September 2014 – NEWS FLASH!
I have a new ‘thing’ for you: ‘Stole lengths’. A ‘stole length’ is a piece of fabric that is just the right size to make one stole. You can purchase just enough fabric to make one stole – with no large, expensive remnant left over.
I’ve always offered stole lengths in both my polyester fabric and in the Dupioni silks. I’m now offering stole lengths in the beautiful liturgical damasks, brocades and tapestries (you can see pictures of these fabrics toward the bottom of the Fabrics page).
Constructing a stole is a wonderful, enjoyable project. Stole construction comes as close to being instant gratification is it’s possible to get (outside of chocolate candy). I can easily make a simple, handsome stole in 6 hours. To be able to give a handsome gift that can so easily be made is a blessing! Having access to stole lengths at reasonable prices in a wide choice of fabrics in all liturgical colors is another blessing.
As well, if you’ve been thinking about purchasing one of the liturgical fabrics for a parish vestment project, making a stole of that fabric will give you the opportunity to experience the fabric – how it works.
If you are making your first stole and would like to use one of the damasks, brocades or tapestries in your Teaching Stole Kit, I will make the kit up for you. Please note that I do not recommend using the more expensive fabrics to learn on. But, if you feel that your skills are sufficient and want do it this way, I will make up the kit for you.
The full list of available stole lengths is too long to give here. The patterns include Ely Crown, Cloister, Fairford, Winchester, Florence, Glastonbury, Wakefield, Venezia and others – in all the liturgical colors. The prices range from $25 – $65 each. I also list a few remnants and some ‘one-of-a-kind’ stoles at reduced prices. Please email me and ask me to send you ‘the stole length list’. I’ll send it right along.
(End of news flash -)
Please notice that I am separating ‘Stoles’ from ‘Vestments’. That’s an odd thing for me to do because stoles are vestments! There are several reasons I did this.
First, because stoles are THE basic vestment. Christian denominations that don’t use any other vestments, use stoles. In denominations that use a wide range of vestments, stoles are the most frequently used vestment. They’re used with chasubles, dalmatics, surplices, copes and mitres and, as well, are used by themselves.
Second, because I am teaching a unique method of stole construction that I call ‘the set-back method’. Set-back construction produces stoles unlike those you’ve seen before. Your stoles will be clean-looking, tailored and sharp – a signature look. Once you learn this construction method, you’ll never go back to the old ‘pillowcase method’. Stoles are both tricky and picky to construct. Constructing stoles – and constructing them well – requires special effort on your part. (Which is why I offer Teaching Stole Kits.) Almost all our other vestments and paraments can be constructed out of a good set of instructions – no kit necessary. Not so with stoles.
Third, stoles are often ‘visual summaries’ for additional vestments. Often we see a stole and the chasuble to match leaps into our minds – or the pulpit fall or the super-frontal or Bible markers.
Fourth, Once you know how to make them, stoles are just plain fun to make. I want you to be able to think about stoles without the distraction of information about other vestments. This is your stole page! Lots of ideas; no distractions; we’re about stoles here! If you want to make the other vestments, go to the Vestment page – but, peruse the stoles first; there are good ideas here!
Note: There is more good information about stoles on the ‘Embroidery’ page – don’t miss it!
A long time ago, I made my first stole. Let me put it this way: A long time ago, I TRIED to make my first stole. It was a disaster. So, I tried again. The second stole was a disaster also. How could it be that an item that appeared to be so SIMPLE was proving to be so difficult to construct!!!! I thought I was just stupid or insufficiently skilled.
I had an opportunity speak to The Vestment Guru – a lovely, lovely woman named Mary Lou White – this was years and years ago. She told me, in no uncertain terms, that my difficulties were completely NORMAL! Everyone has difficulty with stole construction.
You have a choice: You can wing it – try it on your own. Who knows? Maybe stoles will just work fine for you – we can pray for that. Or, you can learn the excellent construction method using good patterns that I’ve developed.
I am very good at getting you through your first stole. My patterns and instructions and my construction method – the set-back method – are excellent!
Stick with me here! Oh, boy! Do I ever have lots to tell you! But, I’m going to do it differently this time. I’m going to put the pictures first and all the information later. This way you’ll know where we’re going and then, if you want, you can read how to get there.
This first picture shows three stoles: The one on the right was Kathy’s first stole made from one of my Teaching Stole Kits. (Kathy added the tassels and, they really look nice! Though, at $5 each, they’re expensive.). Do you see that there are no places where the lining ‘pooks’ out to the front? That’s one of the benefits of the set-back construction method. The stole on the left shows the reverse side of a stole made using the set-back construction method. Do you see how the lining is set back from the outside edge of the stole by about ¼ inch? The lining cannot pook out on the edges. The appearance is clean, sharp and tailored – a ‘signature look’.
The middle stole is Kathy’s second stole – her own design – nicely executed – using the set-back construction method. Once you’ve made one stole – your Teaching Stole Kit – you’re good to go. Note the simplicity of the neck/shoulder area – the fit is smooth and the ends of the stole hang straight down – no toeing-in or toeing-out.
This white Deacon’s ordination stole was made by a British customer. The fabric is Dupioni silk. And, in spite of the fact that I urge you not to make your first stole a work of art, she went ahead and did it anyway. (She had never done gold-work embroidery either!) Notice that even though this stole is tied in a half-knot, it’s nice and long. Beautifully done!
