And you shall teach your children – compassion and community service

Anna VanDelman writes
On December 21 Guild members spent a short time recalling the sweatshops some of our ancestors worked in at the beginning of the 20th Century. With a flurry of work, our members produced project kits for distribution to children in our community.
The evening was opened by a moving introduction by Samara Goldenburg who shared stories to convey the social myths and social work of the Jewish community. And, then Guild members rose to our challenge for the session: Six tables, each with a different age-based textile project to assemble materials and other goodies for. This project helped us responsibly use stash we had collected over the years (hooray).Members were so engaged in the process (the more kits, the more children we can help!) we could hardly hear ourselves talk.
At the end of our 90 minutes of piecework, we completed assembly of:
• 25 dinosaur kits
• 20 Teddy bear kits
• 25 glove puppet kits
• 25 tooth fairy kits
• 25 grab bag kits
• 45 sticky back tile kits
Congratulations to our programme team Paula Suchat Miller, team co-ordinator, Reesa Wasser and Shirley Gossak for the tremendous amount of work it took to enable Guild members the chance to pay it forward.

Planting Seeds

The Pomegranate Guild Outreach program “Seeds” travelled to Netivot HaTorah on March 30 to work with bat mitzvah age girls on a Life Skills stitching project. We enjoyed an intergenerational afternoon of sharing and stitching. This was just the start of the project and we are looking forward to the final work.

Finding the Story – An evening with Alice Vander Vennen

Anna VanDelman writes:
On March 16, 2016 three dozen women and men from The Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Textiles Toronto and Congregation Darchei Noam joined together at  Darchei Noam for a wonderful evening of textiles co-presented by the two organizations.  We were thrilled to see the Guild’s current exhibit “In Celebration” on display in the synagogue social hall, with our pomegranate grid hanging on one of the public feature walls and Melanie Siegel’s marvel hanging over the main stair.

Wearing two hats – one from each organization – Sara Levine Petroff introduced our guest artist, Alice Vander Vennen. Alice is an artist of Dutch parentage who presented a slide show with comments, explaining how the methods and materials of her art are related to her life. Alice juxtaposes text with natural and found objects scavenged from many sources. She works intuitively with a strong basis in composition and colour. Many of the pieces are large and rich in deep colours 18″ by 50: some forming portraits. In other works, a canoe-like shapes of sticks and wire speak of journeys.

Alice then led us through a hands-on session of collage and composition. She shared some of the tips and tricks that work for her: using a frame to test a composition, cutting and repositioning, reaching for “just the right detail.” At one point in the evening as she was teaching her technique she looked down at her clothing and cut a large button off the jacket she was wearing. Though we all gasped and held our own clothing closer to us we realized that for Alice, inspiration is everywhere. This was an evening of pure magic. Thank you Alice for allowing us a view into your own creative process.

If you want to get your socks knocked off visit Alice Vander Vennen – Original Works

Trash into [fabulous] textile greeting cards

Anna VanDelman writes:
On a beautiful, cold, clear evening, Temple Sinai was ABUZZ  with the excitement of creating 4″ x 6″ pieces of fabric into gift/greeting cards.

Rikki Blitt introduced our own TallitMaaven and fabric design diva, Marilyn Cohen Levy, who presented power point slides showing her amazing work on cards, postcards that yes, go through the mail, and a variety of her other amazing projects. And, who knew what you can do with dryer lint!

A plethora of ideas flowed through the evening. Marilyn generously shared an incredible amount of her stash so that we all took home several cards. This is pure mitzvah work allowing Marilyn to reduce her own stash and of course purchase more fabric. And I, for one, will never have to purchase another greeting/gift card. How lucky we are as members of this Guild to count such talent within our core.

Reesa Wasser flew in from Florida baggage and all to thank Marilyn for all her work and for sharing her special talent with us. Certainly a night to remember!


An evening of Bling! Bling! Bling! Turning Trash into Treasures

Anna VanDelman writes:

On this winter night, two dozen Pomegranate members came together with the warmth of camaraderie for an evening workshop, turning trash into treasures.

Paula Miller – teacher, exquisite fabric artist, designer, inventive recycler – presented instructions for the transformation of junk into brooches using discarded beads, threads, paint, fabric charms etc. Members brought their own stash items and The Guild brought out enormous quantities of resource materials.

Thanks to Paula’s display of items she brought and created for this project, we were inspired to create our own new treasures. This programme reminded us of how important it is for us to work on various projects in an atmosphere of friendship and shared ideas.

Thank you Paula for a memorable evening!


Celebrate: with Artist-in-Residence Laya Crust

Laya portraitThe Pomegranate Guild is excited to start our work up close and personal with Artist in Residence, Laya Crust, for four programs in 2015. Over these programs we will be exploring the creative process as we examine how we can create textile work to enhance our holiday celebrations. On January 21st we’ll start “at the very beginning.” See our calendar page for more details.

Laya is an accomplished artist and generous teacher. You can read more by and about her at her website and her blog.

