And So Forth... because one thing led to another!

We've been watching the trends of mindful (hand) stitching and decorative mending evolve in the world of those that sew. It's happening on quilts, clothing and accessories. We saw a great example of this while in Madison, WI this summer. Here is a detail from the exhibit by artist Heidi Parkes at Blue Bar Quilts. 

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Then a client sent us her grandfather's flannel shirt with the proposition of honoring this special someone in her life by incorporating the shirt fabric into a stole. Upon thinking about the commission and examining the shirt we discovered some visible hand stitching that had been used to mend the well worn shirt. Now we're incorporating this touch of the client's grandmother's hands into the stole also. What an honor it is to take on this commission!

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And that led us to our latest addition to our Christmas stole collection. We think this prototype is a start of additional hand stitching on our stoles. The more we conjured the design of this stole we grew attached to the thought of God mending us and the world through Jesus. See how the pictured details of the stole were incorporated into the entire design here.

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Artistic Inspiration in New York City

October found my husband and I celebrating our birthdays in New York City for a long weekend. And it was full of art, fabric and inspiration! A glimpse of al that —

 An inspirational mural viewed while walking the High Line.

An inspirational mural viewed while walking the High Line.

 Shopped for fabric in the Garment District. Wow!

Shopped for fabric in the Garment District. Wow!

 So much art in the subway stations! This was a favorite.

So much art in the subway stations! This was a favorite.

 Inspiration.

Inspiration.

 Vestments in the Armenian art exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Vestments in the Armenian art exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 Found the needle and button sculpture!

Found the needle and button sculpture!

I see what you did there: Creating clergy stoles

The details are important to our story telling in our products. It may be subtle but it's just part of the way we make the visual connection to the Word for worship. As you perused our website did you spy these background fabrics that inspired the stole design --

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This Advent stole has an accent fabric that has a visually rough texture (not rough to the touch). This is a reminder of the rough world that Jesus arrived into. He came to save. That roughness carries on today doesn't it?

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It's subdued but do you see the heart cross in the delicate white and gold border fabric? That was our jumping off point to use symbols to tell of God's love as spoken of in John 3:16. Read more about this Christmas stole here. 

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Discovering the focal point fabric on this stole made us think of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We celebrate on Palm Sunday and then recall for the next week the suffering and death that follows until we greet Easter. This stole is embellished with hand painted palms
to accentuate the palms in the stole fabric.

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This one of a kind stole is embellished with flowers to represent new life and rebirth. Additionally the base fabric is a subtle batik of pink roses. How fitting is that when you think of the rose as a symbol for Mary, the mother of Jesus ... the vessel that allowed the story to start.

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The appliquéd leaves on this stole represent growth in a marriage. Like the examples above, the symbols mimic what is seen in the background fabric. Read more about this "growing together"
wedding stole here.

Creating a clergy stole with a boat theme

Late this summer I planned a retreat at the beach in North Carolina. The goal was to read, be silent, seek God's presence in the quiet and work in my sketchbooks. I knew that this would be during hurricane season. But I really didn't think a hurricane would impact the trip! And then Hurricane Florence roared into the coast. I moved to plan B and landed in the sailing capital of North Carolina — Oriental. Despite seeing the hurricane destruction in Puerto Rico last year (blog post here) it was eye opening to be in North Carolina so shortly after the destruction had occurred. But as I learned from the gentleman from FEMA that I sat next to on the airplane each hurricane is different .

I had not been in Oriental before but quickly learned that many people in this area are professional fishermen. The site of boats on top of piers and swept onto the land was quite unsettling. This is in addition to the many homes that we saw that looked like they belonged in a war zone with their entire contents on the street for trash pick up was unsettling to say the least.

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The marinas inspired a new limited edition of stoles. See the creamy white Baptism version here and the Ordinary Time version here.

Below is a glimpse of the work in progress. The boats were added next!

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We will gladly be sending $50 to the American Red Cross for hurricane disaster assistance for each stole in this limited edition that is purchased. 

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Each morning I sat by the Neuse river and read Invitation to Retreat by Ruth Haley Barton. I'd recommend this in preparation for a retreat (in a large group or as an individual) and for the suggested tasks while on a retreat. Despite not having my toes in the sand this time was restorative and thought provoking.

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Driving in this beautiful state also allowed me to admire fields of cotton. I stopped and uttered thanksgivings for the farmers and harvesters that take this amazing plant and get it to those that create the fabrics we use in our products! It was a week of experiencing many blessings.

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And the resulting stole! See the Baptism stole here and the Ordinary Time stole here.

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A Commission for an Installation clergy stole

It’s always extra special to create for someone I know personally and recently that was the case. My own faith community was kind enough to request a stole for the Installation of one of our pastors. The final product wasn’t revealed until Installation worship but this pastor and I worked together to create the design. The following is an example of what the commission process is like at Carrot Top Studio.

