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The Quilted Huppa
Why a quilted huppa? It can be far more beautiful, personal, and meaningful than a large piece of tulle, or a rented huppa or tallit.  It can incorporate  family heirloom textiles, like neckties, baby clothing, worn tallit, etc.  It can include words and art from family and friends. And, thanks to the wide variety of novelty fabrics  and improved photo-transfer techniques, it can include themes and details to make it truly unique to the couple.  I always interview bride, groom, and if possible, family and friends, before making a huppa.  

   My article about quilted huppot will appear in the July/August 2003 issue of Quilters Newsletter Magazine. The article includes a couple more of my own huppot, plus some seriously astonishing  huppot made by  well known and/or incredibly talented and not necessarily Jewish quilters including Paula Nadelstern,  Sarah Nephew  and Ricky Tims   Below, you will find   information that's NOT in the article, about how to erect a quilted chuppah at a real live wedding. 

 

 

  (Above). My 'Sushi'  huppa at the wedding---view from the back and underside.(The florist didn't decorate the back horizontal piece). You can see the ties holding to the unadorned back top of the frame.  A picture of this quilt, along with two more huppot that I made, appears in the July/August issue of Quilters Newsletter Magazine.  Personal imagery on 'this  huppa included photos of the couple's cats, and their favorite birdfeeder, along with favorite foods and more. (By the way, I cut out all the non-kosher sushi before strip piecing this quilt!)  .

 
 
(Above) 'Fire and Ice' Huppah, 1997.  This huppa was made for a pair of devoted skiiers. Hiding among the snowy 'log cabin' blocks  and foliage are  images like electric guitars, bagels, olives, dolphins,etc .  A photo-transfer of their wedding invitation is in the lower right corner, embellished with pearl buttons.  I owe the central   heart-in-hand design to the best (and so far, only) book on Judaic quilting: The New Work Of Hands by Mae Rockland Tupa (See 'Resources'). Light shining through a colorful huppa looks like stained glass!  
 

HANGING HUPPA  HOW-TO'S 

             SOMETHING has to hold your huppah in the air. Conveniently located trees, and wires hung from the ceiling, are approaches  that quilters have described to me.  But in most wedding locations, neither of these is an option. So here are some more likely ideas:

            1. If you have four strong, brave, fit huppa holders, and a smallish quilted huppa, the only support system you will need is four poles--closet rods available at the home improvement center will work (At my home improvement center, they're 8' long and cost $8 each.). Strong, thick, bamboo poles; thick tree branches (or thin tree trunks), and even PVC poles (over 1" thick) can work too.  While half-poles have traditionally used, they're awfully tough on your huppa-holders' arms. It's more considerate  to make them long enough to rest on the ground.  Cut to about 7' tall,  or more if your huppah has an overhang.  You can drill holes sideways through the top of the poles, and use wire to secure the huppah. An eyehook sunk deep into a strong wooden pole would work, too.

    Paint, decorate, and/or disguise  the poles any way you like. Paint them green (there are new types of paint that cover plastic, if  your poles are PVC). Cover  them with vines (real or artificial), punctuated with flowers. Or  make scrunchy fabric sleeves to cover them, or wrap ribbon around them.

              2. If you have four not- so-fit huppah holders, or you just want to minimize the stress on their arms, it's a better idea to plant the base of the poles for extra support.  Plant them in:

  •  Deep  baskets or flower pots, filled with sand, sand bags, gravel, or rocks. (Flowers on top will disguise the contents); 

  •  Plastic outdoor umbrella bases (available at the home improvement center, they're filled with water or sand to stabilize, though you may also need to wrap the bottom of your poles in some duct tape,  or towels, so they'll be gripped firmly in the poles).  They cost about $10 each.

  •  Heavy decorative  cast iron outdoor umbrella stands (high quality ones have an adjustable screw to hold the pole securely, regardless of pole diameter.) These run about $25 each, more or less.  

  • Christmas tree stands. I kid you not. These work for many diameters..

     In all of these cases, your huppa-holders would serve as extra insurance that the poles don't fall over and smash the cup before the groom gets to it. (Smash the groom before the bride....oh, never mind).   

   Any of the four-poled systems described above will also require some extras on your quilt. Here are some possibilities:

  • Buttonholes or Grommets. You can sew a buttonhole in the corners of your quilts, through all the layers Ribbon or wire can then be strung through the holes to the support the quilt. Grommets---thick metal rings--- are hammered into holes in  the fabric (you can find a grommet kit in your fabric store)  Wire or ribbon  is slipped through the grommet, and around or through the top of the pole.  Downsides These options can stretch the corners of your quilt, and some people don't want holes in their quilt.

