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11th Jan 2008

A Look Back: The Tree of Life Stole

Tree of Life Full View

Tree of Life clerical stole, made from cottons with silk ribbon applique, inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple and Tree of Life stained glass window


This is a stole I made for another dear friend’s ordination, in March 2007. The process was quite different than that of the Stole of Nodes, satisfying in an entirely different way.

Since the minister in question was ordained by the Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation, he wanted something inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, but also with a chalice flame for Unitarian Universalism and a lotus to show the influence of Bhuddism on his ministry.

So here is Unity Temple (a better photograph than I was ever able to take):

Unity Temple

And then there was the conundrum of what element to isolate for the stole. I finally chose the color scheme over anything specific, and instead turned to one of FLW’s most beloved images, the Tree of Life window (again, not my photo):

Tree of Life

It turned out this image spoke strongly to B, too, so it worked out extremely well.

The challenge was in simplifying the design enough to make it actually feasible to make, and also not just rip it off directly from the original. I spent a lot of time with a ruler, and came up with this concept-journal quilt to try out the math.

Tree of Life Journal Quilt front

For the lotus, I liked the image I came up with, but the execution was challenging. Here I tried just a straight stitch with Mettler Plolysheen Embroidery thread, and then a filled satin stitch with the same thread over crochet cotton. I wasn’t completely satisfied with either.

Tree of Life Journal Quilt back

On the finished stole, I used Mettler’s Metrosene instead for the filled satin stitch, and it came out much better.

Tree of Life back

Here is the flame — I crossed the brown fabrics over each other and left them loose, to give some dimension to the “cup” of the chalice.

Tree of Life flame

And here is the shoulder. The brown silk ribbon, which is fused with Steam a Seam cut painstakingly into little strips since I didn’t know they made it in rolls at at that point, is reminiscent of the wood in the Temple, but also of the leading in stained glass, and the red rectangles are actually a nod to a traditional log cabin quilt, where the center of each block is red to signify the hearthfire.

Tree of Life detail

The whole thing is cotton, with just muslin for batting to keep it light. It does fly around a bit when worn, but doesn’t add to the sweat factor. I did add a button to the center back to hook onto the robe to help keep it in place.

The best part of this stole was unveiling it, in Unity Temple, which was also the first time B saw it. Highly gratifying, ’cause he loved it, and it looked amazing in that room.

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