Archive for category sewing

Hand Painted Silk Hamsa Tallis

Hamsa Tallis Set

This was a very challenging project for me in many ways.

After my decision to restart with a black outline,  I realized I was out of both black resist and silk. I quickly ordered more. Fortunately, Dharma Trading, where I buy all my silk supplies, has VERY fast shipping. My supplies arrived in less than a week. But meanwhile, my whole family had been hit with this awful flu that’s been going around New England this spring. A cough that has moved in and is building a permanent abode in each one of our chests. It knocked me flat for more than a week. It took some time before I could even look at the silk, let alone get started. In fact my package from Dharma sat, unopened, on my counter for days.

Hamsa Tallis, front view

I finally stopped trying so hard, and as is the case with many things in life, when I let go and let God… well things just started to flow.Finally feeling almost human, I began work. But…  as per my last blog post, the color swatch just didn’t seem to go with anything! Every  color combination I picked was, at first, just awful.

… but in the end. WOW.  I LOVE how it came out.  I hope you do too.

A note about the symbolism of the Hamsa.

Closeup of Hamsa

It is one of my favorite Jewish symbols. A symbol of protection the hamsa is supposed to represent the hand of God. The stylized symbolic hand has been seen in many cultures throughout history including Middle Eastern religions and African cultures.  For me personally, it is a unifying symbol. All humans regardless of race or creed have hands in common, after all. 

The Atarah or “crown” of the tallis

traditionally has the prayer we say when donning the tallis. This one has a different prayer it reads:

“May my heart be opened, may my spirit become clear, as I envelop myself in the tallit.” which comes from  The Book of Blessings .

Kippah with 4 hamsasThis is the first kippah I made to go with the tallis. It is very pretty, but it is also a bit big; much more suited to an adult than a young bat mitzvah. I will list this larger one on my etsy site to be sold separately.






Kippah to match Hamsa Tallis

The next kippah is much smaller. A better fit, it will accompany the tallis.









A view of the kippah showing kippah keepers sewn inAs always, Kippah keepers are sewn securely in place. This yarmulke will NOT fall off!


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Making a Birds on a Wire Tallis

The day before valentines day I received an order for a tallis. A delightful customer is buying herself a birthday present! Which, incidentally is only three weeks after mine! I just celebrated my 40th birthday too! I have documented the process below.

Step 1) I start with finalizing any design elements. For this design, that usually only involves the atarah. A tallis traditionally has an “atarah” or “crown” with a Jewish prayer on it.  These days many folks chose not to use the more traditional prayer.

This customer has chosen a less traditional but more personally meaningful prayer from The Book of Blessings .

יפתח לבי תזדכך נפשי בהתעטפי בטלית

May my heart be opened, may my spirit become clear, as I envelop myself in the tallit.

It took some time and a couple emails to our Synagogues new part-time Rabbi Susan Elkdosi (congratulations Susan) but she quickly found the Hebrew for me, so I could avoid any typos!

I manipulate the Hebrew on the computer for size and font, then I print it out, tape it together and get to work!

Step 2) I wash the silk with synthrapol to remove any oils or sizing that may be there.

silk drying

silk hanging to dry

Step 3) Then I iron a piece of freezer paper on each end to stabilize the fabric. I don’t need to stretch the silk for this particular design. Since the pigment goes on very dry, the freezer paper is adequate.

freezer paper

ironing on the freezer paper

Step 4) Then I tape my template to my workspace and start taping the lines for the wire. I do this in several sessions waiting for the paint to dry between overlapping lines. Sometimes I speed the process along a bit with my trusty hairdryer.  This is why anyone in my family who wants to dry their hair has to first go rummaging through my studio! I rarely use it for my hair, which I am content to let nature take care of… probably why it’s always so frizzy!

taping the lines

taping the lines

Step 5) While the lines are drying, I paint the atarah. I know Hebrew is written from right to left, but since I am right handed, I find I save a lot of smudges and re-dos if I paint it in backwards. I tape the computer printout of the prayer under the pre-sewn atarah and use a makeshift light table to see the letters below. The brush I use for this is tiny. It takes a steady hand, so my children are all trained to STAY AWAY from Mommy when she’s painting a Tallis!

Painting the Atarah

Painting the Atarah

Step 6) I paint the birds in the same way. I also paint a couple birds on the bag (shown on the towel in this picture) . I decided to omit the wires on the bag this time. I thought it was a nice touch to just have the birds flying around the bag, waiting to land on the tallis. The paint is navy blue jacquard silk paint. It came out very dark navy. It looks black in these pictures, but really is navy blue!

birds painted

birds painted

Step 7) Then I sew the pieces together. This includes the atarah, the tallis bag and the corner pieces. I sew an eyelet hole in the middle of each corner for tying the tsitsit. (The sewing details will be the subject of another post.)



All that’s left to do on this tallis is making the fringe on the bottom, and tying the tsitsit on. This tallis will come with a coordinating wool kippah. Hopefully all will arrive in time for the customer’s birthday.



Happy Birthday!

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My Mom’s Toy Unicorn “Middling” was Sewn from a Pretty Floral Cotton

The middling I had as a child was a tiny flowered cotton print. But the wool felted ones seem so much cuter to me!
Tried a few anyway…


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