If you plan to sew a handmade tallit and you’re looking for a fabric that’s in line with your commitment to environmental sustainability, consider hemp. Growing hemp is particularly environmentally friendly. The plant needs little water to grow. An acre of hemp yields twice the fiber for fabric than cotton. Unlike plants that deplete the soil of nutrients, hemp can leave the soil richer. And because the hemp plant resists weeds and has few natural insect enemies, it can be grown without herbicides or pesticides. It’s harder to find a fabric that is more environmentally friendly.
The pic above is a hemp tallit project in progress, without the corner pieces or tzitzit strings. I used a natural weave, 100% hemp fabric with a 8 oz. weight. I washed the fabric before cutting it, which is pretty much a necessity with hemp because the fabric shrinks quite a bit when washed. The washing left the fabric pleasantly soft, with a slightly wrinkly texture that adds to the overall organic feel.
The atarah is a painted silk version of the King David’s Jerusalem Atarah Pattern.
Here are some tips for working with hemp fabric:
* Expect significant shrinkage when you buy the fabric — check the vendor’s guidelines for how much shrinkage to expect.
* To pre-shrink the fabric, machine wash it in hot water and dry it on a high setting, but remove it from the dryer before it’s totally dry. Iron the fabric to finish the drying and remove the major wrinkles.
* It’s important to not let the fabric totally dry in the dryer, since this will likely create major wrinkles that will be permanent.