I never saw a purple star...

Sometimes I pray when I weave.  Sometimes I sing.  Sometimes I hold weird, random conversations with myself.  Like this:

Is it weird to be weaving a star pattern in purple?  What about green?  I mean there are red stars, and yellow stars, a even blue stars.  But are there purple stars?  

“I never saw a purple star, I never hope to see one,  but I can tell you anyhow…” No, stop that’s just silly.

So I call to my husband, who is doing dishes in the kitchen.  “Bruce, are there such a thing as purple stars?”  Bruce is an optical physicist by training, I figure it’s the next best thing to having an astrophysicist in the house.  You’d be surprised how useful it is.

Well, he explained, all stars have some purple light in them, and there are some stars called blue hypergiants.  Some of those stars have a lot of light in the violet end of the spectrum, but our eyes see blue better than purple, so that’s what we see.  

Those blue hypergiant stars are very rare and very, very big. For example if you put a blue hypergiant star in the center of our solar system, the surface of the star would be somewhere in the neighborhood of Jupiter.  Hypergiants are the savants of the stellar world - they burn hot and bright, but burn out after just a few million years. 

This is a picture of Eta Carina, the largest known star in the universe.  It used to be the brightest object in the southern sky, but not any more.  Eta Carina gives off so much gas it has it’s own nebula fan club.  

They can call it “blue” if they want to.  I say it’s purple.

Eta Carina Nebula" by Clem Brazil is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?      Psalm 8:3-4

Weaving in prayer and penitence

Today I started weaving the purple Star of Bethlehem stole.  It seems appropriate on this day to weave in the color of prayer and penitence.   

As I weave, I am listening to Taizé chants, and I pray.  

  • I pray for my enemies - as we are commanded to do.  May they experience God’s mercy and compassion, who have shown neither.  I pray for the grace to forgive them, for as we forgive, so shall we be forgiven.
  • I pray for forgiveness - for myself and our nation.  In the madness of grief and anger we repaid death for death, and a hundred times over.  We rained down vengeance on the guilty and the innocent.  May the words “Never again” reflect not only our resolve to protect lives and our shores, but our resolve to behave justly and with mercy to all people and all nations.  
  • I pray for everyone everywhere who has suffered loss, and pain and injury as a result of that terrible day.  May God grant them new life, and that abundantly.

These are the prayers that are woven into this stole on this day.

As I weave the Taizé choir sings:

Wait for the Lord, Whose day is near.
Wait for the Lord. Keep watch, take heart.

The Color Purple

Purple is my favorite color.  Red and blue come in close seconds.  I especially like them together.  After all, red and blue are just purple that haven’t been mixed yet.  

A couple of weeks ago my Bible reading took me into the book of Exodus.  Now, parts of this book are stirring and dramatic.  There is the parting the Red Sea, pharaoh and his army, Moses coming down the mountain with the stone tablets of the ten commandments. 

So, Moses is up on the mountain with God.  He’s been there for forty days.  This is when he gets the stone tablets with the ten commandments.  But in addition, God gives Moses some very specific instructions on the construction of a place of worship - the Tabernacle.  

This is where the story gets truly exciting - if you’re a weaver.   Because here we learn that God wants them to “Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim woven into them by a skilled worker. All of the curtains are to be the same size -  forty-two feet long and six feet wide.”  Even more detailed instructions are given for the construction of the priestly robes for Aaron out of “gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen.”

Now the Israelites are camped in the desert, at the foot of Mount Sinai.  They aren’t growing flax for linen here, or indigo and madder for the blue, purple and scarlet dyes.  No, these are some of the precious materials they smuggled out of Egypt.  The finest linen yarns the world has ever known - probably spun by the Israelites as slaves in the workshops of Egypt, dyed with indigo and madder.  A call is put out for donations, and “everyone who had blue, purple or scarlet yarn, or fine linen… brought them.”  People are so generous, Moses had to tell them enough - stop!

I like to think about the weavers who were selected for this task - the best and most skilled workers.  How proud and yet humbled they must have been.  Excited, and overwhelmed - this was a massive undertaking. Also maybe a little bit nervous - face it, the Lord had a habit of punishing anyone who didn’t follow His instructions to the letter.  Seriously, it’s right there in Exodus.

We’ve just started the season of Lent - forty days of penitence and preparation.  Forty days that mirror the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness, where Moses spent forty days on the mountain with God, and, yes, where the Israelites wandered for forty years in that same wilderness.  For Lent, the priests still wear purple vestments and there is a purple cloth on the altar - all harkening back to the priestly robes of Aaron and the curtains of the tabernacle, thousands of years ago.

Hand dyed, handwoven stole in purple and gold - for Lent and Advent

Hand dyed, handwoven stole in purple and gold - for Lent and Advent

Too Busy Weaving to Write

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been too busy weaving to write about weaving. The red stole and the purple stole are now completed. I’m taking a break from threading the heddles for the green stole. Here’s a picture of the red and purple stoles:


And a close-up of the diamond pattern in the purple stole:


Purple is for advent and lent – the days of penitence and preparation (which are two sides of the same coin).

To prepare for the weaving of these stoles, I used several resources. For my patterns, I used A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns.  I put the designs I chose into Fiberworks PCW. This gave me working copies of the threading, tie-up and treadling, and figured the number of heddles needed for each shaft. I used my own Excel spreadsheet to figure the warp and weft yardage requirements for the 20-2 silk and 120/2 from Treenway. I consulted the notebook created in the SOAR workshop with Sarah Lamb to pick the colors I would create with Sabracron F dyes.

Before I undertook any of these technical aspects, however, I turned to everyone’s favorite new research tool for inspiration – the internet. There are lots of fiber artists making unique and beautiful liturgical stoles out there. Not only hand woven, but quilted, appliquéd, painted and embroidered. I found some that I’d like to share with you:

Heavenly Threads is owned by a fashion designer and pastor - now there’s a combination I can get behind!

The In Stitches Center for Liturgical Art uses dye, quilting and appliqué in their contemporary stoles. They also conduct workshops.

Sandra Briney makes elegant handwoven stoles using the Theo Moorman inlay technique.

Prayerful Creations is the work of a hermit who lives in silence and solitude and supports herself by weaving. Wow – weaving without the distractions of dogs, cats, phones and garage bands! I wonder what that would be like?

Weaver Andrea Williamsof North Carolina uses a variety of weave structures in her colorful stoles.

And finally, The Shower of Stoles Project is a collection of liturgical stoles from GLBT clergy. Some are simple, some elaborate, but all represent the faith and service of these disciples.