One of the exciting things about becoming a bar mitzvah is that it is the first time a young person gets to wear a tallit in public. Most families we know make a big deal out of the tallit. Either one is specially made after much consideration, or perhaps handed down from a relative. With a weaver in the family (my mother), we expected nothing less than handwoven for The Dark Lord's bar mitzvah. MonkeyBoy, on the other hand, was offered weaving lessons from a good friend and the opportunity to make his own which seemed like a very generous and exciting offer at the time though even then I suspected it would be too much given this friend's often poor health.
The weaving lessons began well over a year ago and MonkeyBoy and his teacher have had great times together. To date I've seen exactly one completed project and became understandably worried giving the rapidly approaching event. I was reassured numerous times that all was well and on track. Then, quite suddenly, with exactly 4 weeks to go, I was informed last night that it would be impossible to complete the project on time. Now I find that with approximately 275 things I need to complete before June 14, I have the added obligation of finding Mr Picky a tallit that would satisfy him. This is the boy who hand colored 80+ invitations so it's safe to say he has his aesthetic standards and takes them seriously. Also, Portland is not New York City or even Los Angeles. We don't have nice Judaica shops where we could browse and compare and we've had no interest in risking mail order.So what's a crafty mama to do? I still have most of the bolt of silk I used to make my tallit years ago and MonkeyBoy found that acceptable. We spent quite some time gathering trims and supplies today and I have to say that I was surprised by the colors that drew him. This is a kid who normally goes for crazy bright colors. The yarmulkes we ordered for the bar mitzvah are purple velvet with silver rickrack, of all things. But what really caught him today was some lovely but rather sedate ribbon with a ginkgo design in slightly off greens. We used that as a starting point and chose accent fabrics and trims accordingly.
There aren't a lot of rules about this particular garment's construction except that it must be 4-cornered, with tzitzit at each corner. The tzitzit are sets of strings tied in a precise formula, kind of a Jewish macrame if you will. These four sets of threads on four corners are the only clearly proscribed element and I've seen lovely variations on this basic idea including elegant vintage lace and exuberant Guatemalan ikat.
While I expect to be doing most of the work on this myself, I realized there was no reason why MonkeyBoy couldn't learn to run the sewing machine and make the corner squares through which the tzitzit will be threaded. Tonight we retired to the cool of our basement for sewing lessons and he did well though I did mention that there was little point in my drawing seam lines on the fabric since he seemed to be ignoring them anyway.While I really wish time wasn't a factor, I am delighted that I get to do this for (and with) my son.