Commentary

What Makes a Sewing Craft Jewish?

doll pillow
Sometimes the answer is simply that it fits into a Jewish life. Which means the answer can be different from person to person.

Last week I went to the birthday party of a little girl who just turned three. The party took place at a Jewish center, with lots of folks from the Jewish community, and the occasion marked the young lady’s start of formally learning to do mitzvot, like lighting Shabbat candles. So naturally, when I thought about what gift to bring I thought Jewish.

What to make for her? There was one important consideration I knew: The young girl’s family avoids representations of non-kosher animals in items they use for their children. So no stuffed bunnies or teddy bears. How about a doll quilt with letters of the Hebrew alphabet? A wall hanging with a dove on it? A stuffed sheep with the child’s Hebrew initial on it? All the ideas seemed a bit forced.

DIY dollEventually, I realized I was asking the wrong question. The right question wasn’t what Jewish gift to bring, but what would make a three-year-old happy. And sometimes all a child wants is something to carry around, cuddle, and call their own. That realization made it easy to decide that I wanted to make a cross between a stuffed doll and a pillow. A quick online search turned up this cuddly pattern called “My Baby Buddy” by Lucy Ferguson of My Funny Buddy.

The design of the doll isn’t Jewish. But the gift is Jewish because it fits into this little person’s Jewish life. Because it takes into account her family’s Jewish practice of avoiding representations of non-kosher animals.

Sometimes, a sewing craft is Jewish not because it’s used for a distinctly Jewish practice, like covering challah, or because it has a Jewish motif, like a Star of David, but because there is nothing about it that would preclude it from being part of a Jewish life.

Not every Jewish person follows the practice of avoiding representations of non-kosher animals. Most Jewish people don’t. But some do. And since Jewish practices differ from person to person, the answer to the question “Is this craft project Jewish” can also be different from person to person.

P.S. Some quick notes on the doll pattern: It sews up super quickly. My variations: Because the flannel I used for the blanket had a strong directionality to it, I changed up how I cut the pattern pieces from the fabric. Instead of laying the pattern pieces on the fabric so that the placement guides ran parallel to the edge of the fabric, I laid them on the bias (diagonally) so that in the final doll they would look a bit more like a blanket wrapped around a baby. And after the front pieces were sewn together, but before I sewed the front of the doll to the back, I added decorative stitches resembling blanket stitches along the edges of the blanket just for fun.

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doll pattern placement

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