Joyful Jewish

Feel the urge to sew something useful and maybe a little bit fancy, but don’t think you have the stamina for a quilt?  Think challah cover!  Big enough to look impressive, small enough to finish in a relatively short space of time.

Hands on challah cover

Our first challah cover was a wedding gift and has already given us 15 years good service, but we felt like a change.  I made a new challah cover for Chanukah last year but I wanted a design which would be suitable for use year-round.   Then an idea coalesced after I read a post on Sweet and Crunchy in which she made a mini-quilt featuring the outlines of her childrens’ hands.

I thought it would be lovely to capture an image of my daughter’s childsize hand next to those of her parents.  Even when she grows up and leaves home, we can still have her with us on Shabbat.   I was also reminded of a custom of our synagogue – when they say the blessing over the challah, everyone reaches out to touch the arm or shoulder of the person next to them, forming branching chains that reach towards the person in the centre who is holding the tray with the challah on it.  If we have visitors who don’t know this custom, someone will usually call out “Everyone’s touching someone who’s touching the challah!”

Appliqued challah cover

So we traced around our hands (my husband and I are right-handed, our daughter is a “lefty”) and transferred the images to fabric in our favourite colours.  I blanket stitched around each hand.  In retrospect it might have been better if the arms went to the edge of the cover rather than looking like disembodied glovesl but I was making the pattern up as I went, and didn’t think of that until later.

bias binding

Then I made some bias binding out of the three fabrics to use as a border, and stitched a gold ribbon into the seams when I put on the backing.

And here we are: everyone’s touching the challah cover that’s touching the challah.

family challah cover

We’re between festivals this month, so I decided to focus on some Hebrew words and phrases with the kids in my Shabbat Tot class.   “Lailah tov” means “Good night”. For a craft activity, we’re making a collage quilt using squares of fabric. You could also do this activity with squares of paper if you didn’t have any spare fabric.
As a bonus, my fabric represents a number of Jewish festivals, either intentionally or via a process of creative reimagining!

This is the (very simple) backing picture prior to the fabric squares being glued on.

Lailah tov

And this is what it looks like with the completed quilt.

Lailah tov complete

Can you spot: matzah for Passover, apples for Rosh Hashanah, a candle holder for Hanukah? How about: party hats for Purim, flowers for Shavuot, a plague of insects and another of darkness for Passover, water that parted at the Red Sea, and a selection of stars of David?  If you can suggest what my plain square of orange (ignoring the glue stain) might represent, please leave me a comment!

I decided to decorate a t-shirt for my daughter for Pesach.  I wanted to make something easy but cute, incorporating some matzah-coloured fabric I bought online. After brainstorming a couple of designs, we agreed on this one: four hearts on four squares.

Pesach shirt design

I used an image from the internet as a template for the heart.  It was very simple to cut and assemble the fabric pieces onto a plain t-shirt using iron-on fabric adhesive (heat and bond lite), after which I zig-zag stitched around the edges of each shape.

We have another little girl coming to our seder this year, so I made a shirt for her too.

Pesach shirt with flowers

They are going to look so cute together!

My daughter was very excited and wanted to wear her new shirt right away.  And to bed.  And to school the next day. :-)

Pesach shirt modelled

Recently I used modelling clay to make mini hamantaschen for I Spy Graggers. It was fun, and I wondered what else I could make. (I am inspired by Joanna at Bible Belt Balabusta.  Check out her tiny hamantaschen as playfood for toys, and her model magic hamantaschen fridge magnets.)  At some point it occurred to me that I’d love to own some hamantaschen earrings.  I’ve never made earrings before – but then again I’d never used modelling clay before this month either, so I decided to give it a go.

Purim earrings

I’m sure you can get “proper” earring components and jewellery making tools which could make your earrings look very professional, but all I had at home was a spool of beading wire, which is extremely soft and easy to bend by hand.  This turned out to be all I needed.  When I made my hamantaschen out of modelling clay, I bent one end of a length of wire into a loop, and placed this loop between the “dough” layer and the “filling”.  The wire was then trapped in place when I baked the clay.

Then, I twisted the end of the wire which was sticking out into a small loop.  I could have used the hamantaschen as pendants at this point, but continued on with the earrings by threading a second length of wire through the loop and fashioning it into a hook to go through my ear.  As I said, beading wire is really easy to bend!

Hamantaschen earring

And now I own a own a cool pair of hamantaschen earrings, just in time for Purim! Yay!

Purim is just around the corner, and I wanted a gragger project with a difference.  May I present (drumroll please!) the “I Spy” gragger!

Rice and treasures

The I Spy Gragger!

This craft activity combines two great ideas – 1. something to make noise when Haman’s name is mentioned during the reading of Megillat Esther at Purim, and 2. the I Spy bag (or in this case bottle).  If you’ve never seen an I Spy bag, they are great: a collection of random (or not so random) small interesting objects hiding in a sea of small pellets, awaiting your discovery.  I bought one for my daughter when she was younger, and I think I enjoyed finding the items in it even more than she did!

