Mishnah Zeraim Needlework

Agnes Romer Segal

About Agnes Romer Segal

I am a retired archivist/librarian living in Calgary with a background in Jewish Studies. I belong to a local Rimon Judaic needlework group which meets regularly to share techniques and study. I started doing needlework a few years ago when I joined Rimon. In addition to needlework, I engage in regular online classes, mostly in Hebrew, and with a focus on Bible and history, and study texts on my own.

About Mishnah Zeraim Needlework

As part of my regular study of Jewish sources, I decided at the start of 2020 to undertake a project of going through the entire 6 Orders of Mishnah, studying at least a chapter of Mishnah each day. As I began my study with the first Order of Zeraim, I decided that it would be interesting to try to depict the text in the medium of needlepoint since I had done some needlework projects as part of my involvement with the local Rimon Judaic needlework group. I also realized that this study was especially relevant since the upcoming Jewish year would be the Shmita year and much of Zeraim deals with agriculture, including the tractate of Sheviit. I decided to chose one mishnah from each tractate to render in needlepoint. At times the image was a literal depiction of the words of the mishnah and at times it was a conceptualization, often in graphic form, of a law described. I created a sketchbook as I went along to formulate how to translate each mishnah that I chose into the new medium on to the needlework canvas. I found that this exercise forced me to ensure that I had a good understanding of the text since only then could I transfer it to a different medium. I finished studying the text of Mishnah Zeraim in 2020, but the embroidery project took me well into 2021 and even into the start of the Shmita year. It was a rewarding experience for a novice of rigorous Mishnah study and a novice embroiderer. While I have submitted it as a work of Fine Art, for me it was ritual object accompanying me on my daily study. I certainly also gained more understanding Jewish agricultural life and of the realities of observing Shmita.