Suede vs Leather

Why Choose Suede Fabric Over Leather?

Leather is standard on aprons fabricated in Canada. For all intents and purposes, Leather is historically « correct ». But is it practical? Can you clean it? Are you getting the best quality possible for your money? Will your Grand-Son be able to wear it? The simple answer is no!

The leathern I proffer in my aprons is a hand-picked suede fabric. I hand-choose it for its colour, texture and longevity. I export it from Canada to my fabricator in the UK. And yes, it is less expensive, even at $18 m2.

My apron will never yellow

My apron will never yellow - Happy customer (on left) in Naphtali Lodge 413, Tibury, Ontario

Grant it, many insist an authentic leathern be real sheep skin, or lamb skin for correctness. In fact, leather is obligatory for aprons of the Grand Lodge of Ontario. That said, I still do not recommend a leather apron. It does not wear well, it yellows, it will crinkle and it will eventually disintegrate. On the contrary, a suede fabric will stand up to wear and especially to the test of time. It will rest the brilliant colour when you first wore it. And you can spot clean it.

« Vestaments » of our Masonic History

My Lodge proudly holds the apron and regalia of Our Paster Master and the first Grand Master of Quebec: M.W.Bro. John Hamilton Graham who seceded from the Grand Lodge of Canada in 1869. Although his regalia are not museum quality, they have endured 140 years. Sadly its leather is deteriorating at a fast pace. The gauntlets are severely tarnished.

I’m not claiming John Hamilton Graham’s regalia would be better looking if it had had a suede fabric. This auspicious regalia was not handed down because of its historical value. Nonetheless, many Grand Aprons today might see more service if they had this choice. Grand Aprons are valuable « vestaments » of our Masonic history and the heritage of those Brethren who wear them!

In my District, it is our tradition to buy and perpetually own the Past District Deputy Grand Masters’ regalia. Sadly, when a P.D.D.G.M. passes beyond the veil, there are few who want to inherit.

Our District’s aprons are less often passed down to a second owner. They will have frayed, the bullion will need replacing and because the leather has deteriorated, they are sadly replaced. A replacement is simply cheaper than a restoration. This would occur less – and could be less expensive if – at least – the leathern insert were a suede fabric and still held its colour and lustre.

Not Cheap Vinyl

I proffer a Superior quality suede fabric with a soft, napped, white finish. It is not your average, cheap vinyl that will not last two -30° nights on the backseat of your car. It is more than 3mm thick, has a tightly-knit cloth background with a brushed-emulsion surface, a soft knapped finish and is frankly the best material I find on Fabricville’s shelves. My suede fabric is identical in touch, feel and sight to expensive leather and just as thick and luxurious. It is not cheap vinyl, it will not crack and it will not peal away.

A Masonic Apron Must Have Character

In my opinion, a yellowed apron does not “have character”. A Past Master in England once insisted I buy a leather apron. I did so when I was first installed in the Chair of King Solomon. Within three years, my yellowing apron had lost its character and I was quickly deceived. The best I could hope for was to carefully apply a high-quality, golf shoe liquid wax, dye. I’m less sure today that this was a good move either.

What do I personally like about suede fabric the most? It can be spot-cleaned with a face cloth and face soap – on the way out the door to Lodge. Remember that pen spot on your apron? I don’t; I carefully removed it. A leathern must be presentable and practical at all times. A quality suede fabric does not tarnish or yellow, as leather tends to after a short few years. As for crinkles, I can carefully smooth them out with a dry towel and careful steam ironing – DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME – not too hot, prolonged heat will destroy it!

Great care must be taken not to soil a leather apron. One accidental pen mark and it is ruined – it cannot be repaired. I have seen perfectly good D.D.G.M. aprons replaced because their leatherns deteriorate and just cannot be cleaned.

If Leather is Your Choice

If leather is your choice, no matter! No worry. My UK suppliers use the highest quality, authentic sheep-skin leather – not goat-skin with a polished, vinyl-tanned surface. In many cases, when you buy leather in the U.K., fabricators upgrade the liner and pocket material just because of the price of leather.

