Monday, February 17, 2014

Auntie's Work

Yesterday, I gave a talk for the women's group at my synagogue about how I became interested in embroidery and use it to connect with Jewish tradition.  I showed them my challah cover and State Fair matzah cover, but I also had the opportunity to show them more of my Auntie's work.

This is a challah cover decorated with doves, a challah, a kiddish cup (for drinking ceremonial wine), candles, and a siddur (prayer book).  The words in the siddur are the beginning of the blessing said over wine at the beginning of Shabbat dinner on Friday nights.  The candles are unusual because normally the mother of the house lights two candles at the start of Shabbat.  This challah cover has a candelabra with five candles.  Some families just like lighting extra candles, or they have a tradition of lighting one candle for each child and/or grandchild.

This well-loved, well-used challah cover has an incredibly elaborate challah and a longer segment of the blessing over wine on Shabbat:

"And there was evening and there was morning.  The sixth day--the heavens and the earth, and all within them, were finished."

This cover felt much older, with an extremely soft texture.  It reminded me of the texture of a tallis (prayer shawl) my dad has that belonged to his grandfather or great-grandfather, where it is on the way to having the thickness of tissue paper.

This is a wall hanging of the Hebrew alphabet. Auntie made one for my mom and each of her sisters as wedding presents.  My parents then let me take it to hang in my apartment after I got married.  Every so often, I take a couple moments to look at the stitches.  This has the widest variety of stitches out of any piece my great-aunt made, and it has interesting color choices and changes.

One woman brought a cross-stitch matzah cover made in Latvia in 1892!  Her grandmother's best friend made it for her as a gift before she left for America.  The friend created a logo on the back of the cover in which she intertwined her and the grandmother's first initials.  Other people took the time to share their experiences with embroidery.  It seemed like each woman had a project lurking in her closet that she started decades ago and never completed.  I was glad that my talk really struck a chord with people, and hopefully it will inspire some of them to take up stitching again.

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