Monday, May 31, 2010

Torah Cover #2 "Flames"

The body of Torah Cover #1, Pomegranates,  has been completed.  It will  now be set aside to await the other 2 covers.  When the bodies of all 3 torah covers are completed, I will then construct all of the covers at the same time, assembly line style.  This is my plan, since it is quite challenging to construct the actual Torah cover with the wood insert.  My goal is to do it in the tidiest, most elegant manner so that no raw edges can be seen - either inside or out.  Constructing 3 at a time will help me with this ever evolving technique.  It is always on my mind that I am creating these Toah covers to last for many, many years and I must do my best work with longevity as a prime consideration. 

Time to start Torah Cover #2. The theme - FLAMES.  There is a recurrence of the  appearance of flames throughout the history of the Jewish people.  From Moses and the burning bush to the eternal flame to the death camps during WW II.  It's a concept that needs to be celebrated and mourned, and definitely contemplated.  Flames can represent destruction, purification, joy and holiness. 

The initial design concept on paper: 

This time, I used an overhead projector to enlarge the design to full size.  After enlarging it, I still had to make adjustments.  I used this pattern to make the actual pattern pieces from the freezer paper. 

It was fun to collect the fabrics for the flame.  I was looking for colors that ranged from red to yellow.  Some of the silk dupioni I already had.  Some I bought on Fabric Row in Philly and some of the fabric I bought on my most recent shopping trip to NYC.  I was looking for fabric that glowed.
 As  a quilter, one of the most enjoyable aspect  of quilting is developing a working palette.  We call it a stash and it involves accumulating fabric.  Sometimes it is for a specific project - like for my Torah cover.  Sometimes, it is just accumulating fabric because we like it.   Here are some of my silks for "Flames". ( I can't explain it, but the colors are not that accurate. )

I dyed the background of the white silk dupioni using the same technique that I used for the Pomegranate Torah cover.  This time I used various combinations of yellow and red dye.  After dyeing the fabric, I layered it with the batting (I used the same Warm Blend again).  I quilted this before adding the appliques.  By doing the quilting before the addition of the appliques, I was able to stitch the horizontal quilting lines without them being interrupted by the applique.  This method results in a more fluid line and also there are less loose threads to tie off.

I used freezer paper to make the pattern pieces.  Instead of fusing down the pieces, I turned under the edges, ironed the seam allowance to the waxy side of the freezer paper  and planned on using  a machine blanket stitch.  Below is the freezer paper pattern , to be cut apart, with a snippet of the assigned silk color.

The flame pattern pieces were positioned on the Torah cover pattern.  And then the  inevitable.happens.  Even though I had lots of choices for fabric, I just couldn't find the  right one for the central flame.

So what's a girl to do?   DYE!  I hand dyed a piece of fabric using the same silk dyes that I used for the background.  .  Can you see the bit of gradation from the top to the bottom?  This was perfect. This central flame's subtle change in color,  blended with the change in color of the flames.

I used many different  rayon threads for the quilting to match the different colors of silk dupioni.
Here's a close-up. The sheen of the thread really complimented the sheen of the silk.  This looks so rich and vibrant.

And the completed piece waiting to be made into a Torah cover.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

NYC Shopping Trip

I received an e-mail from a friend that I made in my fabric dyeing class.  Did I want to meet in NYC for a garment district exploration?  Does a wild bear poop in the woods?  I needed lots of silk dupioni for my torah poject, so it was perfect timing.   Angela took a bus from CT and I took the train from Philly with my "working girl" friend, June.  Before leaving, I consulted the bible of NYC Garment District Shopping - Paula Nadelstern's website:  . 
This was not my first time visiting the Garment District.  Over the yeas I have honed down Paula's list to my favorite places, and places that have to be visited. Most of them ae located between 38th St and 40th St and 6th and 7th Aves.
1.  Daytona Trimmings
      251 W. 39th St
Daytona has any type of trim you could possibly want or dream of.  I love all of their rick rack and  velvet   ribbon.  It's like being a kid in a penny candy store.  As you decide what you want, an employee cuts it off the spool and puts it in a plastic bag with the price. 
2.  Butterfly Fabrics
    260 W 39th St
This is THE store for silk dupioni.  All of their fabrics ae from India.  They have every color of silk dupioni and their prices can't be beat.  They ae also willing to make 1/2 yd cuts.

