The first night of the Jewish holiday of Passover (“Pesach” in Hebrew/Yiddish) is observed each Spring with a traditionally large dinner gathering called a Seder. As celebrations are reimagined this year to include those in your immediate household and virtual visits with family and friends, the traditions and rituals associated with Passover are still being preserved.
Join Spoonflower employees and mother-daughter duo, Isabel and Ace, as they share how they will be celebrating Passover this year complete with their family’s custom DIY matzah cover and afikomen bag set!
Ace and Isabel’s Passover Celebration
Ace and Isabel: Our Passover will not look like any other Seder we have ever had, not only because it will be just the four of us, but because we are going to combine our generations-old traditions with some new, exciting adjustments to our Seder table.
Part of the Seder ritual laid out in text recited at the meal, the Haggadah, is for the youngest member of the Seder to chant the four questions asking why tonight is different from all other nights. One of these questions is “On all nights we eat sitting upright or reclining, and why on this night do we all recline?” We recline because this is how the nobility ate their meals in times of old, and on this night we indulge as if we had just escaped bondage in Egypt and indulged for the first time in our freedom.
We normally “recline” during Seders just by putting a pillow on the back of the chair at the table. But this year, we want to do something special by reclining in a new way – upon luxurious cushions on the floor. We will position a large piece of plywood on some bricks to make a low table.
Passover is an occasion where families bring out their very best of everything. Many people follow the strict dietary rules of Passover and have special sets of Passover dishes. Their special china and table linens are inherited from previous generations, but because there are only four of us this year, we decided to get some new table linens and dishes that are more festive and colorful.
Even though all Jews tell the same story, what the Seder looks like depends on where your ancestors are from. Growing up, it seems like everyone had a white tablecloth with white cloth napkins, crystal water and wine glasses, and crystal serving pieces. Passover is a springtime festival bringing together family, food, and wine in reflection on the story of Exodus that shapes us as a people- so why not make a colorful atmosphere in our home that reflects that?
The design themes we drew on were bright floral colors of spring in contrast to colors and imagery from the desert. It made sense for the matzah cover design to be desert-inspired, as matzah symbolizes the unleavened bread the Hebrews made in the desert after escaping Egypt in the story of Exodus.
Other designs we found were inspired by desert plants, palm trees, and sand dunes – but also about Spring and color, as Passover is always in Spring. We came upon the color scheme organically and along the way found a lot of new designers we really like.
This is definitely a holiday where people are cooking for several days in advance and everyone looks forward to the Passover food! As per Ashkenazi Jewish tradition, we make matzo ball soup, brisket, and gefilte fish. Isabel has a special Charoset recipe that combines flavors from both Ashkenazi and Sephardic palettes. The Haggadah prescribes the drinking of wine for many symbolic events, totaling to about four glasses per person during the course of the Seder. It’s very fun.
What are matzah covers and afikomen bags?
The matzah cover sits on the stack of matzah near the center of the table, so it is in view of all throughout the Seder. It is traditionally made of fine materials like silk or velvet and in a solid color embroidered with the Hebrew word “matzah” or “Pesach” (Passover). We are using a printed design for our more festive Seder this year. Spoonflower’s Organic Cotton Sateen is perfect for this project because it has a beautiful sheen that is suggestive of silk and it also drapes nicely over the matzah.
The hiding and seeking of the afikomen is a Seder tradition remembered fondly in the childhood memories of American Jews. From the stack of matzah on the Seder table, the Seder leader will break the middle piece in half and this half a piece of matzah is what we call the “afikomen.”
An adult then hides the afikomen somewhere in the house and all the children look around to find it. In some families, the one who does find it usually gets a prize that can range from a yoyo to a shiny silver dollar. There is a lot of deep meaning in the afikomen and it is also a way to keep the children awake and engaged because a Seder can last for hours (and hours and hours).
The afikomen is sometimes simply wrapped in a napkin, but we recently saw an afikomen bag and wanted to incorporate it into our Passover traditions. Why not make one that coordinates with your family’s matzah cover?!
Make Your Own Matzah Cover and Afikomen Bag
- 1 yard or meter of fabric
- Fusible interfacing
- Thread for both interior seams and topstitching
- Topstitch can be metallic thread!
- Fabric scissors
- Fabric marking pen or tailor’s chalk
- Iron and ironing board
- Scotch tape
- Fabric glue pen (preferred) or double-sided tape
- Optional: Cutting mat with straight edge and silk pins
1. Order Your Fill-A-Yard
We suggest using a vertical split Fill-A-Yard so you get two different coordinating designs like the example below. One side will be your matzah cover background, and the other side will be a contrasting design that will be used for both the afikomen bag and the letters on your matzah cover.
2. Cut Out Your Fabric
Cut a 18″ x 18″ square (45.7 X 45.7cm) out for the afikomen fabric and then cut an 18″ x 36″ rectangle (45.7 X 91.4cm) out of the design you want for your matzah cover background.
