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Making an Atara for the Groom's Tallit

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We often get inquiries from a kallah shopping for a tallit for the groom-to-be. As most wives know, it's not easy to buy clothes for a man and a tallit can be much more challenging. This week we received an inquiry from a young lady named Leslie who is putting extra effort into her chassan's tallit.

Hi. I'm buying a Tallis for my fiancé. He picked the Prima A.A. style. Is that the very highest quality wool you sell (hard to see detail on line). Can you help us figure out what tzitzit strings should be used for the corners? He's Ashkenazi. What's the difference between the handspun, Radzyn & Ptil Tekhelet? Also I'm needlepointing him a custom designed atara. Would you please tell me the EXACT measurement of the atara so I be sure to have it fit the tallis & cover up the existing atara? My atara for him will be a rectangle (flat edge) without a pointed edge like the one shown in the photo. Thanks! Leslie

I replied to Leslie as follows:

Thank you for your inquiry and congratulations on your engagement.

The Prima A.A. is a good quality tallit, but Hamefoar and Chatanim are better. Your fiancé may be humble and not want you to spend an extra $20 or $30 on him.

Chatanim is basically the same tallit, except with a slightly denser weave, so it lasts a bit better and hangs a bit straighter. Also, the reinforcement squares on the corners are wool instead of cotton and the fabric is treated to resist stains.

Hamefoar is made of a newly developed weave that has some texture to it to give the tallit more body, suppleness and a surface that slips less.

A lot of people like this type of tallit, but some are sticklers for the age-old smooth fabric. The difference is fairly subtle. You can't really discern the difference from 10 feet away.

Chances are you'll want to choose the thick tzitzit and Ashkenazi tying, which is definitely the most common. You will find some people who choose tzitzit with techelet (blue), but that's definitely not for everyone. You might want to refer to our Tzitzit Wizard more information.

As for the atara, you're right, it is important to check the measurements, because usually you see faint stitch marks when you remove the atara, and you'll want to cover that up.

(I once had the atara replaced on my own tallit. Our regular seamstress was unavailable, so I went to another seamstress I had never used before. I figured sewing on an atara is as easy as falling off a log. The only way to go wrong is if you put it on the wrong side. But I was wrong, somehow she managed to sew it on way off center, even though you have stripes to guide you. And once I had a seamstress not take care to move the tzitzit out of the way; she actually sewed the tzitzit down onto the middle of the tallit. Since those two experiences, I've learned to stick with our regular seamstress. But I still maintain sewing on an atara should be very straightforward. The only thing is it's a bit counterintuitive, because you'd think the atara goes on the same side as the corner reinforcements, but it actually goes on the opposite side. The reason is because when the tallit is worn (assuming it's a size 45 or bigger) you generally flip the sides up onto the corner. They sew the corners onto the underside of the tallit so that they show when the tallit is turned up onto the shoulders.)

But it would really be best if we sent the atara measurements once we know which size tallit you want, because the length may vary.