Bowled Over by a Stole Protector
Updated: Nov 15
Oh, my, the stole protector! What a humble little piece of practicality – well, maybe not so humble. And that is the part that has my soul contemplating deeper things.
If you are unfamiliar with these, the stole protector is a narrow strip of white linen that is folded over the edge of the stole and basted in place, inserting a washable layer between neck and vestment. When it gets grimy you replace it with a clean one and carry on. We use these a lot at St. Johns. Our priests hear 700 confessions each Sunday. Several of the priests distribute the Holy Eucharist at each Mass. Stoles are everywhere.
We have a big box of stole protectors. It was a bit of a shocker the first time I pulled the lid off. There are over 100 of them and they are not just plain napkin-y strips to be slapped on a stole in a preemptive strike against ring-around-the-collar. These were exquisite labors of love. Hemstitched, and festooned with hand crafted lace. It would take hours and hours of work. And just to collect grime?! Who would do that?!
Well, the good praying nuns would do that happily and often as it turns out, and I have over 100 of them as evidence. The St. Martha’s Guild is on a mission to restore and retrieve the knowledge and skill sets of these master needlewomen. The embellished stole protector showed up on our radar as one of those items that needed reviving, so we set out to decipher the pattern and have a go at it. An embellished stole protector adds so much dignity and beauty to the vestments and the work is good for us to do – a way to offer our best efforts to the Mass.
And about that. I have working on this during my subway commutes (it fits easily into my purse). It is an interesting undertaking. Sometimes I think it's really silly and I hope I don't have to explain what I'm doing to some nosy fellow commuter (might actually be an interesting conversation though), but mostly what I am processing is that this little piece of linen and a ball of string is the perfect mechanism to root my soul more deeply in the theology of our priest standing In Persona Christi. I would totally make one of these if it was going to hug my Dear Savior’s neck. Yes, for sure!
I want parade these beauties before you in all of their eye-candy glory to see if I can tempt you to make one. Here’s a YouTube video showing how you prep the fabric with hemstitch holes to receive the crocheted lace version.
I will attache a pdf file of the crochet diamond version when we get it figured out (you know you want to make that one). Here's another version of it.
Also, these are folded in half lengthwise to sandwich the stole. Typically a cross is embroidered on the center, but if you move it down to center on the folded protector the cross will be happily visible instead of folded in half which never feels right. This one has been washed so often that the red has faded to a lovely rose color.
And about that washing. The first time we went at it we pulled the protectors off of a bunch of stoles. They were pretty grimy, so two of our ladies went at them with soap and toothbrushes. It was a long, laborious labor of love. Seeing the tragic look on our sacristan’s face was a special moment. He was so aghast that we had spent so much time on them. Turns out he simply drops them into a bucket with some Biz and hot water and leaves them there for a day or two. Good to know.
Here’s the full gallery.