You all went crazy over on Instagram for real bride Lauren’s handmade chuppah in last week’s real Jew-ish wedding, so today she has kindly taken to the pages of Smashing The Glass with an easy-to-follow DIY tutorial on how to make one yourself. Please give Lauren Beadle, the craft blogger, a warm welcome!
I like to hand make things. So as you can imagine, my Jew-ish wedding was awash with loads of hand made touches.
I always make big plans to create all manner of complicated items for an event, but inevitably I will pare it back and choose a more simple design or technique. I definitely did this with a couple of ideas I had for the wedding. About a month before the wedding I realised I didn’t quite have enough time to make 140 candles and opted for a more crowd-pleasing miniature bottle of a favourite alcoholic drink, with a hand-lettered tag.
One element that I did actually plan well was our chuppah… I wanted it to it be personal, effective and simple to construct.
There are many ideas and opinions about the origins and meaning of ‘The Chuppah’ (some of which can be found here) but for me a chuppah is a physical representation of a bride and groom’s first home together, one that is supported and surrounded by family and friends from two different families and I feel that it should be something that is built together by the bride and groom as a symbol of that first home.
The chuppah that we created for our wedding was designed to represent this and to be constructed easily the night before the wedding or even on the day. If we can do it, then anyone can! We were incredibly lucky to be able to get into our wedding venue and set up the night before.
I had originally planned the chuppah structure to be set up on the day by the groom and/ or the groomsmen alone, so it needed to be relatively simple (I am a teeny weeny bit of a control freak when it comes to making things). In fact many of the construction ideas came from my husband, going slightly against the grain for me. We really wanted this to be something we built together and use our different skill set to do it.
To make the chuppah you don’t really need any major technical skills. You do need some proficiency with an iron… hopefully you have that skill under your belt!
It would be useful if you were able to use a sewing machine, but if you don’t mind a more rustic look, then you could easily get away with some raw edges on your canopy. In fact any part of this ‘how-to’ can be adapted to suit your own skills or style.
What you’ll need
For The Canopy:
- A selection of images for the underside of your canopy
- Inkjet printer
- 2 meters of a close weave lightweight fabric in a colour of your choice (cotton or a lining fabric) – I got all my fabric from Dunelm
- 2 meters of linen in a contrasting colour (or matching if you prefer) only required if you want to sew a backing to the canopy
- Iron-on heat transfer paper for light fabrics – I used about 35 A4 sheets, but this would be dependant on the size and number of images you want to use – I used these from Crafty Computer Paper
- Iron and ironing board
- Pins and threads in matching or contrasting colours depending on preference
- Fabric and Paper Scissors/ Pinking shears (if required)
For The Structure:
- 4 x birch poles – I used 2.4 meters / 3-4in width which is a pretty standard size – these were a little more difficult to get hold of than we first thought, we found them from Posh Logs on eBay, they were so lovely and helpful!
- 4 x Galvanised buckets – these were perfect and found in Homebase
- 4 x eye screws – you can get these in any DIY/ builders merchant
- 50kg of shingle (small stones/ gravel) – you can get these in any DIY/ builders merchant and can get them in a mixture of colours or single colours to match your colour scheme
- A couple of strong people to help you construct at the venue
- Flowers to decorate to your own preference and colour scheme
To make the Canopy:
Create a folder on your phone or computer where you can gather all the images you want to use. We wanted our pictures to represent our lives together, but also the lives we’ve had with our friends and family before we found each other. I used between 100 – 120 images that were all cropped to 8cm x 8cm. When I printed, there were 6 square images on the A4 sheets
Carefully read and follow the instructions that come with the heat transfer paper for printing the images. I used 1 sheet of transfer paper to test. I found that an inkjet printer was SO much more effective than a laser printer. I also accidentally printed on the wrong side of the paper… so it is a good idea to test first! Print your images out and cut them out into squares. I kept a ½ cm border around the edges of each image as I liked how they looked a bit like polaroid pictures
If you like order and neatness, count the number of images you have, measure and mark exactly where each image will be positioned. If you are more like me, just work out roughly your start point for 1 row across and 1 row down, so you know how many rows will fit on your fabric and their general position (see image 1)
Using the instructions that come with the heat transfer paper for ironing, iron on to your lightweight fabric 1 row at a time. I found it easy to have an extra pair of hands, but you can do it alone with a trusty ironing board
Once all the images are attached, go back to your starting point and go over the edges of each image with the iron to make sure they are all securely stuck down
This is the bit where you can choose to sew a backing fabric on (great if you want to keep it as an heirloom or a piece of art after your wedding), hem up the single lightweight sheet (good if you have people holding up your canopy), or just keep the edges raw if you don’t fancy using a sewing machine:
- Backed canopy – Lay out the heavier fabric. Place the lighter fabric on top of the heavier fabric, with the images facing down (see image 2)
- Pin this together to ensure they stay together during sewing. With your sewing machine, sew a straight stitch around the edges making sure to leave a 15cm un-joined gap at the end (see image 3).
