I can't tell you how often people ask me why I don't hire people to sew for me. I guess it might seem to be sensible for me to design clothes or Challa covers, or tallitot and then just have other people sew them up.

I don't know how other folks work their way through the design process. The way I work, first my client and I talk about what the needs are for the particular piece. Then I draw a fairly rough sketch in pencil. This sketch serves as my map in putting the piece together.

While that sketch serves as my map, or in the language of the Renaissance artists, my cartoon, many of my artistic decisions and refinements take place as I'm actually working. Physically manipulating the fabrics helps give me ideas about different ways to proceed.

If I hired a seamstress or a sempter to do my work, I suspect that while the work might be sewn with more skill, it would ultimately be less interesting to look at. Today, I am working on the pink and brown tallit. I need to sew a series of pink shantung stripes onto the brown noil. If I were a different sort of a sewer, I would press the raw edge and then sew the strip to the brown noil. I know myself well enough to know that I could never press that silk into a straight line.

I sprayed the strip of shantung to the noil using a temporary adhesive (505 Spray for those of you who are trying to figure out how to baste without sewing). I assumed that I could just do a nice satin stitch in gold over the raw edge. Think again, This particular pink shantung is unbelievably shreddy. As I type, my feet are entirely covered in bird's nests of silk threads.

the silk shreds I just pulled off of my right foot



So since plan A wasn't working, I resorted to plan B. I sewed the shantung to the noil with a straight stitch and then covered the raw edge with a folded strip of shantung, sewed, pressed over the raw edge and then top stitched with a wide gold zig-zag. It looks really tidy, and nicely finished.

Had I simply assigned the work to someone else, I wouldn't have come up with this elegant edging. In fact, while I was doing the edging I realized that by serging a narrow strip of shantung to the wider strip I would save myself a step and end up with a still nicer edge.

Interestingly, no matter how much I adjust my design while I work. I am always surprised when I compare completed piece to that initial sketch how much the finished piece resembles that initial rough sketch.


a lovely clean finish

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