I had the honour of being asked by the Amazing Grace (largely women’s) study group at North United Methodist Church to create a stole for the Pastor of Discipleship and Formation, a passionate and gifted woman. Amazing Grace always tries to go deep into questions of faith, the Divine, prayer, tradition and practice.
As we discussed the design of the stole it was decided that it would be mostly green, the liturgical colour for Common, or Ordinary Time, and that it should reflect qualities the group values in this pastor — generosity of spirit, a commitment to inclusiveness and women’s concerns in religious life, and a palpable spirituality.
As I poked around in my collection of fabric I found a satin-weave, vintage (30+ years qualifies, doesn’t it?) abstract floral print dress fabric that I had bought back in about 1975 in two colour-ways. One was predominantly blue, with red highlights. That I made into a dress at the time. I still remember it fondly as a festive, but unexpected, holiday dress.
The other was predominantly green, with brown highlights. This jumped out at me as the perfect base for this stole. So much for the organising types that tell you to throw out anything you haven’t used for two years…
The floral clusters morphed into pomegranates, a symbol of the Tree of Life, resurrection, and the heart of Jesus, among other things. I made several different sizes of heart-shaped blocks and printed hearts superimposed on the petals of the flowers (vaguely roses) in a circle around the stamens to give the impression of seeds as you see them when you slice a pomegranate in half. (see Detail 1; you can also see part of an unadulterated flower in Detail 2) Then I overlayed the print with a rich red chiffon and appliqued that down using Ribbon Floss as a decorative thread in the bobbin of my sewing machine.
Near the bottom of each end of the stole is a hand offering the blessings of life as symbolised by the pomegranates. I chose the positions of the hands after studying the various ways Christ Pantocrator’s hands are represented over centuries of Christian art are not dissimilar to some poses of mudras, or spiritual gestures from Buddhism. The hands are black, not only as a design choice, but also to honour the Black Madonna. (Detail 1)
The center back of the stole is ornamented with a figure that represents both the Dove and all its allusions, but also Shekinah and the Holy Spirit. This stylised dove also forms a figure of the Divine Feminine raising her hands in blessing, represented by two hearts from the original pomegranate design. (Detail 2)