Absolutely FABBulous

W Bro Stan Marut, News Editor, Middlesex Media Team looks at the Province of Middlesex Regalia supplier A R Fabb Bros Ltd and adds a little background to our Masonic Regalia knowledge.

There comes a time in our masonic career, hopefully, when there is the sound of mail thudding on the floor in the front hallway.

More bills perhaps, but this time the content of the C5 envelope contains a letter of Preferment to Provincial Rank.

This is always a moment to cherish no matter which Order, or Province a Brother, or Companion is situated in.

The letter will contain the name of the preferred supplier of Regalia for the new rank and for Middlesex this is A.R. Fabb Bros. Ltd (FABBS) based in Ferndown, Dorset.

Most may take the purchase of the new Apron and Collar without a second thought as to the hard work and design that will go into the manufacture. The further you advance in freemasonry, it seems, the “shinier” the regalia becomes.

Nevertheless, Dress Regalia, with all its gold wire trappings, is to be worn with pride.

A selection of Masonic Regalia available from Fabbs

The history of FABBS goes back to the year 1887 the year of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee when it was established in Chapel Street near the Barbican.

At that time there was a huge demand for gold wire embroidery both at home and in India.

The Company exported a large amount of embroidery to the Greek, Japanese and Argentine Navies as well as most steamship companies around the globe.

Of course, the Masonic world was very much in a growth stage during the time of Queen Victoria and it should not be forgotten that her son Edward, Prince of Wales was Grand Master before becoming King.

Origins in Antiquity –

Embroiderers at work

The art of gold wire embroidery has its origins in Asia over 2,000 years ago and is a fairly rare skill, even among embroiderers who work in other free embroidery styles.

It is now most commonly used for the highest quality Royal work, High ranking Military Officers and Religious vestments and, of course, Masonic regalia.

It has always been reserved for occasional and special use only, due to both the expense of the materials and the time it takes to create the embroidery.

Gold wire embroidery can only be done by hand.

The tradition of gold embroidery continued during the 20th century and after the blitz in London of 1940 FABBS moved to Maidenhead.

During the Second World War there was a huge demand for Badges and Insignia for the Allied Forces including the American.

The Company also embroidered the coat worn by Colonel of the Life Guards at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth 11 in 1953.

In more recent times there has been a reduction in the number of specialist companies in the UK with competition from elsewhere in the world where the work is possibly not of a high standard.

FABBS’ masonic regalia is made in the UK.

The work has an appeal to younger women and an apprentice might be taken on at aged 16 and it would be nearly two years before the work produced by them is useable.

The Working Tools of a Gold Wire Embroiderer –

The Working Tools of a Gold Wire Embroiderer

There is a technical side to the story but suffice it to know that the tools needed are:

Needles, cotton, scissors thimbles, beeswax, a malau (a metal tool for twisting the gold wire) and the pate (a type of palette used to hold the thread whilst the embroiderer is working).

The wire itself comes in different sizes so that different effects can be shown on the finished work.

All the embroidery has to be worked from a tight frame with the design first drawn on tracing paper and then pricked out by hand on thin copper which now forms the pattern; the stencil.

The stencil is used to mark the material to be embroidered so that the embroiderer has a guide as to where to lay the stitches.

Sounds like hard work, but when you see the finished object, no doubt a work of enormous pleasure to the masonic recipient.

FABBS work diligently to ensure that the precise dimensions and design of regalia as stipulated in the Book of Constitutions is met (See Rule 240 et seq).

All their Regalia is made in the UK.

This is important as “overseas versions” may not comply and one should always check before purchase.

Not only is Craft and Royal Arch catered for, they supply Masonic regalia for other Orders to an exceptionally high standard and this is illustrated above.

Regalia can be delivered anywhere in the UK and around the world.

Fabbs also maintain a good stock of ritual books and can take orders for morning suits.

Do check out the web site: www.fabb.co.uk or telephone 01202 571600

If you would like to know more about gold wire embroidery take a glance at this Wikipedia article.

Share this Post