By Caroline Smith, Jamie O’Brien & Robert Hiini
Robes and garments worn by priests, acolytes and altar servers are a conspicuous feature of the Catholic liturgy.
For more than a decade, Vickii Smith of Kinlar Vestments has had the privilege of making these items from her home in the Perth suburbs.
Ms Smith fills orders for chasubles, cassocks, albs and other liturgical items that she stitches from the various patterns she has collected over the years.
There is a lot of variety in the orders, which surge and flatten out at different times of the year.
“It all comes in spurts; it’s not a regular thing. This time around, I’ve got three soutanes (also called cassocks) to make for seminarians at St Charles Seminary, then I have four lectern covers to make for Corpus Christi College and another alb to make,” Ms Smith said.
“I’ve made quite a variety of different things, some special as well.
“I’ve also adapted collars on soutanes and there was a priest who wanted a loose collar covered in linen because he didn’t like the feel of plastic against his skin.
“So I do occasional special orders and I quite like doing banners. Right now I have a chasuble that needs to be done for a priest. It’s been organised by one of his parishioners. I have to get it digitised and then get it embroidered.”
When Ms Smith took over the company in 2007, she was studying and working as a freelance photographer, although she had been making clothes since high school, and had done some work previously for Kinlar Vestments’ previous owners.
“When I bought the business, it hadn’t been operational for about two years as unfortunately one of the owners passed away from cancer,” she said.
“Her husband had offered the business to me before when they both knew that she wasn’t going to make it, but I declined at that time as I was doing photography.
“Two years later after fulfilling a contract for school photographs and not having much work with my photography, I bought the business,” Ms Smith said.
She said she had inherited the name Kinlar along with the business, and that it referred to a place in Ireland.
“I believe that the name came from the previous owners, as her parents were from Scotland and Ireland.”
Since then, she has built her knowledge by collecting new patterns and adapting old ones while making connections with people doing similar work interstate.
“I was given some patterns, just two basic ones. And I scoured the web and came across a woman in America who created her own patterns, so I bought those, and that’s been very handy because they were different sizes,” Ms Smith said.
“And I’ve adapted patterns for coats and things like that. Sometimes you can use commercial patterns and move them around.
“I don’t class myself as a dressmaker because I don’t have any formal training but I’m a member of the Australian Sewing Guild. There’s a woman there who was a TAFE teacher and she helps me with little things that I haven’t picked up.”
As Kinlar Vestments is the only company in Perth making liturgical garments, Ms Smith has been able to meet various people from the faith community and take on orders that often have a unique history and story.
“I learned to make a humeral veil a couple of years ago and that was interesting because it was going to the Albany parish. (An ornate veil a priest wears, typically during Eucharistic Benediction, to make himself distinct from the blessing, which is actually imparted by Christ.)
“They sent me the old one, so I could see what it looked like and then I made a new one,” she said.
“I like the people that I meet, I’m always learning about different aspects of the faith and its vestments.”
For more information go to www.kinlarvestments.com.au