Tuesday, August 23, 2016

למען תזכרו ועשיתם

One of the things that I am really proud of is I have a reputation for taking on projects that are sort of out of the box. 

The woman who asked me to take on the kittle project realized part of the way through our initial meeting that perhaps I might be able to help out with some projects for her son's upcoming bar mitzvah.

The bar-mitzvah boy's grandfather died right around the time the boy was born. The bar-mitzvah boy was named for this grandfather. My client and her husband wondered if I could turn somehow add something of Grandpa's tallit to the tallit they had already purchased.

Clearly it is easier to integrate a treasured textile if that textile is part of the design process from the beginning. Never the less I was ready to think about how to think about this problem.

The coloring of the new tallit is intense, a midnight blue and peacock green. There was also the issue of how to share bits of the tallit with the other 8 grandchildren. I am going to table the issue of the other grandchildren for the moment, just as this family and I had to.

I did think that if I dyed some of the strands of tzitzit from grandpa's tallit to a nice rich color, I could couch it onto the pinot, the corner pieces.

Grandpa's tallit was clearly worn while sitting next to a bored child at synagogue.
There were several extra knots enthusiastically added to the ritual knots and wraps. I untied both the knots added by the bored child as well as the regulation knots and wraps. It took a while.
Then it was time to dye the tzitzit. I put a bit of dye into a plastic bag, added some water and then the tzitzit.

I then mushed the diluted dye around the tzitzit untl the color was evenly distributed.

Then I let the tzitzit dry for twenty four hours.That will make the color fairly permanent.
The next day I heat set the color on the tzitzit. In layman's terms, i put the tzitzit between the folds of a cotton napkin and ironed the napkin encased tzitzit for several minutes.  The tzitzit were a crumpled mess.

I then pulled each strand under the sole plate of the iron, and by then they were straight. For good measure I repeated the pulling under the iron process again . It was fun and also REALLY made sure that the color was set.

Next, I couched the threads around  the satin stitching at the edge of each corner piece.

It's a subtle addition.Here you can see the corner piece on the right with the couching and the one on the left without the stitching.
These photos are really enlarged. The effect in real life is really subtle. There are enough bits of the tallit that all of the grandchildren can have a bit of it.

I could write a long and sentimental paragraph about how the whole point of the tzitzit is to help us remember as we daven and how the one strand of the tzitzit  from Grandpa's tallit will help his namesake born just as Grandpa was dying remember  the man he was named for and how much he was loved by his family, but I will leave the writing of that paragraph to someone else.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Pu- Pu Shabbat

I remember eating with my family as am elementary school kid at either the now defunct Harold's or the more recently defunct Rubin's and seeing Pu-Pu platter on the menu. I thought that the term was one of the funniest things I had ever read. I was clearly still of the age when bathroom humor was really funny.

My family didn't eat in Chinese or Polynesian restaurants. This was in the 1960's, before that sort of "international" cuisine had hit the Boston Kosher food scene. But just thinking of the term Pu-Pu platter was enough to give me the giggles for years after that first sighting on that menu long ago.

Although I am much older I am still fond of the term and have been known to serve my kids a random bunch of stuff on a plate and call it a Pu-Pu platter. I have learned that if you give something a cool name it makes it better. Clearly, I brought the right kids home from the hospital because they think the term is as funny as I do.(One of my sons says that I am actually an 8 year old boy in disguise.)

Last night I went to see what meat lurked in my freezer so I could make my youngest a proper send off on his last Shabbat at home before he goes back to college. I had one sheet of flanken, one small London broil and two smallish packages of Chicken wings. I turned to my boys and asked them "Well, How about Pu-Pu Shabbat??" 

They loved the idea. This morning I went to one of the local Kosher butchers to see if I could ramp this up a notch. I bought two packages of beef fry and a package of sausage. I thought I could make pigs in blankets with the sausage. 

I thought I would buy ready-made puff pastry. I found a package but it needed over night to thaw. I didn't have that kind of time.One of the staff members at the butcher's suggested that I might that the puff pastry dough out in the microwave, but we both soon realized that that would lead to a disaster of melted fat and flabby dough.  Instead I came home and made a soft bread dough with lots of oil, rolled it out into a thin sheet, cut it into strips and rolled strips of dough around a bit of sausage.

This will be a meal that will make my gang very happy. This might be a start of another family tradition.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Like white on rice

If both time and money for this kittle were unlimited I would be embroidering the text by hand in white silk or embroidery floss in large block lettering on the beautiful white patterned shirting that I bought to make this kittle.  The embroidery would have enough dimension to be visible and that kittle which exists just in my head would be magnificent. Unfortunately, this kittle needs to be ready this Rosh HaShanah and not in a few years.

