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Conversational Threads

Sacred Threads

carolfresia | Posted in General Discussion on

For the continued discussion of sewing and embellishing vestments, decorative liturgical items, etc….


  1. sarahkayla | | #1

    Dear carol -

    To get this going I'm posting some pictures of some calligraphed challa covers. Challa is  the braided bread that is traditonally eaten on friday nights.  The challa is covered during the much longer blessing over the wine.  In these challa covers I have used segments of the texts that are recited over  the wine ( they come from the beginning of chapter 2 of Genesis)

    I calligraph the texts free hand using a mixture of dyes and acrylic paints. I use a  regular paint brush - I cut the brush tip so I have a nice square tip to work with. I do the calligraphy free hand - I'm terriblu proud of my calligraphy... it used to be terrible.. but with enough practice...anyone can improve...even me.

    sarah in nyc

    1. rjf | | #2

      They're lovely!  Your calligraphy is spectacular!  It's an encouragement to "Practice makes perfect".  The orange one is especially appealling to me because of the bright orange and the patterned edging. Please...send more pictures.      rjf

      1. sarahkayla | | #3

        ok...  the orange border was some of the most expensive fabric I have ever purchased.. it is an ikat dyed indian silk brocade. it also has the added attraction of being irridescent. I purchased it as a remnent at B+J in Manhattan - even at their 1/4 of retail cost, price this was the most I had ever spent on a piece of fabric. I tend to use it in teeny slices. and it is now nearly gone.

        Now for a little explanation  for the pieces attached in this post- al ken berakh means "and so He blessed" it is the end of the sabbath morning kiddush or prayer over the wine ( actually we say the prayer over the wine but it sanctifies not the wine...but the day )- this text quotes essentially all of the biblical texts about why we keep the sabbath - I wrote them all out and then did the final phrase ( al ken berakh) larger, beaded and embroidered it..

        the name on the second one is a typo - it should be "hinini" which roughly translates ad "here I am" the text is an intentional prayer to get you ready to say the kiddush. I calligraphed the text onto wool crepe. the border was made out of silk charmuse which I dyed and then overlayed with the black netting.

        1. User avater
          ehBeth | | #4

          Thank you so much for sharing those. Once again, evidence of what a fine artist you are! What an inspirational idea for gifts. Now ... do I actually need to think of more excuses for gift-giving?    So, practice will help with calligraphy? A friend gave me a kit some years ago, and my work never looked very nice. More practice? 

          1. sarahkayla | | #5

            I took 10 private lessons in English calligraphy about 18 years ago when I was working for a synagogue. I was making all the  publicity posters and flyers so I got a ton of practice.  A couple of years later, I took a Hebrew calligraphy class with the same teacher.

             A few years later I began to make Jewish ritual stuff in fabric. I used my own lettering at the beginning...and the results were pretty awful. So I got my sister the calligrapher to do some lettering for me.. I traced her letters for a while.. but that wasn't quite right either.. For many years I used lettering out of a wonderful Israeli lettering book. I blew the letters up huge on a photocopier  and would trace them. ...after  a few years i would play with the proportions of the letters.. exaggerating certain  elements.. making them suit my needs.  after a few more years I began to draft my own , blocking the whole thing out on paper with lines. after a few years of that I was ready to to just work  directly with a brush.

          2. User avater
            ehBeth | | #6

            I'm convinced. Practice. I need to practice more.

            It's actually something that I could fit in around other things. It's not like I'd HAVE to focus on it for hours at a time.


          3. SisterT | | #8

            I am shifting the Tapa discussion to "Sacred Threads".  The chasuble was made for a native priest who was kind enough to come to Los Angelese for the funeral.  This was my first Tongan funeral.  They use mats all over the place!.  The floor of the sanctuary was covered with mats, the floor under the coffin had a special mat, and the coffin itself was covered with a mat that was handwoven, of palm (I think), but the fibers were so fine that it almost looked and felt like fabric.  The fine mat had feathers from the bird of paradise woven into it.

            The funeral itself was an incredible experience of a culture totally different from my own.

            The chasuble fit so well into this mix--the native priest looked like it was custom made for him, and it fit in so well with all the other mats.  My friend advised me well, and she provided me with a couple of new mats, "just in case" I want to experiment further!  Unfortunately my long-suffering dissertation director is drumming his fingers on his desk.....


          4. User avater
            ehBeth | | #12

            Sister Tracey, you're giving me chills again, with your descriptions.  Thank you.


          5. SisterT | | #7

            Your work is beautiful!  Is all of the calligraphy on wool crepe?  Some of it looks like silk.  And I noticed the beaded fringe on the corners, something you have made me more and more aware of through your previous postings!


          6. sarahkayla | | #9

            Dear ST -

             much of the calligraphy is on silk -  I think that just the hinini is on wool.

            The beads in the corner are just for fun and for visual balance.One of the things I love is how a teeny detail can make a world of difference - say just a line of colored stitching can totally change the balance of a piece... just like how a single act or comment can change your experience.

        2. rjf | | #10

          The first one  gave me a strange feeling.  It seemed as if you had written over some writing so it was shadowy in the background, like an echo.  And in comparison, the beaded lettering seemed like a shout.  The second piece was beautifully dyed; the way the color changes from corner to corner is great.   Thanks for the pics.     rjf 

          1. edgy | | #11


            Thanks so much for those pictures and especially for describing the long process you went thru to "evolve" your calligraphy. That really gives me hope on many fronts where I am just starting out and often copy or trace and then feel like I'm not creative enough. now, I can look at it as just an early step in my own evolution!


          2. sarahkayla | | #13

            dear dearborn -

            it's all a process... each piece grows from what came before. When I started doing this work I could barely sew. I have made every error that is possible to make.  Some of the errors have sent me in interesting new directions.. many have taught me  more than any class or book could.

          3. carolfresia | | #14

            Sarah, do challah covers have to have calligraphed text on them, or is this more of a design/iconographic choice of yours? I ask because I can see that these might be wonderful wedding gifts for a new couple, but I couldn't do the calligraphy.

