What ironing is good for

I realize, that most Tuesday mornings, I iron. It's not a job that I particularly love. It's a job that I do. Usually, my ironing session is made up of the table cloths used the previous week. Since we are in  Jewish Holiday season, my stack of ironing included lots of men's dress shirts. Again, not a task I love, but there is a certain satisfaction in turning the crumpled into the smooth.

Growing up, my mother used to say that she did her best thinking while vacuuming or ironing. Today while I was pressing the large stack of table cloths and shirts I was working on figuring out the next big piece . I was asked to create a parochet/ark curtain for the local Solomon Schechter  School. The 8th grade girls ( they are all girls in this class)donated a portion of their bat- mitzvah gift money to create a parochet for their school's new synagogue space.

Last week I met with the girls twice. We looked at the texts that are said while the ark is "active", just before the ark is opened and the attention of the congregation is on the ark, through Torah reading and until the point that the ark is closed and the rest of the service continues.

We all had prayer books and the girls began to toss out lines of text that they thought might be appropriate. I asked them to share all ideas, even weak ideas can spark better ideas. I wrote all of their various ideas down on the whiteboard in the front of the room. By the end of one session, we had hammed out most of an idea.

One of the girls had mentioned the idea of "avot" our forefathers ( and mothers). we all thought that a border made up of a selection of  names of prophets mentioned in the biblical narrative. we left the selection of names for our second session. We had also more or less settled on the text " The earth is God's, and all that it holds" That Psalms is sung as we put the Torah scroll back in the ark.  We had also settles on a rough design. When I finished the first session, I asked the girls to look at the prayerbook mining it for appropriate text.
Rough pencil sketch

When I returned for the next session we finalized the design, adding an archway made up of the words " Lift high your lintels, from that same Psalm. There was a fair amount of discussion back and forth about the shapes of the light, and of the river, actual tress or more abstract trees.

I have been spending the last couple of days drawing and redrawing my sketch, getting the proportions right, realizing that I had the names going the wrong way around the border. I started pulling fabrics for my stash trying to figure out which fabrics were needed to make up the parochet.

The parochet needs to be sturdy. It will be used by kids. It also needs some heft and drape. I love the intense saturated colors of silk shantung, but it tends to shred after a while.

I had an appointment in the garment district this afternoon. On the way back I decided to shop for the fabric. Walking the streets, inspiration hit. I would buy white wool, felt it and they dye it. The result would be strong enough to put up with children's hands. The wool felt will also reference the work of Koppel, an Israeli fiber artist who remade Jewish ritual art in fabric working with brightly colored wool felt on a black background.

A reproduction of a Koppel piece from http://www.catstamp.com/
Kabballa man  ( H&;M fabrics) had a bolt of wool cashmere mink blend coating in ivory. I will run it through my washer and dryer a few times. Once it is felted, I will begin painting and piecing the wool.


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