Nonetheless, I see to it my suede-material aprons are sewn onto my fabricator’s “best quality” aprons. My Scottish tailor asks me why do I bother? Because, is my response. Because it is my way of personalising My Regalia and ensuring the Best Quality possible from My door to Yours. I forgot to mention, my suede fabric aprons cost you less, but that is an after-thought. Unlike expensive leather, my hand-chosen material will outlast and outshine leather in every aspect, especially durability.

Contact Me

Contact Me:
John Taylor-Johnston
St-François Masonic Regalia

Front Counter

265 ch Duplessis
Sherbrooke, Quebec
Canada J1E 3C9

8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time
Sunday through Saturday.

From June 1st – August 15th, 2010 I will be summering on my ancestral land and Christmas Tree farm in Newfoundland until mid-August:

You will find me at:

60 Allandale Road
St. John’s, Newfoundland
Canada A1B 3A1

English Aprons

Article in progress:

English Master Mason Apron

English Master Mason Apron

The wearing of the Masonic apron in Canada is as eclectic as it is esoteric. By eclectic, I refer to a diverse number of designs that exist. By esoteric, I refer to the apron as being complicated in terms of symbolry.

In Canada, the typical Masonic apron – as depicted above – is English in design and origin. By Constitution, the Entered Apprentice’s leathern is “14 to 16 inches in width, 12 to 14 inches in depth”. (Article 179, The Book of Constitution of the Grand Lodge of Quebec, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, 27th March 2004) A full Master Mason’s apron comes to 16¼ inches wide by 14¼ inch deep.

The Fellowcraft’s apron includes only “two sky-blue rosettes at the bottom corners”. As with English Constitution, the Master Mason’s is adorned with “sky-blue lining and edging, […] with an additional rosette on the flap or fall” (G.L.Q.).

The M.M.’s apron is ornamented with two silver tassels. When a Master Mason becomes the Master of his Lodge, he is entitled to replace the three rosettes with three metal levels, sometimes called “double squares”, properly named “taus”.

Where aprons in Canada set themselves apart from their ancestor’s design is how they are otherwise adorned. When a Lodge attains 100 years “from the date of its original Charter or Warrant, […] members are granted the privilege of wearing gold braid and gilt metal on their aprons, collars and jewels as a distinguishing mark” (G.L.Q.).

At 150 years old, some Lodges also add gold-bullion fringe. The wearing of gold braid at 100 years is stated in some Canadian Constitutions, while the gold fringe at 150 is not.

Incidentally, rosettes on Canadian aprons are often bejewelled with silver or gold buttons that have an embossed square and compass.

A quirk to Ontario & other jurisdictions, as well, is that the lining and backing is stipulated to be white.

Not unlike English aprons, nonetheless, a Lodge might possess office bearer aprons. That is to say the apron will have the jewel of office embroidered as a badge on the field of white of the apron – i.e. a square for the Worshipful Master, or double swords for the Inner Guard, etc. Likewise, other Lodges may also embroider the Lodge’s name, number and region.

What is more, in certain Jurisdictions, aprons are clad with garter-blue instead of sky-blue ribbon. Like the wearing of badges, this difference is often an inherited entitlement. Furthermore, Lodges descending from or still belonging to the Grand Lodge of Scotland are permitted to design their own apron. As a result, in Newfoundland for example, apron designs are as colourful and they are varied. Not surprisingly, Scottish tartans adorn these aprons.

“More ancient than the Golden Fleece or Roman Eagle, more honourable than the Garter or any other Order in existence, being the Badge of Innocence and bond of friendship.”

the snow-white lambskin apron, its first tangible gift to you and ordains that all Masons in all ages, wherever they may be throughout the world, shall ever receive it and always wear it.” The apron is an emblem of innocence.

Eccles. 9. 8. “Let thy garments be always white.”

The word “candidate” itself is derived from the Latin word “candidus” – a white man.

The Fellowcraft Apron

The Fellowcraft Apron has the flap pointing down and indicates (1) That wisdom has begun to enter and therefore control matter, and (2) that the Soul and body are acting in unison. The two rosettes stress the dual nature of man and have a clear reference to the two Pillars. The two rosettes also point out that the Fellowcraft has not yet completed Freemasonry as it requires a third rosette to form a triangle. It is thought by some that the blue rozettes added to the Fellowcraft apron indicate the progress being made in the science of regeneration and that the candidate’s spirituality is beginning to bud forth, also that the wilderness of the natural man is now blossoming as the rose, in the flowers and graces of his regenerated nature.

