I'm not quite sure why it's taken me so long to sit down and write about this. It feels silly to feel so much emotion towards a piece of fabric . . . I'm not usually the soft-and-fuzzy type, so it's especially out of character for me to feel this way. I can't quite explain what it is that stopped me from writing, or that's making writing it now so hard, but the closest I can get to a description is that knitting this chuppah felt like giving birth to something. I think what I was "birthing" was my spiritual life. I have never been a religious person and our wedding was the first time I really thought about what I believe in, what rituals mean, and made a conscious decision to think and care about these questions. The chuppah symbolizes the home the couple will build together but this chuppah, handmade with my own hands and skills, also symbolized my creating a home for us.
I put a lot of pressure on myself to make it "perfect," even though I knew that I would be the only one who could possibly see any imperfections. I chose the Frost Flowers & Leaves Shawl pattern from Gathering of Lace for 2 reasons based on the fact that I'd already knit it once before:
When it came time to block the thing, after rushing through the knitting worrying about blowing my deadline (I overcompensated and finished months early), I procrastinated and procrastinated until practically the last minute. I remembered blocking the first one and how much work it was, and was honestly dreading doing it again this time. And wouldn't you know it, all that worry was warranted! The border didn't quite fit and required massive amounts of pinning and re-pinning the blocking wires. After over a hour of struggling with it I called it quits and decided it wasn't going to get any better.
In this picture, you can kind of see the problem (you can also see how ugly the border join is, but don't look too hard please!). I think what happened is that my row gauge for the border was too loose, so there was too much fabric all around in comparison to the middle. Since the yarn I used isn't as stretchy as most lace yarns, when I pulled and pulled at the middle lace section, it only opened up so much. There was no way it was going to stretch enough to compensate for the border's oversized proportions. I hoped it wouldn't be too obvious and let the thing dry on my parent's living room rug.
Then, the day before the wedding, I realized that i hadn't yet figured out how to attach the chuppah to the poles. We'd borrowed the poles a few days earlier from Adam's family's temple, at which point I found out that the poles were not wooden-colored like I expected, they had been wrapped in white ribbon. Now, most people are probably happy to find out that the chuppah poles have been lovingly covered with white satin ribbon. Me, I freaked out! The white was WHITE, and my chuppah was off-white. In all my planning, I had imagined that I would attach my off-white chuppah to the wooden-colored poles using clear fishing line, to give the impression that there was no seam at all. When I saw the white-white poles, I knew I couldn't let my chuppah directly touch the poles because next to the bright-white, my chuppah would look dirty.
This is what I came up with as a compromise:
You can see just how white the poles are in this picture!
I ended up using some of the purple ribbon left over from our favors to tie long lengths connecting the chuppah to the poles. It actually ended up looking purposeful, since the wedding colors were white/cream and purple and the chuppah and poles ended up perfectly matching the color scheme! I originally thought I was going to tie the ends of the ribbons into bows, but it looked too sugary-sweet. Leaving the long ties looked a little circus-y if you looked from up close, but from far away it looked just right.
And the too-big edging? It proved to be a problem after all. No matter how far apart the poles were spread, the chuppah never lay flat. All 4 sides dropped down even though the middle was as taunt as possible. I actually didn't get to see the chuppah planters get set up because I was hiding (which, by the way, I think is a ridiculous wedding "tradition," but when I peeked my face out I got MOBBED by people and learned why women hide from a practical perspective!), but I gave the florist strict instructions to place them as far apart as possible so the chuppah would be as flat as possible. In the end, the thing wasn't flat at all, and the poles leaned in at a precarious angle from all the strain they were under.
But you know what? Everyone thought every single one of these things was done on purpose, and I got nothing but compliments!
But then again, no one's going to tell the bride her hand-made chuppah looks anything but perfect, right?
Pattern: Frost Flowers & Leaves Shawl from A Gathering of Lace, with fewer repeats to adjust for bigger gauge
Yarn: 11 skeins Green Mountain Spinnery Sylvan Spirit, in Luminosity
Needles: US size 6
Started: January 2008
Finished: March 2008 (knitting), June 2008 (blocking/finishing)
(all pictures except the yarn end one copyright Laurie Rhodes Photography)