Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Detail views of the white stole samples

It's a typical spring day here in the Okanagan...some welcome rain showers and a little sun, but mostly a high bright overcast--great for photography, especially of whites! So, in between showers, I went outside to take some close-ups of the stole samples that I posted last night.

Again I'm using my favourite "bias strip piecing" technique. That means cutting all the fabrics in strips on the bias (30 - 60 degrees or so) and then stitching them in gentle concave or convex curves to a foundation fabric. My favourite foundation fabric is unbleached cotton (a.k.a. muslin or calico if you live in the US or UK!) In these samples, I've inserted the lace edging (which of course is not on the bias) into some of the seams.
To see larger views, double click on any image and your screen will be more than filled.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A New Stole in the Works...

Here are three samples of designs for the next stole. This stole will be worn by a minister officiating at his son's wedding at the end of May. Most of the materials were table linens and fabrics belonging to their grandmothers.
A white stole is worn on holidays like Easter and Christmas and celebratory occasions such as weddings and christenings.
In terms of designing this stole, an absence of colour means that texture comes to the fore. In this case, much of the texture is provided by the lace edgings and the brocade weave structure in some of the linens. The piecing pattern also provides some texture--whether I run the pieces in a chevron pattern as in the two samples in the centre and the right, or vertically as in the sample on the left.
Do you have a preference?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Deacon stole is finished!

I finished the stole this afternoon. Here it is on my mannequin. The edges are piped with two of the neckties provided by the family, and I had a little bit of piping left over to convert into covered cords for the "closure" at the hip (see the lower image for a close-up).

A friend dropped by this afternoon and said the swirling lines of blues and greens reminded her of the recent Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler. Well, having been out of the country for the Olympics, I missed all that stuff. Apparently these colours were on all the Olympic paraphernalia as well as surrounding the hockey rinks and other venues. I can't claim to have been influenced by the Olympics! This design is a result of e-mails with the future deacon's mother who suggested the "water" theme, and the neckties and fabrics that she collected from family and friends.

I bumped into another friend in the library just after I'd been to the post office to confirm the shipping options, so I showed her...and she asked if this was my favourite one yet. Well, that's a bit like asking who your favourite child is! None-the-less, I am pleased with how this stole turned out. I'm looking forward to hearing about the presentation and to seeing their daughter wearing it. That all happens on May 10.

Now to turn my attention to the next stole which will be all white--what a change!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Next stages...the fit...

My 5'8" friend came over tonight to try on the stole and help me with the fitting. I received one other important measurement today--the robe that this stole will be worn over is 51" in back length. Pamela's dress in these pictures is 52". So, I'm able to shorten it from the shoulder and I've decided that I will round the hem. I'm ready to go now...should be finished this week!
The ordination is May 10 so this will be plenty of time. Whew! Long distance fitting is challenging!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Piecing is complete

Here's an image of the front of the stole, in process, on my cutting table.

I finished piecing the front about a half hour ago.

I wrapped my mannequin in some white fabric, and placed it on a foot stool to mimic the 5'8" height. Here's a view of the "finished" front pinned to the form. "Finished" meaning that the piecing is complete, but there's still a lot of work ahead (shoulder seam, piping, lining, hip attachment, label...) I positioned the mannequin in front of my mirror so that a bit of the back shows as well.

And a side view of both front and back showing off the spirals.

And finally, here's me in my new dress from India feeling pretty pleased with how this looks so far!

My 5'8" friend is away for the weekend, so I can't do any more until Monday. Then I expect to try it on her, and figure out the ideal length from shoulder to hip and from hip to the lower edge. I've left these edges unfinished until then.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Continuing with the back of the deacon stole

I feel I've made good progress with this stole over the past two days in spite of unavoidable appointments, a Hospice commitment, and several long telephone conversations with friends (all satisfying!) These images are of the piece which will become the back of the stole. The top two were taken when it was on my cutting table. The bottom two images were taken when the piecing was complete and hung vertically on my design wall. I'm struck by how "serpent-like" the sprial is (and I wanted it to represent water!) I browsed in the reference section of the public library today (so much more satisfying than using an on-line browser!) and found several books on symbols. Here's what Miranda Bruce-Mitford had to say about spirals in The Illustrated Book of Signs & Symbols: "Energy was once believed to flow in spiral form. The spiral symbolizes masculine and feminine energy and the energy of both sun and moon. It is the great swirling force of the whirlwind and the movement of the heavens. It is a manifestation of the energy in nature, and is related to the powerful imagery of the serpent. The spiral also symbolizes the circlings of the soul, which eventually return to the center, or truth."

Isn't that a wonderful sentiment?

Another challenge I'm having with this project is the fit. I'm sewing this for a woman who is 5'8" tall, and it's a surprise. Her mother has measured her, and I in turn measured a friend who is also 5'8"...well, their measurements from shoulder to hip aren't the same! That's a critical bit of information because the front and the back of a deacon stole are joined at the hip. I also wonder if the join should be at the hip bone (e.g. where the pelvis can be felt) or lower down at the widest part of the hip (which is where a dressmaker would measure the hip). Any ideas? Does anyone have an opinion about how far from the floor the lower edge should be?

