Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Stitches in Time

Barbara Bensoussan

From a basement in Brooklyn, Susan Sutton creates masterful needle works with passion and purpose.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

As the mother of several children who married into Syrian families, I’ve attended quite a few swanees, pre-wedding parties where the chattan and kallah regale each other with gifts for their new life together. A kallah will receive a pair of silver candlesticks, siddurim inscribed with her new name, a challah cover, and personal gifts like perfume and a purse; the chattan receives his Shas, a becher, articles of clothing, cuff links, and so on. In recent years, a must-have item has been added to the list for chattanim: a koracha, or tallit bag, with a matching tefillin bag. “Koracha” comes from a Ladino word for bag, and today every chattan hopes for a needlepoint bag with his name on it, lovingly hand-stitched by his kallah (at least partially, since busy kallahs often enlist the assistance of mothers and aunts). Intrigued by this minhag, I wondered about its origins. Did the ladies of Aleppo and Damascus needlepoint a century ago, like their Victorian counterparts in England? Do the designs have any particular meaning? My queries ultimately pointed me to a basement needlework shop in the middle of Syrian Flatbush. Susan Sutton, the proprietress, laughed when I asked if sewing korachas was an old Syrian minhag. “Not at all!” she says. “Nobody was doing needlepoint korachas back in Aleppo. I was the first person to start making needlepoint tallit bags in my community, 35 years ago. Then it just caught on.” It wasn’t only bags that went viral in the community.Susan found herself the go-to person for advice, teaching stitches, and procuring supplies. The Ashkenazic friends she’d taught to needlepoint in the bungalow colony —Susan comes from an Ashkenazic family herself, and married into the Syrian community — continued calling once the summer was over. “I had to start charging, because it was getting too overwhelming spending so much time with people!” she says. She’d been creating her own designs for some time, and decided to open a shop in her basement where people could buy what they needed and receive instruction. Today, two of her daughters help in the store, and another artistically talented daughter,BatshevaCohen, runs a branch in Lakewood.

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

What’s in a Name?
Shoshana Friedman “What does Writer X have to say this week?”
Atonement — Fake and Real
Yonoson Rosenblum White confessionals and faux rituals
Four Walls Coming Full Circle
Eytan Kobre All the while, there’s been a relationship in the offing...
And Yet We Smile
Yisroel Besser We are the nation that toils to be happy at all costs
Out of This World
Rabbi Henoch Plotnick Dirshu Hashem b’himatzo — we are in Hashem’s company now...
Steven and Jonathan Litton
Rachel Bachrach The co-owners of Litton Sukkah, based in Lawrence, NY
Tali Messing
Moe Mernick Tali Messing, engineering manager at Facebook Tel Aviv
Sick Note
Jacob L. Freedman “Of course, Dr. Freedman. Machul, machul, machul”
Avoiding Health Columns Can Be Good for You
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Only one reliable guide for good health: our Torah
Endnote: Side Notes
Riki Goldstein Most Jewish music industry entertainers have side profes...
Me, Myself, and Why
Faigy Peritzman Where there’s no heart and no love, there’s no point
Can’t Do It Without You
Sarah Chana Radcliffe When you step up to the plate, you build your home team
Eternal Joy
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz The joy of Succos is the fruit of spiritual victory
The Appraiser: Part III
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer Make sure your child knows his strengths
Hidden Special Needs
Rena Shechter You won’t see his special needs, but don’t deny them
Dear Wealthy Friend
Anonymous There’s no need for guilt. I am truly happy for you