Phyllis Waggoner’s Liturgical Textiles at Hennepin Methodist Church

Several members of the Scandinavian Weavers Study Group were lucky to get a private tour of an exhibit of Phyllis Waggoner’s liturgical textiles, on view at the Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church through June 6, 2017. The display includes six sets of liturgical textiles she wove in cotton damask for the church 25 years ago, one for each of the liturgical seasons. They were woven in 10/2 mercerized cotton, at 30 ends per inch, on a 20 shaft drawloom, with the ground shafts tied for a 6 shaft false damask. This example shows the difference between the front and the back in the type of weave structure she used.

contrast

The labels in the exhibit give detailed information on the seasons and symbolism, but it was especially fun to hear Phyllis recount stories of their creation—inside stories that her group of weaving friends would understand.

The first set we examined was green, the color of the long season between Lent and Advent, sometimes referred to as the “Sundays after Pentecost” or “Ordinary Time.” Phyllis wove many symbols, including grapes for wine and wheat for the wafers of communion. “I had to start all over on the wheat,” she admitted, as her first attempt looked like little trees.  Along the edges is a border of small squares that mimics the borders on the beautiful stained glass windows in the church.  Phyllis was in the choir, and each each Sunday she examined the windows during two church services,  imagining textile patterns.

wheat

The red set is for Pentecost, and they should be displayed only on that day. But people love red, Phyllis noted, so often they are up for more Sundays. Note the bright pops of color in the sections of squares; Phyllis said she was inspired by a Pentecost choral anthem sung by the choir with an electronic accompaniment. It was modern, with intermittent, distinct sounds meant to portray wind, flames and many languages all spoken at once.

red-pops

Planning, weaving and sewing all the sets of paraments took two years in all. It was for her own church and she said, “I was motivated. I strongly wanted to do it.”

Though she was paid, it was hardly a living wage for the long project. But Keith Pierce pointed out, “If you worried about money, you would have been a lawyer.”

In the pattern for the blue Advent textiles, the red rose is for the Virgin Mary.

advent

When we looked at the purple Lent textiles, Phyllis felt compelled to point out a problem. “I messed up the lamb legs. Karen,” to which Karen replied that no, they all have four legs!

purple

The weaving looks difficult, but Phyllis minimized the complexity and emphasized the joy of draw loom weaving.  Examining one piece, she pointed out, “I just pull up when I want pink to show. It’s just pulling a cord. It’s fun! More important is the sett and beat so that the squares are equal.”

The group was amazed at this large project.  “Did you run your designs past anyone?” someone asked.  No! Phyllis assured us.  Clearly, she was trusted.

Through her weaving career, Phyllis made liturgical textiles for a number of churches in the Twin Cities and elsewhere, with her first paraments for Augsburg College. For  Concordia College in Moorhead, she was commissioned to weave challenging doublewoven sets in white and green, red and blue.  Each side was dominated by one color, so the same textiles could be turned over as the seasons changed.

For a Lutheran church she wove a stole with a space-dyed warp. Unfortunately the pastor rejected it, saying it looked too much like tie-dye. Here, Phyllis holds a sample showing a space-dyed warp.

space

Whenever Phyllis undertook a commission, she took many photos of the pulpit and the area surrounding it, to get an idea of the architectural elements in place.  She aimed for textiles that wouldn’t stand out, but used designs to enhance the surroundings, rather than create too much visual contrast.

For a Norwegian Church in South Dakota, she made a pulpit fall.  “In the old days,” a friend of Phyllis’s once explained, “the Bibles were so valuable that they were wrapped.”  That meant when the Bible was read during the service, it was unwrapped, and the “fall” draped over the front of the pulpit.

This fall was on the pulpit when we visited.  “Look Mary,” Phyllis pointed out to Mary Skoy, “Do you see the Swedish knitting pattern in it?”

swedish

This work was inspiring; you might see a rash of drawloom weaving interest pop up at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota soon!

About Robbie LaFleur
Weaving in Minnesota, when I can!

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