Starting a kittle

A kittle, for those of you who don't know is a Jewish ritual garment. It means a little coat and is related to the housecoats worn in Germany by men of means. Think of it as sort of a smoking jacket.

A kittle is purchased for a young man before his marriage and is worn during the wedding ceremony. It is also worn on High Holidays, and when one is leading seder. When one dies, a kittle is put on over the shrouds.

Generally kittles are worn by men but in egalitarian communities like mine, they may be worn by women as well.  Kittles are not worn in every Jewish community.  Neither my father nor my husband are kittle wearers. One of my sisters wears a kittle on the high holidays, but not on Passover. I don't wear a kittle.


I was asked to create a special kittle for someone as a surprise. My client and I thought that it would be nice to decorate this kittle with text from the High Holiday prayer-book rather than just with lace.  Yes, I do find it fascinating that a garment meant to be worn by religious men is so covered with lace and other traditionally girly design elements.

I thought that it made the most sense to calligraph the text on ribbon, because if you mess up the ribbon you can always write out more text on more ribbon. If I mess up the wonderful shirting that I had planned to use to create the kittle, it would be an expensive disaster.

So, last week I went ribbon shopping.
 M+J trimming is still selling off their stock purchased from Hyman Hendler.  I wasn't sure if they would have white ribbon left. The sale has been going on for not quite a year. Fortunately I had quite a bit of white ribbonto choose from. I bought grosgrain, satin, organza, and  velvet ribbon along with the manly lace pictured here.  I wasn't quite sure what would work best. I also assume that I will be layering some of the narrower ribbons over some of the wider ribbons.

These reels of ribbon cost  between $5 and $15 per reel. (Actually they have been packaged in old film spools.) Retail the ribbon would cost between $1.50 and $5.00 per yard. The cashier asked me what I planned to do with the ribbons ( I also purchased some other reels for some other upcoming projects). When he found out that I wasn't just a home hobbyist the total price for all of the ribbons dropped significantly. (Yay!)

The gros-grains are not  made out of nasty polyester but are a smooth and soft fiber, I'm guessing  a rayon and cotton mix. These spools are all old stock. Probably none is newer than the 1970's.

Today I began my work writing out the selected prayers on the ribbons.

I will probably go back and outline all of the letters so they stand out a bit more.

This is a nice way to get my head back into thinking about High Holiday liturgy. This will be a project with many stages and some sewing tasks that are completely new to me.

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