Chances are if you have stoles dating prior to the 1960’s in the sacristy, they will be sporting the very practical little cotton or linen stole protector. This was a common sense invention to guard against perspiration and body oils and plain grime from staining the delicate silk damask as the stole hung around the neck of the priest. Sometimes little red crosses were worked in the center at the spot a priest would kiss the cross on the center back of the stole before putting it on or when taking it off. This custom is still followed today. The nuns were champion tatters and crocheters of the dainty edgings which finished off the little strips of fine linen or cotton. The photo above is taken from ebay where several batches of protectors are currently up for auction. The protectors were daintily stitched to the back center and down around the sides of the curve of the back of the stole. They would have to be removed for washing and reapplied when clean and ironed. But they were a wonder in prolonging the life of a stole and looked just so tidy and fresh when newly-laundered and applied to the stole. I had never seen tatting in process before but here is a great little demo which will show you just how tatting was done. I love to knit and crochet but this looks pretty tricky! You may have all new respect for the Sisters and the altar guild ladies who mastered this needle art. Crochet edgings are much easier and some great ones can be found at this link if tatting seems a bit overwhelming to you too! 🙂 Might make a great Christmas gift for your priest!
Tatting Demonstration below, click on arrow to begin.