Info can be found at:
Pattern not commercially available
Type of item: Costume
Style: Religious, Casual
Prayer shawl: linen fabric, cotton embroidery threads. Case: cotton velvet, cotton and metallic embroidery threads.
What was your inspiration?
I used to be a practising Liberal Jew, and belonged to a community where it was increasing common for women as well as men to wear the tallit, the ritual prayer shawl. Naturally I decided to make my own, after looking at many creative and unusual examples of tallitot online. As well as wanting to engage with this both spiritually and creatively, I couldn't wear traditional tallitot as they are almost always made with wool, or occasionally silk, and being a vegan, I do not wear those materials. I used linen instead.
The main panels are meant to evoke rolling hills. I followed the feminist traditional of putting the names of each of the four matriarchs on the corners: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. I accompanied the names with botanical motifs, although I frequently had to point out to people that it was a pomegranate (a common Jewish symbol) on Leah's corner, not an onion! I can't remember why I went for these motifs, but I think it was a feeling of connection with the earth, a sort of ecological approach to Judaism.
I made tzitzit, specially knotted ritual fringes, for each corner, as the whole purpose of a tallit is to hold these. Along the neckline I embroidered the atarah, the prayer said when putting on the tallit.
I also made a bag to keep my tallit in. The dove is a traditional symbol of peace in many faiths. You can't tell from the photo, but the colours gently shade from blue to white, with some silver thread included.
What are you most proud of?
Finding a scarf on eBay which had just the right sort of silky fringes which I could cut off and sew into my tallit for the edging!
Sewing on velvet to make the tallit bag was awkward, and sewing with metallic thread was more awkward still.
Even now that I'm an atheist and no longer attend synagogue, I look back on the making of this as a special time. It was a peaceful experience combining spirituality and creativity.
What advice would you give someone starting this project?
I'm petite and women's tallitot are usually a great deal smaller than those made for men, so this didn't take too long. If you make a more traditionally-sized tallit for a man, bear in mind that it is likely to be a big project.