            I have one challah cover, one that my son made when he was three and attended a JCC pre-school. It's just white muslin with unfinished edges and blotchy, stamped designs on it, but he proudly used it whenever it was "his" Shabbat at school. Along with the plastic kiddish cup decorated with stickers. Not as beautiful as your work, but we'll never throw them away.


          4. sarahkayla | | #15

            OOh Carol - a great question...

            as i said before.. a challa cover is a custom rather than a law.. so you could make a sponge bob square pants challa cover if you desired.

            Most Challa covers that are out there will say "shabbat" - sabbath - or "shabbat kodesh" holy sabbath on them. 

            I have felt that having a challa cover that states the obvious is a bit static .. so for the past 12 years or so I have been playing with the text and the images on a challa cover so that by using my challa coversi you change your experience of that religous moment ( of the moment of the sanctificatin of the day by making the blessings over the wine and the bread)   .    ( Is this too off topic for a sewing discussion group?  Perhaps...but here we are in sacred threads so i will keep talking)

            So for several years I have explored making challa covers that play with the religious context in which they are used. I have made challa covers that evoke the moment of creation. The biblical text that is read while the challacover is being used is the beginning of chapter 2 of genesis  "and they were completed.. the sky and the land in all of their fullness..."

            In my work in general ,I have tried to combine hebrew text and images in such a way that the text and the image serve to comment on eachother.

            Judaism, unlike Christianity, has an uneasy relationship with imagery. Islam has an even less comfortable relationship with imagery. One way that I have worked with that discomfort is to keep the imagery in my work more on the abstract end of things rather than being stricly representative.--- that also meshes well with the fact that i don't draw particularly well.

            But a couple of years ago I heard a talk by Dr arthur green who is a professor of jewish thought at brandeis - and he put into words something that I had been playing with on a very intuitive level - He talked about how while christianity has icons.. judaism used words to convey imagery.  And there is a whole wealth of jewish liturgy and jewish liturgical poetry where the imagery just rains down  all over you. As you chant the prayer/poem it is like being inside a verbal keleidascope. So Dr. Green's comment pushed me in a new direction.. or further into the direction that I was already going in....

            So now what i'm trying to do is to get the mass of text to convey what  I had precviously used mimimal text and imagery to do. Have I been sucessful?

            I exhibited this last set of work in december..and the response was very powerful . some of the folks who saw the work could read the texts.. and some could not at all.  These challa covers provoked a strong response, not just from the jewishly literate...

            the first challa cover I had done using the calligraphy was done using a commercially made challa cover that had belonged to a woman who was a holocaust survivor as the center piece. the 1950's israeli chall cover was surrounded by a very long liturgical poem that quotes biblical verses about the sabbath.. the point of the poem is that if you keep the sabbath.. you will bring the messiah. When I finished the challa cover it was out on my diningroom table... where i put out my work before i deliver it to clients.. My son whose hebrew is not very strong at all.. looked at the finished piece and said " I like that challa cover.. it's about the Holocaust, isn't it "

            Well, nothing in the text or in the materials were actually about the holocaust - but he was exactly right.

            So long way short.. no, challa covers don't have to have long chunks of biblical text.. but I'm using the blocks of text to create a particular spiritual experience.

            I come into the making of Jewish religious objects after having had something of a career of creating jewish experience - particularly for kids. I could keep talking about this... but enough .. I always get uncomfortable when i sound too much like either a theologan or like an art amagazine.. thanks for taking the time to read this...

          5. MargaretAnn | | #16

            I am finding this thread fascinating.  I am a Christian, we share the same heritage.  You inspired me to think about covers for our communion bread.  Hmmm...wonderful possibilities.


          6. lbbray | | #22

            I was so glad to see your comments.  I too am Christian, but have been exposed to so many faiths and have so many wonderful friends with different beliefs.  As a elementary school girl, I was one of the few non-Jewish students so at least I am familiar with what is being done.  And, I too was visualizing covers myself.  My mother-in-law is the "Communion Lady" at her church and each Christmas, when my husband and I go, we end up part of her crew.  I can't wait to make a cover for her for the holidays.  I may have to do one for Easter since I don't think I can wait until December.  And, personally, I like the idea of using text.  Since my two favorite books of the Bible are Ecclesiates and Corinthians, I may see what I can find...

          7. sarahkayla | | #23

            so what do communion covers look like?

          8. MargaretAnn | | #24

            "Communion Covers" are traditionally fine white linen clothes made to cover the trays of bread used in the Christian communion service until the bread is passed to the people.  There is also a large cloth used to cover the whole table, bread and cup, until the time for the sacrament.  They were always white, and sometimes trimmed with very fine embroidery and drawnwork, or even lace.  More and more, we see all altar fittings being made in beautiful new creative needlework, often in lovely colors, to go with contemporary churches.  I think text could be incorporated into such work very succesfully.


          9. sarahkayla | | #30

             I had no idea that the communion is covered.. it actually makes a whole lot of sense - becauce that the whole host/wine thing in the mass is just the jewish home ritual of bread and wine - for the jewish folks here ,kiddush and motzi, moved out of the home  and into the church and cranked up in terms ofthe drama of the  ritual...

            When I was 9,  I went to israel with my family - this was several years past vatican 2... and the mass was recited in the vernacular rather than latin. One of the things we did while on this trip was attend mass while we were in Jerusalem. I almost fell over  when the preist said the benediction over the host and over the wine... he used exactly (and yes Shelley EXACTLY) the same blessing formula that we jews use over bread and wine.

            Christianity ,did after all, start out as a sect of judaism.

            sarah kayla

          10. Jean | | #32

            Christianity ,did after all, start out as a sect of judaism.

            We were brought up with all the Old Testament stories and teachings in Sunday School. I was well into the upper elementary grades before I realized that we were Gentiles and not Jews. True story.

          11. rjf | | #33

            In high school, we were given the Book of Isaiah as a reading assignment which we all dutifully read.  We also read the Book of Psalms even though it wasn't an assignment because the teacher casually mentioned that some of it was slightly risque.  Clever teacher.      rjf

          12. Jean | | #34

            How about the Song of Solomon?

