Sunday, December 18, 2011

Twelve Days of Christmas, Day 7: Make Your Own Challah Cover

I just got home a little while ago from my last craft fair of the season. In addition to selling totes this month, I've also been selling these little kits, intended as Hanukah gifts, for making challah covers. Though we're not Jewish, my friend Andrea, who is, introduced my kids and I to the Friday evening Shabbat ritual at her house one evening. I loved the blessing of the wine (juice for us) and bread that preceded the meal, and I was immediately enamored with the idea of the challah cover. I went online shortly afterwards and found many examples of beautifully designed covers, embroidered on silk and linen, with traditional design motifs ranging from pomegranates to wheat to birds to "the seven spices". You can see what I mean by looking here and here.

Though the traditional designs are beautiful, challah covers can have any design on them at all, and this tutorial shows how to make a simple cover with a contemporary design using simple templates that you will have on hand at home.

To make a cover (or a kit, to give as a gift for a kid crafter), you'll need the following:

One 20" x 20" piece of linen or muslin, edges hemmed, OR one store bought cloth napkin of the same size
Scraps of fabric in coordinating colors
Double sided fusible web, such as Steam-A-Seam 2, sold at craft stores in packs of 3 sheets
Tracing templates, such as circles, squares or other shapes
Scissors, or an exacto knife and self healing mat
Fine tipped Sharpie
An iron
Optional: If you're going to make a kit, you'll also need some glassine envelopes to put the applique pieces into. You can also buy a packaging kit (like the ones I used in the photo above) at Staples. I used Avery 22801 Printable Toppers and Bags. If you're on a budget you can package the kit nicely in tissue paper or a brown paper lunch bag with a printed label on it too.

To begin:
Begin applying pieces of the fusible web to the back sides of your fabric scraps. First peel away a single side of the backing, as shown, and apply the sticky side to the fabric. Follow the instructions for the fusible web to iron it onto the fabric.

Next trace the shapes from your template onto the ironed on backing using a fine tipped Sharpie. If you don't have templates like the ones pictured, just collect a few round things of various sizes that you have lying around, like a glue stick and a jam jar, and trace around the bottom of them.

Cut out your shapes until you have all of your design elements.

Take a few minutes to play around with various designs on your cover. Keep moving your pieces around til you come up with something you like.

Now get ready to attach your pieces. Peel away the protective backing from your applique pieces, as shown, and stick them back onto the cover. (Make sure that your cover is ironed out and smooth first.)

Once all of your pieces are in place, run a hot iron over them, making sure to iron for about fifteen seconds total over each pieces. (The instructions for doing this will be included with the fusible web.)

Above is a photo of the cover over a loaf of bread that is not challah. But you get the point.

That's it! This is great project for parents to do with their children. Though my family doesn't practice any formal religion in our home, Henry and I have been talking lately about our relationship with food, and the idea of being more mindful of what we eat. So I'll close this post with some words that we may soon adapt as a pre-meal prayer at our own table. These are known as The 5 Contemplations, by Thich Nhat Hanh.

1. This food is the gift of the whole universe: the earth, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard, loving work.
2. May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive it.
3. May we recognize and transform our unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed, and learn to eat with moderation.
4. May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that we reduce the suffering of living beings, preserve our planet, and reverse the process of global warming.
5. We accept this food so that we may nurture our sister- hood and brotherhood, strengthen our community, and nourish our ideal of serving all living beings.

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