- Through this gap turn the fabric right side out.
- Iron around the edges of the joined fabric so that it is pressed flat.
- Be careful not to touch the pictures with the iron, or they will smudge the prints and ruin your iron!
- With your sewing machine, sew a top stitch (straight stitch) around the edge of the canopy, folding the edges of the gap inwards and closing the gap (see image 4).
- Hemmed edges – fold over each edge about ½cm once and press with an iron and repeat, folding the first into the second fold and press again. Sew a straight stitch along the double fold line (see image 5)
- Raw edges – this ‘no-sew’ method is easy, but will leave you with rough edges that are likely to fray. However you could simply cut around the edges of your fabric with some pinking shears (cuts a zig-zag edge) that will prevent the majority of fraying.
- You will need to create ties in the corner to attach the canopy to the poles and to do this you can simply cut the fabric diagonally through the corner towards the centre of the fabric (see image 6)
If using one of the sewing methods, you will need to create 4 ties for each corner. I used 8 scraps of fabric from the sturdier fabric, 2 for each tie. I sewed these straight onto the canopy, 1 on each side of the canopy at each corner. I found the best way to sew these on was to pin the 2 ties to the canopy and sew a straight stitch square and a cross through the square until it is secure (see image 7)
Your canopy is now ready to be put on the structure!
To make your Structure:
Place the 4 galvanised buckets in the position you require.
Screw an eyehook into the top of each pole (see image 8)
Working with 1 bucket at a time, place 1 birch pole in the centre of the bucket and have a friend/groomsman/bridesmaid hold it in place whilst you fill the bucket ¾ full of shingle. Make sure it is evenly filled around the pole and check that the pole is sturdy and will not fall down. If it is a bit wonky or unsteady, rearrange the pole and add more shingle if required – repeat for each pole (see image 9)
Tie your canopy to each pole with the images facing downwards – you will need a ladder for this.
Have someone stand back and check that it is in the correct position and looking evenly spaced out – use a few extra hands to reposition if necessary (one on each bucket). It is nice to have the canopy slightly slack in the middle so that your guests can see the images on the underside and see your handiwork, it also gives it a slightly rustic feel.
As a final touch you may wish to ask your florist to provide flowers for your chuppah. We told our florist exactly how our chuppah would be and they added flowers to the front two corners and poles. We had a lot of foliage and fern leaves along with flowers that matched my bouquet and table decorations.
During our wedding meal, my husband and I sat at a ‘sweetheart table’ and when we walked into dinner, we were so surprised that the staff at the venue had moved the chuppah to hang over our table. We had asked them to prop it up somewhere suitable so that our guests could go and have a look at the pictures we had used, but what they came up with was so much better! Our guests loved it and said that it seemed as though we were sitting at our own romantic private island.
Finally, make it your own… add your own touches and adapt it to your own style. Feel free to send me images of your handmade chuppah and tag me on Instagram (my favourite!) @laurendloves
About the author / maker
Lauren Beadle is a London based craft addict and teacher who is on a mission to try as many crafts as possible and use up all the supplies she has spent years hoarding. She has started to blog her journey at laurendloves.com and documents it on her Instagram @laurendloves.
Lauren has spent many years working within the Jewish community as a youth worker before setting up a small business running arts and crafts parties and workshops, later training as a secondary school drama teacher.
Last year Lauren hand made many elements of her interfaith wedding to John including her newest calligraphy skills to create all the signage. She spent a lot of time researching the best way to put on an interfaith wedding before discovering that there was no best way and developed her own Jewish inspired ceremony with her husband and brother.