Earlier this year when I prepared to dedicate a worship stole I made for my brother in his memory, I talked to some of his ministry associates about how much I enjoyed creating the piece. There was so much meaning in planning, weaving, dyeing and sewing a stole that would be used for something as important as a church worship service.
I could see Dave’s former associate, Marla, a Lutheran Deaconess, sitting there thinking during the conversation. “You know,” she said smiling, “I could really use a stole for the Advent season.” And so it began.
I told her I’d be happy to make one for her. It would mean a lot, since she and Dave had successfully partnered in a collaborative ministry at St. Paul’s.
It took a few weeks, just to think about the design, but I finally settled on a dyed warp in blue (those are the Protestant colors of Advent). Over the summer, I painted the warp with three colors of dye and was struck at how much it looked like water, so I quickly named the design “Living Waters.” While Advent was the goal, this stole could easily double for baptisms.
One of the challenges in making a deaconess stole, is that it is worn across the body and pivots on the hip downward toward the leg. It needed a dart, but it couldn’t show. So I played around and finally settled on a dart inside the stole which would be covered over by the extra fabric.
I used one of Marla’s other stoles to make sure the dart was deep enough to pivot properly. It ended up being about an inch.
For the symbol, I settled on a spiral I had seen on the Canadian deaconess website. The spiral indicates outward movement and activity, something all deaconesses are known for. They are very active in their communities. And as the spiral moves out, it bursts forth in love, hence the symbols on the outside.
I used some pale yellow stash yarn and dyed it a deeper yellow on my stove one afternoon. Then I made a crochet chain and stitched it on. The biggest challenge was finding a proper fabric for the spiral bursts. I wanted metallic, but it was September at the time and nothing was out for Christmas yet in the fabric store. I wandered for a long time, and then I found it. Pleather! Can you believe it? That cheesy fabric from the 70s was exactly what I needed. I cut it in triangles and glued it with fabric glue.
A couple of weeks ago, my family and I attended worship services at St. Paul to celebrate the First Sunday in Advent. Marla talked about the stole and even let people touch it (although she joked that she doesn’t usually encourage that sort of thing). But handwoven fabric begs to be touched and she got that. It was a great morning to see the stole on the altar. I know Marla will make good use of it in her abiding ministry.