Birds of Paradise

Birds of Paradise

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Etrog box

 The assignment for my first City and Guilds assessment piece was to create a container using a pieced design based on architecture. I designed, engineered and created an etrog box using traditional English box-making techniques with some contemporary twists. The etrog  (citron) is used during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, as part of the four species.  It is held together with the lulav and blessed during the holiday.  When not in use, the etrog is usually stored in a decorative box.  

The design inspirations for the box were windows in the Dohany Street Synagogue (Great Synagogue) in Budapest.  The synagogue survived World War II and has been restored to its former glory.  Today, it serves as the focal point for the small Jewish population still living it Budapest, and it is a major tourist attraction.  One of the reasons I chose to use this building as my inspiration was to pay homage to those who perished in the Holocaust.  Although there were numerous stained glass windows in the Synagogue, the one below was perfect for patchwork.  The patchwork for the  top and sides of the box were constructed using foundation paper piecing (flip and sew.) The color scheme was based on the colors used in this window and another more elaborate window, shown on the right.  The Star of David on the lid was created with English paper piecing.  The fabric for the lining of the box was created by sun-printing branches from our lulav. The lining was machine embroidered.


The construction of the box proved more challenging than anticipated.  I had planned on using heavy-weight  Fast2Fuse for the construction, rather than cardboard or card stock, the foundation material used for most English embroidered boxes, to avoid having to glue my fabric to the base.  (Fast2Fuse is a heavy, stiff interfacing with fusible web on both sides.  I use it in the center of my postcards.)   My original intention was to fuse the patchwork to one side and the lining to the other, and then to satin stitch the segments together to join them.   When I sampled this construction method, it did not seem elegant enough, so my tutors suggested using the traditional hand ladder-stitching method of joining the pieces, and using two pieces of Fast2Fuse for each segment so that there would be no raw edges.  This extended the scope of the project, and as it was not portable, due to the risk of bending the pieces, it has taken months to complete.  Each piece of the box is made from two pieces of covered Fast2Fuse which are joined together with topstitching, using YLI  Silk Sparkle thread.  Due to the small scale of the patchwork pieces, it was necessary to use a very fine thread for the quilting and topstitching.  When I sampled heavier threads they overwhelmed the patchwork, as many of the pieces are under one inch.  However, I had to test numerous needles before I found one which did not cause the thread to shred while going through the thick layers.  The only needle which worked was a size 80 SUK (jersey) needle.  Once each side was assembled, the sections were hand ladder-stitched together, a very time-consuming process, due to the thickness of the pieces, and the need for the stitches to be invisible.

The box is now completed, and ready for use next Sukkot.

Box closed

Box open

Box open


Ann In Walnut, CA said...

Wow, Susan - very nice. I enjoyed rreading about your prcess. See you soon - ANN

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed seeing your blog and your work. I love that you incorporate your faith into your work. I wonder if this would qualify for the Sacred Threads Call for Entries?

Anonymous said...

Susan, the box is wonderful. Creating it was quite an adventure. Thank you for sharing how you achieved it.

Sherryl said...

Mazel Tov. The Etrog box is beautiful. Use it well.

Maretta said...

I love working small... often the work load is the opposite : huge LOL. I admire your inspiration and dedication to tradition. It is beautiful. I can understand your feelings of satisfaction that it is complete. Congratulations.

maggi said...

What a lovely piece. Thank you for sharing the process.

Fabric Imagery said...

Wonderful work and beautiful results. I always appreciate how thorough C&G studeis can be. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

lisa fulmer said...

gorgeous! I'll feature it on the C&T blog soon, thanks!!

Anonymous said...

Susan, what a wonderful piece of art and I love reading about the history behind it. Thanks for sharing
Jenny in Belgium