Thursday, January 19, 2017

Non Amazonian shopping

Today I needed to buy a specific piece of fabric for a tallit. I needed white silk double georgette. For those of you who are not shchmatta geeks, georgette  is a thicker version of chiffon. A double georgette is translucent, rather than transparent and has a lovely soft drape. 

Georgette was a staple for dresses in the 1920's and 30's. It isn't an easy fabric to find these days, particularly in silk but it is exactly what I need to make my next tallit.


I called my pals at Rosen and Chadick to see if they had any in stock. They did. I took the subway, went to their new digs and purchased what I needed.

I have been buying from Rosen& Chadick for a long time. I used to buy from the grumpy fathers of the current owners. The current owners, unlike their fathers treat each customer with warmth and respect. I have been shopping there for so long that each visit includes some catching up on each of our children.

They do have a website but not all of their fabrics are listed on the site.  You can do as I did, call and ask for what you need. If you are not local your fabric will be mailed to you. if you are local you can come by and pick up the fabric that has been set aside for you. Their prices are fair retail prices.

This is just a tiny corner of the store.You are looking at bolts of to die for cotton shirtings. Other fabrics are stores in other areas of the store. 

This is Ellen, one of the co-owners and one of my favorite people in the garment district. She knows her stuff and is incredibly nice.


Shopping at the good fabric stores in the garment district is not like shopping in a department store where you wander around until you find what you want. The process is a bit more old fashioned. You enter the store and tell the shopkeeper what you are looking for.  " I want a soft drapey silk in off white." "I need a hard-wearing velvet with no sheen in dark blue that is almost black." " I need a soft white wool for a tallit." They know their stock and will bring you to show you a couple of different choices.  perhaps what they have shown you is not exactly what you were looking for. You use the qualities of what you have been shown to help you both close in on exactly the fabric you needed.  

This is how shopping used to be. It's an exchange not just of money but also of ideas and desires. I value stores like Rosen & Chadick where the staff listens but even better shares their long experience with fabric and often helps me to make an even better choice than I had first intended.
Now I can get started on my next tallit.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Perhaps I have lost my mind

I suppose that if I were smart I would have embroidered the letters for Charlie's atara/neckband by machine.

I was thinking about what a great kid Charlie is. I was thinking about the great dynamic between Charlie and his parents and his little brother. I was also thinking about how much I love Charlie's great aunt and uncle...

So I decided to hand embroider all of the letters.

This is not a rational decision.
It is an interesting mental exercise following the outlines of the letters from the underside of the atara and then forming the stitches on the front of the piece.
There is something sort of zen-like about doing the work. Embroidering the outline of the letters takes a great deal of focus, filling the letters in takes much less focus.

I play mental games with myself to keep working. I work on random bits of the letters all over the piece. It allows me to pretend that this isn't quite as much work. Each stitch catches the light. the end result will look wonderful.

Monday, January 16, 2017

It's all connected

My husband will sometimes  ask me if it makes sense that the focus of my blog is so unfocused. Shouldn't I write exclusively about my work rather than all of those detours about cooking or walking down Broadway or living with my family?

I realize though that all of the elements of my life sort of bleed into one another and all of that stew of my life goes into my work.

My youngest has been home for winter break and returns to college tomorrow. While he has been home I have mended several pairs of his pants. While mending I have been thinking a whole lot about how mending fuses layers of fabric and thread and restores broken fabric. It's a task that is related to weaving and to felting. Usually it is a task that is completely utilitarian. It is possible though to use the same techniques in a decorative way.

I had pieced this for the atara/neckband of Charlie's tallit.

This was attractive but I had some worries about the ability of the silk to take the wear of being an atara. it was backed in cotton but silk can break with too much abrasion.

I decided to try again. I fused strips of silk to fuse-able interfacing. Then I had the issue of what to do with all of the raw edges. Because this colored strip of fabric will have a layer of lettering I wanted a flat surface.

All of the mending I have been doing over the last several weeks came back to me.
Charlie loves color so i think he will like the multicolored thread I used to do the stitching. the silk is secure and the fusing will help it last longer.

