I've been thinking about getting a tallit for a while now.
At first, I put it off because they were so very expensive to order online, and I decided that books and candlesticks and kiddush cups and the like were more pressing needs.
Eventually, I decided that I would order one to celebrate my conversion. As I did more research, I found that they are a traditional gift for a b'nai mitzvah, because that is when the obligation to wear a tallit essentially takes effect. It seemed appropriate.
I spent some time shopping online for a tallit, trying to find one that would be affordable and still somehow represent me. There were some really amazing custom tallitot, some that were made to reflect a bat mitzvah girl's personality, others that represented the bar mitzvah boy's torah portion, some that were quilted, others that were woven, but none that were really what I imagined myself wearing.
So I decided to make my own.
At shabbat morning service this past week, I found myself really noticing the tallitot on the people around me. A few had selected theirs from the rack available for public use. A few had brought their own. All of them I had seen before, but for some reason, they seemed extra spectacular this time. I noticed that I really liked the fringe on one; it was a little more intricate than the others, but still very elegant. I saw that another woman had techelet in her tzitzit. The woman next to me had a tallit that appeared to have been handmade, maybe.
In the time when we were supposed to be meditating, I was designing my tallit. I'm not sure if that's something I should admit or not. I wanted it to be out of fleece, like the jacket I was wearing, probably because it occurred to me that if I had a nice, cozy tallit, I wouldn't have needed to wear my jacket. But also because that seemed to be the perfect fabric. Its presence is comforting and warm, and it is also a fabric that is almost always near me. Like many things Judaic, it just seemed right. I also knew that I wanted to use a soft green ribbon for stripes and the atarah, and that a line or two of backstitching with a similar green and a nice blue would set it off nicely. I haven't yet figured out how I will decorate the atarah specifically, but I like the idea of outlined Hebrew letters. Maybe they will say "etz hayim" or "HaShem ehad"...or both, separated by the Magen David. I also want to do some needleworked pine trees, and maybe some black-capped chickadees, but I'd have to find a nice pattern for that, I think. Or maybe I could sew on some patches with those designs, if I could find them.
When I got home, I was obsessed with the idea of making a tallit. And then I did a bad thing: I went shopping on Shabbat. I had to buy the materials. I bought some ivory fleece, ivory crochet thread for the tzitzit and fringe, pale green ribbon with pinstripes, embroidery floss in pale green, slate blue, ivory, brown, and pine green, and some lame flower-shaped patches that I was going to put in the corners, but have now decided to return. I tried really hard not to start working on it, but I was slightly unsuccessful. I researched how to tie the tzitzit and how big most people make their tallitot and found patterns for the Hebrew lettering I had envisioned.
As of now, my tallit is 24" by 72", has one ribbon stripe sewed on one end, a blue backstitched stripe sewed below that, and is about halfway fringed on that same end. I also have one tzitzit tied, ready to be attached. I feel compelled to mention that it's very clearly a hand-done thing. I'm not sure there's a perfectly straight line on the whole thing. But it's mine.