A tallit, a dress, and a visit to Ellis Island

Creating a piece for a client is always about balancing  various sets of needs. Often my client is a twelve year old kid with their own strong opinions. Sometimes the parents have strong opinions. Clearly,  (and anyone who knows me for more than five minutes can tell you) I am a person with opinions on things, particularly Jewish ritual objects.

This has been especially true in the making of Alice's tallit. A big part of my job has been taking what she has felt strongly about and making it work in the context of a tallit. Alice loves orange and red. neither would be my first, or even tenth choice on a tallit. Never the less, it is important that she be heard.

There are lots of tallit makers that combine lovely ready made ribbon to make a tallit. I use a mix of embroidery stitches and utility stitches ( the sorts of stitches you might use to mend torn trousers or to install elastic into a pair of underpants) to embellish the ribbon and the stripes into a composition of color and texture.

I am a chunk of the way through creating the stripes on Alice's tallit.

Red and orange tend not to play together well-- kind of like two toddlers in daycare both with massive personalities and short tempers.  I really like making things that ought not to work together become visually pleasing.

With enough texture and color things that ought to look out of key can sing in harmony.

  I also completed the dress I am wearing to my nephew's wedding . My first attempt at making the sequin dress failed. Or put more honestly, I made a series of errors that built on one another and ended in failure.

The fabric I had ordered was no longer available. There was a different sequin fabric available...and it was on sale for half of what I had paid.  I spent $4 per yard for $40 per yard fabric.

I ended up with this.
 The hemline swings longer and wider in the back.

All of the raw edges have been finished with silk binding

The  embroidered netting  I had planned to use as an overlay (here it is over the silver sequined fabric)

looked crazy over the two toned sequins so I just didn't do it. That fabric will have to wait for another dress.

Earlier this week we visited Ellis Island with cousins from out of town. I loved the exhibit on things people brought with them. It included lots of needlework.

My husband and I were struck by how beautiful the building is.

This is the Hebrew one needed to be able to read to pass the literacy test instituted in the 1920's. It's really hard Hebrew

The texts people had to read in other languages were also Biblical verses but were far more familiar than these obscure lines from Proverbs

This is what people got to eat during their time on Ellis Island.

These were the marks chalked on the coats of immigrants so they could be inspected further by medical staff.

My grandfather  arrived at Ellis Island with his cousins. My grandfather came on his cousin Pinchas Freider's ticket. My grandfather Yankle was not listed on the ship's manifest. He needed to have a hearing to decide if he would be allowed to enter New York. That hearing took place in this room.

Luckily, the judgement was in favor of my grandfather.