Not by the Book

I grew up reading tons of how to books. I loved working my way through the entire extensive hand work collection at the Thomas Crane Public library. Often, that knowledge comes in handy. I get stuck and then the illustrations and directions from a book I may have read when I was twelve come to me. I know, other people have heads filled with Torah. My head is filled with how to directions from various sources.

The reason I needed to distract myself yesterday, was that I needed to apply lettering to the parochet/ark curtain. Applying lettering to a piece has been a point of difficulty for artisans, even back in ancient times. There is a mosaic floor in Israel from Roman times. The lettering is in mirror writing. It isn't in mirror writing as a cipher or hidden message, but rather because the artisan, clearly asked his friend with a nice handwriting to do the lettering. The friend wrote out the letters with a piece of charcoal. The artisan then patted the charcoaled lettering onto the plastered surface and covered the writing with black tiles.  I can hear the artisan's curse from across the centuries when they realized that they had ought to have first done the letters in mirror writing before transferring the design.

I can hear those curses, because I have uttered them myself.

Getting the lettering on this parochet offer several challanges. First of all, I have to apply the letters over a variety of worked surfaces, some are beaded, some are embroidered and some have the couched yarns, all of different thicknesses. The couching is almost guaranteed to get tangled in the sewing machine foot. Another complication is the fuzziness of the wool. It makes it hard for things to stick.

I had at first thought that I would paint the letters on a sheer cotton lawn, flip the lawn with the letters, and then put the painted letters on the back of the piece and then outline the letters by machine from the reverse of the parochet. If that sounds like a whole lot of work with considerable room for multiple disaster, then you are right. I got as far as painting the letters on the cotton with grey before abandoning that attempt.

I then tried again, this time, painting the letters so they would be seen, painting them in blue on a yellow silk gazar.My plan was to spray a temporary fixative to the back of the gazar, and then take advantage of the fixative and stitch the outlines of letters by machine, cut away the left over gazar and then re stitch.

It was a great idea, except that the temporary fixative didn't work, the combination of the slick gazar and the fuzzy wool didn't work.

I hate basting. It seems a total and complete waste of time to hand sew something with the intention of ripping it out. I hate using pins. I find that whenever I use pins, I get stabbed.

I came up with a solution that is both completely idiotic and  completely brilliant.Out of desperation, I decided to chain stitch around all of the letters using a light blue and silver yarn. Rather than waste time basting. I took a couple of stitches in the uppermost letter furthest to the left. Then I did a few stitches in the opposite corner. Working this way, a few stitches in each letter I anchored the silk gazar so it wouldn't slip as I continued to work. For a while, it looked like the lettering was being embroidered by someone with a bad case of ADD.

I don't think I have ever seen this method in any book. But for today, it worked for me.


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