          13. rjf | | #35

            Oh yeah!   rjf

          14. Michelle | | #36

            Just to clear up some small confusion - The Shelley and the Shelly (ie yours truly that hangs out in Jerusalem (which is at present submerged in snow - what a sight!) are not one and the same.

            However, Sarakayla,  regarding 'Hamoitze' - nothing surprises me, I'm sure that if one would scratch below the surface one would find numerous customs in Christianity (and in Islam) who's roots are located in Orthodox Jewish practice.


            Shelly (without the last e ;)   )

          15. User avater
            ehBeth | | #28

            SarahKayla - thank you so much for all of the stories and history and, well, just wonderful things you bring to us here. It really means a lot.

          16. JeanetteR | | #29

            What a wonderful Thread.  It is so interesting, as the others have said, to get the picture about the cultural heritage, and all the thought and skill and practise that goes into producing such beautiful items.  The Hebrew script is beautiful even if you cannot read it, and your calligraphy is suberb.  Thank you.

          17. carolfresia | | #17

            Thanks, Sarah. Very interesting and informative. Of course, if truth be told I suspect my kids would prefer the Spongebob Squarepants version, but I think I won't even go in that direction!

            I think that the Hebrew alphabet has been digitized for machine embroidery--a nice option for folks with an embroidery machine and undeveloped calligraphy skills.


          18. SewTruTerry | | #18

            Carol I am trying to visualize the Sponge Bob challa but as a Roman Catholic I don't think that I could get by with Sponge Bob on any of the altar clothes.  I can hear our priest gasping for breath now.  I know that in other post there have been talk about the kind of tangents that we get going on in a particular discussion but the discussion on this particular subject has been quite on the ball.  I don't think Sarah has any reason to cut herself short as the information she is passing on is so helpful to the rest of us.  As we speak I am embroidering a tiger on baseball hats so I am not exactly using all of my creativity, but there are times that knowing why someone chose to do a particular project in the way that they did will eventually help us all.

          19. carolfresia | | #19

            Oh, straying off-topic occasionally isn't a crime by any stretch, and sometimes we need the background to understand a particular project. If anyone gets way out of line it's my job to bring us back to the business at hand, but this board is exceptionally well-mannered so there's never really been a problem.

            Pamela Burke, one of our authors, teaches hand embroidery and says she's had many, many students from the Anglican community in Texas wanting to learn to embellish altar cloths. Her work is amazing--check out her article on embroidery monograms in issue No. 101. Even if you don't want to embroidery monograms, her explanation of how to get nearly perfect results with satin stitch is excellent. She'll be teaching at the sewing expo in Puyallup--wonder if I can squeeze a visit into her classroom while I'm there.


          20. SisterT | | #20

            I am always happy when someone provokes Sarah enough that she goes into one of her long explanations!


          21. sarahkayla | | #21


          22. PLW1017 | | #37

            Me too!!  I'm ashamed I've never said anything to her here or on the creative machine list but I love reading about what Sarah is doing and her explanations are so informative.  So....Sarah -- Thank you!  I've learned so much in so many different areas from you.  You are an inspiration in more ways than you could imagine.


          23. sarahkayla | | #38

            thnaks!! I have been very grateful to have both this list and CMN to have collegues and folks to share ideas with . I have also been grateful for the high level of expertise I have found on both lists.

            Like many of you who sew. I work alone.  I have a quirky specialty and not too many people do what I do or approach it the way  I do. I have loved having the opportunity to have a community of people who apprach sewing in much the way i do... where it is truly a creative endeavor. hanging out with smart folks who sew has been a real pleasure for me. Both this list and CMN have been an important part of my life for the past several years.

            I know that when I get stuck or reach an impass in my work I know that there are experts on this list  and on CMN who can help me think my way out of any problem.

            for this I'm very grateful.

            I was lucky enough to have a very heavy duty serious jewish education.  Most people ( not to mention most Jews) don't know the whys of jewish ritual or jewish ritual objects. Once you understand the why's it makes it much easier to design something that is meaningful rather than being simply decorative... (Ok, I have a secret agenda of raising the bar on judaica in general which tends to be on the lowbrow end of things) But since both the ritual and the objects that go with the rituals are not so well known.. i figure that I might as well explain what is going on.. I'm glad that you are willing to read and have found it useful...

            again...I'm so glad to have all of you here...

            sarah in nyc

          24. User avater
            ehBeth | | #39

            SarahKayla - count me as willing/eager to read, desperate to learn, appreciative of your efforts to raise the bar, and always delighted to read to your posts. You are one of the people whose work, and writing, can almost always make me a bit teary. In a good way - the way I get teary when I hear Anner Bylsma on his cello - the way I get teary about a wonderful piece of art.

            Thank you.

          25. betsy | | #40

            Is there a saint of the technologically challenged? It was only by trying to find the Gatherings request for linen sources that I finally found the Sacred Threads discussion. (thanks Carol!). I don't think I'm able to shift my last posting from braid embellishment to here, but I will try.

            As for the linen source, I came across linens at http://www.baltazor.com/linen. I have never ordered from them, but it seemed like an extensive selection.  Previously, I had found beautiful natural fiber fabrics from a group offering craftsmen style embroidered goods (window and table and bed "dressing"), either finished or supplies. There was beautiful, wide yardage available.  Does anyone know the name of the place? I'll look, but it might be a while.  Now to find the linen request...

          26. betsy | | #41


            is the source for linen I'd remembered. Apparently, you have to request a catalogue to get swatches, but I was extremely pleased with the fabric offered. Now can anyone find the posting requesting a source linen for altar cloths? Thanks! Betsy

          27. SisterT | | #42


            Try this link and see if you get anywhere!



          28. betsy | | #43

            thanks, but that's not it. What I'm looking for is a posting asking for a source for wide linen, and I can't find that letter to make sure the writer gets a response.

          29. SisterT | | #44
          30. betsy | | #45

            Thank you! That was the letter. I've suggested that linen seeking Libby check into the sacred threads forum.  I'm nearing the end of quilting the body of my current project, looking forward to chuppah project. (age before beauty), and I'll check the linen sources that others suggested to her!