3.  Mood
    225 W 37th St

If you have watched any episodes of Project Runway, you have head of Mood.  It's where the clothing designers have 15 minutes and a certain amount of money to furiously pick out their fabric. You take up one of those old-fashioned elevators with an elevator operator to the 3rd floor.  And you just can't believe what you see.  What's even more amazing is that this is just one of the floors.  This floor has most of the fashion fabric.  Downstairs is Home Dec and upstairs is mainly wool.

Check out their silk dupioni section.  

I bought some very cool drapery fabric for my guest room.  When checking out, I decided to act like a total Project Runway fan, which is a bit out of character.  I asked if they were casting the next season, since the last one had just ended.  It tuns out that the next season is "already in the can" and they are actually stating the season after.  I also found out that they now close the store when the designers come to shop.  Originally, they did not.

4.  Beads World
     1384 Broadway

There are tons of beads and findings, but my favorite section is the one with all the different shapes and colors of sequins - great for embellishing.

5.  M and J Trims
    1008 6th Ave

This store is pure and unadulterated eye candy.  I have to be honest - I hardly ever buy anything here.  It is so overwhelming with so much to look at.  I just leave happy!  It is definitely a must visit.

6.  Habu Textiles
     135 W 29th St

This stop was for Angela.  She's a weaver and this is a showroom for Japanese fibers for weaving. On the 8th floor of an office building, you enter and the room was filled with these baskets.  Most of the fiber was silk, with the occasional paper and wire.  I know it is a mecca for weavers, but it is not on my must visit list.

7.  Purl Soho
     459 Broome St
This is one of 2 shops in Manhattan that is know for its quilting fabric.  (We did not make it to the other - City Quilter.) We were pretty exhausted at this point and it was raining quite heavily, so we cabbed it.  Soho is an area known for its at galleries and cute upscale shops.  This is a new location for Purl Soho.  It is a large store for the city, but quite minimalist.  The front of the store is filled with yarn.  The quilting fabric is located in the rear.  Their fabric is quite unique.  They do not carry the ordinary.  There is Liberty of London,  lots of solids, imports and lots of fabric by what I call the contemporary young designers.  It was a busy shop. 

After meeting up with "the working girl" at Purl, we rewarded ourselves for a rough day of shopping with dinner at Perilla. Opened by the winner of the first Top Chef TV show, Harold Dieterle , it was delicious.  And we even had dessert.  We earned it, with all of the calories we burned walking all over NYC!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

From Paper To Fabric

The first step in preparing the fabric for the Pomegranate torah cover is to prepare the background.  My idea is to use a subtle sky-like background, instead of the plain white dupioni silk.  A subtle sky would enhance the feeling of a pomegranate tree.  To achieve this, I decided to hand dye the silk with special dyes developed for silk.  I used a combination of blues and red.  First the silk was dampened so that the dye would flow and and the colors would blend.  The dye was brushed on with sponge brushes.  After drying, I was very pleased with the result.  I love that the rough slubs of the silk, which is my favorite part of the dupioni, came out darker.

 The curly vines were then cut out of the green silk dupioni from the pattern that was previously prepared.  The silk was first stabilized with a fusible interfacing to give it body and keep it fom fraying.  It was ironed onto the background fabric with a fusible web, that is like a heat activated glue.  It then took 2 days to stitch down all of the vines with a machine blanket stitch.  I used a rayon thread for the stitching, because I like the resulting sheen.

The next step was to prepare and attach the pomegranates and leaves.  I used a combination of silk dupioni and a silk/cotton fabric that I hand dyed for the outside of the pomegranate.  The inside is white silk.  The number of pomegranates used was 7 to symbolize the seven species representative of Israel's fertility as mentioned in the bible.  The blanket stitch was done using gold metallic thread.

The next step in preparing the torah cove is the quilting.  Several decisions have to be made before proceeding with this step.  The first one is to pick the batting.  This is the layer of the quilt that will determine how puffy it will be and its drapability.  The next decision is the type/color of thread and the final decision and the most difficult to choose is the quilting design.  I chose to use "Wam and Natual" batting - a blend that is 80% cotton and 20% polyester to give the cover a little stiffness and body once it is quilted.  I chose a blue rayon variegated thread for quilting and an overall pebble pattern fo the quilt design.  I chose this quilting design to epesent the seeds and the flesh inside the pomegranate.

So I layered the top on the batting and pinned it in place so that it didn't shift while I was quilting, and started stitching.  And stitching, and stitching.  It reminded me of a mulch pile.  Have you ever had multiple yards of mulch delivered? You bring over wheelbarrow and wheelbarrow full of mulch to your beds.  And the pile never seems to get smaller.   It seems like the mulch will last forever.  That's what it was like quilting.  It took me 3 entire days to cover this entire piece with "pomegranate seeds".  But it was certainly worth the effort.

