Something I looked forward to when I became a parent was making our own family traditions and deciding which holidays to celebrate. My family observed most of the American holidays when I was growing up and I wanted my son to experience the same. Since I married into a Jewish family, this added a new level of cultural complexity to consider, one I was not very familiar with myself. As I looked for ways to expose Asher to more of his Jewish heritage, it became clear there was a huge lack of fun and festive Hanukkah toys. Taking matters into my own crafty hands, I created this felt playset complete with dreidel, ten gelt coins and two potato latkes. I didn’t take stitch-by-stitch photos like the watermelon tutorial, but here is a run-down of each item so you can make your own felt Hanukkah fun. Of course if you would like me to make one for your children, they are available in my Etsy shop.
Here are all my pieces before I sewed them together. Let’s start with the dreidel. This consists of 4 side pieces, measuring 1.5 inches for the long side and 1.25 inches down each side to create the triangle points.
The top square is 1.75 inches on each side. The dreidel handle is a one inch tall strip of felt rolled up and attached to the center of the top square. To construct the dreidel, sew the dreidel symbols to the side pieces, then attach the side pieces to the top square, and sew down to the points.
Next are the coins, known as gelt. Today these are often made of chocolate but any small object can be used in the game. These are little circles of golden yellow felt, about an inch in diameter. If you have young children who still mouth their toys, these could be made bigger so they aren’t a choking hazard. I did two different designs on the gelt. These five each have a Star of David on the front, easily embroidered with two triangles.
Mmm, delicious latkes. These yummy potato pancakes are often served with applesauce and the oil they are fried in is representative of the oil that lasted 8 nights in the Temple. For a non-felt latke recipe, look here. (LINK: http://kosherfood.about.com/od/hanukkah/r/gellerlatkas.htm)
For my latkes, I cut two pieces of cream felt in an oval shape, 3 inches long and two inches wide. I also cut two shades of tan and some cream felt into little strips and arranged them for a fried look. I secured all the stripes to the top and bottom of the oval pieces.
These are four symbols of the dreidel, in the order that they appear on the sides. To start the game, each player is given ten coins, placing one in the “pot” and taking a turn spinning the dreidel. The first symbol, Nun, means “nothing” and no coins are lost or gained, and the game moves to the next player. Gimel means “all”, and the player that lands on it takes all the coins. Hey means “half”, resulting in half of the coins in the pot being collected. Finally Shin means “put in” and the player must add one coin to the pot. Game play continues until one player has collected all of the coins in play. Though the dreidel dates back centuries, similar games have also been played in other cultures. It can be a great opportunity to teach children about symbol recognition, counting, probability, statistics and good sportsmanship.
As we move closer to the holidays, one can reflect on the values we wish to teach our children and the significance of our celebrations. Though it’s possible to drown in this season of consumerism, handmade and homemade items and a shared cultural history lesson can be the most significant gifts of all.
Happy Felt Fooding!
Mama’s Felt Cafe is run by Brittany, a stay-at-home mom to her son Asher. When she’s not busy sewing, Brittany practices attachment parenting and she’s a big fan of homebirth, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, toddler wearing, and now has an Elimination Communication graduate! You can find her on her blog and in her Etsy shop.