Some of my dearest friends recently asked me to make a wall hanging for them, using one of his Presbyterian minister stoles. Many moons ago he was our pastor, and while at our church our families became close. He has recently retired, and now primarily does interim work – so he can spare the stole as a vestment, and instead have it as a memory quilt. In Protestant churches, the stole is a symbol of ordination and the office of the ministry of the Word and Sacrament, and therefore means a lot to the individual ministers, so it was quite an honor to be asked to turn it into a keepsake. My family fondly remembers our friend wearing this particular stole, so they have been anxiously waiting to see what I would turn it into!
My friends gave me free rein in designing the wall hanging, as well as no time deadline! Which was actually quite liberating – I had time to just let my mind and heart wander, and think about his ministry and our family friendship, and this is the result.
The stole was made with a variety of fabrics and colors – from satin to upholstery weight fabric to canvas to cotton, and as you see a true rainbow of colors, all raw edge appliquéd to a black background. I cut the stole itself into chevrons, and the “sun” circle on the back where it goes around the neck, into a square. I even saved the part with the little button loop on the back used to keep the stole in place, and put that on one of the corners on the back of the quilt.
Keeping the colors in rainbow order, I appliquéd the chevrons and “sun” piece to the quilt background fabric. I found this perfect ombré blue fabric online, with the center area the lightest, and the outside edges the darkest. The blue could represent sky, with the center lighter part being light shining down. The chevrons form a spiral with the final coil pointing upwards, with the sun circle making kind of an arrow shooting up. Maybe the Eye of God? Maybe pointing the way to the promised land? Instead of a stairway to heaven, a spiral to heaven! Lots of symbolism can be read into this quilt, so feel free to interpret it as you like.
But my favorite part, I think, is the “hidden” message quilted around the bottom of the spiral: “Laughter is the hand of God on the shoulder of a troubled world“. This saying has been my friend’s pastoral philosophy during his entire ministry, so it was perfect to add to this quilt. They had seen a previous quilt of mine, “Indigo and Led Zeppelin” in which I quilted phrases that were significant for me, and asked if I could do something similar for this project. So we decided to incorporate his ministrial philosophy into his quilt.
I have to admit, quilting words is the only time I get a little tense when I quilt – I usually practice with pen and paper first, then quilt it out on scrap fabric at least once. I can see if I have the size of the letters right and test how much space the wording will take up on the quilt as well. Plus the practice really calms my nerves… The goal is to do the real wording in one pass and not need to rip any of it out! And usually, that’s what I’m able to do.
The “laughter” message is quite subtle on purpose. The rest of the quilting kind of flows into the letters. It’s meant to draw the viewer in, for them to actually take a step closer, and have an “oh look at that there’s a message in there” moment when they notice the words.
The wording and all the appliqué I do on my domestic sewing machine, a Baby Lock Crescendo, but the big swirls and spirals I did using my long arm, a Baby Lock Crown Jewel III.
I bound it in black so the dark color could act as a narrow frame, and to bring out the black background of the stole itself. And, of course I added a Blue Beagle label on the back. I sewed black ribbon along the top to be used as ties to hang the quilt on a rod. Overall size is around 34″ x 70″.
It was truly a pleasure to make this quilt for our former pastor and his wife. We missed them when he transferred to another town and another job in the church, but we have remained friends over the years, and now happily they have moved closer to where we live, so we will be able to see them more often. Thanks my friends!
Thank you for reading and happy quilting!