It is a Tree of Life...

hand knit jewish wedding jill tarabar jistknit judaica knit chuppah tree of life wedding canopy wedding chuppah

Months ago (almost 2 years now actually) I mentioned a project that began with “I can do that” and proceeded to “what was I thinking?!” fairly quickly… knitting a chuppah for my son Jacob’s wedding.

Center square double tree of life chuppah for Jacob and Rachel's wedding in May of 2015
The center square complete and pinned to blocking boards.

Size. hmmm. 10′ x 10′? 12′ x 12′? How big should a chuppah be? Large enough for a bride and groom certainly plus the rabbi and two sets of parents and a small table to hold kiddush cup and more…

We determined that 10′ x 10′ would be a fine size for the roof of the chuppah… plus approximately 12″ draping down on all 4 sides to cover the wooden structure needed to hold it up. So, our chuppah project added up to a 12′ square. 12 foot square.

I chose a wool and nylon blend sock weight yarn in a natural or ivory color from which is literally machine washable. The yarn is smooth and knitted details show up beautifully. Now, how much yarn? Using the recommended gauge for sport weight yarn on size 6 needles, I calculated we would need approximately 14,500 yards of yarn. Thousand.  And math is not my strength. So I went ahead and ordered 90 skeins of yarn each with 163 yards totaling 14,670 yards!

This is a bit of the roof leaf and vine patterns blending into the leaf border which increased in size exponentially.

The yarn arrived and I cast-on 180 stitches to my US #6 needles. My plan was to first knit a center square depicting two strong intertwined trees. Once the square was complete, I would pick up stitches on all 4 sides and knit out from the middle in a vine and leaf pattern, increasing in the corners as you would for a shawl until I reached the 10′ goal – the width of the roof. From there, I switched the stitch to a series of  progressively larger leaves, placing beads along the leaf veins as I knit. Finally, I added beads to the bind-off edge as I knit each leaf to a point.

detail of the lace pattern with larger and larger leaves chuppah for jacob and rachels wedding in may 2015
The corners draped beautifully.

The center square, depicting 2 trees intertwined in the middle with cables and bobbles and branches and more cables burst off my needles but, of course I didn’t take the time to chart it as I knit, I just knit cabled and bobbled and branched until the square was complete. I’ve since gone back to try and graph it out but have had no luck. Once the center square was complete, I did map out the lace pattern and commit it to graph paper – so there’s that.

How long did this project take? A full 6 months of knitting every spare moment that I was not at work, eating or sleeping. By the end, I had so many stitches on my needles that I worked 4, 60″ double pointed needle sets – 3 holding stitches, and the 4th as my working needle. I timed each row to estimate how long it would take to finish… and would that be in time???!!! By the lastrow of leaves, each took an average of 2 1/2 hours to complete. I literally took days off from work to make this happen!

My calculations were a little off… I used only 65 of the 90 skeins of yarn purchased which amounted to 10,595 yards. I did mention math is not my strength!

And did I mention sitting for all those hours does not help you fit into the mother-of-the-groom dress?! No. It does not.

I finally finished knitting, just in time to ship the chuppah off to the florist in St. Louis where the wedding was held. As it turns out, the florist had poles made of birch trees that they usually covered with ribbon but for our chuppah and it’s natural tree theme, we asked that they leave the poles uncovered.

What do you think? Crazy, huh?

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