The next step is to hand stitch the "inside" of the poms with some veins and seeds and then turn this piece into an actual torah cover.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Starting The First Torah Cover

Before I reveal the first design chosen for the Torah Cover Project for Temple B'Nai Israel, I just want to touch briefly on the principal of Hiddur Mitzvah.  A mitzvah is a good deed.  An example of hiddur mitzvah is the good deed of the beautification of our places of worship and ritual objects in order to glorify G-d and G-d's commandments. It is interesting that this concept of adornment and beautification  flows through many religions. So as you follow my progress as I transform ideas and pieces of cloth into meaningful and beautiful torah covers, we are fulfilling a mitzvah. 

The design for the first torah cover was a unanimous decision.  I was thrilled that the committee chose this design, because it is also one of my favorites.   The pomegranate is filled with many seeds that are enveloped in a juicy, sweet, red flesh.  It is said that there are 613 of these seeds inside of a pomegranate, which corresponds to the number of mitzvot that a Jew needs to perform before they die.  It is also interesting that the Hebrew word for pomegranate is rimmonim, which is the name for the silver sleeves that are placed on the staves of the torah. 

This is a conceptual drawing done with color pencils.  The rectangular area depicts what will be seen on the front of the cover.  I make the covers so that they are like a wrap around skirt.  This makes them easier to slip on and off, especially since I line them with a slippery fabric. 

The next step is to enlarge this design to the actual size.  I tape a few pieces of paper together and I mark the center.  Then I redraw the original design.  Since there is such a difference in scale, I redrew it rather than just enlarge it. 

For me, this is a working drawing that will always be in a state of flux until the fabric is finally stitched down.  I don't want to say that fabric is a living medium, but it is organic.  It changes its behavior and appearance based on its environment.  So I always want to keep my mind open to being flexible and willing to change.  That doesn't just include the design, but it also includes the fabric choices and colors.  I use silk dupioni for creating my torah covers.  It is so rich in texture and has these wonderful slubs and lines and a beautiful sheen.  

So these are my fabrics that I have chosen to start with.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Torah Cover Project - Introduction

I have been commissioned by Temple B'Nai Israel  to create 3 torah covers for their synagogue.  They are located on the Eastern shore of Maryland in the quaint historic town of Easton.  Easton has a lovely downtown filled with many quaint shops and restaurants.  The temple was founded in the 1951.  The current torah mantles are from that era and were donated by members from that time.  Although they were beautifully hand made from velvet with metallic bullion stitches and sequins, it was felt that it is time to update them. 
The rabbi at Temple B'Nai Israel, Rabbi Peter Hyman, was familiar with my torah covers from prior commissions.  He contacted me about working with his current congregation.  And thus this torah cover project has become.  This synagogue is lucky enough to have 3 torahs, and so my job was to design 3 covers that would compliment each other and still project an image of tradition, modernism and Judaism.  A member of the congregation, Vicki Zuckerman, along with the rabbi was integral in guiding the project.  They enlisted the help of another congregant to help make the final decision from the 6 designs I presented.

I have been creating Judaic textiles since 1999, starting with designing and selling quilt patterns as OyVey! Quilt Designs,  Since then I have also done commissions for torah covers and other judaic commemorative textiles.  My designs for Chanukah quilts have been published in many of the nationally known quilting magazines.

I am thrilled to be a part of this rejuvenation project.  Even though I am a fiber artist working alone in my studio, I would like to share my experience and progress.  I will be devoting the bulk of my blogging to creating these torah covers, starting with a quick tour of my studio.

My studio is located on the main floor of my house.  While raising children I found that it was important to have access to my work but to also be available.  This arrangement afforded me flexibility.

My palette is my fabric.  Quilters call it a stash.  It is an accumulation of purchases over many years.  I keep it sorted by color, but find it very difficult to keep tidy - as you can see.

I have 3 sewing machines and my brand of choice is Bernina.  This might not mean anything to non-sewers, but means a lot to those of us that sew.  These machines are work horses and very rarely let me down.

Thread is another source of color.   This is my thread collection above my desk. I use cotton, polyester, rayon and metallic thread, depending on the project.  Most times the thread is a solid color, but sometimes I use a variegated thread.  Thread is used for putting the pieces together, for appliqueing the pieces and for quilting the layers together.  Sometimes it is used for embellishing.

 A very important place in my studio is my design wall.  It runs the entire length of one wall.  Covered in grey felt, I can pin fabrics to the styrofoam underneath.   I use it to help me visualize my progress and make design decisions.