I had thought that I would have to make these decisions at the outset, but I realized yesterday that I can adjust the length from the shoulder or from the lower edge. I've therefore cut the foundation fabric as large as I think I would need, and can trim as necessary.

Here are some more interesting quotes about spirals. Jack Tresider writes in Dictionary of Symbols, "The spiral as an open and flowing line suggests extension, evolution and continuity, uninterrupted concentric and centripetal movement, the very rhythm of breathing and of life itself." Another author, J.E. Cirlot, in A Dictionary of Symbols, writes "...most theorists are agreed that the symbolism of the spiral is fairly complex and of doubtful origin. Its relationship...with water has been provisionally admitted. Going right back to the most ancient traditions, we find the distinction being made between the creative spiral (rising in a clockwise direction...) and the destructive spiral like a whirlwind (which twirls to the left...)"
I am so happy that my spirals are twirling to the right and thus indicative of creativity!! But it probably has more to do with the fact that I'm right-handed, and this is how I naturally doodle and draw spirals!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Continuing with spirals...

I thought I'd start this posting with more explicit images of the actual stitching process which I call bias strip piecing. I stumbled onto this technique in the nicest possible way, meaning that I felt like I had discovered it myself rather than learning about it in a book or in a workshop. I had been cutting up neckties to make vests and other things for a few years, and was increasingly frustrated with trying to sew straight lines--I'd baste every seam before carefully and slowly stitching the bias fabrics. I had an "a-ha" moment when I realized that if I didn't baste or pin, and just let the fabric "find its own way", I could create curves. I can manipulate the narrow strips of bias to curve right or left as you can see in these images.
To curve to the left, you have ease in extra fabric under the presser foot as you sew. To curve to the right, it helps to pull the fabric, holding it very taut. Obviously this takes a lot of practice, and I've been playing with this now for about 10 years. My favourite fabrics are silk neckties--those little bits of gorgeous fabrics that are already cut on the bias.

So, it's a little different from cutting cotton fabrics in straight lines with a ruler and rotary cutter. Lining up points and seams is not an issue with bias strip piecing--it's quite freeing!

This is the first time I've created a sprial with this technique (I've crocheted spirals, plus I've appliqued a tri-spiral onto the back of stoles) and it's taken a little play time to feel comfortable maniplating several small pieces of fabric at once. However, I'm pleased with the results so far. Here's the spiral I made today for the other end of this stole.

And here's an image of the two pieces hanging together on my wall.

Donna has made an interesting observation about the spiral as a religious symbol. I've never thought of it as particularly religious although a version of it is called a Celtic spiral (from New Grange, Ireland) which I have used on a couple of stoles. I know that it's been carved in rocks and walls for eons, and is a common symbol on pottery and textiles around the world. The spiral may well mean different things in different cultures. It is probably a wonderfully universal symbol!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The water theme continues...

After washing and pressing all the ties and fabrics, I cut one strip off each one, and hung them in order of colour (green to blue-green to blue) as well as value on a laundry rack.
And started stitching a spiral today:

Late this afternoon, I pinned it up on my wall so I could take a good look at it hanging vertically.
What do you think?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Changing gears...back to liturgical stoles.

Back to work! I feel like I've wrapped up my Indian experiences, and can now focus on my creative work. I have two stole commissions in the pipeline. This one is for a young woman who will be ordained as a deacon in May. I won't identify her or her location because this commission is a surprise gift from family and friends. Water--oceans and rivers--is very important to her so I went to my "water" file to look for possible sources of inspiration.

Family and friends have contributed ties and other fabrics in "water" colours...these materials arrived just before I left for India.

Last week, I sorted them and determined that I needed a greater range in value and intensity. I found several ties from my stash (which is rather enormous--just last week an acquaintance dropped off a bag of ties on my front porch...) that will be appropriate. Here's an image of the augmented materials.

The wave and water images above reminded me of spirals, and so I quickly played around with how I might stitch a spiral... When I do this again, I will use fabrics that have a greater contrast in value, e.g. very light and very dark, so that the spiral is more obvious.

After deciding that yes, indeed, a spiral will be fairly straightforward to stitch, I opened my box of coloured pencils to see how this spiral might "unravel" into swirling lines of "water".

A deacon's stole is designed like a sash across the upper body, with the two pieces attached in a seam at the shoulder and attached at the hip with a cord.

I sent these images to the mother of the young woman to ask for feedback and approval to continue, and was delighted to hear back from her this morning with a most emphatic "LOVE IT, LOVE IT, LOVE IT!!"

Most reassuring! So now to get to work taking ties apart, washing and pressing, cutting and stitching. I'll post updates on the progress of the stole over the next couple of weeks. Your comments as always are welcome!