The director of an overnight camp in the Midwest was being honored for her thirteen years of service at the camp. As a special gift, they asked me to create a silk tallit that depicted elements of the camp which would be presented to her at the beginning of this summer session.
I started with a white piece of silk and, after much avoidance and an internal pep talk, I started painting the green fields. I started with solid green and then bunched up the fabric so the light would reach parts of the fabric differently as it dried. The result was a mottled effect.
Next, I moved to the lake and used the same technique but with horizontal folds to create ripples in the water. Once the water dried, I painted the sun setting over the water.
The rest of the sky followed in similar colors. Once the sky was painted, I wasn’t sure if the sun needed to be darker or brighter, so I auditioned some fabric over it. After much deliberation, it was clear that the painted sun alone worked best.
The bridge that the campers cross every day came next. At first, the bridge curved too dramatically, so I flattened it out before sewing it down.
A buttonhole stitch with clear thread holds the elements down without distracting from the design. Next, I created a pattern on tracing paper for the camp logo: a seven branched menorah with 36 leaves. This would become a menorah tree in the final design.
The rotary cutter helped cut smooth pieces for the branches of the menorah tree. Then many many many tiny pins held the branches in place while I stitched them down.
After struggling with all the pins on the menorah branches, I decided that there had to be a better way to create all the leaves and the remaining trees. So I tried a wood burning tool to cut out the leaves. It worked great and the melted edges can’t fray, so no need to fold all the edges under!
The wood burning tool worked so well on the leaves, I tried it for the trees too. Making these shapes would have been a nightmare if I had to fold under all the edges to sew it down!
Next came the corners. There is a special song that they sing at the camp, so I printed the lyrics onto fabric and then painted them the same color as the tallit before sewing them on. One word of wisdom: proof read the text before printing and painting. I had to reprint and repaint two of the corners because I didn’t proof read until I was about to sew them onto the tallit. Oops.
Once the tallit was done, I made a matching bag.
In July, the finished tallit was presented to the director during a camp service and she wore it when called to the Torah. I hope she enjoys the tallit and the memories it carries of her many years at camp!