Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A "River of God" Liturgical Stole

I was busy in November creating a stole as a surprise for a Lutheran minister in Australia.  His wife Kirsten contacted me in the summer, and we started a lovely conversation by e-mail.  In one of her earliest messages she wrote:
 I've collected a few small pieces of material which I could post to you with a little note about their significance but I'm happy to leave it to you about how much of what and where to place things. Just as it happens the pieces are all mainly blue so a blue stole looks like it will be the first one :-) I like that idea because I believe that the blue symbolises "hope". In terms of a theme, I love the stole on your blog. My husband and I have a deep affinity with the "river of God" which flows from the cross to heal and bless and refresh the nations. So I'd love the river to be incorporated and the cross. It may seem odd but the symbol of the Ulysses butterfly is also important to us and we have one in stained glass in our church. It would be lovely to see one in the stole!!

Kirsten  sent me the materials on the far left. The rest of the ties are from my inventory. 

In my stash I found a tie with kangaroos--perfect!

The initial designs.
Stitching spirals--Working out some technical issues.

The stole starts to take shape on the design wall.

Continuing progress.

In the foreground is a stand that I hang cut strips of ties, ready for piecing.

The piecing is completed, and the stole is cut out.  At this point I was contemplating how and where to attach the yarn that Kirsten sent.  I eventually couched it on by hand along select lines.

Detail view, lower fronts.

The next task was to make the piping.  I decided to incorporate some ribbon that Kirsten had sent along.

You can see how I stitched and flipped short segments of ribbon while attaching the piping (which I had made out of striped ties.)

Excess ribbon cut off to be used a little further along.
The next decision to be made was about the Ulysses butterfly.  I knew that this was best done as an applique, but thought I'd try it out as a paper cutout first.  Yes, this is going to work.

I had a lot of fun creating this free form butterfly.  Thanks to Google images, there is lots of inspiration on the web.  Here I was considering a placement lower down.

And decided on placing it a little higher.
Next it was time to decide about the Celtic cross on the centre back--plain and simple, or...

...with a little bit of red behind, or...

...a lot of red??
I was happy that Kirsten chose to have a little red, and so I then attached it with some lines of stitching mimicing Celtic knot work.  (My husband is the model in this photo.)
The finished stole!  Lloyd put on long pants especially to model!

I chose a William Morris cotton print for the lining, and attached a custom label.  The "thistle" was in the box of materials that Kirsten sent.

Detail lower fronts.

Butterfly detail.  The wings are free floating---I just stitched around its body.
Whenever I finish a stole, I can't bring myself to part with it right away.  I like to keep it hanging in my studio for a few days to say good-bye. It's a very intense process to create something meaningful for the minister and for me.  It's important to be in constant communication with the commissioner, to make sure I'm on the right track, but also I need to keep control of the process and excercise my artistic licence too.  When a stole is finally completed, there's a bit of sadness but excitement about how the stole will be received in its new home.  I finally entrusted it to the post office and within a week it had arrived in Australia.  Here is what Kirsten wrote:

Dear Janet

I've just arrived home from work and your package was waiting. It's difficult to describe what it was like opening the box and seeing the colours greet me like an old friend who I've just met for the first time. I had a sense of something before me of remarkable wonder and depth and significance. There are little fore-tastes of heaven sprinkled throughout this life and unfolding the stole was one of them! For better or worse I couldn't wait to give it to Noel! He will just be getting a card for Christmas now ;-) I thought you'd be touched to know that once he unfolded it and realised what it was and recognised some of the pieces, he cried. He asked me to pass on his warmest greetings to you and your husband and to say he hopes we can meet you one day. I wrote down what Noel said so I wouldn't forget..."It's the most beautiful thing in the whole world that I've ever seen or had. I can't believe someone would make something so special...wearing this stole when I preach will be like wearing a garment of love and wonderful memories".

This beautiful message made me weepy too.  Thank you Kirsten and Noel!