If you’re looking to push the boundaries of Jewish sewing, let’s take a trip to Japan. In a post last month about fabrics whose patterns suggest Stars of David, two of the swatches were based on the traditional Japanese hemp leaf pattern, known in Japanese as asanoha. The rich history behind the hemp leaf pattern deserves some exploration.
From the perspective of traditional Japanese design, the asanoha pattern is conceptualized as six diamond shapes –lozenges– arranged radially. The diamond shapes represent the leaves of the hemp plant. Hemp is a quick-growing plant that in Japan symbolizes vigor. The symbolism contributes to the pattern’s popularity, especially for kimonos and children’s clothing.
(The hemp plant’s rapid growth is part of the reason why hemp fabric is a great choice from the perspective of environmental sustainability — Take a look at this earlier Sew Jewish post: Hemp Fabric Works Great for a Tallit.)
But take a step back from the asanoha pattern, and the six diamonds together resemble a six-pointed star. For the Jewish sewist, that not only opens up fabric options when we want six-pointed stars –add “hemp leaf pattern” and “asanoha” to your fabric search terms– it also provides a new approach to thinking about constructing six-pointed stars, especially for quilt tops.
To inspire you to think outside the box –or, outside the star– here is a video by Ellen Wolters about how to draw a hemp leaf pattern:
Maria Bywater is the author of Sew Jewish: The 18 Projects You Need for Jewish Holidays, Weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvah Celebrations, and Home. She teaches hands-on Judaica sewing workshops.