          31. SisterT | | #46

            Good--glad the link worked!

            All the best in finishing off the quilting project--you will post pictures, won't you?  :)


          32. carolfresia | | #47

            Hi, sacred sewers. Take a look at the cope that's reviewed at http://www.patternreview.com. It's a beauty!



          33. SisterT | | #49

            Thank you for the link to the cope!  It goes into the ideas folder!  :)


          34. betsy | | #48

            ST, I did finish the quilt, I'll try to get a photo when I have help to hold/hang it. It's 100"x100", a little unwieldy. On to Sacred Threads:   I'm now working on a banner to represent our church at gatherings of Unitarian congregations. I have not been to one of these conferences, so am basing this on banner parades I have found on the internet, gulp. With my youth group, I explained that we could choose to portray our building, words that express our beliefs, an image that represents our location, etc. Well, to make a long story short, Toledo is known as Frog town, and I am recreating a tile design that was inlaid in the courthouse floor as tribute to the frogs that were dislaced when the swamp was drainded to build the courthouse.  This banner will not hang in the sanctuary. (No religious symbols are in our sanctuary), but I'm a little nervous about the venture, and what other members of the church will think. We'll see!  I'm having fun, and the youth have been excited about the process. The one symbol that is used in the Unitarian faith is a flaming chalice. The kids wanted it to be on the frog's tummy. The frog's tummy is nice and round, and we had a round chalice-in-a-round-frame image..., but  it screamed "heartburn!" to me, so the chalice will have its own place elsewhere on the banner. I will post a picture of this when it's done, I promise. Back to the swamp now! Regarding the Chuppah I'm designing, my niece and I have been exchanging ideas via email, and I'm curious about sizes. I read 60" square in several sources, but that sounds pretty small for 7 people: Rabbi, bride and groom, and their parents. I drew out 80" on the floor and a friend and I "rearranged" ourselves within that. It's definitely adequate, but I'd like advice. (They still have not announced a date). Any voices of experience out there? Thanks!  Betsy

          35. SisterT | | #50

            Good luck with the banner--I would have thought "heartburn" as well!

            Someone was telling me about a book that is out, Petal Play. Apparently the author has a technique for making permanently curled flower petals and using them as appliques.  She uses heat bond (?).  My first thought was that it would bring a cool three-dimensional look to church banners....

            Sr. Tracey

          36. betsy | | #52

            Sr. Tracey,

            I have used heat'n bond, and it is a powerful bond. I had started a project with wonder-under, and switched to heat n' bond. Suddenly the thread was shredding and breaking on my machine. OK, so I told you the punch line first, but it took me a long time to figure out that it was the adhesive on the h-b that was accumulating on the needle. Do not use Heat and bond if you plan to stitch through the fused fabric! (you might be able to stitch through heat 'n bond Lite). The original stuff is for non-sewing projects, only! I tend to be old-fashioned, a purist (?), and still stitch through whatever I fuse onto something. I really don't like seeing pieces peeling away from the back ground, but might have to look up "petal play"...


          37. FitnessNut | | #54

            I want to add my $.02 to this one....I've used the regular heat'n bond and sewed through it with no difficulty. I regularly use it when doing applique with leather or suede, fusing a large piece onto the smaller cut out applique with a teflon sheet. You then peel it off the teflon when cool and remove the backing. The extra fusible web is something you can then pin to your garment for sewing. It tears off cleanly afterwards. I wonder if the base fabric has anything to do with the problems you had stitching? I have only ever done this method onto heavy wool duffle or melton (lighter) for parkas (and it only works with the heavier original heat'n bond). Oh, it might also be the stitch. I use a long straight stitch for sewing leather. A short stitch or satin might cause problems.


          38. betsy | | #57

            You got it; I was using a dense satin stitch. I don't want to falsely bad mouth a product, I am sure that it's great for many uses, but I was incredibly frustrated when my thread would shred and break. Because some of my pieces were backed with Heant'n bond, and some with wonder under, it took me a very long time to figure out the problem. I'm glad to hear that it works for other applications!

          39. SisterT | | #56

            Just for the sake of temptation....take a look at http://www.petalplay.com


          40. betsy | | #59

            what happened to  "lead me not into temptation"? I just looked at the site, and think that dimensional leaves could be beautiful! It could simplify construction as well, if I just stitch each leaf's "spine"  to attach it to the backing, but that might get me back into the same sticky mess of broken thread. Additionally, my niece plans to hang the chuppah on the wall after the wedding, and I'm picturing dust accumulating on curled leaves. (this never happens at MY house, of course, but envision samples hanging in shops).   I just ran out of thread for the frog, and so I must get going. I'll ask about the petal play products. Have you used it? Thanks!

          41. SisterT | | #61


            I was thinking more along the lines of the Frog banner than the chuppah...


          42. betsy | | #62

            too many projects in the works? My husband had suggested a three dimensional chalice on the banner, but it has to travel to conferences, so might not wear too well. Actually, the frog portion is all done. I'm working on the lettering now: what font and color will be most legible. What a blessing it is to have a copier to reduce or enlarge!

          43. betsy | | #63

            ST, greetings again! I just posted to you in the "braid embellishment " discussion. I couldn't find this one until after I'd written, I'll try to copy and paste. If it doesn't work, please read there, and respond here so I can get back on the right track. Thanks!  Betsy

          44. SisterT | | #64

            From Betsy:

            Dear ST and other who have followed the meandering path of my chuppah* making. We (the couple to be married) and I finally agreed on a simple tree of life design. We sent out a letter to family and friends, requesting gold fabric for the leaves of the tree. The fabrics have been arriving from  Israel and many states. Along with the fabric came blessings to be shared with the bride and groom. The tree has been stitched to the background (down to the point at which I'll reattach the ground I've already pieced). Two of its branches are formed by verses in Hebrew. Roughly 130 leaves are sewn to and around the branches. I've now put the chuppah aside, waiting for the final golds that are on the way from India and Chile. Next comes the challenge:

            the couple had asked that hanging from the bottom branch be a small chuppah (and beneath it, a bride and groom), a chuppah within a chuppah. Is anyone following this? I'm afraid that it will be too literal an image. I'd rather applique a softly curving line to represent the ground, and leave it at that. My niece asked if there is a way, other than the bride and groom, to symbolize or represent marriage.  Any ideas?

