So, because of my last post, I’ve gotten a query or two from people who won’t be in J’lem for the workshop but are interested in making girl-shaped* tallitot katanot (the garment on which tzitzit are tied.) Since the name of the game is more people having more opportunities to take on more mitzvot, I’m posting the instructions here. Feel free to share this info with others, though in the spirit of my Creative Commons License, I ask that you do so by linking to me and citing me as the author of this post.
Making a Tallit Katan Shaped For Female Bodies
The tallitot katanot one finds in stores are shaped for men’s bodies, they can be bulky, awkward, or ill-fitting for a female-shaped person to wear, especially under women’s clothes. Making your own can solve that problem, as well as addressing any concerns one might have (okay, I personally don’t have these concerns, but some people do) about women wearing beged ish, ie men’s clothing.
What you need:
In terms of dimensions, some commentators** hold that there is no real minimum for a TK, and that any dimensions are OK. The Mishnah Brurah*** says that the TK must be 3/4 of an amah (15ish inches) wide, and others hold that it needs to be an amah (about 19 inches) wide. Depending on how you hold (I’m not going to posken for you), and how you’re built you might wind up with a garment that’s not so close-fitting, in which case snaps or hooks (see below) would be extra helpful.
1) Take the garment, and using the scissors, cut the thread/stitching on one side of the garment from the bottom, so that you’re undoing what’s holding the two pieces of fabric together. Go slowly so that you don’t accidentally cut the garment itself. Cut the stitching ’till your side is more than halfway open (the halakha demands that the “majority” of the garment be open in order to be defined as a corner, so 51% open is the minimum.) I reccomend keeping some space closed at the top, so that it will fit better. Do the same thing on the other side. Now you have a garment with four corners.
2) Put in a little bit of stitching on the sides, where you’re done opening the garment, to make sure the thing doesn’t keep opening of its own accord. A couple of good stitches should be enough to keep it together.
3) Take the fabric, cut little squares an inch or two squared, and stitch them onto the corners of the garment (like how they have on a tallit gadol, aka regular tallis). Best to fold down the edges of the fabric inward, so the frayed bit is tucked in.
This will reinforce the corners and keeep the tzitzit happier. If necessary, though, this step can be optional.
4) Then, using your scissors, cut a small hole in the corner, in the middle of the fabric square–5cm in from the bottom and 5 cm in from the side. Make sure it’s big enough to get four tzitzit strings through, but ideally not a lot bigger than that. Then, finish the hole by stitching around it (using the thread to pull the hole tight and stay put.) Looking at the holes on the corner of a regular tallis or a store-bought tallit katan might give you an idea of what you’re shooting for. I don’t know any fancy sewing terms, so I can’t give you one to describe this. It’s not rocket science–do this to make sure the hole is not going to get any bigger or torn through, and that the fabric is sewn to the garment.
4b) Technically speaking, you could sew on a hook-and-eye or snaps to sides of the garment so that it closes in a “non-permanent” way and thus fits closer to your body. I personally have never found the need for this, but it’s an option.
Now, you should have a kosher garment onto which you can attach tzitzit! Cool.
5) Then, tie the tzitzit. here are some good instructions, from The Jewish Catalog, and here are some more instructions, with the illustration from The Jewish Catalog. If you’re tying with tekhelet (a special blue thread), you can go here to see all the different fun and freaky shitot that different poskim have used, plus instructions on how to tie thusly.
And that’s about it! Before you put on your new beged, say the bracha “al mitzvat tzitizit” and, of course, “shehechyanu” for your new garment, and get your fringe on down the street.
*For info on women taking on positive time-bound commandments, check out my post here about it. Or, if you’d prefer, some sources for your entertainment: Mishnah Kiddushin 1:7; Tosefta Kiddushin 1:10; BT Eruvin 96a; Rosh Hashonah 33a; the stam in Sifrei Bamidbar 115; Tosafot Brachot 14a, Tosafot Kiddushin 31a (re: Baba Kama 87a); Rambam Hil. Tzitzti 3:9; Ran Perush L’Rif Rosh Hashonah 955; Rema Hil. Tzitzit OH 17:2; Rema OH 589:6; Iggerot Moshe OH 4:49; Tzitz Eliezer 9:2; as well as Rashi, Rebbeinu Tam, Rashba and others.
**Aruch ha-Shulchan 16:5; Hisorerus Teshuvah 3:38. See Igros Moshe Y.D. 3:52-2 for an elaboration.
***Hilchot Tzitzit 8:17; 16:4.
The begged needs to be a certain width wide, both in the front and in the back, i.e. at least one Ammah.
Thank you. Oh, and two words on getting the garment four-cornered: seam ripper. Under a dollar at your local craft store or reasonably well-stocked drugstore.
