A High Holy Day Inspiration quilt, handmade by Woodbridge native Heather G. Stoltz, is showcased in a new book exploring the world of Jewish fabric crafts.
Compiled and written by Diana Drew with Robert Grayson, “Jewish Threads: A Hands-On Guide to Stitching Spiritual Intention into Jewish Fabric Crafts” (Jewish Lights Publishing), presents 30 fabric craft projects, created by artisans from throughout the United States and Israel, explaining the inspiration behind each one, as well as how each one was made.
Several years ago, Stoltz, a professional fiber artist (www.sewingstories.com), joined the Journal Quilt Project and committed herself to creating a small art quilt each month. For Stoltz, it was fitting that the first piece she made for the Project would be for the Hebrew month of Elul, preparing her both for the High Holy Days and her birthday, which fell on Rosh Hashanah that year.
“The year that was ending had been a year of transitions—a year of finding myself,” reflects Stoltz. “On the cusp of a new year on the Jewish calendar and a new year in my life, I was ready to break out of the confusing fog and fly toward a new life. Sewn into this High Holy Day Inspiration piece is a recording device that plays the sound of the shofar when the button under the butterfly is pushed, a call to make these changes with courage and intention.”
Stoltz discovered her love of fiber art when pursuing a Master’s degree in Jewish women’s studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Since then, she has been translating texts of the Jewish tradition into textile art, bringing her own interpretation to the ancient words. Stoltz also holds a Bachelors degrees in both mechanical engineering and Jewish studies from Lafayette College in Easton, Penn. Although she no longer works as an engineer, she puts these skills to use in the design of her quilts.
Stoltz’ work has been shown nationally at venues such as the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Tex. and she has taught fiber art workshops at synagogues and conferences throughout the northeast. She has also created several commissioned pieces, sparked by the needs and desires of her clients.
“Jewish Threads” is designed to motivate readers to fashion some of the traditional ritual items as well as more contemporary pieces included in the book — individually or in groups — by offering easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions at the end of each of the stories about the fabric artists and their spiritual intention. Most of the projects are relatively simple. Readers are encouraged to draw on their own life experiences to give the pieces they make a distinctly individual flair, a one-of-a-kind feel. So the book can serve as a springboard for readers’ own imagination and creativity.
“Jewish Threads” craft projects range from wall hangings for the home to shulchan (lectern) covers for the synagogue, whimsical pieces for celebrating holidays (a ChanuCats quilt for Chanukah and Dancing Hamantaschen costumes for Purim, for example), and meaningful craft projects to honor milestones in the Jewish life cycle, including healing and memorial quilts. Some of the crafts presented in “Jewish Threads,” such as challah covers, have roots in Jewish tradition, while others, including Purim puppets and a knit seder plate for Passover, play off centuries of tradition, while incorporating a contemporary spin. Among the fabric craft techniques represented in “Jewish Threads” are quilting, needlepoint, knitting, crochet, felting, embroidery, appliqué, needle felting, and counted cross-stitch.