Handmade Holidays ~ Challah Cover Tutorial
Ronit from Two Hippos makes lots of pretty quilts, chuppahs and challah covers too! (You can learn more about Ronit in her introduction.) Today she shows you how to create a challah cover that includes the word “Shabbat” in Hebrew. A challah cover would make a lovely holiday gift! Today’s tutorial is part of our week-long Handmade Holidays focus. Start sewing now and you’ll have a wonderful collection of decorations and gifts to give later this year!
Like many religious people, Jews mark one day of the week as a holy day and a day of rest. For us, it starts Friday evening at sundown and continues until sundown on Saturday. Different people celebrate it to different degrees and in different ways, but most Jews treasure the tradition of eating challah, a delicious egg bread, at Shabbat dinner on Friday night or Shabbat lunch on Saturday (it also makes a good French toast for Sunday brunch!). To signal the importance of the challah, it sits sits snug under its own (pretty) cover before the meal begins and it receives its blessing. Technically anything could cover it — a napkin will do in a pinch — but the need for a challah cover presents creative opportunities galore.
The following tutorial will show you how to make a modern challah cover that includes the word “Shabbat” in Hebrew. And if you don’t need one for yourself, rest assured, they make fantastic gifts. After all, they’re used weekly, if not more often. So the next time you need a present for a friend or family member’s engagement, housewarming, wedding, Jewish holiday hosting, anniversary, or just because you want to show off your fancy Hebrew crafting skills, a challah cover is an awesome choice. While blue and white are common colors used in Judaica, there are no rules. Use whatever colors and fabrics suit you (or the recipient).
- Templates PDF (print it!)
- Fabric (Note: Scraps can work too):
A: (letters and design): (1) 1.5″ WOF strip + (1) 1.5″x18.5″ + (2) 3.5×3.5″ squares
B: (design and binding): (1) 3.5″x3.5″ square + (2) 2.25″ WOF strips
C: (background): 8.5″ WOF strip, subcut into (2) 1.5″ + (1) 5.5″ strips (or, if you cut carefully, 1 FQ)
- Backing: 1 FQ
18″ x 20″ batting or flannel
WOF = Width of Fabric
FQ = Fat Quarter
1. Download the Challah Cover Template Information. There are three pages: notes (1), templates (2), and diagram (3). If you want to save trees, just print page 2 and refer to the other pages on the screen of your choice. When you print the templates, make sure your scaling is 0. The row of letters should take up the whole page (11″). Cut out the three letter templates along the dotted lines. Because the letter taf (left template) requires piecing 2 sections separately, you will have 4 template pieces that will become 3 letter blocks.
2. Cut your fabric. The list that follows the piece size corresponds to labels on the templates and diagram; this should make it easier to use scraps.
Fabric A (letters/design)
- (10) 1.5″x4″ (S1/S3/S5/S6; B2/B3/B5; T4/T5/T6)
(1) 1.5″x1.5″ (T2)
(2) 3.5″x3.5″ (Y2/Y6)
(1) 1.5″x18.5″ (Z1)
Fabric B (design)
- (1) 3.5″x3.5″ (Y4)
Fabric C (letters/background)
- (6) 1.5″x4″ (S2/S4/S7; B4/B6; T1)
(1) 2.5″x2.5″ (B1)
(1) 2.5″x3.5″ (T3)
(2) 3″x3.5″ (X2/X3)
(2) 5.5″x14.5″ (X4/X5)
(2) 1.25″x3.5″ (Y1/Y7)
(2) 1.5″x3.5″ (Y3/Y5)
(1) 1.5″x13.5″ (Y8)
(1) 1.5″x18.5″ (Z2)
1. Paper Piece the Hebrew Letters spelling Shabbat. If you’ve never paper-pieced before, reading through this tutorial or this tutorial may be helpful. Explaining paper-piecing tends to get wordy but it’s not that hard. In this case, the gray parts of the template will create the letters, while the white parts are the background. Remember that the letter templates are mirror images because you’re sewing from the back (the side with the lines). Shorten your stitch length to 1.5-1.8 (to make removing the paper easy).