I calligraphed the text for the atara onto broadcloth using watered down acrylic paint and then outlined the letters with a sharpie. I flipped the broadcloth over , retraced the letters on the reverse and basted them to the back to the colored silk.
Now I can embroider the letters.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Food Friday - Outsourcing edition

There are many things that are wonderful about living with adult children as opposed to living with toddlers.  Today I was grateful that I could wake up, put together the challah dough and then go back to sleep.

My older son took care of the rest of the meal. He made chicken, roasted root vegetables and made okra.
My son shaped the challot. I glazed them and baked them.
This meant that I had time to edge Charlie's tallit,
and bake dessert, lemon squares that will be cut into squares once the pan is cool.

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

From Idea to Reality

After I met with Charlie and his family just after Thanksgiving, we each had a copy of this sketch, a basic diagram for his tallit with reminders for me about size and the design.
We had decided on a wool/rayon blend for the main body of the tallit and a soft wool and Lurex blend for the stripe. Charlie also chose a beautiful black, metallic gold and white wide gros-grain ribbon to border the stripes. 


Charlie wanted the colors in the atara/neckband to refer to the colors in the tabernacle( blue, turquoise, purple and red).
Very soon after we met  I started piecing silk for the atara.

The time had come to actually assemble the tallit.  I cut all of the wool to size.  I suppose that if I had an assistant I would have given my assistant the task. However, I do every bit of work involved in making all of my pieces.  


I have found that my doing each of the tasks required in putting a tallit together I often makes design decisions exactly because I am handling all of the materials. 

My original intention was to use just one layer of the wool/Lurex blend. Once I had cut the fabric I realized that while the face of the fabric was beautiful, the back was less lovely. I also wondered about the stability of just one layer of the wool. So I  decided to back the wool with itself.  The result was lofty and soft and luxurious. 
Originally we had planned for the stripes only on the face of the tallit to be bordered with the striped ribbon.  As I looked at the tallit I felt that there wasn't enough visual contrast between the stripe and the body of the tallit. 

One of the things that makes a traditional tallit beautiful is how the woven stripes from the face and the underside of the tallit play off of one another when a tallit is draped over the shoulders. Most pieced tallitot have a pretty face side but the underside is blank. when you drape the tallit over your shoulders, that interplay of stripes is missing. It is something that I find disturbing when I see such a tallit in synagogue.

To be sure that Charlie's tallit does not suffer from that lack I decided to cover the seam with black ribbon. Before I began to sew the ribbon to the tallit, I thought that the ribbon would be so much more attractive with a bit of gold embroidery.

So, I chose a stitch on my machine and embroidered something over four yards of ribbon.

Then, just because I could, I stitched the ribbon to the tallit using a teeny zig-zag stitch using a fine Lurex yard that is really not designed to use in a sewing machine, but the color is so beautiful  that I force my machine to do the work.
It's a subtle bit of shimmer. You probably aren't even conscious of it but it makes it all work better.



Then it was time to apply the wide grosgrain. Again I used the teeny metallic zig-zag stitch.

My next task is to hem the entire tallit before getting back to work on the atara and the pinot.

Cleaning a tallit and the Queen

Between having a week and a half of house-guests followed by a killer cold that seem to have stopped up most of my brain cells, I wasn't doing a whole lot of sewing for a couple of weeks. I just didn't trust my ability to sew for clients when my brain was in a complete fog.


I wasn't idle, despite my state of semi-stupor. I washed my son's tallit. My son looks a whole lot like my late father. My son also smells like my father.   The scent was getting a little strong so it was time to wash the tallit.
 I did lots of cooking including making this massive lasagna made with three huge but ever so thin home made noodles.
 After I washed my son's tallit, I did some repairs, retied  the tzitzit on two of the corners and ironed the tallit.


And now for something completely different.

My parents arrived at their pulpit in Halifax, NS just a few weeks after the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. One of my parents congregants gave my parents
this plate. For my parents, who did not see themselves as subjects of the queen, this plate was a  charming curiosity. They used to use this plate for matza for dairy meals during Passover.

