A big shawl tallit is seen on both the right and the wrong side of the fabric. This works just fine for a traditional woven tallit. The woven stripes can be seen both on the face and the reverse of the fabric.

When you work with a tallit that is sewn , or pieced, rather than woven this does not naturally occur. I find tallitot with what I think of as naked undersides to be rather distressing. Maybe it is an OCD thing, but they really bother me in a visceral way. Those tallitot just seem WRONG. I admit that according to halacha/Jewish law there is nothing wrong with a tallit that is blank on the underside. But to me it feels like something that ought not be done.

My neurosis on this matter has led to having to figure out how to construct tallitot that read as stripes on both sides, yet don't have nasty raw edges. Over the years I have come up with several solutions. I had once done a tallit where I hemmed each stripe before attaching it to the next stripe with a three step zigzag. That looked lovely but it created problems with the drape of the tallit. Those thick layers of hem were not an ideal solution.

More often I applique the fancy part of the stripe on one side and use a contrasting thread in the bobbin so there is some striping on the underside. I may applique ribbons or strips of fabric to the underside.

In putting together the "Old Shul Tallit" I decided not to applique the stripes, but to piece them to keep down the weight of the tallit. The face of the tallit has the stencilled wine colored shantung.

I serged the stripes and the natural colored Tussah. The stitching was all on the reverse of the tallit. I decided to cover the serged stitched with ribbon. I have a large roll of bronze middy ribbon and a roll of maroon 1/4 inch velvet ribbon. The wide strip got the wider metallic ribbon, the narrower strip, the velvet.I stitched using a three step zig zag using gold metallic thread.

front of the tallit with gold stitching barely visible

The right side of the tallit has a bit of extra subtle glimmer going on. the back looks finished and pretty wonderful. As I was sewing the ribbons I thought about I was brought up at the height of the International Style pared down aesthetic. I thought about the dictum of form follows function and how I was busy doing an embellishment that actually was pretty functional. Aside from covering the stitching, the gold zig zag stitching and ribbon were also reinforcing the seams, making the tallit stronger.

The additional striping created by the ribbons creates a terrific effect from the back. The color in this set of photos is far closer to the actual color than the orange tinged fabric that you have been seeing on the other photos.

reverse of the tallit


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