The gragger part is easy – an empty plastic bottle containing some rice.  You could also use uncooked pasta, dried lentils etc, but rice is relatively quiet when shaken, plus you can easily dye it lovely colours by putting rice, a squirt of food colouring and a teaspoon of white vinegar into a ziplock bag and shaking/rubbing until the rice is evenly coloured.  My daughter enjoyed helping with that!  I used a cup of rice per 600ml bottle but go with what looks good to you.

Deciding what items to include for the “I Spy” component can be fun too.  I  thought of a few myself, then called on the lovely Joanna B from Bible Belt Balabusta for some more inspiration.  Here’s our combined list of potential items for inclusion:

Gragger contents

A few good ideas, but you can invent more!

- Alphabet beads for the inital letters of the names of the main characters.  (I threaded a piece of gold pipecleaner through the A for King Ahashverosh.)
- a plastic jewel for Queen Ester
- a gold coin, or a gold or silver crown (to be cut out of shiny cardboard or trimmed from a piece of foil lasagne pan) for King Ahashverosh
- a heart to represent the good Mordechai
- a triangle for Haman’s hat
- mini Hamantaschen made from modelling clay
- a tiny horse, to represent the one that Haman had to lead Mordechai around on
- Ahashverosh’s sceptre, which he extends to Esther when she visits uninvited, maybe made from a shortened, painted toothpick with a bead glued on the end
- food for the banquet
- a tiny book or scroll that King Ahashverosh checks when he can’t sleep, finds Mordecai’s deed within.
- dice: to represent the “lots” (“Purim”) that Haman threw to select the date to destroy the Jews
- mini masks (cut from cardboard or perhaps found as confetti)
- magen david confetti

Gragger labelI used the items I could get hold of (or make) most easily, but it would have been fun to use all these ideas.  (Thank you Joanna!)  The children I was making the graggers with are quite young – 2-3 years old, so I made a list of the items and laminated it so it could be tied to the neck of the bottle as a reminder of who is in the story and what could be found if you looked.

The kids loved putting things into the bottle and shaking it all up.  We then had a great rendition of my Purim story for young children (ie the G-rated version) with accompanying Purim spoon puppets, and tested out some new hamantaschen recipes.  And now we’re all set for Purim!

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Wall hanging

My plan: to make a wall hanging depicting a chanukah menorah (chanukiah) with flames that would fold up as you “lit” them each night, revealing a small pocket in which to find a piece of gelt (chocolate coin).

Finished cover

The challah cover chanukiah

What happened first: my original design (which I thought was quite elegant) did not have candles wide enough to accommodate the chocolate coins I wanted to hide in them, and if I scaled the design up so that the candles were wide enough, the entire thing was simply way too big.  So I turned that design into a challah cover.

What happened next: I ended up making a wall hanging  dictated by the width of the candles and the design was a lot less glamorous, at least in part because I made it up as I went along rather than starting with a pattern.  I used clear plastic press-studs to hold up the flames.

Wall hanging pockets

You can just make out the pockets, which are a square at the top of each candle.

It took me a day or two to design/cut/machine sew the thing together and about 5 weeks to make myself hand sew 18 press-stud pieces. If I was making it again (which, trust me, I am not going to do) I would change quite a bit.  But it does hold gelt, which makes it extremely popular with the youngest member of the household; and if she’s happy then I’m happy too.

Clutching the prize!

Clutching the prize!

Sew your own felt latkes

I needed some latke-shaped beanbags for a latke-tossing game (as you do) and a quick browse of the internet lead me toa fantastic tutorial on how to make a beautiful felt latke (and some other cool things).

Latkes made by Brittany, you can find them on Etsy.

Thus inspired, I made half a dozen of my own.  As you can see, my use of darker brown shades of felt give the more realistic impression that I occasionally forget to flip my latkes quickly enough and they do get a little crispier than is perhaps optimal!

Felt latke

Latkes made by me, you can find them on the floor, or wherever they’ve been flipped to recently.

I more or less followed Brittany’s tutorial, but only put the small felt pieces on one side.  Apart from being a bit of a fiddle, it makes it easier to see if you’ve flipped your latke if one side is plain and the other side is fancy.  I attached the small pieces of felt with iron-on double sided adhesive, then just put a few stitches through for decoration.

Felt latkes in a pan

I made a separate fabric pocket containing some rice, and then sewed the felt pieces together either side of it. Hopefully this means that even if the felt comes apart (which is unlikely) the rice won’t be able to leak out.

Anyway, they make great beanbags for latke flipping, latke tossing, balancing latkes on your father’s head, and general flying latke mayhem.  Plus they sit still long enough to be photographed, which is more than I can say about the ones I cooked for dinner this evening.

Fun crafts and activities for Jewish families with young children

A resource site for anyone who wants to share the joy of being Jewish with the children in their life.

Enjoy!

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