Friday, January 21, 2011

Feast Day: St. Agnes of Rome and the St. Agnes Fiber Club

I've been remiss in telling you all about a girls' group I'm doing this year but since it's St. Agnes' feast day and we've put the club under her patronage (read the saint bio below for just why we have St. Agnes as our patron), I thought I'd share a bit with you:

Nine 9-13 year olds come to my house every two weeks or so and learn all about wool fiber at the St. Agnes Fiber Club.  For the basic framework of the class, I use Harrisville Design's great curriculum, WoolWorks: Teaching with Fiber Arts.  This is a complete (if a bit pricey) guide that includes background information and activities to help the girls understand the many facets of wool.  The activities suggested allow the moderator to either buy pre-made kits from Harrisville or to use what they have on hand.  We were forutnate to be able to save a bit of money as Knit Picks (LOVE those folks) sponsored our club and donated raw wool for spinning, wool yarn for dying, knitting needles and knitting yarn!  This cut the cost somewhat, but I still had to charge the girls $75 each to be in the year-long club in order to cover supplies.

I've augmented the guide's info from more current resources (some of the information is a bit dated in the guide) and am compiling a resource list of books, magazines, websites and you-tube videos which I'll give to the girls at the end of the year (along with copies of each recipe I've made to stave off hunger during our two hour meeting -- boy, these girls can EAT!).  Each two hour meeting includes a "lecture", review of past meetings, an activity, and snack time. 

We started in October and we've already done: history of sheep and wool production, classifying different raw wool types, felting wool, spinning wool (after first making drop spindles!), and Peruvian braiding designs.  We still have:  potholder weaving (beyond the camp style), world history of weaving, weaving on rigid heddle loom, weaving a tapestry, kool-aid dying washable wool yarn, and then (of course) knitting with wool. 

I love getting the girls (even those who thought they didn't want to learn about wool) psyched about the fiber and all the cool, amazing things for which wool can be used.  We are covering history, geography, math, science (a wool fiber is an amazing example of complex protein!), art ... and having tons of fun at the same time.  We're nurturing their God-given creative talents while learning ... and I'm right there with them learning to drop spindle ... or felt .... or braid.

Here's the prayer we pray before the start of each meeting (I got a prayer card for each of the girls from Catholic Prayer Cards, a family business that has GORGEOUS holy cards!):
O lovely St. Agnes, spotless lamb of Christ,
you glorified God in fidelity and purity while on earth,
and you now behold the glory of His radiant face in Heaven.
In your passion for Christ, you persevered, even unto a martyr's death,
and gained the crown of eternal life.
By your constant prayers, protect us from every danger that threatens us on our pilgirmage of faith,
and intercede for us in all of our needs and trials.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen

What a blessing this Club has been, and continues to be!  Thank you, St. Agnes.

St. Agnes was a Roman girl who was only thirteen years old when she suffered martyrdom for her Faith. Agnes had made a promise, a promise to God never to stain her purity. this was how great was her love for God! Since she was very beautiful, many young men wished to marry Agnes, but she would always say, "Jesus Christ is my only Spouse."

Procop, the Governor's son, became very angry when she refused him. He had tried to win her for his wife with rich gifts and promises, but the beautiful young girl kept saying, "I am already promised to the Lord of the Universe. He is more splendid than the sun and the stars, and He has said He will never leave me!" In great anger, Procop accused her of being a Christian and brought her to his father, the Governor. The Governor promised Agnes wonderful gifts if she would only deny God, but Agnes refused. He tried to change her mind by putting her in chains, but her lovely face shone with joy. Next he sent her to a place of sin, but an Angel protected her. At last, she was condemned to death. Even the pagans cried to see such a young and beautiful girl going to death. Yet, Agnes was as happy as a bride on her wedding day. She did not pay attention to those who begged her to save herself. "I would offend my Spouse if I were to try to please you. He chose me first and He shall have me!" Then she prayed and bowed her head for the death-stroke of the sword.

Agnes comes from the Greek word "hagne," which means chaste and sacred. Because of her purity, and because her name is similar in spelling and pronunciations to “Agnus,” St. Agnes is often depicted with a lamb. The Feast of St. Agnes is also connected to the pallium, a vestment worn by the pope and also presented to certain archbishops. Two very young lambs from the sheepfold belonging to the Trappist fathers of the monastery of Tre Fontane near St. Paul's Basilica are crowned and placed in straw baskets, which have been carefully decorated with red and white flowers and streamers: red standing for Agnes' martyrdom, and white for her purity. They are then taken to the Basilica of St. Agnes Outside the Walls. There, at the end of the solemn feast day Mass, a procession composed of young girls in white dresses and veils, as well as carabinieri in red and blue uniforms and hats, who bear the lambs on their shoulders, proceeds down the center aisle. The lambs are ceremoniously incensed and blessed. They are then shown to the Pope at the Vatican and finally placed in the care of the Benedictine nuns of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, who rear them until Maundy Thursday, when they are sheared. From the lambs' wool are woven approximately 12 pallia a year.

St. Agnes is the patron saint of girls, young women, chastity and purity.



  1. You know, I was just looking at that guide online and considering whether or not I should get it for our homeschooling use or over at co-op. Oh, I wish Blaise was old enough to be in your group...she'd love it! I'd love to see your updates to the guide sometime!

  2. I just posted a coloring page of St. Agnes if you'd like to offer it to your girls! Just know that my little fiber freak girl is very jealous she doesn't live near you!