What thinkest thou of the use of techeiles?
I’m pretty split on the whole techelet issue, frankly. On the one hand, it’s a mitzvah, and a pretty one, at that, and on the other hand, the techelet that gets made here in Israel is shipped in from Croatia because those snails are on a protected list here, and it takes 30 snails to make the dye for one (tzitzit set of) techelet, and you’re not even allowed to use the rest of the snail for anything or to sell it to someone who would. Which disturbs me, frankly. Some people would argue that a loss of life in that way is appropriate for a mitzvah, and I do (eg) wear leather tefillin. And it also feels like it raises a lot of questions about life and ecosystems that I haven’t yet answered for myself. Some of my classmates are doing a presentation next week on the halakhic history of tekhelet–I don’t know if it will resolve my ambivalence just like that, but I’m looking forward to having some new questions on which to chew……
So yeah, no real answer today. Would be curious to hear other peoples’ thoughts on the subject.
On techelet — Danya, I’m with you; it distresses me to think of endangered snails being killed purely for their dye, especially when the rest of the snail can’t be used for anything else.
You mentioned tefillin, but I’m not sure the analogy holds for me. Yes, tefillin involve leather — but surely the parts of the cow (or goat) which don’t become tefillin can be used for other things — e.g. food. So to me that’s not egregious. Techelet feels different to me because the snails are being killed only for their dye.
Some might argue that one could mimic the dye using renewable resources, vegetable dyes maybe, and thereby create eco-friendly (eco-kosher?) colored tzitzit. Of course, my guess is that most of the folks who are that granola-crunchy fringey (pardon the pun) probably aren’t sufficiently concerned with halakha to take on the mitzvah of wearing tzitzit in the first place…
If you want pretty colors, but aren’t into the techelet thing, you can always do Rambam tzitzit, which is to say, dye your tzitzit and tallit the same color. I don’t recall the source off the top of my head, but I promise you it’s in there somewhere. Feel free to go searching. Probably commentary on menachot.
Rachel–yes, one could theoretically use non-snail dye to get the color, but then it’s not tekhelet (which is, among other things, defined by being this particular kind of dye.) And doing something that gives the appearance of tekehelt but isn’t is a bit problematic–one is better off doing the Rambam method of dying all the tzitzit (not just one of them, as with tekhelet) the same color as the garment, and NOT blue. (If you’re going to do blue, you should do kosher teckhelet.) As the good Rabbi Suskin may recall, (she and I discussed this at length a few years back) I actually went so far as to DO this with one set–red garment, red tzitzit–a few years back. It was kinda fun, albeit quite silly. I never got around to it, but I always wanted to do pink garment/pink tzitzit and green garment/green tzitzit as well. I wanted the pink to have rhinestones on the garment itself. I think my need to Go There has chilled out over the years, tho, so anyone who wants to steal that concept–by all means, be my guest! (And I’m pretty sure the halakha is in hilchot tzitzit, chapter 2 or 3 I THINK but am not sure–don’t remember and no MT handy right here.)
yeah, that’s hilchot tzitzit 2:8
handily enough found online at http://kodesh.snunit.k12.il/i/2402.htm
Oh mah gwd, Danya, you are SO my hero for this 😀
Thank you so much for posting these instructions! Still, I have a hard time “visualizing” how it ends up looking like! Is there any picture you may have posted somewhere so I can get some inspiration? I wanted to get together with other women (also interested) but we found teh kits or premade tallit at judaicarts. They are VERY expensive for us, though. We do not mind buying the fabric and making it into a rectangular form, but I didn’t know how to go about taht route. Any ideas on how I can apply your ideas here to a rectangular piece of fabric? What shall we do with the hems?
Follow up from above: Sorry for my missinformation. I just didn’t realize did was the “undergarment” tallit. I come from a country where I have never seen a woman wear those so I was strugglin to understand how you went from underwear to outerware (wimple?)! LOL! SORRY! — Still, if you have instructions/ideas about making the other one, would you post them or maybe post an idea of where to find that info? Thank you again!
To make a tallit gadol, buy a big piece of rectangular fabric, and skip to the part of the instructions about adding fabric to the corners, creating and reinforcing the holes, and adding tzitzit.
Thank you! Gracias Danya! 🙂
I was just looking through this, as I am making a talit gadol and have been thinking about techelet. I don’t usually jump in on things like this, but I was really struck by what Rachel wrote: “my guess is that most of the folks who are that granola-crunchy fringey (pardon the pun) probably aren’t sufficiently concerned with halakha to take on the mitzvah of wearing tzitzit in the first place…”
Rachel, I condsider myself to be granola-crunchy fringey, but that doesn’t mean that I do not have a place for halacha in my life. I don’t think that people concerned with halacha and people concerned with nature have to be two separate categories. Being a vegetarian does not prevent people from following kashrut.
