Quilters Lead Pieceful Lives.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Two Alef-Bet Quilts

Last spring, by coincidence, I learned of two soon-to-be new little people.

One was the first child of our religious school director and his rabbi wife.

The other was the fifth child of the daughter of friends of ours. The daughter and her family live in Israel.

When I offered to make a quilt for each family, both suggested a Jewish theme. So I began looking for suitable patterns.

Then I found this Hebrew alphabet (or, more correctly, alef-bet) pattern.

I don't normally like to make the same quilt twice, but this opportunity was too good to pass up.

I used the same fabrics in both, but slightly changed which colors went with which letters. Each block is paper-pieced.


Remember that Hebrew is read from right to left, so the letters are: alef, bet, gimel, hei, vav, zayin, chet, tet, yud, kaf, lamed, mem, nun, samech, ayin, peh, tzaddi, kuf, resh, shin, and tav. There are also 5 "final consonants" (versions of other letters) in the alef-bet. These were not included. Nor were the vowel symbols, which go below the letters.

There are two other symbols (in the bottom row). The one on the right is the Star of David (or Jewish Star). In Hebrew it is called the Magen David which means "shield of David". There are many ideas about the symbolic meaning of the Star of David. Some Kabbalists thought that the six points represented God's absolute rule over the universe in all six directions: north, south, east, west, up and down. They also believed that the triangles represented humanity’s dual nature – good and evil – and that the star could be used as protection against evil spirits.

The structure of the star, with two overlapping triangles, has also been thought to represent the relationship between God and the Jewish people. The star that points up symbolizes God and the star that points down represents us here on earth. Yet others have noticed that there are twelve sides on the triangle, perhaps representing the Twelve Tribes.


The other symbol is the hamesh (meaning "hand" in Hebrew; also hamsa in Arabic). It is an old and still popular amulet for magical protection from the envious or evil eye. The words hamsa and hamesh mean "five" and refer to the digits on the hand. An alternative Islamic name for this charm is the Hand of Fatima, in reference to the daughter of Mohammed. An alternative Jewish name for it is the Hand of Miriam, in reference to the sister of Moses and Aaron.

3 comments:

Donna said...

These are two of the most thoughtful and beautiful baby quilts you've done. And your explanation of the alef-bet and the symbols - very interesting! It's also fun to study the color variation in the two quilts - both are equally lovely. Nicely nicely done!

wendy said...

These are wonderful!

Cynthia said...

I love the technique of paper piecing that you used when constructing the Hebrew letters. How clever of you to do that. I have made several aleph bet quilts but your technique is amazing. Best of luck with your quilts. Your work is fantastic.