The Pleasure of Sewing for Others

I know a calligrapher who is notorious for getting his work in late. Occasionally he has been known to deliver an unfinished Ketubah to a wedding, only to finish it after the wedding.
In college, I was the student begging her professors for extensions. I find though, that I prefer to get my work done at least a few days before the due date.  For me, it makes for less anxious work.

Life,  though, does not always cooperate.  Last Sunday I was hit with the news that several friends were diagnosed with cancer. Then I got a call from another friend letting me know of his divorce. Monday I was then hit with what the Victorians used to call melancholia. I was simply too sad to work.

Naomi's tallit was due today as was her brother's tallit, the "Not Mets'" tallit. The bnai-mitzvah are not until early April.  Normally, I wouldn't have to get the tallitot completed until late March. Yesterday, though, as my friend Ruth reminded me,the words that strike terror into every Jewish woman's heart were recited. We announced the month of Nisan, the month in which Passover falls. Both the twins' family and mine will be preparing for Passover and this was the last moment to meet before the great event.
Naomi's tallit was essentially done. I worked on her brother's last night and almost until they came to pick up their tallitiot. The "Not Met's" tallit kept presenting me with new challenges. Some of them I was able to solve elegantly. Others, with a bit less finesse than I would have hoped.
One of my sewing discussion groups has had a conversation during the past few days about sewing for others. Many of the members of the group wrote about how they dislike sewing for others. Some felt that the demands of others would be intolerable. Some felt that their own desire to do a perfect job would make sewing for other entirely too anxiety provoking.

That discussion made me think about working with this set of twins. I enjoyed meeting with them several months ago. I liked seeing how each of their minds worked. I like the process of learning what matters to them in a tallit.
As I worked on their tallitot during these many weeks, both of them were very present in my head. I kept thinking about what they wanted and what they liked as I made each decision. Pieces of our conversation kept floating around in my head as I worked.
Today as they tied their tzitzit, they and their parents recalled bits of that conversation and noted how I had incorporated comments the kids had made into each of their tallitot. My job is to take ideas, parts of ideas and turn them into something visible and tangible.  I love seeing the look of recognition where a client sees that I have heard them.
While I work on a piece, my clients are living in my head. Once the piece goes home with my client, I am present in their lives for a long time. When I work with clients, their needs push me in unexpected directions. I never would have thought to make a tallit in blue and orange. I never would have selected the colors Naomi did. They are beautiful on her.
Working with others helps me to see beyond my own needs and my own taste. A tallit, so often, is a way of expressing one's relationship to the divine. It is so difficult to put words to that relationship.  When I meet with a client we study the texts about and around putting on a tallit. So, when I then pull out lengths of  different sorts fabric for my clients to drape around themselves, they understand intuitively that they need to select a fabric that helps to express that relationship. I don't need to hear why they chose a specific fabric. The fabric that is right is evident in how they hold their bodies.
When I make a piece for a client, the piece isn't about me. It is about my client. When they come to pick it up I love seeing that moment of recognition , when they see that the piece is about who they are and about their needs.


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