I want you to know that the stoles on this page represent a learning experience that took place over a period of several years.
You know how when you go to a seminar put on by an expert and you hope to learn something new? The expert always brings examples of her most beautiful work. Right? While I enjoy seeing beautiful work, what I really want to see are her mistakes. I want her to say, “Look. See what I did here? This was a mistake. Do you see what it did? Don’t do that!” That’s what I’m doing for you now – showing you my mistakes.
At first, I was accustomed to thinking of stoles as vestments that were worn under chasubles (mostly). Standard decoration was to put either a pair of lovely Christian symbols or an orphrey at the bottom of each stole end.
But, these stoles are meant to be worn all by themselves. Because they’re not covered up they must be designed differently. When the entire stole is seen, the design must achieve a visual balance. You can’t just go putting symbols and orphreys on the stoles willy nilly and expect the stole to be coherent. (The design of Kathy’s red stole is brilliant!)
These next pictures are of stoles decorated with orphreys – a handsome and traditional look. They show me experimenting with how long the orphreys need to be to achieve visual balance – how much visual weight does a stole need? I was discovering the effect of ‘visual weight’; how much is too much, how much is not enough and how much is just right.
The orphrey on the green stole is 23 inches long. The orphrey on the white stole is 18 inches long. I prefer the appearance of the white stole. The big orphrey on the green stole is too weighty. The diagonal orphrey on the blue stole is acceptable because the color carries through so closely between face fabric and orphrey.
(Incidentally, in my stole length list, I offer a nice selection of 18 inch orphreys.)
These next photographs are stoles decorated with embroidery. All of them are done on Dupioni silk but could just as well be done on the damasks or polyester.
Here’s another mistake I made: Length. (I sure do wish I had not learned so much by making mistakes!!!) Not until I had all these pictures together did I realize that I think they’re too long! This guy – Terry – is 5’10” tall and wears a 42 jacket. My stole patterns produce stoles that are 53 inches long and you can see that they reach mid-calf on Terry. I think that’s too long for a stole that’s worn by itself. What do you think?
(Please note: I own WordPress software designed to allow me to edit my own website. Utilizing WordPress to get anything done is like trying to herd cats. I’m sorry about the awkward placement of the following pictures – I can’t help it! I’m doing the best I can!)
Notice that all three of these stoles have two embroideries, one on each stole end. This is a very ‘standard’ arrangement. What do you think about the visual weight and balance question? Look at these stoles as though you’ve never seen a stole before. Does your eye feel any design awkwardness?
Question: Are we putting embroideries on the stole ends ‘because we’ve always done it that way’?
I think we have a design ‘issue’ here. I think we’ve been designing stoles as though all stoles will be worn under a chasuble.
Do stoles that will be worn by themselves need a different design in order to achieve a balanced look?
There is another stole decoration method that looks awkward – for a different reason: Some stoles are decorated with bands and short orphreys spaced along the entire stole length. I don’t have a picture of this type of stole decoration because I don’t like them but, you can see examples on any ready-made vestment website. I think our commercial vestment companies like them because they can use up the bits and pieces off the cutting room floor.
These decorations are the same on both sides of the stole. When the stole is worn, the decorations are supposed to match across the two stole ends. The problem with the ‘bits and pieces stoles’ stems from the fact that it is the nature of stoles to go crooked within 5 minutes after leaving the sacristy – the decorations that are supposed to match stop matching and look crooked instead. The crookedness immediately catches the eye. The crookedness becomes the dominant feature of the stole. (How often have you wanted to step up to a priest and straighten their stole?) If you’re going to put itinerate bits and pieces on a stole, be thoughtful about requiring that they match across the stole ends.
My point here is that – in my opinion – stoles designed to be worn by themselves require a design re-do. I think we need to see stoles more consciously and treat their design differently than we treat stoles worn under chasubles. Here’s a pieced stole that is not heavily dependent upon being exactly even. Isn’t this a wonderful stole?
Here’s an embroidered and quilted stole that does match – unevenness will be seen. But, it’s perfectly lovely.
Now look at this next group of photographs; these stoles are still too long but the embroidery placement drastically changes the visual weight. Try to visualize them 4 inches shorter. (The cat’s name is Arthur)
Suddenly, even though the stoles are still too long, the awkward feeling is gone! With the embroidery placed in the hollow of the shoulder, the stole is visually balanced. I love it! Thank you, Holy Spirit!
This placement in the hollow of the shoulder is evocative. We’re acustomed to this look; we’ve seen it many times before. The hollow of the shoulder is where men wear their lapel pins and where women pin a lovely brooch; it’s where we lay a child’s head when we comfort them. This placement speaks to us immediately.
While embroidering a shorter stole for her Priest to wear during hospital visits, a customer realized that her embroidery may be the last Christian symbol the patient sees on this earth. Why put lovely symbols all the way at the end; down there by the Priest’s feet? Why not put them up by the face – where they are seen when we speak to the Priest and when the Priest administers Holy Communion?
Here’s a great picture showing a wide variety of stole lengths and widths. Which would you choose as the perfect length and width for a stole? My choice would be the guy in the front row, second from the right and the priest in the center.