Knowing that the gifting party had requested a green stole we started the process by asking the pastor for some words or images that were important for design inspiration. He replied with:

“laughter, Puerto Rico, abundance, the Holy Spirit,

God sees us (like Peter saw the lame man at the temple gates)”

That was an interesting list that proved to be a test of our abilities to connect visuals with. That happens sometimes, but we also love a challenge!

Our first sketch included a sun to represent the New Testament symbol of the believer’s walk and a reminder of the pastor’s roots in Puerto Rico where the sun (usually) shines. A descending dove was included for the Holy Spirit with surrounding swirls to represent joy and laughter. An oak tree/cross growing out of an acorn was chosen to recall the fact that great results can be born of humble beginnings and also to speak of the abundance mentioned in John 10:10.

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We always consider a commission a process and will not move into the creation phase until the client and our studio are both pleased with the plan. And I’m afraid we missed our mark with the first attempt at sketching! Round two found us presenting these two new ideas:

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What would you have done? We settled on the sketch on the left but swapped the cross for a descending dove that had active lines that mimicked the joyfulness of the border. And here is the result —

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The Coffee Filter Clergy Stole

You heard me right! We’e made a stole embellished with coffee filters! I happened to be married to a man who is constantly trying to make his first cup of coffee in the morning . just . so . right. This has required some apparatus experimentation over the years. I recognize this is a little prima donna-ish but we’ve run the gamete of tools from thermal coffee pots to the french press to the our over to the areo press.

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My current favorite is the aero press (seen above). It’s a combination of a french press and a pour over method. And oddly I can say that I like the texture of the way the coffee turns out and how quickly you make a quality cup of coffee.

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But using this contraption daily has caused the side of me that doesn’t like to be wasteful to want to find a use for the little paper coffee filter that it uses with each press. So of course we had to trying sewing on it!

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One thing led to another and the coffee filters have ended up on stoles! The inspiration for this stole series was Roman’s 8:28 …”and we know that in all things God works fo the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

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So the coffee filters on this stole are symbolic of sustenance the way that cup can seem first thing in the morning. But they are also circles to remind us of God’s never ending love. How good is that? The stoles can be seen in full here and here.

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What sustains you? Some might say coffee, or exercise or their family. But we’d hope that many would say it’s their relationship with God. May this stole be a reminder of all of that! … and BTW we discovered a reusable metal mesh filter for our aero press. So once we’re through the paper filters we started with that will be the end of this series!

About our Clergy Stole Business: Top three questions

Here are the answers to our most frequently asked questions. If this doesn't answer all of your questions do't hesitate to contact us at jenny.gallo@CarrotTopStudio.com or 412-480-4193. 

What length stole should I order?

There is no set rule as it depends upon your ministry style and whether you wear a robe or not. The best scenario would be to have someone help you use a cloth tape measure to measure from the back center of your neck to the edge of where the hem would be on one side of the stole. Or know that a 49" stole falls at the knee cap of a 5' 4" person with a thin frame and then gauge accordingly.

How long does shipping take?

Shipping is 2-3 business days within the USA via USPS Priority mail. Orders are fulfilled Monday-Saturday unless otherwise noted in the website announcement bar. Expedited 1-2 day shipping via USPS is an alternative option at checkout.

What if I don't see what I need on your website?

Don't hesitate to ask if there is a stole you like but it's not the correct length. We might be able to remake the stole in a longer length or hem a stole that is not short enough.

OR if you if an idea for a stole that is not in our current collection we would be glad to consider adding it as a limited edition to the website or creating it as a one of a kind commission. Email us here.

A Commissioned Stole for the PCUSA

For the fourth time Carrot Top Studio has been asked to create the moderator stole for the PCUSA General Assembly. The stole traditionally depicts the host city for the General Assembly, the seal of the denomination and a visual connection to the General Assembly theme. It's always a fun creative challenge for us!

                         Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Portland

                        Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Portland

The Office of the General Assembly presents each new moderator with a stole to mark their moderatorial office which is kept by the moderator as a witness of their ministry after the term is completed.  

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The prominent features in this year's design are a fleur-de-lis which calls attention to the French background of the early city of St. Louis. Additionally, the water lines are a symbol for growth. The convergence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers allowed for growth of our nation.  Lastly, the representational people surrounding the cross reminds us of the Church working together called to be a witness.

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On the back tip, which joins the two branches of the stole, a dove descends as the traditional symbol of the Holy Spirit. The images harmoniously offer a message of the 223rd General Assembly, “Renewing the Vision: Kindom building for the 21st century.”

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The stole is a visible symbol that the Moderator and the commissioners are the continuing community of the 223rd General Assembly until the 224th assembly convenes. We wish many blessings to the newly elected co-moderators Rev. Cindy Kohlman and Ruling Elder Vimarie Cintron-Olivieri. (photo cred. Rev. Ruth Faith Santana-Grace)

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So much Ordinary Time!

My head spins when creating for Ordinary Time. There are just so many visual directions to turn when making a connection to the Word for this part of the Church year. We're in the midst of using this collection of skin tone fabrics to illustrate Psalm 47:1 ....