3. Print and Cut out the Stencils for Your Letters
Select one of the word designs, and then use an exacto knife or a small pair of scissors to cut out the grey shapes of the letters. Do not cut the cardstock on the dotted lines.
4. Attach Fusing to Fabric for the Letters
Using the contrasting fabric that you will also use for your afikomen bag, cut a square or rectangle a couple of inches larger in both directions than the stencil design you chose.
Cut out a piece of fusible interfacing that is either the same size or a little smaller than the piece of fabric you just cut.
Use an iron to fuse your interfacing onto the back of your small piece of fabric.
5. Trace and Cut Your Fused Fabric Letters
Use a fabric marking pen or tailors chalk to trace your letters onto this fused piece. We recommend tracing on the back (the side with fusible interfacing). But, if you do trace on the backside, remember to flip your stencil over so the text is mirrored. That way, the text will appear how you want it on the printed side. Use scotch tape to hold your stencil in place as you trace.
Look at the dotted lines on your stencil and fill in those lines on your fabric connecting the pieces of the letters. Then use the outside edges of the lines you just drew as a guide and cut out your letters from the fused fabric.
Or cut your letters using a Cricut – First, cut a piece of the contrasting fabric to a size that fits your Cricut mat (in our file, it is a 12″x12″ mat (30.5 X 30.5 cm). Then cut your fusible interfacing to the same size and use an iron to fuse interfacing to the back of your fabric. Now you just have to prepare your Cricut with our SVG or AI file, place the fused fabric face-up on the cutting mat and follow your Cricut’s standard fabric cutting procedure.
6. Fuse Interfacing Where You Will Sew on Your Letters
Cut out a piece of fusible interfacing that is about one inch larger in both directions than the word stencil you chose.
Use the 18″ x 36″ rectangular piece of fabric (45.7 X 91.4cm) to find the center of your matzah cover. With the fabric facing down and the pattern-oriented right-side-up, find the midpoint of the bottom 18″ side of your piece (45.7cm). Measure straight up 9″ from the bottom (22.85cm), and mark this with a heat erasable pen or a marking tool that will not bleed through.
Center your piece of fusible interfacing on the dot, making sure the bottom edge of the interfacing stays parallel with the bottom of the matzah cover. Using an iron, fuse interfacing to the backside of the fabric.
7. Position the Letters
Using silk pins, a heat-fusible pen, or another marking method that can be removed later, mark on the printed side where the four corners of the interfacing are on the other side.
With the option of using your stencil as a guide, align your letters in the center of the interfaced section of the matzah cover, making sure everything is square with the edges.
Use a fabric glue pen or small pieces of double-sided tape to tack your letters in place and then remove markings from the corners of the interfaced area of the matzah cover.
8. Sew Down Your Letters
Sew down the edges of your letters using a zigzag stitch that resembles applique. We recommend using the following settings for your stitch: standard zigzag stitch, stitch length: 0.35 mm, zigzag width: 2 mm
Stitch down all the edges of your letters with this zigzag stitch, making sure to backtrack at the beginning and end of each seam you make. Make sure that the needle is coming down into the letter when it zigs to the left and that it comes down just on the outside of your letter when it zags to the right. Make sure no part of the letter’s edge is showing after you stitch.
9. Sew Your Matzah Cover
Fold your matzah cover in half, right sides together, so now you have a square.
Using ½” seam allowance (1.27cm), sew around the open edges, leaving a 2.5″ opening (6.35cm) around two inches (5cm) into the bottom seam. Make sure to back-tack at the beginning and end of your seam!
Flip your matzah cover inside out, making sure to turn your corners so they are nice and pointy. Then iron your matzah cover, pressing the seams out straight and making the area around the opening as seamless as possible.
Starting in the bottom corner, topstitch ⅛” or 3/16″ (.32cm or .5cm) from the edge all the way around your matzah cover.
10. Sew Your Afikomen Bag
Fold your 18 X 18″ square piece (45.7 X 45.7cm) in half on the vertical axis.
Stitch around loose edges using a ¼” seam allowance (.6cm), allowing a turning space of 2.5″ (6.3cm) somewhere around the middle of the long side.
Turn your corners and flip inside out and then press all your seams nice and flat. Topstitch short sides ⅛” from the edge (.32cm).
Fold five inches up on the small axis – making a pocket that is five inches deep with a flap coming off the top. Make sure the point where you turned is along the edge of the pocket, not anywhere in the flap.
Stitch along the edges of the pocket using a ¼” seam allowance (.6cm) and turn inside out. Trim all your thread and enjoy the two new additions to your Passover Seder!
For more Passover-inspired designs for your Seder celebration, check out Ace and Isabel’s design collection. Whether you are looking for designs featuring the symbolic pomegranate, popular Seder foods, or a contemporary reimagining of the Ten Plagues, their collection has you covered!