So I very happily made my girl tzitzit (sans techelet) a few months ago. Although I don’t much wear them, I’m very appreciative of your post and instructions. Thanks!
Now onto the real question – What more do you know about dying tzitzit other colors? Do you necessarily have to dye the garmet the same color as the tzitzit? Can one do some form of tie-dye/rainbow? I’m about to make a good friend some Pride Tzitzit he requested (rainbow fringes, but the blue is real techelet and leaving one white) and I was wondering if this is totally not, um, kosher. Thanks again.
According to the Rambam, the tzitzit that are funky colored need to be the same color as the garment to which they are attached–red tziztit to red garment, etc. It’s forbidden to do all-blue, for the obvious reason that it’s confusing/misleading with the whole tekhelet issue. I’ve never seen anything permitting multiple colors and/or tiedye, so I don’t really have an answer for you on that–I’m assuming it’s not permitted, but there could be an obscure posek somewhere who permits it, I frankly just don’t know.
I’d assume that the Pride tzitzit don’t fall within the “permitted” bounds of hakaha/Jewish law. If halakha is important to you (or the wearer), that’s good to know. If not, get on with your bad fringing self….
Just so you know, I did finish making my friend his rainbow tzitzit. He loves them. We consulted a number of sources and knowledgeable people and basically came up with the ruling that the color of the beged didn’t need to match the color of the tzitzit, but we could if we wanted to be machmir (and Ashkenaz, which he’s not). In the end, I made some of the beged with the colors of the colored, non-techelet tzitzit. The rest remained white because, after all, there were still white threads on each corner.
But I’m wondering why you say that Pride Tzitzit wouldn’t be okay? My friend is an observant Jewish man who is proud of his identity. That doesn’t mean that he’s off having forbidden relationships with everyone, or anyone. But he’s proud of who he is and he isn’t afraid to identify with the community that is represented by rainbows. Nor is he afraid to identify with the community that is represented by kippot and tzitzit.
That assumption is nearly as offensive as Rachel’s that those who might be considered “crunchy-granola” wouldn’t be concerned with halacha or tzitzit.
I don’t imply at all that the fact that the tzitzit are representing gay pride affects their kashrut status–your friend can date and love whoever he wants and get on with his bad self, more power to him.
I’m talking specifically about the issue of colored tzitzit, and what is considered kosher within the definition of this specific ritual object, irrespective of who wears it. As I mentioned, the Rambam (Maimonedes) specifies that the tzitzit should be monochromatic and matching the garment. He is a Sephardi/Mizrachi posek if there is one. The Askenazim say that tzitzit should be white (or techelet), so that is more machmir, but only insofar as they don’t permit colored tzitzit at all. If you have other sources, I’d be very interested to hear them–do you have specific citations?
Defining an object as kosher or not has nothing to do with whether the wearer is a nice person or not. Mean people can wear kosher tefillin, tzitzit, etc.
Again, if the halakha is important, you should know that the pride tzitzit are not kosher as defined by halakha. If the halakha is not important to you, than it’s something creative that can have a lot of meaning, irrespective of their halalkhic status.
Arriving at random from Google, for something else entirely…hi…
I like the kind of tops that have a bra in them. No-one, no-one, no-one is going to tell me that a tallit katan featuring a bra is beged ish. No-one. Plus only one set of straps, of course. I’ve got black, white, and once I find some dye, purple – yay tzitzit.
There’s an interesting distinction between techelet and tefillin so far as animals go – as far as I’m aware, you are not supposed to kill an animal with the primary intention of using it for tefillin, mezuzot or sifrei Torah. Not so for the snails. This is one reason I’m okay with sofrut but just a bit wary of techelet.
Revisiting this post, I noticed longtime lurker’s comment:
That assumption is nearly as offensive as Rachel’s that those who might be considered “crunchy-granola” wouldn’t be concerned with halacha or tzitzit.
It’s probably too late for me to apologize to LL, but I wanted to respond here for the record. I didn’t mean to suggest that those of us on the granola-crunchy end of liberal Judaism weren’t concerned with halakha. I misspoke.
What I ought to have said was something more like this: I suspect those of us who are lefty-liberal enough to be making and dying our own feminine TK are likely to be interested in flexible interpretations of halakha, and hence might consider non-snail dye to be in accord with the spirit of the law if not in accord with the letter of it.
This is great! It is really cool that other women are starting to take on the observance of, how do I say it, ‘non-traditional’ mizvot. I wear tallit katan with tzitzit. I am in conservative Judiasm, but it is great to hear others are doing this! My tzitzit are white I don’t get into the color stuff, but I know this is more common in messianic Jews! Mazel Tov!