I also use it to pin notes to myself!

So I have used this post to introduce myself to those of you who are not familiar with me and to tell you a little bit about my working environment.  Please feel free to post comments and I will try and answer any questions you may have.

My next post will reveal the unanimously chosen design for the first torah cover.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Where Are We Going?

If you love doing handwork or you know of someone who does, you know that the first thing you think about when planning a trip isn't what clothes you are going to bring, or when to stop the mail or when to drop off the dog at the kennel.  The first thing that has to be done is putting at least one project together to work on for the trip.  And it has to be enough so that you don't finish it before the trip is over.  You don't want to have nothing to do with youe hands.  Most of us put multiple projects together, sometimes multiple types of needlework - quilting, embroidery, knitting.  But if you put together your handwork too early, there is such a temptation to start working on it befopre you leave.  Then you have to start all over again.  So the timing has to be just right - not too early but with enough time to have a quality project.

 So I canvassed some of my friends to see what traveling projects they are currently working on and I thought I would share them with you.  Kelly always has some type of handwork project going because she loves needleturn applique.  So she has multiple projects in different stages all the time.  Two of the projects she is working on now are her colorful applique baskets and these  Grandmother's Flower Garden hexagons. She is using those plastic inserts and basting the fabric around them.
This is not going to be a traditional quilt!

Knitting is also a very popular project to take along.  Many quilters also knit .  And I know knitters that, like quilters, have many, many projects going  in various stages. 

My friend Christine always has at least one knitting project going.  Actually she doesn't do much sewing handwork. But she's working on that.   I think she fills up every spare minute that she has knitting.  Her hands are never still. Even sometimes when we are in a restaurant waiting for our order to come.  For her current project, she has added those fickle fingers to a patterned scarf.  She is headed to Greece today and I hope she has enough room for her knitting projects. And isn't it wonderful that you can bring certain types of knitting needles on an airplane now.
Terry hikes and camps, so her projects need to be small and contained.  She also loves needle turn applique.  She is getting ready to do an Artist In Residence at the Grand Canyon through the National Park System.  (She creates wonderful quilts inspired by nature.  Check out her website:  She will be there for 3 weeks. 
Although she is starting to panic about getting everything she needs together - her handwork is ready and waiting to go.  She is working on a quilt from a book by the Piece O Cake Ladies from their newest book.  It involves putting lots of free form leaves on a sky like background fabric.                                                                       

Jane loves to do embroidery.  She took one of the Aunt Martha's  Noah's ark embroidery patterns that was meant for something smaller and enlarged it to make a whole cloth quilt.  She lightly traced the design on with a pencil and is using floss and a stem stitch.  (You can just make out the penciled zebras.)
I too panic if I don't have something to do with my hands on a trip.  I know lots of people who can't sew or read while being a passenger in a car.  Not me.  I can do anything.  And if I don't have to drive, I am a happy girl.  There are threads, and sometimes beads, all over and I have found that the little well in the door near the handle is the  perfect place for a small pair of scissors and thread.  I have been known to "run out of work" on a trip and then have spent time searching for a fabric store to fill my needs!  It makes me so happy that most hotel rooms have irons - perfect for an in process project. 

I do not do needleturn applique.  I enjoy handstitching fusible applique, embroidery and embellishing.  All of these techniques lend themselves to road trips.  I do a little dabbling with knitting.  Right now I am working on smallish projects using variegated threads that I hand dyed. 

I have been lucky from the beginning of my interest in quilting that my obsession to always have something to do with my hands has not driven my husband crazy.  He gets it.  As an avid reader, he always needs to have at least one book packed in his bag or on his bedside table.  

What types of projects do you work on in your travels?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

My favorite thing to do on Mother's Day is to sew.  I stay in my pajamas all day.  I am not responsible for cooking or cleaning or even taking the dog out.  I start a new little project that I know I can finish in one day.  It's like a sewing vacation for me.

I have been playing with putting postcards into shadow box frames.  The frames really make the little quilts look more like works of art.

So I was thinking about taking one of my patterns from my upcoming book (Quilt Fiesta)  and making it in miniature and framing it.  I had to simplify it quite a bit, because instead of the blocks being 9 1/2" finished, this small quilt had blocks that were 1" finished.  I used a very small blanket stitch to do the applique and did not piece the border. 

