With These Hands

My niece was bat mitzvah’d two weeks ago, and when she and her mom started planning this, they asked me to make her tallit. I was sooooo thrilled to do it. The Niece studies dance. She’s a member of her school’s troupe. She wanted pink. Not necessarily ballet pink, but pink. The Niece is a red head (Gorgeous red. Coppery red. With a pony tail as thick as my wrist.) She’s also tiny, and with skin like porcelain. So this was an easy call: she needed a tallit that was like English roses in the rain. I had some shrimpy-pink dupioni with an all-over embroidery of vines and flowers in old silver. And I had a length of moss-colored velvet that I wanted to use for her bag. She loved both swatches. Easy. All I had to do was put it together.

So I added some dark olive dupioni to the pile, and an embroidered sheer ribbon in soft mossy slash seafoam green that had beads, and another sequined ribbon. I had the smallest scrap of a green and orange Chinese brocade, so I tossed that on the pile of fabric, too. Some different threads in greens and pinks. Digging further into my fabric stash, I found a very Ralph Lauren sort of green/pink/apricot dupioni plaid. All I had to do was put it all together. Easy.

Off to the fabric store to see if I could find a pattern for the tallit bag, because the dozen or so patterns I have and have used just weren’t right. Found a pattern that allowed for patchwork and various fabric combinations. It even had a pocket and a zipper. So I bought a few zippers, in pinks and greens and some more embroidery threads. Easy. I had a couple of months. No worries. Just had to put it all together.

Did I mention that I’d only used velvet once before? That was for RJ’s tallit bag and it was a heavy, rust colored cotton velvet. Yummy. This green was nylon? Rayon? Something shiny and soft. No problems. I started with the tallit, and put together the stripe. I had to keep pulling back, and editing myself, because my first instinct is always that more is better and if a little bit of glitz is good, great heaping piles of it is better. One by one, the extra ribbons and embroideries got taken away. I finally ended with just the dark olive with the plaid layered over it, then the sheer ribbon over the plaid.


I laid the stripe to one side and started on the bag. And fought with it, tooth and nail for the next six weeks.

I machine basted. I pinned everything with great, long quilting pins, every inch. The fabric shifted when I sewed. I ripped it all out and tried hand basting, and the quilting pins. The fabric shifted when I sewed. I ripped it all out and tried a walking foot. But first, I had adventures in my sewing room wherein it took me hours to tear my studio apart and find the foot and others where the tension on my machine needed hours of tweaking to get the stitches to hold firm.I found the foot and… the fabric shifted when I sewed. I ripped it all out and tried hand sewing. The fabric shifted when I sewed. I ripped it all out and tried any number of combinations of all of the above. The fabric shifted when I sewed. I ripped it all out and then all of my hair out. I drank. I smoked cigarettes. I thought about it some more. I tried a steam-set bonding tape. It flattened the velvet and didn’t hold the fabric together when I tried to sew it.  But then I discovered that the zipper and the gusset just wouldn’t set in correctly. I bought shorter zippers and re-drafted the pattern. Repeat most of the steps above regarding hair pulling, drinking and smoking. I had to go to a funeral, and lost work days. I cried on a stranger on the train whom I know to be a sewer. She suggested tissue paper between the layers. It worked.



I tied the knots on the tzittzit at midnight on the Thursday before the Saturday service. It was perfect. My niece was perfect. Happy endings all around.



Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/07 at 03:22 PM in Buy Our Art

(8) Comments
#1. Posted by Kathy A. on November 07, 2008

Gorgeous! I’m not a pink and olive person, but this rocks. :)

#2. Posted by RJ Flamingo on November 07, 2008

Brava! It’s gorgeous - almost as gorgeous as mine. :-)  I kid. It’s perfect!

#3. Posted by Elise on November 08, 2008

OH, Miz Shoes, it’s BEAUTIFUL! Oh, sigh. :-)

#4. Posted by ruth on November 10, 2008

Oh, this is so beautiful what a tallit!  What a bag, even if it did make you crazy.

#5. Posted by Julie on November 11, 2008

Wow is that gorgeous! Amanda reminded us at dinner last night that *her* Bat Mitvah is in only 5 and a half years….. :)

#6. Posted by Dorothy on November 11, 2008

Georgeous work. Absolutely magnificent!  It seems there
just is no end to your talents.  Bravo!

#7. Posted by Your Niece on November 21, 2008

Tante Leah,  It is magnificent!  xoxo, G

#8. Posted by Run's House on January 19, 2009

Fabulous! You’re really crafty! <a>

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