Sometime in April, I was asked to help make a gift for our departing minister at WUUC. The assignment was pretty simple–take a bunch of grosgrain ribbons that had been used in an earlier ceremony to bless our minister and create ‘something’ out of them. Over the last twenty-five years, I’ve helped sew or design a stole for each of our ministers–either coming or coming–so a stole seemed like the obvious item to me. The thing is, I’m familiar with fabric and yarn. Ribbon?  I spent a good long while staring at the box I was handed, trying to figure out how I could sew these long thin strips together. 

The ribbons originally used in the ceremony to bless our minister upon her return from her sabbatical were a variety of lengths from about three feet to nearly five feet long–a rainbow of colors!

After some research, I discovered something called “triaxial fabric weaving.” And, honestly, Mr. Domestic saved my creative butt on this one. He has a bunch of videos on his website that show how he weaves amazing fabrics. Once I saw what he was doing with folded fabric, I adapted it to the ribbon.

I decided to create a fabric big enough to cut both pieces of the stole front. Mr. D has tutorials on how to make a grid, cover the grid with a fusible interfacing glue side up, and then weave over the top. Once the weaving is done, the fabric is ironed to the interfacing and secured with a line of stitching around the outside edges. Once secured with sewing, the pieces can then be put together like any other fabric. (I’m simplifying a lot so this post doesn’t become a book.)

Triaxial weaving is basically weaving in three different directions. Simple, right? LOL. My first step was to set up a board big enough to create a fabric. In this case, I wanted a LONG stole, so I got a board that was 64″ long made from foam core at Ben Franklin. I drew a grid for the weave on the board in sharpie and then the stole pattern on the interfacing.
I actually had to buy black grosgrain to do this as none of the original ribbons were quite long enough, nor was there enough to fill out the entire board. (Turns out this technique takes a LOT of material.) Here the ribbons are all laid out for the warp of the weave.
Once the warp was set up, the fun began. My hubby talked me into letting go of my original inclination to try to control the color combinations and to use a ‘grab blindly’ approach to weaving. I dumped all the ribbon into a sack and pulled them out one at a time as I worked. My only rule was to not use the same color twice in a row. The first layer of weaving is done in a pattern of three lines of weaving.

The entire first layer from top to bottom was pretty on its own, but I was giddy with excitement to try the final layer.

The third layer of weaving is complete much like the first, but you have to work under and over two layers instead of one. After about the sixth row, it’s obvious where you have to fit the ribbon.

After the weaving was complete, I ironed the ribbon to the backing, removed all the pins, sewed around the outside edge of the stole pattern (ribbon side down on the machine and using the drawn image as a guide) and cut it out. If you look closely, you’ll see a yellow sewing line on the fabric.

After sewing the two pieces together, I let it hang on my mannequin for a while. I was mostly terrified of the final construction details. I had not considered the weight and thickness of the fabric. Three layers of grosgrain ribbon is thick and heavy. I had black kona cotton for the inside lining, and it felt like tissue paper in comparison to the heavy fabric I had woven. Finally, with about a week away from the presentation of the gift, I got up the nerve to create the lining and sew it all together. It worked out just fine in the end.

And this is me with the finished stole.

People have asked how long this took to complete. I’m going to estimate it as about thirty hours start to finish of actual hands-on time.

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