We’re going to start with the shin (designated by S) because it’s the first letter and super easy. Grab 1 strip of the letter fabric (S1) and 1 strip of the background fabric (S2). Place the S1 fabric on the back of the template right side out, making sure it is at least 1/4″ over the line between S1 and S2. Place the S2 fabric on S1, right sides together. Hold the template up to the light to confirm that both pieces of fabric are at least 1/4″ in S2 territory. Sew along the seam line between S1 and S2; start at the point near S6 and sew toward to the edge of the template. Flip your block over. If you want/need to you can trim the seam to 1/4″. Otherwise, lay the fabrics open and press.
Grab the letter fabric for S3 and repeat the same series of steps. Repeat for S5 and S6 (this should be feeling familiar). Grab the letter fabric for S6 (the letter part of the block is almost done!). Lay S6 over the S1-5, making sure it’s at least 1/4″ into the S6 area. Sew along the line. Check the seam allowance; if there’s extra, this is a place where you really want to trim down to 1/4″. Press. It’s time for S7, the last piece of the template. Lay S7 right side down against S5/6. Sew from one edge of the template to the other. Trim the seam allowance and press the block.
Now trim all the excess fabric from around the block edges. Excellent! 1/3 of the letters down!
Now grab the Bet (B) template and follow the same series of steps, moving from B1 to B6. When you sew B1 and B2 together, remember that the line goes from the intersection with B3 to the intersection with B5. All the other seam lines will go all the way to the edge of the template.
Finally, grab the the taf (T) template. This needs to be pieced in 2 segments, but both segments are simple. Start with T1-2: There’s just one line to sew. Then press and trim the edges of the segment down to size. Now it’s time to piece the T3-6 segment. As with the bet, there is one solely interior line to sew (T3 to T4) while the other lines go from edge to edge. As before, sew, trim the seam allowance, press the fabric, and repeat. Once you’ve finished this segment and trimmed the block edges, it’s time to sew together the two segments. Remove the paper from back of the block. Lay the T1/2 segment on the T5 side, right sides together. Sew together with a 1/4″ seam. Press.
4. Piece the three letters together. Make sure you’re putting them in the right order — Shin (S) on the right, Bet (B) in the middle, and Taf (T) on the left. Check your layout against the image below or the first page of the template. If it looks like MCU, then it’s upside-down but in the correct order.
Voila! You’ve pieced the three Hebrew letters that form “Shabbat.”
Make the Challah Cover Top
Note: All seams are 1/4″. I usually press seams open, but follow your preference.
1. Take a look at the diagram (page 3 of the template pdf).
2. Sew together each section (X, Y, and Z) in the order listed. In other words, piece together X1 and X2, then add X3, followed by X4, and finally X5. Ditto for Y and Z. The consistency of your seam allowance will determine whether you need to trim any of the sections to size (confession: I almost always trim up because my seam allowance isn’t perfectly consistent).
3. Sew X and Y together. Sew Z to XY. Sweet: you’ve got a challah cover top!
Finish it up!
1. Baste together the top, batting, and backing. With a piece of this size, I find it handy to iron the layers together before quilting.
2. Quilt it! It’s a small top, so it doesn’t need too much quilting to stay together. That said, I find small pieces like this a great opportunity to play with new quilting techniques or ideas. In this case, I used a 4″ circle as a template to sew around. I placed it randomly and sewed around it until I quilted the whole top.
3. Bind it. I’m an inveterate and unapologetic machine-binder, but bind according to your preference.
And there you have it– An awesome challah cover to use or give as a fabulous gift.
You can use the letter templates in an infinite number of challah cover designs. Here are a few other options to get your creative juices flowing.
Two fabrics, a few borders, and some interesting quilting make this challah cover stand out.
A lot of neutrals, a couple pops of color, and intense straight-line quilting comprise this ultra-modern challah cover.
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