Change Up Your Shabbat Linens -- Seasonally and With Style

There are several explanations as to why we cover the challah during the Shabbat blessings -- but there is no explanation why we must always use the same ceremonial cover every Friday evening. If you're like me, you like to change up your table settings according to the season -- and on some days, just according to whim. We may own different sets of table cloths, placemats, napkins etc for every day use -- and yet generally speaking, we tend to stick to the same Shabbat linens week in and week out. 

Partly we do so for the sake of tradition: Our possessions, especially those we use in rituals, take on sentimental value by repeated use. In some cases these might be objects that came to us through family -- a grandmother's lace tablecloth, or a worn embroidered challah cover bought by a relative on a long ago trip to Jerusalem. No brand new item can possibly connect us to previous generations of our families the way these heirlooms do. But I think we also fall into a routine with our Shabbat service pieces because, simply, there aren't a lot of choices out there that make it seem worth changing it up now and then. 

But what if there were?

What if you could refresh your Shabbat table as often or with the same whimsy you do on other nights? One of our goals here at Fig Tree & Vine is to inspire you with creative ideas for Jewish living. And this week we hope to inspire you with the work of  David Zrihen -- a former high fashion couturier who just finished designing a line of fresh, contemporary summery linens for Shabbat, exclusively for Fig Tree & Vine.
Zrihen spent 28 years as an evening wear and bridal designer in Toronto before leaving leaving the fashion industry to retire to an 1880s Victorian house in a small village on the north shore of Lake Ontario.  He didn't really plan to retire really: He  wanted to pursue a longstanding dream to create simple, beautiful linens and other textiles for the home, a dream his fashion business left him with no time to do. So last year he founded "Lake House Linens," based out of his home in Bloomfield, Ontario -- once a Quaker town that dates back to the late 1700s, and now a tourist hub of a thriving wine region known as Prince Edward County. 



My own family has vacationed in PEC for nearly 25 years. I first came across David's "Lake House" brand napkins and table linens this past winter, in one of Bloomfield's small boutiques. They were clearly of the highest quality Belgian linen, their edges masterfully stitched in bright, contrasting colors. One inventive creation in particular jumped out at me --  a basket-liner shaped like four petals. Rolls or muffins nestling in the bottom of a basket could be draped under the folds of the surrounding petals. It occurred to me that  it would make for a wonderful challah cover, if sized differently.

When I found out from the store owner that David was producing these locally -- and furthermore, that he is Jewish! -- I immediately contacted him to ask if he would be interested in making a line of Shabbat linens for Fig Tree & Vine. Not only did he agree to do so -- he was excited to do it:

"My mother always set a beautiful Shabbat table. She had her napkins and her bread covers. When she’d go to Italy she’d bring back these linen bread covers. I followed that line. Why not create something more casual -- and not so 'embroidery'?"

David, whose father was an upholsterer, says, he grew up "surrounded by fabrics. I love natural fabrics – I love linen, different from my laces and peau de sois. "

David's love of natural fabrics and unpretentious design is apparent in the line he created for us. The result is two different sets of challah covers with matching napkins. The first is in the petal design -- which David adapted to cover any sized challah -- in 100% white or natural Belgian linen; the second is a square cover with softly fringed edges, also of generous proportions, with the pattern of a Star of David woven on the top in either matching or contrasting thread. This style is available in white and natural linen, and also in a fun "picnic" blue-and-white plaid pattern made from 100% Indian cotton. All products are handmade and hand-finished by David in his studio. They are machine washable, pre-shrunk and will not run.

"People shouldn't be scared of linen," David said. "They wash well and stains come out." He's designed his covers and napkins so they look equally good pressed, if you want a crisp appearance, or gently crumpled,  for a more natural aesthetic. 

Indeed the more you use them, the softer (and more sentimental) they will become. Certainly they are made to endure the passage of time -- and one day might well grace the tables of your grandchildren's Shabbat dinners.
Our Lake House Linen collection was photographed by Johnny Cy Lamm in the scenic barn of the Old Third Winery near Bloomfield, in Prince Edward County, Ontario. Thanks to the Old Third's Jens Kornberg for help with the styling (and his photogenic sea salt). The challah board pictured was crafted by Treeware for Fig Tree & Vine, and will be available soon. Candlesticks also by Treeware. There are two models currently on our site, with more to come.
Shabbat Shalom!

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