CNCHnet . . . The Textile Arts Webzine of the Conference of Northern California Handweavers

Weaving Jewish Prayer Shawls

The prayer shawl or tallit was originally a prayer tent.  Over the millenia it has been reduced to a shawl that can be big enough to wrap oneself in, shutting out the rest of the world.  It can also be as small as a scarf hung around the neck and there are all of the sizes in between.

The first step in doing a custom order tallit is talking to the customer.  There are choices of color, stripe patterns, size, designs for the four corner reinforcements and more.  The trick is find out what the person has in mind. Even though they may not think they are visualizing anything, they usually do have some glimmer that eventually comes out.  Then it is time to figure out how to accomplish their idea.  Samples are essential at this point so there is a no misunderstanding of design and color.  Colors change when they get woven and non-weavers are often surprised at the difference.

Tallit

Tallit

more examples

more examples

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Measuring out the  yarn and warping the loom are no different than any other weaving.  The catch is that when you get frustrated (and who doesn’t) it is important to stop and calm down.   Weaving a religious item requires a certain mindset.  Positive thinking is important because the last thing you want is to weave negative energy into something so spiritual.  Taking time to meditate or at least do some deep breathing can work wonders.  Although there are times when more time is spent on deep breathing than warping or weaving.

Showing the final piece to the customer can be nerve racking.  Waiting to see and hear their reaction is hard for any custom order.  Somehow the tallit has a special aura about it and it needs to be just right to the person who ordered it.  After all they will use  it in prayer and some will even be buried in it.  Others will hand it down to their child so it becomes an heirloom.  There is a lot of responsibility in weaving a tallit, but when it’s done and the customer is thrilled the work is all worth it. The  end result is often exhilarating.

Judy Calder says, “Fiber has been a part of my life since childhood.  My grandmother taught me to knit, crochet and embroider and my mother taught me to sew.  As an adult I went back to school to finish my degree and changed my major from English to Fine Art after taking a weaving class.
    When my daughter was to have her Bat Mitzvah I realized I could weave a Jewish prayer shawl or tallit for her.  It was such a wonderful experience I have continued to weave them ever since.  One of the great parts of the process is working with individuals to create a tallit that has the color, design and patterns that is just for them.

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