The Master Mason’s Apron.

The addition of the third rosette forms a triangle, pointing upwards. A triangle, point upwards, represents Fire or Divine Spark. It is the emblem of Shiva, the third member of the Hindu Trinity. It also represents spirit. The triangle of the flap and triangle of the rosettes form a square where they overlap. This square represents matter. Thus we have the union of Body (square), Soul (top triangle) and Spirit (lower triangle).

Hudspeth, C.J.E. “The symbolism and design of the masonic apron.” 1949.

The Rosette: The origin of rosettes on Masonic aprons is unclear. They were not prescribed before 1815 in England, when they were designated denote the three grades of a Mason. “Their original purpose was purely ornamental.” Source:

Lewis Jewel Archaeology

The Lewis Jewel

Lewis Jewel Version B

20 microns 18K Gold-plated.

Nickel-plated for the Grand Lodge of Vermont.

$49.00 postage within Canada included.

What is a Lewis?

What is a Lewis? Figuratively speaking, a Lewis is a son whose father is or was a Freemason in good standing at the time of the son’s initiation. The word denotes “strength”.

Historically, it was an extremely strong engineering device dating back to the time of the ancient Greeks. When wedged into a groove on the top of a block of stone, builders could lift large ashlars directly in place without cumbersome ropes underneath. According to John Landels Engineering in the ancient world, U. California P (2000), the Grecian « Hero » demonstrated in Mechanica that a 4-5° “Lewis Bolt” widened sufficiently to withstand great forces once the centre wedge was hammered in place. It’s only disavantage, Landels wrote was that cutting a groove and removing the Lewis were time-consuming. Moreover, if the temper of the iron used was too hard or soft, the Lewis itself would fail. Nonetheless, the Lewis was device of choice by the Ancient Greeks for whose archeological evidence still exists today.

What is a Lewis Jewel?

The Lewis Jewel is a pendant jewel commemorative of the strength of the Masonic bond between a father and son. On the top-bar are engraved Mason Father’s name and date of initiation and the son’s on the bottom. Very much an emotional ceremony, the father must be in good standing when the son is initiated.

Wearing the jewel originates in the Canadian province of Quebec. It was first enshrined in 1948. C.f. Quebec requires the Father to be a Mason before the son is born. Other jurisdictions have not followed suit. Under the Grand Constitution of the Grand Lodge of Quebec, no person can be made a Freemason before 21 years old. The exception is the 18 year-old son of a Mason. Only a father can sponsor and vouch for his son’s “mature age”.

As early as 1801, the Lewis device was depicted and explained on an English Constitution, Junior Warden’s tracing board lecture.

A LEWIS is a simple but ingenious device employed by operative Masons to raise heavy blocks of dressed stone into place. It consists of three metal parts: two wedge-shaped side pieces, and a straight centre piece, that fit together (tenon). A dovetailed recess is cut into the top of the stone block (mortise). The two outer pieces are inserted first and then spread by the insertion of the centrepiece. The three parts are then bolted together, a metal ring or shackle is attached and the block is hoisted by hook, rope and pulley. By this means, the block is gripped securely.

Only recently has wearing the Lewis Jewel become popular in other North American Jurisdictions. It first became enshrined in Quebec’s southern voisin, Vermont in 2005. Alberta and Ontario followed suit in 2006, followed by Connecticut and Massachusetts in 2007. The same year, it gained regulation by Grand Master’s decree in the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon. In at least Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland the Lewis Jewel is worn as an honorary jewel.

The “Lewis” is a thus well-known term in the United Kingdom whence Masonic ritual originates.

Whence came the design?

My design represents a real Lewis that I first saw in a museum. When I asked my autocad person to draw it, I used these combined available drawings to portray it:
and from Engineering in the Ancient World, By John Gray Landels. 2000. University of California Press:


Since the 1940s, the design has taken many forms, variations of a same theme. To come is photo documentation of a collection from St. John’s Lodge in Quebec City.