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You have an ordination coming up and want to make a present. What could be better than a stole? The pattern is not complicated and not much material is required.  If you do cross-stitch, needlepoint, or embroidery, you can stitch small pieces to appliqué. If you weave or paint, here is a new “canvas.” And if you are a quilter — you can make it as fancy as you like.

That you are making a stole, or a set, cannot be a secret, as the recipient needs to be measured, and needs to see samples of other things you’ve made so s/he can tell you which crosses, themes, etc. are desired.

It is customary to have a cross on the neck seam, which our clergy kiss before donning the stole. The rest of the decoration will reflect Biblical themes, but there is broad room for one’s imagination, from lilies or flames to lettering and Celtic borders. The simplest is just three strips of gold braid near the bottom of each panel, but it’s much more fun to make a really unique stole for someone you love.

The main color should be one of the liturgical colors — red for ordinations and Pentecost, white for feast days, green for Ordinary Time, purple for Lent, rose or blue for Advent. If the person prefers a tippet, it is made of black fabric — but they are the plainest, so I’ve bought them rather than making them.

The easiest way to find the right size is to go with the to-be-ordained person to the sacristy and have him/her try on stoles until you find the one that hangs best. If it isn’t the right length, note how much longer or shorter it should be. Then borrow that stole, or make the pattern on the spot. If the person is out of town, or will be in the permanent Diaconate, you definitely need to borrow a stole to copy the shape (Ed. Note: or you can buy a Byzantine Deacon’s Stole Pattern from the Diocese of California Sewing Room at 1055 Taylor Street, San Francisco, CA 94108).

To make the pattern, lay half the stole out flat on sturdy paper — freezer paper and heavy tracing paper work especially well. Outline it with a pencil, being careful to not mark the original, and be sure to mark the correct length. You now have a pattern that you know will fit.

The entire stole can be done in needlepoint, but the stitching takes a good deal of time, and a wool stole is heavy as well as very warm. Use a waterproof textile marker (Marvy, FabricMate, etc.) to mark the canvas two threads larger than the pattern all the way around both the left and right sides of the stole for the stitching area and again half an inch out for the seam allowance. Place the left and right panels side-by-side on the canvas so you can stitch them simultaneously from top to bottom, rolling the stretcher bars as you work. When the needlepoint is finished, zigzag stitch all the way around each piece twice so the canvas does not ravel before cutting on the seam allowance line.

Rather than needlepoint, you may choose silk (Dupioni or similar weight), brocade, or cotton for the stole. The lining should be a silky fabric so it slides easily — except at the neck, where Ultra suede works well to keep the stole from slipping; 3” by 8” will suffice. You will also need medium weight interfacing, and lightweight batting if the stole is to be quilted. Measure the pattern and add a few inches to determine the length of fabric needed. Take the pattern with you to the fabric shop, and flip it over on the fabric to make sure it is wide enough for both panels plus the seam allowances.

Pin your pattern to the fabric, and add a half-inch seam allowance to all edges as you cut out the stole and lining pieces. If you prefer to have a line to follow with your scissors, mark the fabric with a Vanishing Fabric Marker before cutting. For heavy quilting, add an inch for the seam allowance and trim it later.

Cut the interfacing without adding a seam allowance. If you elect to use fusible interfacing test it on a scrap of fabric before applying it to the stole pieces. I have successfully fused interfacing to silk by setting the iron to ‘silk,’ using a Teflon pressing cloth, and holding the iron in place longer than suggested. The interfacing can be fused either to the front or the lining pieces. Alternatively, the interfacing can be held in place with safety pins, on the “right” side of the fabric, out of the way of seam lines.

Designs should be completed before the neck seam is stitched as it is easier to work with one side at a time. With right sides facing stitch the stole together at the neck, repeat for the lining. Press the seams open, using a damp pressing cloth. Keep the pressing cloth handy, to use every time you pick up the iron. If the stole front is to be quilted it should done now. Either way, remove the safety pins as you get to them.

With right sides facing, pin the lining to the stole leaving eight inches open at the inside neck edge, then machine stitch from one side of the neck opening all around the stole to the other side of the opening. Clip the seam allowance on the curves and at the bottom corners, and turn the stole right side out, pulling the ends through the neck opening. If the interfacing and seam allowance aren’t smooth turn the stole wrong side out again and baste them in place. Press the edges of the stole very carefully, finger pressing ahead of the iron, so the seam is on the fold.

While the inside neck edge is still open, embroider or appliqué the cross over the outside neck seam. A purchased cross can be used. Then hand-sew a band of Ultra suede about six inches long, cut half an inch narrower than the seams, to the lining neck area. You may also add a tag to the lining with a dedication and laundry/cleaning instructions, computer-printed or written with a waterproof textile marking pen. Close the neck seam by hand, by blind stitching it with thread that matches the outside color of the stole. Press the neck again from the inside.

Wrap the stole in tissue, and present it to your clergy friend with a huge smile!

by Bidwell C. Drake

Bid Drake is internationally known as an ecclesiastical needlepoint specialist, and wrote the “Guide to Church Needlepoint Care and Maintenance.” She is a member of the Altar Guild and an MC at St. James the Apostle in Conroe, Texas, and is a member of NAGA, the VGEC and the CEGV, as well as Houston Area Fiber Artists and Studio Art Quilt Associates.




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