Oh, I did have to get dressed to run out and get the frame - poor planning on my part.  But I finished it today and it looks great even in miniature.  The quilt measures 7"x7".  Happy Mother's Day to me and to all of you.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bird Challenge

It's time again for another challenge reveal.  "Layers", my art quilt group, is ready.  Everyone takes turns making the rules for the challenge.  This time it was Lisa O'Neill's turn and you can read ALL of the rules on her blog:  The reveal is to take place on our Spring get-a-way down at Christine's house in Maryland.  Our days our filled with eating, laughing, commiserating and quilting.

The theme of the challenge is birds.  We had 6 months to create our piece of art.  So guess when most of us started?  You got it - 2 or 3 weeks ago.  Why do we do this?  We all wanted lots of time because of other projects.  Procrastination. 

The quilt was to be 24"x28" and had to be on a stretcher frame.  I actually did start a quilt over a month ago based on the Kantha Quilts that I had seen at The Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Very folk arty.  After I put on the trees, I realized that what I thought would be the focus of the quilts - the peacocks- could not be as fundamental as I thought.  So could I use it as a bird challenge?  No.  But I wanted to finish it anyway, because I really loved it and I needed some artwork for my walls.  I did end up adding more birds (check out the trees) and maybe could have used it,  but by then it was the WRONG size. 

Then I decided to use a piece of the fabric that I had dyed while I was at Pro Chem.  I used the Internet to come up with all types of bird sayings and stamped them onto the fabric with a dye based ink.  I thought this would make a great background.  But it just looked dirty to me.
Well I really surprised myself when I came up with the idea that I finally used.  My idea came from all of those bird sayings.  I am not really sure how I feel about it.  I know that I have always admired quilters that use humor in their work.  Well, this is my nod to humor.  The title is "Chick Flick".  What do you think?

Monday, May 3, 2010

About Those Sheep

I have wanted to go to the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival for the longest time.  It's about 2 hours from where I live, so for me, it was a little too far away for a day trip.  So when my son's girlfriend, Loren, invited me to go with her and her mother as a girl's weekend, I jumped at the chance.  My wonderful travel agent, aka my husband, was able to find a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom suite in a nearby town probably due to a last minute cancellation.  This was perfect for me and my sleeping issues! 
Loren and I went down Saturday evening. Her mother went on Saturday with 60,000 other people.  Sunday was not nearly as crowded.  One of the big downsides was that it was hot!  90 degrees hot!  

So what do you see at a sheep and wool festival?  Everything sheep - from the sheep to what you can make from sheep.  The festival was at a fairgrounds.  There were pavilions with every kind of sheep you can imagine.  
There were competitions with the sheep for both children and adults.  People came from as far away as Michigan with their sheep. Lots of sheep and lots of prize ribbons and lots of panting - remember it was 90 degrees.
And there were alpacas.  I learned about how soft their fleece was.  They were so adorable.  They were for sale.  Hmmmmm,  I have a friend with a farm.  That would have been pretty funny if I had brought home an animal in the back of my SUV  Loren's mother told us of a woman she knew who went on a bus trip to the show a couple of years ago.  She bought a small sheep and went to take it home on the bus.  The bus driver told her he could not transport livestock.  After quite a conversation, the woman finally convinced him to let her take the sheep on the bus. I can just imagine what her husband must have said.

The highlight of Sunday was the Sheep to Shawl contest.  There were 6 teams.  Each team starts with a sheep.  Then they have 3 hours to turn that fleece into a shawl. What an amazing feat.

They pick through the fleece  and comb it and get it ready for the spinners.  Each team had 3 spinners.  One of the teams had a Harley Davidson theme.  They even had a motorcycle in their display area.  One team was dressed in colonial garb. 

They get to warp their looms before the contest. That may take up to 5 days. The Harley team used hand dyed wool and it was set up with a flame type design. 
After 3 hours, they have to remove the shawl from  the loom and  then they are judged. The shawls are then auctioned off.  here are a couple of them.  I didn't get to see the Harley.
And then there were the vendors.  The bulk of them were geared towards knitters and spinners and weavers.  There was yarn made of every fiber you can imagine and dyed in every color you could imagine.

And fleece and roving for the spinners and felters.  Big luscious balls and bags of hand dyed roving.  Sometimes you thought they were bags of cotton candy.
One of the stranger things for me was that along with the sheep and the products made from their fleece, you could also buy cooked lamb in all forms to eat.  It smelled really good, but I just couldn't bring myself to eat the cute animals that I was admiring.
So at the end of the day, I was so happy that we went.  I was ready to reserve a room for next year.  We were happily exhausted, but I was a little concerned watching Loren longingly looking at that adorable
alpaca.  I think she could be a farm girl!