            I'll try to attach a picture (it's about time, right?) I have one in the computer, but am not optimistic...stay tuned, Thanks!   *chuppah- canopy in Jewish wedding


          45. SisterT | | #65


            I have been thinking of you and your project!  Like last summer, I am back in the Washington, DC area for a couple of weeks, trying to kill off a dissertation.  I forget, are you in this area too?  Once again they frisked me for sewing supplies when I left Los Angeles, but I managed to sneak a little crochet project into one of the pockets of my carry-on!  :)  A friend is pregnant, so I have a baby afghan going...

            Some suggestions for you, with the caveat that I am pretty clueless when it comes to Jewish wedding imagery.

            1) Christians use two interlocking wedding rings with a cross where the rings intersect.  Would the bride and groom be happy with the two rings?  Or perhaps two rings with the cup of wine that the bride and groom drink from at the ceremony where the rings intersect?

            2) Would the mitzpah symbol be appropriate?

            3) I googled a bit on "Jewish Wedding," so if what I say next is totally inaccurate, it is the Internet's fault!  :)  If the chupah symbolizes the home that the couple will build, with the sides open on all sides to symbolize hospitality, could you create the design of a home/house, with the double wedding rings incorporated in the design?

            Good luck!  I hope some others get drawn into the discussion!


          46. betsy | | #66

            hello again, ST.     no, I'm not in DC; I'm in the flat lands of Toledo, Ohio, sniff sniff.    As far as wedding symbols, my daughter suggested two birds~ could be cool and not too hokey. They'd be in the tree, surrounded by the leaves representing their families.     I like your idea of interlocking rings! I have been playing around with rings, trying to make a continuous chain of interlocking rings which I could applique' or quilt around the border. (The border doesn't exist yet, but would look nice AND be more easy to manipulate than trying to work anything into the body of the piece. It has gotten a little stiff and unwieldy with the trunk and leaves). I'm about to cut paper to play with the idea.  If you can tell me how to post a picture, I'll show you what exists so far. I tried to copy and paste~ unsuccessfully.    I'll get a picture of the frog banner when it gets back from "Summer Institute" where it will be representing our congregation. (Toledo is known as Frogtown).  I hope you can stay cool in DC! Betsy

          47. edgy | | #67

            If you do decide to go with birds, I'd suggest doves == a strong symbol of peace and tranquility in Judaism.


          48. betsy | | #68

            yes! I seem to clip images of doves whenever I come across them~for the same reason. It is the most universal symbol I can think of, and as far as I know, it means the same thing, peace, to all cultures. [If it means "dinner!" somewhere, please don't tell me!] I'd left spaces in the tree for leaves from the fabrics that haven't arrived. I'll try slipping in a couple of doves.   Dearborn: Michigan? The bride's grandmother recently moved from Dearborn to a retirement community in East Lansing. Her son (my brother in law) took her to get "her" gold fabric for the chuppah leaf. He dropped it at our house with a note: "it's a bit stretchy, but should work". Oh my. Envision something made for ice skating costumes, 150% stretch, 100% unnatural fiber, I don't have words to describe this fun, but totally unusable fabric. [The irony is this~ Dan uses words precisely and is an excellent communicator; maybe he didn't have the written fabric request we'd sent.  AND he purchased stuff very similar to fabric I'd used when making gold coins on a storyteller's vest I'd made for him. The coins had melted when the iron simply got near the fabric!].  Sooo, I drove to East Lansing, and spent a lovely, laugh filled  afternoon with Grandma Jane in a REAL quilt fabric store. I volunteer in an office today, must get together stuff to draw out doves, rings...or the little bride, groom, and chuppah might become a reality. Thanks, all! Betsy

          49. sarahkayla | | #69

            Dear betsy -

            a few things to think about... In jewish law there is a real discomfort about presenting the human figure --particularly in ritual objects...

            another thing to think about ...the linked wedding rings are a pretty christian image.. traditonally in a jewish wedding there is one ring...and not two..

            I would suggest that uyou go to the song of songs to look for imagery.

            OK we live in an essentially christian culture.. and it permeates the culture as a whole through tv and advertising and all the stuff we absorb without even being aware of it... judaism has a not quite comfortable relationship with imagery... there are ways to do t so it works...but there are many more ways to make it not quite right..

            I know that this is your project and  you should feel free to reject any ideas that I offer...  but the direction you are moving in is starting to make me uncomfortable as someone who takes these issues seriously.. if you were my client.. i would try to move you in a different direction.

            it is like the same reasons that you wouldn't decorate your house with evergreens for chanukah, or with bunnies and eggs for passover... there is nothing inherently wrong with them.. but within the greater context of living within a christian culture makes it  just not ok.

            sarah in nyc

          50. betsy | | #70

            oh, Sarah, I am SO glad to hear your input! It is actually my niece and her fiance who suggested the figures, and I wasn't comfortable with the idea. [I was afraid it might be because I didn't think I could "do it" well]. They'd seen a lovely piece by someone whose name escapes me~ Saskia____?~ which shows the interior of an old synagogue with a small bride and grrom under a chuppah. It's enchanting, but I think that putting the little people into this chuppah is just too much. I see other messages ahead, so will check the rest of your thoughts. Thanks so much. Betsy

          51. betsy | | #83

            Here is another shot of the chuppah with fabric leaves stitched and paper "place holders" for fabrics I haven't rec'd yet. (I also want to practice posting while technical help is nearby), thanks for your help and patience, all!

          52. SisterT | | #84

            Wow!  I like the way the calligraphy is integrated into a branch.

            Will we have photos of it in use?

