Choir Stole Prototype

Due to my experience with the sewing machine, and my willingness to do things for free (smirk), organize untrained volunteers, and my desire to puff myself up as president of the coolest quilt guild in Southeast Minnesota, I found myself at a meeting with my UUF friends talking about making choir stoles.  B, our tireless  choir director, had come up with a pattern, and II and KS, who accompanied me to the quilt retreat, had plenty of ideas.   We met, we drew sketches, we touched various fabrics for the correct hand, etc, and decided we needed prototypes, to test the theory that we could make high quality choir stoles with a group of enthusiastic, but not necessarily experienced, members of the Fellowship.

Since our choir members wear black and white when performing, we came to the conclusion that it would be cool to have black and white stoles, but it would also be very cool to have colorful ones, too.  Of course, that immediately doubles the quantity of sewing, unless we make them reversible, which makes the sewing more complicated.

More brainstorming ensued, and KS and I each agreed to make a prototype stole using the basic pattern B had, and that we’d meet again in a month, and hatch the final plans for a group sewing event.  I went home, trying to figure out when I’d fit this prototype in. Yesterday was my opportunity- DH’s book club was meeting at our house. When DH’s book club comes to our house, it is customary for me to be out of the living room,  so it was a perfect time for me to fire up the Bernina and the Rowenta, and start working.

Here’s a view of the result:

Prototype Choir Stole, front view

Prototype Choir Stole, front view

And the view from the back

And the view from the back

These are made of 100% cotton fabric.  The pieces of black and white prints are sewed onto a muslin foundation,  and trimmed to the edges.  It’s basically like foundation paper piecing without designated sewing lines.

After sewing, flipping, ironing, and sewing additional strips onto the foundation at random angles,  I made a second layer of solid muslin to sew around the edges, and then turn right side out, so all of the edges are finished.

The strips of patterned fabric were cut about 3 inches wide, and the strips varied from 6 to 9 inches long, depending on the width of the foundation at various points.  I’d guess the piece at the point in the back is a bit longer than 9 inches.

From adjusting and cutting the paper pattern pieces to taking the photos took me about 2 hrs and 20 minutes, including cutting the strips of the print fabrics, so, if we were to do this with a group of volunteers,  dividing the jobs (cutting strips of print fabrics, sewing, trimming, and pressing, I think we could make the 16 stoles we want in about 5 hours with a group of 6 to 12 people.  Especially if someone else provided food and bev… and we had cool music to work to…..

(My Brain Flips to Volunteer Project Mode)

We’d have two cutting stations with rulers and rotary cutters,  one or two ironing boards, probably 4 to 6 sewing machines, and we’d be right there.

Before everyone showed up, I’d need to figure out how to explain each of the major sewing tasks (shoulder seams,  flip and press sewing to the foundation, then sandwich and sew around edge for finishing), the major cutting tasks ( Rotary Cutter 101, strip dimensions), the major pressing tasks (pressing shoulder seams open,  pressing seams open on strip piecing, pressing the turned stoles), and the hand finishing tasks (whipstitching vs. blindstitching).  OK… that’s not so bad.

Then we’d need equipment lists- what we need in total, what I’ll be bringing from my treasure trove of stuff. That’s a list for later.

Furniture setup at the UUF- big tables for sewing, ironing boards, cutting stations, power strips. Check.

Potential rough spots:  willing volunteers with old unworkable sewing machine that hasn’t been out of its case since grandpa was a pup……  How do I tactfully explain that while I can teach them how to sew these choir stoles, I can’t do sewing machine repair, and I’m not willing to be responsible for making their machines work on the day of the event……

OK. Have all sewing volunteers call for the pre-event interview:

(Scenario 1)

ME:  So, you want to help us with the choir stoles project.  That’s great!  Do you have a sewing machine you’ll be bringing?

VOLUNTEER:  Well, my friend has her grandmother’s old machine… I think I can borrow that.

ME:  Have you used that machine before?

VOLUNTEER: No, but she knows where it is in her mom’s garage.

ME:  Have you done much sewing before?

VOLUNTEER:  Not since 5th grade.

ME:  Why don’t you come without the sewing machine.  We’ll need help picking out fabric combinations, and cutting the pieces out.  And you know how to use an iron, right?

VOLUNTEER: I think so.

ME: Great!  There will be plenty of things you can help us with.  This is going to be really fun.

(Scenario 2)

ME: So, you want to help us with the choir stoles project.  That’s great!  Do you have a sewing machine you’ll be bringing?

VOLUNTEER: Yes. I haven’t used it much since I made my daughter’s wedding dress.  It’s not a new machine, though.

ME: (inwardly jumping up and down with excitement):  May I ask a semi-serious question?

VOLUNTEER: OK…. I mean, I’m not a great seamstress…

ME:  Don’t worry.  If you can make a wedding dress, you’re overqualified for this project, and we’ll be lucky and estatic to have you.  When was the last time you had this machine out of the case?

VOLUNTEER:  Oh, a few years ago.

ME:  Do you have time to take it out and make sure it threads well, and the tension is OK before the group event?

VOLUNTEER:  Sure.  I can do that tomorrow.  And if it doesn’t, I’ve got plenty of time to take it to Sew & Vac for a cleaning before we get together anyway.

ME:  You’re my hero.  This is going to be really fun.

And I mean it.  This is going to be really fun!

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12 Responses to Choir Stole Prototype

  1. Connie Dretske says:

    You should write a play. You’re scenarios are hilarious! The stole looks amazing. Great work.

  2. Ingrid says:

    This will be FUN

  3. Lori Van Lenten says:

    I was wondering if you would sell me your pattern. I am a choir director and am trying to re-robe my singers. Man is this stuff expensive! and since I sew I am used to having exactly what I want for cheaper. 🙂

  4. Jennifer says:

    I’d be happy to help you out, especially if you will promise to send me pictures of your finished work! I’ll email you directly.


    (PS. Still makes me smile when I see the choir wearing these!)

  5. Susan Wall says:

    Can I have your pattern too? I need to make some for my husband’s choir.

  6. Bobbi in KY says:

    Could you share your pattern with me? I’m in charge of 45 choir stoles for our school’s Christmas program and I CANNOT find a pattern anywhere! I too have been recruited due to someone knowing I have a sewing machine! PLEASE HELP!

  7. boardk says:

    Finally, I found someone doing what we’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I, too, would be interested in purchasing a pattern for the two kinds of choir stoles in your completed blog.

  8. Lynne Capehart says:

    What a nice pattern. I particularly like the neckline. I too would love to buy your pattern.
    lynneinfla at

  9. dmrosiek says:

    I was just asked to create choir stoles on Sunday. Would you be willing to share this pattern with me?

  10. Jennifer says:

    I have not yet had the time to make this pattern printable in PDF form. I’m sorry.

  11. Sandy says:

    Would love pattern to make stoles for our small chior and for our sunday singers

  12. Catherine Bennett says:

    I also am looking for a pattern for stoles for my little children’s choir. The style of your stole is exactly what I am looking for. I am assuming it would be fairly easy to adapt it for little 5-8 year olds. Would you consider sharing your pattern.??? Thanks so much

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