A Sketch for Ella's Tallit

Some kids come into the world with their personalities in flux. Those kids take a while to emerge into who they really are. Ella, is one of those kids who came into the world with her personality complete.

A few months ago, Ella came up to me in synagogue and informed me that it was time for us to begin thinking about her tallit. While I was looking forward to working with Ella, it took until last week before we could sit down together. Ella's portion is Toledot ( Genesis 25:19- 28:9).

Ella wanted to use two different verses of blessing given to Jacob. The first was " And  I will increase your progeny like the stars of the sky.". We decided to use that verse, on the corner pieces, each phrase of the verse on a different corner. So the corners will be blue, have stars and text. That was easy to figure out.

Then we had to figure out the rest of the tallit. The easy part was choosing the fabric for the tallit. Ella loved a slubbed silk/hemp similar to a shantung. Ella wanted a big flip over the shoulder tallit ( like her mother's).

The verse that really spoke to Ella was from Gen 27:28 "May God give you of the dew of heaven and the fat of the earth, abundance of new grain and wine.". Her initial idea was a bit extravagant and probably would have looked a bit like a flag for a country deeply into arts and crafts. after a bit of mulling it over and a meeting that included Ella's father we came up with a still exuberant but quieter version #2.
Instead of having the entire verse on the atara/neckband, we will include just the very beginning of the verse "May God give you..." because the tallit instantly becomes more interesting if the text and the images are dependant on one another.

I don't know if the photo above shows the cute stalks of wheat and barley growing out of the grapevine. I know, not biologic truth but it does help to illustrate the verse nicely.

Ella's father asked me lots of questions about my physical process of working. So, not that you asked, but I will give you the answers that I gave Kobi last night.  My first step with be serging the edges of the tallit so I won't have to worry about the fabric unraveling. Then I will fold the two outer edged of the tallit so they meet in the center. i will pressthe resulting folds so I have a guideline for painting on the vine. The grapes are bunches of grouped paint blobs. I will add a drop of alchohol to the center of each grape. No, it isn't so the grapes have alchohol content. The alchohol will push aside the dye leaving a dimensional looking grape.

Once the grapes are dry I will add the wheat and barley and will highlight them with gold metallic dye.Then i will do the water which is thin layers of dye with kosher salt sprinkled over the top to create a speckedly watery look.


  1. Sarah! Ella is going to love reading about this process from your perspective - Kobi and I both did.
    Thanks for all of your hard work and attention to detail.
    Also - you might want to describe the way you teach about mitzvat tzitit (the bible man sketch, the blessings and kavanot, parshat tzitzit, the techelet..) on this blog or somewhere so that people know what a terrific mentor you are and how you integrate your love of jewish life, making jewish ritual art, your humor and all of the fascinating stuff you taught us about the history of fabric...

  2. Kara-
    Glad that you guys came by the blog.

    I figure that there might as well be a reason for people to meet with me and have me wortk with them. As my mother used to tell me, "You don't want to give away the store for free".

    I also tend to tailor what I say to what a person can take in. Not everyone is as into the history of textiles as I am.Just because I find that the history of textiles touches on the history of trade in the Mid East, global politics and the developemtn of the chemicals industry...not everyone is so fascinated by the lovely geeky world of the history of textile.

    Teaching is a hoot. Working with a kid like Ella, and well, Ella in particular is just a blast.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts