Tag: torah furnishings

Just Like That

I gave myself a little Misericordia sabbatical over the last few months. I thought it would be restorative, but it just made me feel like I wasn’t accomplishing anything, so here I am back again.

Plus 6 cm - Misericordia 2017

Procrastination is my specialist subject, so I was happily dithering over the next installment of the Ark Project when all of a sudden, I took out the iron and the shears and cut out the fabric for the last phase of this set of furnishings. I was just as surprised as you are.

Roundabout - Misericordia 2017

Allow me to walk you through the design difficulties of this particular piece.

The mantle is the most-handled  part of the set. The Torah is carried around, undressed and redressed by many hands during the service. The fairly flat rectangular shape and set it and forget it-ness of the curtain and bimah cover meant I could use three dimensional loose banners for the text and leaves, but the mantle has to be Ballet Costume Stable.*

The final aesthetic challenge is a lack of decorative space. Torahs are meant to be royally attired, which means a breastplate, crown and a sceptre (which is really a hand-shaped pointer so you can keep your place without getting your mucky fingerprints all over the scroll; my religion takes books very seriously indeed). Once you’ve got the bling on, there isn’t much available space for decoration. Most of the time the dressed Torah is out of the ark, it’s cradled against someone’s shoulder, which covers even more of the front.

By Sultan Edijingo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Sultan Edijingo (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

It’s going to call for a complete change of approach, where the previous two pieces were designed as images, this one is going to have to be draped on a Torah form!

Watch this space for a cardboard Torah dress form, coming soon…

*Ballet Costume Stable: Is there anything that will catch on people or other fabrics? Can you spin around 32 times without anything falling off it? Can you put it on and take it off in the dark within 32 beats of music?

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – Blast Off

Here’s the ark curtain I’ve been agonising over for a year.

ELJC ark curtain - Misericordia 2015

Sometimes large pieces take a long time because of the time it takes to physically complete them, and sometimes it’s the existential crisis that takes the time. This piece was particularly hard-fought, and took lots of both.

The initial design fell together really quickly, and the applique went very easily. I decided to see what it looked like at that point in the ark, even though it felt unresolved.

10th ark open

I wanted to combine elements which reflected the community’s place within the Scottish and Jewish artistic landscape. There are nods to trade union and suffragette banners as well as elements of the Scottish Arts and Crafts movements.

The skeleton of it was right, but it needed more texture and movement.

ELJC ark curtain - Misericordia 2015

I was particularly pleased with the banner, the silk is gorgeously papery in feel, and lets me give a feeling of flutter into the text, but that contrasted with the flatness of the tree.

ELJC ark curtain - Misericordia 2015

I stitched things, I picked them out again. I added hundreds of seed stitches to the French knots in the etrogim (yellow things like monster lemons). I pondered quilting techniques, tone on tone embroidery, trapunto, and finally did a little tentative leaf embroidery.

ELJC ark curtain - Misericordia 2015

I stood back, I looked up close. I hung it on a door, I laid it on the floor. I took photos in black and white, and in colour. I haunted Pinterest, I copied Art Nouveau drawings, paintings and furniture. Finally, I decided on the only sure thing and applied an Arbitrary Deadline, Little Lion’s baby blessing.

ELJC ark curtain - Misericordia 2015

I think it’s worked in the end. At any rate, I now have a template to base the other pieces on, so hopefully I’ve paid my debt to my muse in advance.

Ark design and construction: Sorell

Metalwork design: Lauren Fox

10, 9, 8, 7, 6

This piece has been a year in the making.


It will form part of the ark furnishings for the Liberal Jewish community in Edinburgh. This includes a curtain for the ark, a mantle for the Torah scrolls and a tablecloth to be put under the Torah scrolls when they’re out of the ark. This is the everyday set, there will also be a set for the High Holy Days.

I unveiled a preview of the curtain in September, but I wasn’t happy with the lack of detail, so I took it back and worked on it some more.

Having held onto it for so long, I’m a little apprehensive about letting it out into the wide world for good.

Part of my apprehension comes from the fact that this is the first of six pieces, three of which have to maintain some sort of consistent style over what is likely to be a fairly significant period of time.

However at the moment, I’m pretty happy with it. There’s a point in quilting where a piece ceases to be the sum of it’s pieced parts and becomes a quilt. I got a little frisson of that yesterday when I put the lining into the curtain. All of a sudden it was more finished than unfinished, and it gave me a definite push towards the last few stitches.

After a year of moving through my hands, I thought it needed a wash (plus there was the water-soluble glue I experimented with), but there was a little fear as the blue silk was still a bit runny.

But the pre-wash fairies were on my side, and it all came out unscathed.

I even got a little sunshine to dry it in. Being a particularly paranoid person, I popped a towel over it on the line, just in case of bird strike or (more likely) a little rain.

I’m afraid that due to a hungry baby and other delays this is a two part post. I’ll unveil the final piece next week, but you can see the evolution of the design in previous posts.

Cutting and Counting

I’m still in the muddly bit of the ark project where I know where I’m going but it doesn’t look the way I want it to. I’m going to be a little coy about it for that reason and just keep up the still lives of work in progress.


I’m in the midst of designing and making two complete sets of Torah appurtenances – Torah mantle, ark curtain and bimah cover. As usual with these things, there is a rather pressing deadline so I’m in a bit of a scramble to get things ready before we go on holiday (where I am, hopefully stitching away happily, as you read this).

I thought it might be nice to see what it looks like when I work on a larger scale – I’ve got used to being able to work on a nice civilised kitchen-table scale, but this time I’ve got rolls of paper everywhere and I’ve commandeered the train sidings, much to the disapproval of the station manager.

kipling makes art

I’m sure I’ll be writing more about it, but for now, here is the first installment of the photo diary.

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