A blast from the past

Whenever I create a piece with a client, the client always lives in my head during the time I am working.  I think about our conversation during the design meeting during the time I am working on a piece and even while I am not actually working but going about my daily life while the piece sits fallow.  If a piece is complicated or unusual, or involves some interesting textiles or my learning a new technique, the piece and the client become part of me during my time working. 

Sometimes it isn't the piece itself but the client that really stays  with me. So when I get a call from someone who says "I don't know if you would remember me, but we made a tallit together ten years ago." I always remember who they are, the piece we created together and what the experience of working together was like.

Fifteen years ago I made this set of arba kanfot for a really remarkable client.
Her Iowa born great grandmother had crochet this dress topper. If you look carefully, you can see that it was never quite finished. The right shoulder has an extension that the right one does not.  I made the pinot/ the corner pieces out of linens that had belonged  to the very elegant Mrs. Grossman, a friend of my mother's , a friend of mine who had died with no children. My mother had found Mrs Grossman's linens in a local antique shop soon after she had died ( many of the things were monogrammed). I thought that Mrs. Grossman would have loved L. my client. It seemed like a nice way to put two special people together. 

Six years ago I got a call from L. ( Did I remember her? Of course I did! ) Her daughter was seriously ill. As L was driving her daughter to yet another treatment, little N. asked if she could have a set of tzitzit.  Both of us knew  without mentioning it that we hoped that the tzitzit would work as a segula/a healing amulet. I actually had a set of silk tzitzit that I had made for someone that had turned out too small. I thought they could fit little N. 

There were some emails back and forth, N had gotten sicker. Treatments were complicated.  After a while, I hadn't heard anything and suspected the worst. Occasionally that set of silk tzitzit would sort of appear in my work closet. I would look at the tzitzit and feel sad. The last time the tzitzit appeared was a couple of weeks ago.

Last week I got an email from L, N's mother. N was about to have her bat-mitzvah, could I make her a tallit?

I was stunned and wept tears of relief. I made time to meet with them. 

N, as I anticipated is just a great kid. She's smart and goes to Jewish day school and pays attention in school.  Her mother also brought two scarves she had purchased in Burma a long time ago, one in ombre purple and the other in ombre turquoise. We decided to stitch  the two scarves together, both were fairly fragile and the colors interacting with one another was divine.

N is just a tad short for this tallit as the two sewn together scarves are becoming, so I sewed a series of  three pleats on either side. 
I went a little wild with the pinot/corner pieces. First I block printed a length of turquoise silk. I backed a chunk of it with fuse-able web and then cut 2.5 inch squares of the fabric. Each square has been backed with golden orange silk organza. You really can't see it, but I know it is there.

I

I sewed a couple of rows of decorative stitching in gold metallic thread to frame each of the pinot.

I'm in love with them.
Each eyelet was hand stitched using one thread of blue metallic and one thread of bronze metallic thread. The mix of colors reminds me of Fortuny.
A bag was also needed. As I was hand stitching the ribbon at the edge of the lining  to the zipper tape,  my middle finger was completely chewed up from all of the hand embroidery I had done on Charlie's tallit. Luckily I remembered that my mother had given me my grandmother's brass thimble. 
This is probably the third time I have ever used a thimble. I am glad I had it. Now my finger will have the chance to heal.

This is the outside of the bag, a bit of crazy quilted silk ( left over from Charlie's tallit and improved with block printing and decorative stitching, and black cotton velveteen that has been mellowing in my stash for about 20 years.


I was so deeply moved to be involved with this project.  I can't wait until we tie the tzitzit.

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