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We got this far ...

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And then we spied these beautiful green batiks in a stash and started dreaming of the stole they would become! That's a sign we've been in the studio long enough today. Stay tuned to teh finished results of both of these projects.

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#100DaysOfPaintedPages - Get to know the artist

I'm thoroughly enjoying painting a little bit everyday as I participate in The 100 Day Project. You can read our first blog post about this here.  It has been helpful to focus on a theme each week. Completing a pictorial alphabet about myself was an especially fun week. Each day I added 5 or so letters with a little graphic of something that is a favorite in my life. There is the result....

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We are not sure where this renewed interest in painting and drawing is leading us. But for now if you want to follow along we are CarrotTopStudio on Instagram or use #100daysofpaintedpages or #carrottopstudioart. Thanks!

Being an artist: 100 Days of Painted Pages (#100DaysOfPaintedPages)

I tend to make personal goals when the seasons change not on New Year's Eve. As the cool weather of fall blew in I felt called to start drawing and painting more often. This is what I did in high school and college and as much as I love, love, love working with fabric and sewing the pencil and paintbrush are clearly also part of who I am. 

So I pulled out the sketchbook and starting drawing. I focused on a theme on each page and tried to draw as often as I could! This is a little bit of what happened...

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I'm also the kind of person that needs systems to help hold me accountable. Is that why I like the rhythm and routine of the Church year calendar so much? Anyway, I signed up for an online illustration class through Sketchbook Skool (that's correctly spelled :)). It was project orientated so we worked on designing a piece for the studio. Maybe you'll see the results in your mailbox someday. Until then here's a little bit of the process I walked through.

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Now that I'm in the habit of drawing again I'm joining the #100DayProject. This endeavor has an official online community but is a free, global art project that anyone can participate in. If you want to follow along my tag is #100DaysOfPaintedPages. Using #CarrotTopStudioArt will do it also! I know it usually takes 21 days to make a habit. I'm wondering how i'll do with a 100 day habit? I am going to rest on Sunday's so it will actually be a bit longer than 100 days. I thought coffee was a good start and below is my painting for day #1. I'll let you know how it all ends. Follow us on Instagram and Twitter. Until then, see you later!

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A new eco-friendly clergy stole for Ordinary Time!

We've been following the work of Thread International for years. Partly because they work in Haiti and partly because we are always on the look out for fabrics that are created in a sustainable manor ... it's our little way of honoring creation. As an experiment we ordered some of Thread's blue denim that is made from recycled bottles in Haiti by Haitians. This isn't our normal base fabric type or color but our creative  spirit seemed up to the challenge.

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First we "auditioned" green fabrics that would become the appliquéd symbols for this Ordinary Time stole.

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Deciding to edge all of the leaves with the same gold thread helped visually connect the images and tied them into the gold cross on the stole's chest.

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Finally adding a vibrant green backing capped off this unique stole and made it ready to make a visual connection to the Word in worship. We were thinking of 1 Corinthians 3:6 when creating this piece. The scripture and the symbols are good reminders of how we are to grow. 

"I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow."

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Pretzels for Lent -- A Visual Reminder

The pretzel is a very ancient bakery item, which traditionally was eaten only during Lent. It appeared each year on Ash Wednesday and disappeared on Good Friday. It goes back at least to the fifth century; thinner is a Roman manuscript in the Vatican Library dating from that period which show a Lenten pretzel. As to the shape:  it is made in the form of tow arms crossed in prayer. The word bracellae, "little arms," became in German Bretzel, then Pretzel. These early Christians ate no dairy products in Lent, so the pretzel was made only of flour, salt and water: it was as simple as it could be.

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You can ponder this while eating a store bought pretzel and looking over the ideas for using pretzels during Lent on our Pinterest page OR you can gather a group of friends and make your own following this recipe...

1 T. honey or sugar
1 1/2 c. lukewarm water
1 envelop active dry yeast
1 t. salt
4 c. flour
coarse or kosher salt
1 egg, beaten

Add the honey to the water; sprinkle in the yeast and still until dissolved. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Blend in the flour, and knead the dough until smooth.

Cut the dough into pieces. Roll them into ropes and twist into pretzel shapes. You can make small pretzels with thin rope, or large ones with fat ropes, but remember that to cook at the same rate, our pretzels need to be all the same size.

Place the pretzels on lightly greased cookie sheets. Brush them with beaten egg. Sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake at 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes until the pretzels are golden brown.

Enjoy!

Lent Wall Art: The Pelican

Curious about our process? Here is a glimpse of how our new collage wall art came together. See it in finished here on Etsy!

 Preparing the fabric for the crown of thorns.

Preparing the fabric for the crown of thorns.

 Adding words and background texture.

Adding words and background texture.

 Stitching with varigated threads.

Stitching with varigated threads.

 Adding details with textile paint. 

Adding details with textile paint. 

 The finished product in place (situ). 

The finished product in place (situ). 

 The finished work! It's on Etsy!  Click here !

The finished work! It's on Etsy! Click here!