even with very dense designs, although I don’t see any puckering. Do you have an idea of a different fabric which you might use instead? Embroidery Library always suggests fabric of this type for their dense designs, now I’m wondering about that advice.

  18. Janice: Carol, the first twill I purchased was a bottom weight but was not very heavy. Even with two layers of tearaway, it puckered. So I bought a second, heavier twill and still the puckers were significant. Part of the problem was the large font I chose which had only a single straight stitch for underlay and satin stitches almost 3/4″ wide. Finally, I resorted to 9.3 oz cotton duck and that worked very well. Though the Embroidery Library Bible design I chose was reduced from almost 81,000 stitches to 60,000 by substituting black ultrasuede for the Bible, it still puckered around the roses. Because the fabric was white and the base of the roses were white, I tried using 80 wt. thread to reduce bulk. But green thread for the leaves traveled behind the white and showed through. When I eliminated those stitches, there was not enough coverage over the edge of the black Bible. Finally, I used 3 layers of tearaway, used 40 wt for the white and 80 wt. for the shading in the rose. Still the black fabric shows through on the edges where the roses were to cover it. And the roses still puckered some. Such a pretty design, but IMHO way too many stitches in too small an area.

  19. from MP forum: Very impressive Janice. What a wonderful gift to share with your church and the congregation.

  20. from Carol at MP Forum: Yikes, your explanation tells me how much more work went into this project than I thought. I’ve heard complaints before regarding the density of some of Emb Library’s designs, you certainly have the skills to work around these problems. Congratulations!

  21. While the Sola’s are perfection personified I am not at all surprised as I recall the beautiful work done in the communion cloths you “helped”” me make for my own church.

  22. Rheeta, the things you made for your church were just beautiful. I loved working with you on them.

  23. from MP forum: They are really just perfect for that wall!

  24. from Sew Forum: You did a beautiful thing Janice ( as usual )…many will enjoy these banners for years to come. Thanks for sharing and I’m
    looking forward to seeing your Christmas sewing!

  25. from SewForum: Beautiful! thank you for sharing. A definite labor of love.

  26. Beautiful, Janice!!!

  27. Thanks, Kimberli, for taking a look at these. with your VERY high standards, your approval means a lot to me.

  28. If there is any consolation, I feel your pain with the ho hum stuff. I have been through the patching years, the puppy collars, oh, and the shoes. The shoes I learned to put on my dresser when I took them off. Your home sounds as normal as can be. Your church items are simply stunning! That has to be your reward for puppy collar sewing. Plus all the garments and you have children to wear them. Another big plus! I am busy making pajamas, sleepers, underwear for children in shelters. The house is a disaster but unless the dogs learn how to run the sweeper, well, that is the way it is. I need to sew sleepwear for myself and I don’t want to take the time to pull a pattern and fabric and make some. The children and babies are my priority. Best thing about charity sewing, no size to worry about. Never seems to be a shortage of babies or children in need. Sad but true. Love looking at your pictures, wish I had just a thimble full of your talent.

  29. Carol, what a wonderful service to sew for children in shelters! Aside from the obvious satisfaction of being so helpful, knowing that fit is not a problem makes sewing even more joyful. Thanks for feeling my pain, Carol, with all the ho-hum stuff. For most of our married life, we have always had 4 dogs, first for various reasons and then just habit. You would think I would have learned about putting my shoes up after the first or second pair were ruined many years ago. Guess I’m a slow learner. If your dogs learn to run the sweeper, send me a tutorial on how you taught them! Love your attitude!

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