            I'll set up a concession stand outside of major airports, selling hats!  :)

            Sr. Tracey

          53. SewTruTerry | | #86

            I'll buy one in red so that it will go with my purple dress.  I think that when we fly we should also have a type of uniform so that we can spot one another.  I mean besides the loose threads hanging off of our clothes and the pins stuck between our teeth. What do you think?

          54. SewTruTerry | | #85

            Double WOW!!  You are doing an incredible job.  Are you appliqueing the material down or are you doing a satin stitch?

          55. betsy | | #87

            I'm machine satin stitching leaves and tree. The greens have been hand pieced, I guess I wanted it to look more blended.

            Thanks for the encouragement. I've looked at this for so long, I'm losing enthusiam for the project. I like where I've been, but not where I'm going. I'm fiddling around now with birds, not sure if this is right, but I look at the little bride and groom, ones I drew from the back (after photo you saw), and I'm not wild about them. hmm. I think I might like to leave the green unit off, and applique a softly curving green line/shape across the piece, suggesting a hill, and stop there.

            I am going to put a border/frame around the whole piece, maybe a thin gold cotton-lame'  fine stripe cut on the bias, and then something around that. They want this part to be pretty simple and plain. The inner design will be 72" square.

             Must decide! Did I mention that we have to find a house in another town and move within 8 weeks? Oh my goodness...

          56. SisterT | | #71

            Hah!  Provoked you into posting again!  :)

            Thank you for your comments.  Any recent projects? 

            Sr. Tracey

          57. sarahkayla | | #72

            ok...recent projects.. I have done a bunch of garment sewing to sort of get the pump primed..and I also recoved a couch...but for my real work...

            i have done a series of challa covers based on a line from the midrash.. as you know...there are two tellings of the ten commandments.. in one the commandment is "keep the sabbath" in the other it says "remember the sabbath" - according to the midrash.. both words were spoken at the same time...

            so what I did whas calligraph both words superimposed on eachother.. I used a mixture of silvery coppery paints/dyes so the words seem to emerge from the dark grey velvet.. the challa covers are bordered with deep borders that come from metallic brocade saris.. the both have bands of red and brown.. but that sort of gives short shrift to the color..

            I did an atara (neck band for a tallit) for a bridegroom  - the groom does do-gooder work in cambodia the text was "the work is not yours to complete..nor is it yours to absolve yourself from it" it comes from the talmud.. I made the atara out of cambodian silk in  roryal blue, chartruce and a smokey green. the text was calligraphed on the blue in a black/gold - i did a sort of post moderney job of putting together the border..

            I'm nearly done with a tallit for my mom - with the verses from psalms you say just before and just after you put on the tallit ..

            and I'mworking on expanding a tallit for a nice man who is wearing a tallit too skimpy for his large body.. this man has taken on the job of ushering at services each and every week. he does a graceful and gracious job of it.. the atara says ,,,it is a quote from a prayer.." and all those who busy themselves with the needs of the community with faithfulness" calligraphed in maroon (with other bits of color0 to match the silver and maroon tallit and outlines with just a single line of silver stitching.. I'm working on the border.. i think silver metallic organza.

            I have other work in trhe hopper as well..

            sarah in nyc

          58. SisterT | | #73

            Sounds great!

            I tried the fabric bleaching/painting technique featured in a past issue of Threads and that I found on Threads online (Tish or Betsy?) for some Church banners.   I spent some time chewing my fingernails, but it was fun and they turned out great.  Phew!

            Have you tried the velvet stenciling on your challa covers?  The technique has me seriously tempted...

            Tried to post some photos of stuff, but I am on a slow dial-up connection...

            Sr. Tracey

          59. SewTruTerry | | #80


            Just came over from the other parrellel universe of Sacred Threads so it may not be you that took the crochet hook through security so forgive me if it wasn't but the question that I had for whoever got through security with it, was it metal or plastic?

            I have also been trying to figure out a way to safely take sewing projects with me when we travel by air and have not found a way yet.  Which also leads me to the story of my dear m-i-l who purchased a broach for me that was a small pair of scissors frozen open as if to cut.  Yep you guessed it she was stopped by security and was questioned about the broach.  Now keep in mind they were smaller than stork scissors and had a pin back on them.  Too funny.

          60. SisterT | | #81

            It's metal and I had no problems.

            BUT--I accidently (HONEST!) made it through security with a pocket knife in my camera bag the last time I flew (about a month ago).  And it is one of those nasty looking jagged edge knives that my Dad picked up for me.   I discovered it as I was boarding theplane.  Hmmm...miss the flight and be honest or get on the blasted plane....What to do, what to do?!

            What does a nun want with a pocket knife?  The same thing anyone else does--the things come in handy, especially if you can't take scissors on the plane!  :)


          61. betsy | | #82

            OK, folks, I think it's pill box hat time for any of us trying to travel with sewing "weapons". I won't tell you how many swiss army knives I had in my purse when I tried to fly. I will tell you that I made three trips back to the car (the blessings of a small airport!). I don't know if the security guards or I were more embarassed. Anyway, I'm going to try (AGAIN) to post the chuppah. Only the tree (above the grass line) and leaves are stitched down~ after this photo was taken. (these are manila folder cut out leaves. wish me luck...Please ignore first icon.

          62. betsy | | #75

            wow, could you possibly post photos of these projects?

            also, could you give a source for the verse about serving the community~ it is lovely.

            thanks!, betsy

          63. betsy | | #78

            "all those who busy themselves with the needs of the community"... I am interested in the rest of the prayer. thanks!

          64. Barbaran8 | | #79

            Two birds symbolize marital happiness in Japan and China - and would seem very appropriate in a "tree" chuppah.

          65. louise | | #74

            I am not sure if I am replying to the right person.  The request for suggestions to which I am answering was about a chuppa, being handmade with gold fabrics from loved ones around the world.  The writer was looking for a way to represent the couple being married, and their joining together in a way other than using a bride and groom.

            Thanks to the new mystery novel, Da Vinci Code, I may have a simple suggestion which will also be uniquely suitable to a jewish wedding.

            The ancient symbol for man is an upside down V, signifying a spear.  It can also be depicted as a triangle, with the point up (remember the v is upside down, like a circomflex in french)

            The ancient symbol for woman is a V which symbolizes a cup which can in turn be representative of the womb.  It can also be depicted as a triangle with the point down .