A kittle, much like a First Communion dress needs to be white, to give an impression of whiteness. This platonic ideal is wonderful.

But if I am calligraphing white text on white ribbon the result will look like absolutely nothing, a little like the Emperors New Clothes.  I had noticed in my internet searching of kittles that some of the super fancy deluxe ones are embellished with silver lace.

I used that as my cue and mixed up a pale silvery dye/paint mixture for the lettering.
I was taught a long time ago(the summer of 1982 by Ruti who was a Bezalel student on the Ramah New England arts and crafts staff with me) that all lettering will look much better if outlined.

I followed her advice using a dye/paint that is a soft pale shimmery gold. It is barely a color difference, and yet it makes the lettering better.

  My client is anxious that this kittle give the impression of white. She's right, but I also know that by making the lettering not really white it will be visible. I am thinking about the tricks that impressionist painters used to create white while mixing a whole lot of other pigments into the white. I am thinking about how bluing is added to white loads of wash to create the look of white.

I think that as I get all of the lettering on to  the ribbon I will get a bit braver with my color choices.
 The not- white will appear as shadows on the white. 

Just as I am expanding on the colors that I am using on this kittle I am also expanding my choice of texts used on the klittle. I am including not only the texts my clients chose but some others that I believe will resonate for the man destined to wear this kittle.

One of the joys of working on this project during the summer of 2016 is being able to download a High Holiday prayer-book from the early 1800's onto my tablet and carefully copy chunks of liturgy from those ancient pages. 

This isn't hand embroidery but it is hand work done with care and thoughtfulness.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Starting a kittle

A kittle, for those of you who don't know is a Jewish ritual garment. It means a little coat and is related to the housecoats worn in Germany by men of means. Think of it as sort of a smoking jacket.

A kittle is purchased for a young man before his marriage and is worn during the wedding ceremony. It is also worn on High Holidays, and when one is leading seder. When one dies, a kittle is put on over the shrouds.

Generally kittles are worn by men but in egalitarian communities like mine, they may be worn by women as well.  Kittles are not worn in every Jewish community.  Neither my father nor my husband are kittle wearers. One of my sisters wears a kittle on the high holidays, but not on Passover. I don't wear a kittle.

I was asked to create a special kittle for someone as a surprise. My client and I thought that it would be nice to decorate this kittle with text from the High Holiday prayer-book rather than just with lace.  Yes, I do find it fascinating that a garment meant to be worn by religious men is so covered with lace and other traditionally girly design elements.

I thought that it made the most sense to calligraph the text on ribbon, because if you mess up the ribbon you can always write out more text on more ribbon. If I mess up the wonderful shirting that I had planned to use to create the kittle, it would be an expensive disaster.

So, last week I went ribbon shopping.
 M+J trimming is still selling off their stock purchased from Hyman Hendler.  I wasn't sure if they would have white ribbon left. The sale has been going on for not quite a year. Fortunately I had quite a bit of white ribbonto choose from. I bought grosgrain, satin, organza, and  velvet ribbon along with the manly lace pictured here.  I wasn't quite sure what would work best. I also assume that I will be layering some of the narrower ribbons over some of the wider ribbons.

These reels of ribbon cost  between $5 and $15 per reel. (Actually they have been packaged in old film spools.) Retail the ribbon would cost between $1.50 and $5.00 per yard. The cashier asked me what I planned to do with the ribbons ( I also purchased some other reels for some other upcoming projects). When he found out that I wasn't just a home hobbyist the total price for all of the ribbons dropped significantly. (Yay!)

The gros-grains are not  made out of nasty polyester but are a smooth and soft fiber, I'm guessing  a rayon and cotton mix. These spools are all old stock. Probably none is newer than the 1970's.

Today I began my work writing out the selected prayers on the ribbons.

I will probably go back and outline all of the letters so they stand out a bit more.

This is a nice way to get my head back into thinking about High Holiday liturgy. This will be a project with many stages and some sewing tasks that are completely new to me.

Friday, August 12, 2016

A DIY watch band and Food Friday

This is probably a DIY of semi limited usage, but it makes it possible for me to wear a wrist watch.

Several years ago I developed a nickle allergy. Over the years it has gotten progressively worse. Eventually even the buckle on watchbands were impossible to wear once the brass or gold plating wore away.

I came up with a solution that is fairly quick to make (around ten minutes) and looks to my eye pretty chic.

