A Wikki- Challah Cover


vintage challah cover

When my mother was young she used to embroider. She used to embroider challah covers. It used to be possible to buy embroidery designs printed on linen, like the one pictured above, in Jewish book stores.
The design is a standard one. You have all of the symbols for Shabbat, candles, challah, wine cup and decanter. the text reads “ In honor of Shabbat and Holidays”.

If I remember correctly, my mother started this challah cover while she was in college and living with her older sister in Brooklyn.  I guess life got in the way of finishing this challah cover and it got put away.  My mother taught my older sister how to embroider when she was about 12. My sister  started out working from kits and then progressed to do some really elaborate work. At some point during her embroidery career she put some work into this challah cover.

The Passover when I was 7, my mother gave me a Jewish embroidery set as an afikoman present. The kit came with a challah cover and a matza cover, but printed on cheap cotton, not on linen. My mother complained about the shoddiness of the materials as she taught me how to do both backstitch and cross stitch as we sat in the sun on the wall outside of our house. I never finished either of the pieces that came in that kit. But I did learn how to embroider.

Eventually my sister gave me the challah cover to work on. I put in a bunch of hours of work into the piece,and clearly never finished it.

When my daughter was little I taught her how to embroider on this same challah cover.  I can’t for the life of me tell you who  was responsible for any area of embroidery.

I suppose you can take away several lessons from this unfinished piece. One might be that none of us has the stamina to finish anything.   But that is disproved here I think that a more important lesson is that a child need not finish a piece to learn the lessons that they need to from working on it.
I think looking at this challah cover, you can also understand exactly what my work tried hard not to be.  all of the elements that are on the table are on the challah cover.
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There is wine, and challah and candles. The text tells you that it is made to use on Shabbat. You learn nothing new. You don’t think about the why of Shabbat or the mitzvah you are about to perform.
I love this unfinished challah cover as a family artifact. I have the sense that it will never get finished but I wouldn’t be surprised of others in my family learn how to embroider from working on this challah cover.
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