Why Clergy Stoles? Smells and Bells!

I usually start my day with a devotion from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. The May 4 guiding of song, scripture and prayer ended with some thoughts titled, “Smells and Bell.” Sharing parts of it here —

We worship a God who came as a material Savior. So when we pray, we can use all of our senses. We see symbols of our faith. We hear words and songs. We smell the incense of our prayers rising to God. We touch and taste Christ in the sacramental life. Just as a whiff of apple pie can conjure up nostalgic memories of home, so our incense can help us pray. But, as Amos declare, if all we have is incense , without justice for the poor and fruit from our prayers we should snuff out the incense and shut up with our songs, because they are nauseating to God. If our material tools help us worship the eternal God and bear fruit for the kingdom, then we keep them. If our material tools lead to narcissism or to an obsession with having the right incense or the correct color of candle, then we need to let go of them. Disagreements in church history have led many Christians to feel like the physical world and the spiritual word are at odds, but it’s important to see them as complements , not opposites. After all, God breathed into the dirt to make humanity. The incarnation of Jesus is all about God taking on flesh and being born as a baby who cries, eats and poops. Jesus uses physical stuff like dirt and split to heal people, and God is always communicating — through rocks and fire (even through a donkey). Physical stuff can help us pray. In the celebration of communion, or the Eucharist, we eat bread and drink wind in remembrance of Jesus. The physical elements help us literally “re-member” Jesus as we are knit together into his body. We are what we eat. A lot of the most sacred and beautiful rituals of Christianity are mysterious. There is more going on than what we see, but what we see can hep us know God at work in the world. ...

I’ll be the first to admit that clergy stoles like what we create and sell at Carrot Top Studio are not necessary for ministry. But likewise they aren’t unworthy in worship. We pray that the stoles can be used as great complements to help us “re-member” Jesus as we carry on in this business of worshipping and living it out.

Detail of an  Ordination/Pentecost  stole.

Detail of an Ordination/Pentecost stole.

Clergy and Wedding Officiants: A new stole design!

Do you have an idea for a stole but can’t find in any store or eCommerce site? Tell us about it! It could be that we could take it on as a one of a kind commission. But we often find what one client needs that is reason to offer it to others also. Such was the case when I client asked if we could create a wedding stole for her pastor husband who often preached about the four loves from the Greek translation of the word. This was a great idea! I mean …. geez that sermon message makes so much sense it was even in my wedding service way back in 1986!

We got to work! This is a detail of the completed stole. Below is the hope, faith and love symbol that is on the stole chest. See the stole in full here. The good news for our client with the good idea is that because she agreed to let us create a limited edition and offer the stole on the website it saved her the cost of a one of a kind commission! That’s a win for all :)

Lent collection of clergy stoles

We’re pleased to share our 2019 collection of purple stoles for Lent. …

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Passion cross

A simple stole with a base of beautiful purple batik.

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A bit of red recalls the passion.

Palm leaves accent the stole in several ways.

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Labyrinth walking is a perfect Lenten activity.

This stole was created with that ministry tool in mind.

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Organic fabrics and many shades of purple.

An earth friendly option for Lent.

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A cross on the back tip is a nice detail.

This is a new version of our popular striped journey stole.

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Shadow of the cross stole

We were inspired by the border fabric!

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Passion cross stole

$143.00

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Ombre fabric

Perfect for a stole for Lent!

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Three crosses stole

The base fabric accentuates the roughness of this time.

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Palm to spear stole

Telling the story of Lent

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Holy week stole

Bold, graphic imagery

A Commisisoned Clergy stole

A client wrote to us: I have a flannel shirt that belonged to my grandfather (he died 35 years ago but I kept the shirt because he is wearing it in my favorite pictures of him). If I sent it to you, could you somehow incorporate the fabric into a stole?

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We received the stole and found this lovely bit of mending on the elbow. Our client reported that this was probably the work of her grandmother and yes we could incorporate it into the design! Additionally we found a patch inside one cuff and some gold satin lining behind the shoulders that could be used.

The client graciously added in her notes: No rush. Let the Spirit move you; after all, it’s been in my closet since his death in 1983.........!!

We next shared the following fabric combinations and the sketch with a cost estimate and timeline for the work.

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After receiving a green light from our client and having a bit of time to actually create the work we were able to send this stole on it’s way. These kinds of commissions are such a privilege to be able to do. Thank you for trusting Carrot Top Studio with this work!


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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!

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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