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to purchase a giant wheel of  inch and a half wide elastic for either $5 or $10. My elastic watch bands last for a a few months. They get yukkier in the heat of the summer and tend to last a bit longer in the winter months.

You need a length of elastic that is about the same size as the length of your wrist.

Thread the elastic through the little watch band holding bars on either side of your watch.

This should take about a minute.. Adjust the length of the elastic so the watch is centered on the elastic.

I used to sew these by machine. This is a time consuming mistake. It is much easier to hand stitch the watch band closed.

I lightened this photo so you can see my stitching near the raw edge.. I then turned the raw edge to the inside and stitched again. In fancy sewing talk this is called sewing a French seam. I then stitched the seam allowance to one side. This is called a felled seam.  At this point I have sewn an inch and a half of fabric three times. For those of you who like me are math challenged that's a whopping 4.5 inches of sewing. This won't take you long.

If you figure out a tidier way to do the job, then do it your way.

And now for those of you who like to eat.

For tonight's chicken i pretended that I was an Indian grandma and pulled out a bunch of spices and mixed them up in a bowl before I coated my chickens with all of their spicy goodness.

I did snitch tastes as I cut up the chicken. i did a good job pretending to be an Indian  grandma. 

Yesterday I had a conversation with a woman from the Ukraine. She was compiling and translating a collection of recipes from her grandmother. one of them was one she had never tried. it was beaten egg whites and sugar mixed with rye bread crumbs and then filled with a sweet filling.

I had a chunk of last week's challah left over and adapted this Ukrainian cake idea to my own larder. I took the left over egg yolks and made them into a chocolate dough and sort of mixed the two together.
This is the beginning of a good idea. I think I will explore it a bit more.

I have several cool projects that are starting in the next couple of days.I am looking forward to getting going on them.

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Re-visiting an old piece

Not quite 20 years ago my friend Marcia wanted me to make a tallit bag for her. She didn't quite know what she wanted it to look like but she knew that she wanted it to include  the crochet arba kanfot her grandmother had made as an engagement gift for Marcia's grandfather.

That evening Marcia came to my house she also brought along a bag filled with tallit bags that had belonged to men who meant a great deal to her. All of the men were no longer living, her father, her husband and her son. Marcia hoped that I could figure out a way to include all of these pieces into her bag.

I did.
I pieced all of the velvet bags with some additional silks ad created a bag that wore the old arba kanfot.

Earlier this week Marcia asked me to do some repairs on her tallit. The bag needed a bit of attention as well. The velvet on the buttons I had covered had worn away.

I also noticed that the arba kanfot were soiled. I washed the  arba kanfot and the soil of the past 20 years is now gone.

I pulled apart one of the velvet buttons but was unable to get the button to snap shut. So i decided to go the low tech route. You cut a circle of fabric, and stitch around the perimeter and gather the edge.

I had noticed that the red metallic elastics that I had sewn in 20 years ago to hold tyhe buttons had begun to fail.
I was unable to find more red metallic hair elastics but I did find
I braided three elastics to make the new loops.
I am pleased with this choice
because it works so well with the lining.

 When Marcia had first discussed using her grandfather's  arba kanfot she was ready for me to cut them up. It seemed a crime to cut up such old and special handwork. I realized that the old crochet work could be tied to the tallit bag with tiny ribbons. Marcia's grandmother's work could be preserved, whole.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Connecting with the past

My late father-in-law's family came from Tulchin, a town at the edges of the Ukraine.

Despite the fact that my father-in-law insisted that his family lived in Russia they came from just a few miles east from the home towns of both of my maternal grandparents.

When they lived in Tulchin the family name was Krupnik, and were millers (krupnik means barley or barley soup).

I am part of a few different online genealogy groups and yesterday I got a notice that an archive of oral histories from Tulchin was now available. I went through the list and found the name of Arkady Krupnik.  I don't read Russian but we live in the age of Google translate, so I cut and pasted chunks of Arkady's testimony into the translate box and heard the voice and words of my husband's cousin.

It's a whole lot to read, nearly 100 pages.  I was charmed by his descriptions of making matza before the Nazi's (and the Communists) fully came to power. When Jews were able to they baked matza together as a community in the open, then in secret and finally a community member would be dispatched to Riga to buy matza in secret for the town's Jews.

 I loved that Arkady's father was a Communist who fasted on Yom Kippur and made sure to go to services on the High Holidays.

This interview took place in 2005. I'm not sure if the hard living Arkady is still alive. I hope that my husband will try to connect to his Tulchin cousins.