Members have already met Laya at earlier meetings, and some have had a chance and talk to her about their personal work. Come early to the meetings and talk to her about your work!

Before the meeting think about:
What do you love about Pesach and the seders?
What do you find challenging about Pesach and the seders?
Is there something you’d like to change about the seder or the haggadah?

And, bring examples of Pesach art to talk about, too.

Threadworks in Bruce County – take a drive in the country

A message from Sheila McCoy at the Ontario Needleworkers’ Network:

Hello everyone –
Bruce County Museum has created this lovely poster for Threadworks 2014.(
If you are in the area – out for a drive – perhaps you could drop in to see the Show.2014 Threadworks poster (2)



Fabric of Survival Exhibition

Last year we co-hosted a screening of Through the Eye of the Needle, the story of the work of Holocaust survivor Esther Nisenthal Krinitz told through her fabric collage and embroidered panels. This year at Temple Sinai you can see the exhibit it inspired from November 2 – 21. A special screening of the film is part of Holocaust Education Week on Sunday November 9 at 10am. Esther’s daughter Bernice Steinhart will introduce the film, and Ian Leventhal will lead a discussion following. The exhibit continues at Temple Sinai until after our next Pomegranate Guild meeting, so be sure to see the detailed work of this extraordinary artist. hew_poster

Torah Stitch by Stitch: 9 months later

Anna VanDelman reports:

Our March meeting was a wonderful overview of the Torah Stitch by Stitch project, and its status to date. Honey Mitchell introduced our presenter, Temma Gentles, founding member of the Guild and award-winning textile artist.

Kristina - panel detail

Kristina – panel detail

Temma explained her unique project “Torah Stitch by Stitch”, a call to action by the morning prayer, “Awake to the Torah”. The project currently has over 700 volunteer stitchers involved from all around the world, including  Guatamala, Zimbabwe and Viet Nam.

For Temma the project began to form conceptually when she and her husband Paul were in Israel on sabbatical at Ein Hod. She was inspired by the work of a number of Orthodox Jewish artists. Temma shared a sampling of this work with us, including the paper-cut work of artist Jacqueline Nicholls which uses traditional art forms to show the anger of women who are not able to participate in religious activities. We also saw a kittel for a woman – usually a man’s garment – which resembled a straight-jacket. Artist Andi Arnowitz used a variety of artistic media to express ironic and angry messages and included a coat for an agunah made of cut up Ketubot and worry beads the size of baseballs.

A self-described “fontophiliac,” Temma then gave examples of her letter-form inspirations. She showed fonts from Ben Shahn‘s book, The Alphabet of Creation, explained the sofer’s guidelines of STAM: Sefer Torah, Tefillin, mezuzah. She shared the work of amazing calligrapher and sofer stam Izzy Pludwinski in his book Mastering Hebrew Calligraphy and his contributions to the Saint Johns Bible (

Kristina detail 2

Kristina detail 2

Temma showed us sources for cross-stitching text and for large collective projects. We saw samplers cross-stitched onto aida cloth which were used to teach very young girls and women to sew and to read. These young women then went on to stitch quotations and family genealogies, which then became family records.The Quilt of Belonging had its inaugural exhibition in 2005. Assembled it is 36 m long and includes representation from 263 nationalities in Canada.

All of these influences have contributed to the project that will see the Torah cross-stitched in 4-verse segments by 1463 stitchers. It will far exceed 36 m! Each stitcher who registers receives a kit with the base square of aida cloth, black embroidery floss with pointers about stitching, and the stitcher’s four verses graphed as a guideline.

Temma showed completed pieces by a number of participants along with comments about the work. She pointed out that nearly every stitcher has a personal story that emerged from participating in the project. Then Guild members Brenda Conway and Kristina Landstrom-Jaffe showed their newly submitted panels (not yet proof-read or blocked), and Karen Chisvin showed her completed log. Brenda’s panel embellishment is a cross-stitched representation of one of her husband’s – artist Jerry Conway – landscape paintings. Kristina’s was an interpretation of the discovery of Moses in the bulrushes using Egyptian inspired motifs for papyrus and holy water birds.

Kristina - panel

Kristina – panel

Temma concluded with the exhibit concept by stage designer Philip Silver. It will literally be a walk through the Torah. The completed Torah will be 8 feet high and as long as a football field containing 1463 portions. It will be configured for viewers to walk into, along, and out of the assembled piece. The scope of the project is just emerging. At this point in time the grant request process is about to begin and more organizational infrastructure put into place.

Brenda's panel

Brenda – panel

President Karen Chisvin thanked Temma for this unique and amazing presentation. We all wished Temma a “Yascher Kochechah” on her work with this project: “Temma we are used to your doing innovative and unbelievable projects.  This will be your crowning glory. So keep on jumping Temma, jump higher and higher. We all hope you grow wings before you hit the ground and may you continue to share your unique and awesome talent with the entire world well into the future.”

All images courtesy of artists and Torah Stitch by Stitch project