The Tallit Project

Creating a Tallit

“This is my God [Whom] I will glorify. ”

Eve T. wanted to create an extraordinary tallit for each of her two daughters, one about to celebrate her B-Mitzvah, and the other, five years away from her celebration. The material Eve chose was personal and unusual: her wedding chuppah of sky-blue and ivory silk, which had been hand-painted by a cherished family member. She contacted Judaica artist Amy Lassman, and together they imagined a pair of tallitot that the girls would wear proudly, wrapped in their parents’ love.    
Eve and her children chose the Hebrew texts that Amy embroidered on the atarot (neckbands). One features Hillel’s famous saying from Ethics of the Ancestors 1:14: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me; and if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” The other is from Psalms 121:1: “I lift my eyes to the mountains. From where will my strength come?”

Why do we use beautiful ritual objects?

In Judaism there is a concept called hiddur mitzvah (literally, “the beautification of a mitzvah”). While there are minimum requirements for all mitzvot — like in the construction of a sukkah or the number of candles in a hanukkiyah — Jewish tradition encourages us to make such ritual objects  not just functional but also pleasing to the eye. When we smell something fragrant, taste something delicious, hear pleasant sounds, and take in striking colors connected to religious acts, the acts themselves become even more beautiful. 

Ceremonies and celebrations are enriched when we take time and effort to create or acquire ritual objects that bring meaning and splendor to the occasion, thus fulfilling the principle of hiddur mitzvah.

What should we consider when buying, adapting, or creating a tallit with my grandchild?

The tallit can be tailored to the tastes and preferences of the wearer. The list below gives you a place to start:


Traditional tallit colors are white with black or blue stripes, but there are no Jewish laws that determine a tallit’s design (although decorum and the wearer’s comfort should be considered). You can make a tallit with any color combination. What colors are the B-Mitzvah’s favorites? Are there colors that represent something important to the B-Mitzvah, such as greens for the environment or the colors of their favorite sports team?


Tallitot come in a variety of sizes, from teen to adult. A tallit gadol (large tallit) is worn over the head or with the ends gathered on the shoulders. Smaller tallitot can be worn like a shawl. You can find a size guide on the internet (Google “tallit sizes”), or, if you have a Judaica shop nearby, peruse different options to determine what is most comfortable.


It is a good idea to do some shopping online or at a local Judaica shop to see what your grandchild is drawn to — perhaps something traditional like stripes, Jewish symbols like a Tree of Life, the twelve tribes, or a Jerusalem scene. Or your grandchild may prefer something more modern like a geometric design or meaningful symbols that illustrate their hobbies, passions, or favorite things, such as animals, a sports or arts theme, or even a video game.

While designing a tallit for a B-Mitzvah who was on the autism spectrum, Amy Lassman discovered that he loved the night sky. This inspired his tallit, a deep navy blue with a cream silk moon in one corner, the sun on the opposite corner, and three stars embroidered in gold to represent the separation between Shabbat or a holy day and the rest of the week. Under the four corners of the tallit Amy incorporated fabric from his mother’s wedding gown, his father’s wedding shirt, his grandfather’s army jacket, and his grandmother’s dress. These were fashioned to create the four phases of the moon from crescent to full. The text on the atarah reads: b’tzelem Elohim ( [created] in the image of God). "This is a tallit that will always be with him and will be exceedingly meaningful,” says Amy. 


A tallit can be made from any fabric. Kosher tallitot are made of a single fabric, such as wool, cotton, or silk. 


The atarah (neckband) can be made of any fabric as well. It can be decorative and/or include a blessing or favorite phrase in Hebrew, English, or any language. Traditionally the blessing on the atarah is the one recited before putting on a tallit; however, you can find tallitot with a variety of phrases, blessings, or one of your own choosing.

Cantor Deborah Katchko-Gray, who specializes in making artisan tallitot using Swedish weaving, writes:

Having four sons, I loved the idea of giving each of them a unique handmade tallit. I got their input for colors and designs. My son Aaron loved his baby blanket for years as a child, and I had the idea to put a small piece of it in each of the four corners. I did that for my youngest son, Joey, as well.

I have taught many students, and I shared the idea of using personal fabric in the four corners of the tallit. One woman had an old leather glove from her father and used that to put in a corner for her son to remember his grandfather.

The joy of working with families and getting pieces of meaningful fabric for the inside corners of a handmade tallit is very precious. One family saved incredible historical clothing to use — pieces of a dress worn by the mother at her bat mitzvah, a dress from the grandmother worn at the mother’s wedding, a grandfather’s favorite tie, and a piece of a medical coat from a grandfather who was a doctor.

It is a way for grandparents to be remembered in a physical and spiritual way. Every time the tallit is worn, the wearer is embraced by memories and family history found in the fabric sewn into the inside corners of their prayer shawl.

This is truly what prayerful creation is!

Tallit Bag

Most tallitot come with a bag in which to carry them. The bag will often match the pattern and color of the tallit. Your grandchild might prefer to make or adapt the bag from something significant you already have, like an old tallit or tefillin bag, an heirloom tablecloth, or a challah cover.

Tzitzit — Tied or Untied

Most often, if you purchase a tallit it will come with the tzitzit already attached and tied. You might be able to request they be unattached and untied so you can do this together. You can find instructions online to tie the tzitzit, or, if you purchase them separately, sometimes the instructions will accompany them.


A tallit can cost anywhere from around $50 up into the hundreds, depending on where you purchase it, what you are looking for, if you are having one created especially for your grandchild, or you are making one together. Just remember that this is something your grandchild will hopefully have and use for the rest of their life.

Where can I purchase a tallit for my
B-Mitzvah grandchild?

There are a variety of tallit artisans and vendors online, as well as congregational and independent Judaica shops, depending on where you live. 

Start by talking with your grandchild about what they like using the guidelines above. It is also good to do a little pre-shopping online or around town to see what is available, price range, and what appeals to your grandchild.

Tallit Vendors: 

Adar Design (Amy Lassman)

Advah Designs

Cantor Deborah Katchko-Gray


Galilee Silks

Judaica WebStore

The Tallis Lady

Vendor Disclaimer: The Jewish Grandparents Network does not endorse or recommend the work of any vendors; we offer them only as possible sources for you to explore. 

How do we adapt a family heirloom, inherited tallit, or other item into a tallit for my B-Mitzvah grandchild?

Is there an heirloom of family significance that holds meaning to your grandchild? Perhaps it’s a tallit of a beloved uncle no longer living, a tablecloth that has been used for family holiday celebrations that can’t be used anymore, an old tallit or tefillin bag, or even a special handmade blanket. Any of these items, and certainly others, can be incorporated, either in part or whole, into a tallit. 

Another way to adapt an heirloom, even if it is not a piece of fabric, is to use the design, style, theme, or colors in a new tallit. Images of the item itself can appear on the corners, on the atarah, or as the main design element.

How do we create a tallit from scratch?