For me, and for my sisters, unpacking this plate before Passover was something of an event. We had an assembly line of  dishes passed from their shelves from the basement  and put in their place in the cleaned kitchen with all of the shelves and drawers relined and ready for the holiday. The emergence of the queen from the basement was sometimes be accompanied by the singing of Hail Britannia, or God Save the Queen.

My husband and I sort of accidentally ended up with a collection of royal memorabilia. (How we amassed this collection is a long story with many parts that takes place over a couple of decades, but all I won't bore you with that story at this moment.)

My parents viewed our  growing collection of royal memorabilia with that same bemused  feeling they had towards their own coronation plate. My parents used to tell me that the queen plate was my yerusha, my inheritance when they died.

Twenty years ago, as we were putting away the Passover dishes, my father dropped the coronation plate on the cement floor of the basement and it was completely smashed. My father was really upset. He kept saying "It was your yerusha!". Honestly, I wasn't THAT upset. I thought it was kind of funny that the poor queen has been smashed on the basement floor. My father's regret was real and deeply felt. Occasionally over the years he would bring up how badly he felt about smashing the queen. Each time I would assure him that I was really and truly fine with the loss. Despite my reassurances, my father still felt awful "But it was your yerusha!".

My husband and I knew that my parents felt badly about the loss of the queen. So we bought them
this coronation plate. The plate itself is lovely. The image though make the queen look an awful lot like my Aunt Freida. It wasn't really the right plate, but it stood in for the real plate. 

A while later my parents gave us  this coronation plate to make up for the loss of my promised inheritance. We all knew that this coronation plate too was just not the real thing.
The quality of the earthenware was lacking. The plate had none of the charm of the original.  All of the players in this game were aware of a certain amount of silliness in all of these coronation plates.  Yet, as people who knew their china, we were all aware of that substitution of these two lesser quality coronation plates were just stand ins for the real one. the two not quite right plates together did not quite equal the smashed plate.


After my mother died I inherited the replacement coronation plate we had bought for my parents. Now we owned, not one, but two mediocre coronation plates. 

A week or so ago one of my sisters sent an email to me and to my oldest sister noting the sale of the real coronation plate on Ebay  for a really good price. She offered to buy it for me.  I declined because I already had two coronation plates, and why should I have a third, especially because I really don't care a whole lot about the royal family.

My other sister called and told me that she was writing me a check for the plate NOW. I had no choice. I had to get the plate. I caved and bought the plate. My sister's check arrived a couple of days later
 The plate arrived the other day. It really is the best one. I joked to my sister that my yerusha has been replaced.

I am completely aware of the complete dopiness of my parents and sisters and I all getting caught up in the drama of the coronation plate, the right coronation plate. On the other hand, I am deeply, deeply touched that my sisters, both of my sisters, so wanted this broken piece of our past to be set right.


Friday, January 6, 2017

Food Friday Beef edition

I was a vegetarian for my college years. For many years I rarely if ever cooked beef.  For many years cooking beef seemed beyond my cooking skills.My kids adore eating beef. 

I have been cooking it often enough so it is no longer a terrifying operation.
 Often when I cook I hear a tape in my head of cooking advice from my parents, particularly, my father. 

It's important to slice beef thin. You need to cool the meat so you can slice it thin.

My parents owned this impressive looking meat slicer, or something that was very similar. It had suction feet that attached to our counter. It weighed a ton. The handle was really satisfying to turn.

My father used this meat slicer not for a regular Shabbat but say for the roasts made for  the High Holidays or for a fancy company meal. Eventually my parents bought good knives and the slicer rarely emerged from it's spot on a shelf in the basement. When my mother closed up the house she asked me if I wanted the slicer. 

If I lived in a house with a basement, I would have taken this great piece of 1950's industrial design. 
Instead I made do with a sharp knife and the fork that came with my mother's carving set.





 The slices are thin, but they were not achieved with the same beautiful sequence of sound that the meat slicer produced.
I missh that swoosh and thwuk  that each pass of the meat slicer produced.