Starting Hilary’s tallit
Hilary grew up a few towns away from my childhood home. She too ended up in New York and she also was a member of our synagogue community. Although Hilary no longer lives here, our paths have crossed several times over the past few years. She wanted to make a tallit out of textiles that had belonged to people who were important to her but were no longer alive.
The oldest piece in the collection was her great grandfather’s silk tallit. Hilary had found the tallit in her grandmother’s basement. It was a high quality tallit that was probably made in China before WWI. I had once worked with a much more tattered similar tallit that had made it’s way from Berlin, to Teheran to New York, but that is a different story.
Hilary also brought her late father in law’s white silk opera scarf and a beautiful bright red hand painted silk scarf that had belonged to her late mother. I am piecing all of these together to make Hilary’s tallit.
It made sense for Hilary to wash the tallit and it arrived in the mail this week. As I had anticipated, some holes emerged in the fabric after washing. I don’t think any of us would look dewy skinned and perfect at 110. Fabric ages as well.
I pulled threads from the body of the tallit to mend the hole. I cut a small patch and used the threads to stitch the patch.
The silk fibers are fragile and need to be supported. I went to Steinlauf and Stoller and bought Armo-Weft, a fuseable interfacing used widely by the garment industry. The fusing will hold the fraying silk in place and give the finished tallit a bit more body and support.
Here you see both the face of the tallit and the reverse of the tallit fused to the Armo- Weft.
You can see how much stronger the tallit looks with the support of the Armo- Weft.
Hilary had asked me if I could guess how long the tallit will last. I wish I could give her a straight answer. With all old textiles you take a risk using them. They will last longer closed up in a dark drawer. But when you wear an old textile, it’s story gets told in the world. It’s a decision that you need to make for yourself before you cut into or use an old textile.