Hacking my way through problems

I have been working on making a Torah mantle for the past while. The mantle is being made in memory of someone named Baruch. Developing the design for this piece was a long, long process that took a few years.

The text I am using comes from the daily prayers 
והאר עינינו בתורתך ודבק לבנו במצותיך
Enlighten our eyes with Your Torah, attach our hearts to your commandments

My client and I decided to use textiles that mattered to her and to Baruch to create the lettering. One of the textiles was a kippah worn by Baruch during the many months that he was bald from his chemo treatments. 

Applique is basically collage on fabric. A few things complicate the task. One is that the base fabric for this Torah mantle is velvet. Velvet is beautiful. The wonderful nap has a tendency to shift when being sewn. 


The other technical challenge is how to get the lettering onto the fabric. Early in my sewing career I attempted to attach a backing to fabric that makes it iron-on -able. The result involved lots of cursing and completely unacceptable lettering.

For  long time I cobbled together a method which had me drafting the lettering on paper, flipping the paper over, tracing the lettering onto the back of the paper, basting the paper onto the back of the base fabric, straight stitching the outline of the letter and then cutting away the extra applique fabric.

That method mostly worked. The paper had a nasty tendency to shred and shift.

Finally after more than 20 years I came up with a better idea.  I drafted the letters onto white fabric, first in pencil and then outlined in Sharpie. Then I flipped the fabric over and traced the letters onto the back of the fabric.

I used a spray adhesive to attach the lettering to the wrong side of the velvet.

Baruch's kippah is one of those ubiquitous needle-pointed Bukharin kippot. As I started to applique I realized that I could use this special kippah for all of the letters  in the verse that make up Baruch's name. Here you can see some letters that are complete, and others in various stages of being completed. 
It's still slow going but I have not cursed once.  Doing this requires a small amount of X-ray vision.

I baste a bit of the kippah  just under the letter.

I learned through trial and error that the needlepointed fabric and the busy pattern of the kippah made it impossible to see a straight stitched outline so instead I have zig-zagged around each letter. 

It is still not all that easy to see the outline, but the zig-zag is much easier to see than a straight stitch.  I then began trimming away everything that is not part of the letter.  I usually use a cuticle scissor.  Mine seems to have disappeared. So I went out to get a new one. 


The trees on my block were so pretty so I took a few pictures on my way to get those cuticle scissors. 


And then I got back to work. I'ts much easier to trim with the curved cuticle scissors.
No, I didn't draft the letters while drunk. Each line was written along an arc. I was very pleased with a giant compass I hacked out of a length of ribbon a pencil and duct tape.

Tomorrow I will begin to use some of the other fabrics. My client is worried that the mix of fabrics might create too much visual chaos. I think that the wide gold satin stitching will create a sense of visual harmony. 

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