            The joining of the two, man and woman, make a Star of David!  Remember, credit goes to the guy who wrote Da Vinci Code, which by the way is a cracking good read!

          66. betsy | | #76

            It is I, Betsy, who asked about symbols for the chupah. This sounds very interesting! SarahKayla~ how does this work with Jewish law/tradition?   I haven't heard from my niece for two days, always a concern when someone is in Israel.    thanks, Betsy

          67. sarahkayla | | #77

            1 - I still have to get photos developed...and yes I will post as soon as I do

            2 - betsy.. i think I need to understand your question better... I'm not quite sure what you are asking...

            sarah in nyc

          68. louise | | #88


            If  you can lay your hands on a copy of the Da Vinci code, the religious significance of the symbols is set out somewhere about 2/3's through.  You can't miss the section because the symbols are quite large on the printed page.  They are ancient symbols pre-dating Christianity and if I am not mistaken would be appropriate for your purpose as the ultimate result is the Star of David.  Alas, I have already returned my copy of the DV code to the library.  From a theological point of view, all the references to Christianity are accurate and the little I know of Judaism is also correct when reference is made.



          69. betsy | | #89

            Good, an excuse to get my husband's da vinci code back from the prson to whom I loaned it, thanks. I'll give it a try. I've tried making the couple MUCH more subtle, basically shadow silhouettes, by using layers of fine netting. I'm also working on two small birds, slightly different from the background color so that they don't scream out to be noticed. FIRST, I'm going to insert some stronger green into the bottom~ pieced green section to better balance with the strong top. THEN I'll see if anything looks right above ground. Thanks!     Betsy 

          70. sarahkayla | | #90

            as requested.. a few photos of two current projects.. the silvery one is the one with the quote  "and all those who serve the needs of the community with faith..."

             the blue and red tallit is for my mother...the text is taken from the book of psalms...


            sarah in ny

          71. sarahkayla | | #91

            sorry.. two of the pictures didn't come through...

          72. sarahkayla | | #92

            ak!! I hit post instead of attach

          73. betsy | | #93

            Sarah, they are gorgeous! The colors are rich and striking. Wow. I'll go back now to read the descriptions of your techniques. Thanks for sharing these images and words. Betsy

          74. SisterT | | #94

            People must feel honored when they receive your work!  I went back and forth between the photos and your earlier description of the pieces.  Both pieces are beautiful.  I wish we could handle them!

            Sr. Tracey

          75. sarahkayla | | #95

            Dear folks.. I have gotten a few requests for the source of the quote " and for all those who busy them selves with the needs of the community in faithfulness"// it comes from one of a series of prayers/requests that are recited at the end of the Torah service...it comes from a series of three prayers.. the first two in aramaic and the last in hebrew that ask God to  watch over, first the scholars in the community, secondly those who study torah.. the third paragraph asks for God to take care of  the regular folks.. the people who feed the poor  take in guests and establish synagogues and houses of study ...and my favorite lines.. the folks who attend synagogue and those who pay for the lights.. and it ends  with all those who serve the needs of the community in faithfulness"...the blessings that are asked for these folks   are " may God give them thrie rewards, and remove from them all disease and heal their illnesses and forgive all their transgressions and send blessing and success in all the works of their hands..with all of their bretheren Israel.." 

            also the chuppah is lovely.. I especially love the use of the line on the lower branches... it is one of my favorites from the song of songs.. In thinking about the bride and groom.. it may be too late.. but it may work better to have them bigger and centered and done in a sheer overlay over the lower part of the tree.. or perhaps the "coupleless could be somehow incorportated into the border... or perhaps shadow quilted.. just some ideas... feel free to reject them...

            sarah in nyc

          76. betsy | | #96

            Oh Sarah, I am so appreciative of your note about avoiding human images in the chuppah. Janel and Asher were sensitive to that, and are willing to toss the wee people and chuppah idea. Phew! I'm beginning to think that the chuppah might end up pretty much as is, with the addition of their names embroidered onto an outer border. An inner thin gold border will surround the existing image. They had asked to have the infinity symbol, (a stretched out figure eight lying on its side) included, so that might be what I use to quilt the border. Any conlict with Jewish law here? Aesthetic comment?

            To all Sacred Threads readers, there is a picture in National Geographic, June 2004 issue, p.8 , of a Shiite pilgrim wearing what I assume is a kind of prayer shawl. (Please correct me if anyone knows otherwise). The photo is very powerful; I don't think I'll try to interpret, but urge you to see it.  Betsy

          77. sarahkayla | | #97

            reading your post.. suppose you shadow quilt in the chuppah  over the tree... so the tree is the chuppah in a certain way.. another thought about symbosa.. the maori symbol for eternity is a spiral...  when I found that out i found it interesting because I had been using spirals a whole lot in my work.. then I went to the new planitarium... where i learned that creation is shaped as a spiral.. so the whole concept of eternity.. as we say in hebrew.. l'olam va-ed.. " is a spiral.. so now i use it more than ever...

            sarah in nyc

          78. betsy | | #98


          79. dperlson | | #99

            I was looking to find you and your web site.  I wanted to see your challah Covers.  I heard how beautiful they are. 

            If you can catch me up on your work, I would very much appreciate it


            Hope this note can find you

          80. Michelle | | #100

            If you look at the first entry of this thread, you will find two pictures of challah covers created by Sarah.

            regards from Jerusalem,


          81. dperlson | | #101

            THANKS EVER SO MUCH!!!!

