The Cope which the Bishop of Reading Designate will wear at her consecration later this month has been hand-made. Craftswomen working from a studio at St Mary’s Convent, Wantage have been stitching against the clock to get Bishop Olivia Graham’s Cope, Stole and Mitre ready for her big day.
Bishop Olivia approached the All Saints Embroidery Group in September asking them to make the ceremonial garments which she will wear in her new role.
“Our first challenge was to cut a brand new pattern for the Cope,” says Suellen Pedley one of the team of three responsible for the project. She worked alongside Kath Griffiths and Helen Saunders Gill. “Bishop Olivia is a small women and our standard pattern would have been far too big.”
Twenty metres of two types of silk was used to create the garments. “It has a lovely susarration,” says Suellen. “The whispering sound when the two types of silk rub against each other and catch the light.”
“It was important to me to commission vestments using our wonderful local talent, rather than something with a more standardised feel to it,” says Bishop Olivia. “ Together we chose a feather light silk, which even when lined scarcely weighs down on the shoulders, and the multi-panelled cope was made and adorned with simple gold crosses.”
“We were very anxiously biting our nails when it came to the final fitting,” says Suellen, “As there were no time for alterations,” but Bishop Olivia was delighted with the final work.
The Cope has one final flourish for Bishop Olivia to enjoy at her welcome at Reading Minster on November 22. The Morse or clasp on the cope is brass and dates from the nineteenth century. It’s what Sullen describes as “a nice bit of recycling.”
Over the coming months, work will continue of the Bishops garments. A more ornate mitre will incorporate notions of olive branches, the symbol of peace and reconciliation, and water. “This reminds us of the Living Water which brings refreshment, healing and new life to all it touches,” says Olivia. “I am so grateful to the Wantage team for their enthusiasm and generosity in undertaking this commission.”