Sunday, October 21, 2018

I made some little dreidels. I made them out of scraps. They spin like...

(Sung to the tune of "I had a little dreidel")

I made some quilted dreidels...
...I made them out of scraps (batik scraps, stiff interfacing scraps, gold lamé, etc.)...
...And when I tried to spin them....they spun like cr#p. [End song.] My husband, a physicist, explained that because the buttons and beads are not glued together, they dissipate the energy from the spin, not to mention angular momentum, a phrase I always wanted to type. Oh well. On the brighter side of physics, the lids open and shut... of them has a bobbin at its base....
 ...and inside, you can store small toys...

...chocolate coins and/or wrappers from chocolate coins of yore...
...even (bellydancer) coins... 

....or stuff another dreidel inside!

My little dreidels really fit inside the big ones (because the stems are flexible and dissipate energy) - they're matroyshka dreidels!

I had so much fun making them, that I sat down and wrote up a tutorial, much of which is free below. (Commercial interlude: For people who prefer a clear printout, an inexpensive 13-page e-pattern is now in my etsy shop.)

The Hebrew letters on a dreidel are a nun,


...and shin

...Representing the sentence "nes gadol heya sham," "a great miracle happened there." Wikipedia's dreidel basics are here.

Making these didn't take long - I made two in maybe three hours, no shopping required. Below is the plan (developed in hindsight. When I set out, I had no plan).

These are the measurements for the larger dreidel. You can go bigger or smaller. (I made a 1" version, and it was very tricky to sew, but doable. Watch your fingers!)

You'll need small amounts of stiff fusible interfacing (product names include Pellon F2F, Peltex, Peltex2, or Fast2Fuse).

1. Decorate a piece of interfacing that's big enough to later subcut the pieces shown in the diagram above. A minimum to decorate would be about 8" x 10". Or, scrounge up smaller pieces from which you can cut the individual pieces above.

I started out with a bunch of leftover 4" x 6" fiber art postcards backed with fusible interfacing. I fused a streaky batik on as background, then zig-zag stitched fabric strips and ladder yarn on top. 

Then I scribbled over them variegated thread....
and/or gold thread....
[What I should have done, but didn't in my first dreidel: Line the other side. If you want the boxes lined, this is the time to fuse or glue-stick a nice piece of fabric on the reverse side, and cut it even with the edges of the top.]

2.  Cut the individual shapes from the embellished interfacing:  
  • 5 squares that are 2.25" on each side; 
  • 1 small rectangle for the tab that's 2.25" long by about 3/4" high; and
  • Four equilateral triangles (or near-equilateral triangles) that are 2.25" across (= same width as the squares), x about 2" high (height needn't be precise - isosceles triangles work too.)

3. Sew the squares to the triangles. I recommend a satin stitch, though in this case I did a loose zigzag. The satin stitch is stronger. 
4. Do the lettering. Draw out the Hebrew letters - if you have a dreidel around the house,  you can copy those letters, or mine, or those on Wikipedia here. (My pattern has some nice letters) If you choose lamé for the letters, fuse light interfacing to its back, setting iron at the lowest possible temperature for fusing, or you will melt it.  Or use a less fragile fabric, and add fusible web to the back. Cut out the Hebrew letters  Fuse or gluestick one to each square. (You could also paint them in!)

5. Stitch around the letter. I used gold metallic thread:
6. Join the four panels, including the seams that will bring the shape into the third dimension. If you've machine-sewn bowls before, you know this is tricky - go slowly. (You can also hand-sew.)

Line up the panels, tips pointing away from you, next to your machine, in the correct order (follow the diagram above, but in reverse, since they're upside down). Set a wide satin stitch and starting from the bottom tip, stitch forward. This is simple...until you get to the point where the two squares diverge.
7. Gently bring the two corners closest to you a bit towards each other, and take ONE more zigzag stitch, just catching the edges with your needle. Bring the corners closer, and take another stitch, catching both sides. By the second or third stitch, the corners will demand to snap together! Encourage this, pressing the two square sides tightly together. Stitch forward, slowly and carefully (Do a couple tiny straight stitches at the end). You'll have this: 
8. Next, sew the two pairs together thusly: 

9. Cut out the D-shaped tab from extra interfacing - as shown in the diagram. it has the two bottom corners rounded off. Satin stitch it one side of your last square, the lid. The tab really helps hold the lid in place, and the dreidel in shape.

10. Then satin stitch the opposite side of the lid, to the top of one of the panels. Before you attach it, you might want to quilt a spiral into it, like I did! (Pretend the handle isn't there yet.)

11. Satin stitch all the way around all the remaining unattached raw edges, including the lid and tab. (Pretend the tab is on top of the lid in the photo below. Do what I say, not what I did!)
12. The last crucial seam is shown below, running from the dreidel's lowest point, up to the beginning of the lid. You must sew this seam by hand.

For my large dreidel, I did a hand whipstich from the outside with thick variegated thread - you can see some of it on the right edge, below, where the thread is white. On such a scribbly messy dreidel it's not a big deal.

For the smaller dreidel, I hand stitched the last seam with a pink Bottom Line thread, which is strong and thin, so the stitches hardly stand out (on the right, below).
13. A stack of buttons makes the handle. I used 6-strand embroidery thread and a needle longer than the button stack. I sewed up and down through the button holes, a couple of times to get it firm and (relatively) straight.
I also added a button in the front, to use with an optional loop that goes under the handle. 

They work not only as gift boxes, but as hanging decor. I do feel bad that they don't spin well. I couldn't think of a secure way to install a stiff rod in the lid - if you have ideas, please do share!
If you attach a bangle bracelet, they can double as a wristlet. The one below is not large enough to hold a cell phone, but certainly lots of chocolate coins! (It's posing on my backyard rhododendron;  but you could also hang it on a Christmas tree!)
If you can make them from the tutorial above, have at it! I'd love to see pictures. If you'd like more guidance, the e-pattern includes illustrated step-by-step directions, the pattern in three sizes, a one-piece version that's simpler than the one above, a nice Hebrew font for medium and large size dreidels, and embroidery letters for the small dreidel. Find it here. Email me with any questions!


  1. These are lovely! I can think of all sorts of ways to use them for Hanukkah; hang them from the mantel, put them in lunch boxes with a love note, a treat, or reminder of a miracle, hide them around the house for the children to find, put them in baskets for home or office decorations to share with folks who drop by. . .

    1. Sally, thank you so much for the ideas!!! I love them all....

  2. People are starting to make their holiday crafts and I am still trying to catch up on finishing things I started in January! These are so cute.

    1. Thanks, Shasta! Holidays do have a way of sneaking up....

  3. This is wonderful, Cathy, I love to read tutorials - each time I can learn something new. Thank you so much - I might have a try.

    1. I hope you do try it, SL, I guarantee you'll have fun!

  4. These are sooo beautiful! Thanks for sharing your creativity with us!

  5. Per usual, Cathy, you are super-creative. What a great idea for that box of leftover scraps of Chanukah fabrics. Thanks so much for sharing the idea and the basic instructions. I'm wondering if I could use the aleph bet from your paper pieced book. Might work if I shrank them.


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