Much of the time designing a new stole is a collaborative effort between the client, Mom and I. When someone wants a specific kind of stole, whether if it's one based off of a story or a specific verse, there are certain things, certain details it's important to get down first before the creative process can really begin. I'll use the example of how our new Good Samaritan stole came about:
At General Synod this summer, a man came up to us wondering if it was possible to create a stole of the parable The Good Samaritan, with a specific focus on the innkeeper. He explained to me that this parable had special meaning to him as he sees himself, as a pastor as taking on the role of the innkeeper, with his congregation being the Good Samaritan, tasking him with the care of the beaten man (as a metaphor for him being tasked with doing good works with the church etc). He'd been looking forever for a stole with this on it but had never seen one with the innkeeper playing a major role visually.
First we explained to him that for a stole like this he has two options: We can design and create a 'one-off' stole in which the design is his and we retire it after making his stole; this way is more expensive, ranging from $250-$350 depending on the amount of detail and fabric desired. OR if we think the design will sell, we continue to use the design to create more stoles to sell in the future, and we simply charge whatever the price we end up coming up with (~$140-$160). He said he'd be happy for us to continue to use the design but if we don't think it'll sell than he'd also gladly pay for a one-off.
So in-between chats with potential/future customers I started sketching. Mom, chiming in occasionally to offer some tidbits, such as having one of those who passed the beaten man by glancing back over the shoulder, as if looking at the Good Samaritan. I also usually use her to help look up some specifics in the text or explain certain things (remember, she's the one who went to seminary--I only have the biblical knowledge of your average person who attended church as a kid/teenager as who wasn't particularly interested in it but learned enough).
The first thing to figure out with a stole is what elements of a text/story you want to see on the stole. In this case 1)Innkeeper/the Good Samaritan handing over the care of the beaten man to him 2)the ones who passed by the beaten man (the Levite and the Priest). I also had to tie the connection between the man being injured and the Good Samaritan having tended to him, clothed him and somehow convey that he was handing over the care to the innkeeper. In order to put more of a focus on the Innkeeper, I knew it had to be in the upper regions of the stole. The open, door with a warm inviting doorway indicating that the man standing in front of it was the Innkeeper. Bandages on the beaten man's head and having him hunched and gripping the donkey portraying the fact that he is injured (without having to actually show injuries/blood). The GS seeming to hand the Innkeeper something--him paying for the room for the beaten man.
The road continues to the other side of the stole to show that it's the same road, with the Levite looking back and the Priest in the foreground--putting them in order of who passed by in the parable. This creates not only a continuation of the story but also some dynamic motion in the stole, making the interaction of the GS and the Innkeeper the focus.
After I was done with the sketch I sent the image back to the client for approval. Good news was he loved it! I didn't have to change a thing! (Unfortunately, not all are this easy...).
When we got back home after General Synod, I first had to find the right fabric. The key to stoles is the fabric, with the right fabric the stole can come to life. Once the fabric is ordered, I blow the drawing up to make plastic templates for the stole. During this phase sometimes I change things a bit, when making it bigger I can add more detail if needed, fix some placement issues, and really get it to scale. I have to label all of the parts on the paper template and the plastic templates.
Next, we iron on heat-n-bond (an adhesive with a paper back) to the fabric and trace the plastic templates onto them. Cut those out, peel the paper backing, and iron them onto the background fabrics. Once everything is in place, we satin stitch (a very condensed zigzag stitch) around the edges to keep it in place and prevent any fraying, and do any other decorative stitching. This usually also means that we have to match the thread color to the fabric. On a stole like this we can use a minimum of about 10 different threads! Lastly for the decorative stuff, is if there is to paint on some details (if necessary, in this case, just the colored rectangles on the priest's breastplate and some dots on the Levite's cowl-thing.
Once the front is done, we sew it together at the top, then match up the back fabric layer and the middle to pin together to sew. This is done inside-out, and then has to be turned, ironed, and then finished (sewing up the area by the tags at the neck). Last comes touch ups, cutting any threads etc. before the final ironing! Then voila!