We’re in the heart of the Jewish holiday season, which continues with the festival of Sukkot in October. In the midst of family gatherings, Americans think of—crafts. More than half of American homes include a crafter, according to industry groups who track these trends. Drawing and scrapbooking are the first and second most popular crafts in the U.S., but that’s because various forms of needlework are shown as separate market segments. Collectively, needleworkers dominate all other forms of crafts.
ReadTheSpirit asked author Debra Darvick to review a new book from Jewish Lights Publishing about needlecrafts that embody Jewish themes. You may recognize Debra’s name from national magazines, including Good Housekeeping. This autumn, ReadTheSpirit will publish a newly expanded version of Debra’s popular book, This Jewish Life: Stories of Discovery, Connection and Joy. You can follow Debra’s regular columns at her website: www.DebraDarvick.com.
Stitching with Jewish Soul
REVIEW by DEBRA DARVICK
The subtitle of Diana Drew’s Jewish Threads, A Hands–On Guide to Stitching Spiritual Intention into Jewish Fabric Crafts distinguishes this inspiring book of creative projects from many other such collections. With Jewish Threads in hand, you’re not just making what is useful and decorative, but reaching back into Jewish life and tradition, creating contemporary ritual objects, and reserving a place for yourself, or at least your artistic handiwork, well into the future.
Each of Drew’s chapters begins with a story, ably written by her husband Robert Grayson introducing us to the women and one man from across the country who contributed the designs for each of the 30 projects. For some contributors, creating Jewish art was the flame that ignited their commitment to Jewish observance. For others, creating ritual objects for use during the holidays or Jewish life cycle events was an extension of their already firm Jewish identity and practice. The chapter Celebrating Holidays, in addition to offering more than a dozen ideas for crafts, includes brief but thorough explanations of the holidays linked to each project.
The book’s four chapters are organized around the themes of home, synagogue, Jewish holidays and Jewish life cycles. In addition to patterns for four beautiful wall hangings—quilted, needle pointed or appliquéd—the chapter At Home, also features Barbara’s Felted Grape Purse. Not only does the grape motif hearken back to biblical times, but the craft of felting, we are told, dates back to 6300 BC.E.
From the chapter In the Synagogue, Lois’s Sefer Placekeepers (bookmarks to be used in a prayerbook) make a novel and fun gift idea, although the process seems quite complicated for so simple an object. Experienced crafters looking to create unique gifts for the holiday gifts or for new baby, Bar/Bat Mitzvah and wedding gifts will have a field day exploring the related chapters. From challah covers to Chanukah wall hangings to beautiful zippered bags to hold a tallit (prayer shawl) and kippah (skullcap) the author offers a wide range of projects for varying levels of skill.
The techniques drawn upon in Jewish Threads include quilting, embroidery, needlepoint, cross stitch, crochet, knitting felting and needle felting and readers would be advised to have at least some skill before attempting any of the projects. This is not a book for absolute beginners. But for those looking for meaningful and satisfying projects that will resonate with Jewish soul—this is the book for you.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.