  •   Fabric ties. My preference,  to hold a huppah to four poles, or an entire frame. I sew them on with a zig-zag stitch, just past the binding, and  remove them with a seam ripper after the wedding. If you're using poles, you only need ties at the four corners. If you have a frame that circles the circumference of the huppah (see below), put ties at regular intervals on the quilt (see the first picture at the top of this page---it shows the ties every foot or so). Make the ties from strong fabric or ribbon.  A 24" strip folded in half makes two 12" ties.   Machine stitch through the center .

 

THE FRAME GAME

 If you have no huppa holders, or your huppa holders are  challenged in the upper body strength department---or,  if or you have a large quilted huppah (over 45" would be my estimate), go for a free-standing frame.   Along with  four poles vertically holding the corners, a horizontal support all the way around the top circumference, will  prevent the quilt from sagging.

 

    A friend who was a  professional carpenter  built this elegantly curved frame for the 'Fire and Ice' huppa.
   A friend who describes his carpentry skills as "basic,"  built the subtle knock-down frame above for the Sushi huppa. He brought it  to the wedding disassembled, and we erected it on the spot, using an electric screwdriver. It held the huppa strong and steady during a very windy ceremony. He painted  it flat green, so it virtually disappeared behind the floral decorations. It's this frame that's in the first picture at the top of the page.  
 

           Before you whip out the power tools, call your florist and ask if they have a huppa frame. You may be surprised. Jewish bookstores and supply stores often rent them, as well. Find out the dimensions, and whether they'll work with your quilt.

            If you have no florist, or no Jewish supply store, or your florist never heard of a huppa  (also try the words "wedding arch" and "wedding canopy,"), you can make a huppa frame yourself, if you or someone you trust has carpentry skills. 

        Finally, if you don't have a strong huppa holder, you cannot build a frame, or your huppa quilt isn't done in time, there's another option: Use an unfinished single-layer top of a quilt as a huppah. You can baste a temporary backing to it, if the back is messy. It will be light enough to be held up by thin poles held by non-iron-pumping friends or family. Then, finish it as a quilt later, after the wedding. (The permanent backing can be set out on a table for guiests to sign at the party---see   'Group Projects').

 
CHUPPAH IN A CHURRY:

The wedding is in a month---you are determined to make a  huppa  ---you have a job, a family, and also like to sleep. What should you do?

* Take an lovely old family quilt, tablecloth, etc.,  get four poles (as described above), sew ribbons to the corners,  and use it as a huppa. If you don't have a lovely old family textile, go to a fabric store or an antique or thrift shop and acquire one from someone else's lovely old family.   If you yourself are the actual bride, or her mother, this--or borrowing or renting someone else's finished huppa--- using a ready-made huppa (whether it is a tallis or a tablecloth) are  the ONLY options you should consider. You've got better things to worry about than finishing a quilt in a month.  Later, when the wedding is over, you can figure out ways to turn that textile into an heirloom quilt.  
  
*  If you are NOT the bride or her mother, and don't have a zillion other things to do for this wedding, you can think about completing  a huppa in time. Proceed directly to the Six Pointed Stars page here.    If you have just a little quilting experience (and a sewing machine, a  rotary cutter and mat), order Mace McElligot's Magic Star 6 template, mirror, and instruction book. You will be able to pound out a simple star littered quilt top  in about a week (assuming a day job, and some sleep). And you'll have a great time doing it.  You don't have to put backing or batting on this quilt before the wedding, as long as the top is done.  The lighter weight also means you won't have to worry about building a strong frame. Poles held by moderately strong friends will keep it aloft.

*  If you have a little  more quilting experience or chutzpah, you own the tools (rotary cutter, ruler and mat), and want a six-pointed star design ,  you can follow the book, Magical Stack and Whack Quilts by Bethany Reynolds  widely available in quilt shops and bookstores.  That's how Sue Feinberg made her wonderful Chanuka wallhanging. I made the 'Chuppah in a Churry' in the July/August QNM using this system, too. .

*  If you're better at drawing than sewing, consider an applique quilt. Applique means cutting things out and sewing them down. You can design a simple Tree of Life;   a free-form six pointed star, etc. Select a background fabric (about two yards at least), plus fabric for the colors you'll want in the foreground . Buy a couple of yards of Wonder Under or some other brand of medium-weight paper-backed fusible web at the fabric store. Following directions, iron the webbing onto the back of any colorful fabric you like. Cut your shapes, and iron to your backing fabric (following the ironing directions on the fusible web insert). Zigzag or stitch around the edges of each shape. Finish the edges of your quilt top, add loops, and voila, your huppa is done, just in time for the ceremony. You can add a permanent batting or backing later, if you like, or just leave it as a banner-like wall hanging  .

 
Questions? Comments? Gotta great huppa that I can show here? Please email me at AJWCJP@aol.com.

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JewishQuilter.com - All images and text copyright (c) Cathy Perlmutter, ajwcjp@aol.com 1996-2003