            I am glad I found you

          82. betsy | | #102

            Sarahkayla, are you still returning to this thread? The same goes for you, ST! And Shelly? I have completed the chuppah~ I sewed the last tie onto it yesterday. It's interesting to look back at the decisions I faced a year ago. I'll try to post a picture, but here are elements thataren't visible. After taking a wild shot at guessing what size chuppah would cover 7 people, I decided on 80"x80". The wedding venue was decided a couple of weeks ago, well after I'd bound the piece. The chuppah "frame"/ support structure is 2 meters square. According to my two-sided tape measure, I'm within a couple of inches~ and have sewn ties to the back/sky-side of the piece in a bit from the edges that SHOULD softly drop down, right? Whew!                                           We fly to Tel Aviv on July 16th, and I plan to carry this aboard, possibly in a hanging garment bag. ST, I will leave all weapons of mass construction (ha ha?) at home. Guests arrive, I hope to hear what you all are up to these days,    Betsy (formerly in Ohio, now in Ann Arbor, MI

          83. sarahkayla | | #103

            Hey betsy...show us the goods...I would love to ee the finished chuppah.


            I have not been posting here a whole lot lately...but i do check in to read. last year seemed to have been a year of making challa covers. right now I'm making lots of tallitot/prayer shawls. i have been lucky enough to be working with really interesting clients and have been able to make some really interesting and fulfilling work..


            here is a photo of a recent one - danielle is vogueing... danielle's grandmother had dies this year. grandma was a knitter. I couched some of the ribbon yarn she had used on one of the last items she had knit into the design of the tallit. interspersed with the yarn was text from the intentional prayer we recite before putting on a tallit.

          84. SewTruTerry | | #104

            What a wonderful prayer shawl and what a beautiful young lady.  Both wonderful works of art/.

          85. SewTruTerry | | #60

            I just took a look and if I am not mistaken they just did a segment with her on Simply Quilts.  Just wonderful.  I am now wondering what that would look like on a garment?

          86. sarahnyc | | #51

            re; chuppah size... the only people who need to be under the chuppah are the bride and groom.

            I have made them as large as a king sized quilt - and I will never do that again. thank goodness I did not get the comission for the 10 foot sq  chuppah  ( I had gotten it down from 15 foot sq) ---the client was difficult and persnickety too.  5ft square is more than sufficient. if you are comfortable working really big... by alll means...but there is no need to make yourself nuts - the entire wedding party does not have to fit underneath.

            a chuppah is a matter of custom rather than law - so there is a fair amount of flexibility about size and about shape. When it is an issue of law...we jews get very specific...try going into a really observant home on Passover and see how careful people are about how much matza needs to be eaten at seder...

            sarah in nyc

          87. betsy | | #53

            I have  remembered your words early in this discussion about the chuppah escaping Jewish law, (with a big sigh of relief!). I am also glad to hear that I don't have to go crazy about the size. My niece mentioned  that if doing a bigger piece would be too difficult for me, I could do "my thing" and they would stitch it to a larger piece. I'm not sure that would look right (and she is far too sincere to be baiting me with this suggestion!). Hmmm.     We've now come up with a simple tree of life design (Klimt style is out, even though he does have a tree of life). However, the groom suggested that the bottom branch of the tree become a chuppah under which there could be a tiny bride and groom. This idea evolved from an image they emailed (painting or quilt) of an old-looking synagogue with a small chuppah, bride and groom. I told them that if I enlarged the tree to fill a 60" square, the couple would grow to be 16-18" tall, was this what they had in mind. When they replied yes, I suggested that they sketch it out to size, 'cause I wasn't envisioning it too favorably.    They asked about me embroidering verses onto each of the 5 branches of the tree. Gulp. Is Hebrew lettering always like calligraphy, with wider areas? That would involve satin stitch or applique rather than stem or outline, becoming a MUCH lengthier process, and perhaps a much too busy look. My niece likes simple, unfussy designs, so drawing it out might show us all if these are good ideas... or not. Thanks again for sharing your expertise! A 15' chuppah, yikes! Was that for the whole group? "wedding party" indeed!     Now, I'll leave the sublime (chuppah), and go back to the almost ridiculous (frog banner). Thanks again, Betsy

          88. sarahnyc | | #55

            dear betsy -

            you may want to do a google search on hebrew typefaces or fonts so you could get a feeling for what the hebrew letters look like -  yes - they tend to be boxier than english.... i often will applique letters or do hand guided machine embroidery. now that I'm much more comfortable with calligraphy, i would be comfortable just painting the letters on...but not to sound snotty - it took me a long time to get there...and if you progress the way I do... the bride and groom will be sending their children to college before you will be easy calligraphing the hebrew...

            you might want to contract out the hebrew writing... I can recommend some people for you to turn to if you want to go that route

            the 15 foot chuppah was for a same sex marriage... the groom  I spoke to expressed all of the crazy attention to detail that most brides obsess over..but taken to a whole new level - the chuppah was to be the centerpiece of a very stark room. it was to be in twelve shades of beige...

            the detail of the wedding that struck me the most is that all the placecards would be hanging from branches with white ribbons...and white gloved attendants with golden scissors would cut each place card and give them to each guest.

            It seemed like a job that would be pure torture...I'm so thrilled I didn't get it.

            sarah in nyc

          89. betsy | | #58

            oh my goodness, the other wedding sounds a bit over the top!

            Looking up hebrew fonts is a great idea, and I heartily agree that this would not be a good time to start calligraphy!  I think that I want to do the whole chuppah, and would like the verse stitching to be subtle. I'm looking forward to hearing my niece's post-sabbath ideas. I think that she and "her intended" (they're not engaged yet) catch up on the past week, and then we communicate when she can get back on line. I'm eager to see the actual length of the verses to see what's in store. Thanks again for your help, Betsy

          90. SisterT | | #25

            Terry and Carol,

            Thanks A LOT!  Everythime I looked up at Mass yesterday, I saw Sponge Bob Square Pants as a priest's vestment.  My already overactive imagination did NOT need that kind of help!  :)

            Sr. Tracey

          91. FitnessNut | | #26

            So much for the appearance of dignity ; )


          92. sarahkayla | | #27

            Sorry to keep your thoughts away from the sacred during mass....


          93. SewTruTerry | | #31

            OK Sr Tracey now you've got me doing it as well.  One of our priest actually does look and sound a bit like Sponge Bob so it will take more than a little effort the next time he says mass not to start ROFLOL.   But I actually could see it for a kids mass or something along those lines. Better get back to embroidering Tigers on these hats or I will never get this order done.

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