Customizing and upgrading your tallit

6th Mar 2024

Want to replace an atara? Add a tallit lining? Great! It shouldn't be too tricky, time-consuming or expensive. Below you'll find some helpful tips to do the job right.

Sewing on an atara

The most common tallit sewing job is to sew on a different atara. With very few exceptions (namely Chabad talleisim) a tallit almost invariably comes from the manufacturer with an atara already sewn on. It's quite routine for tallit sellers to remove the atara and sew on a different one. (And BTW, the removed atara is perfectly usable.)

Sometimes we get a customer who adds an order comment asking us to remove the atara, because they plan to sew one on themselves. However, we typically advise customers to remove it on their own. It should require just 5-10 minutes of easy work with a stitch cutter to take out the stitches, and it's worth it, because it helps to see exactly where and how the atara should be positioned. 

And if you don't do the sewing yourself, you can take the tallit to a seamstress, show her how the atara is currently sewn on, and tell her to make sure she sews on the new atara exactly the same way. For a professional seamstress, that should be all she needs to know; since there's no cutting involved, and no edges to make, it's just a straightforward stitching job.

Here are three quick tips, whether you do the sewing yourself, or go to a seamstress:

  1. Make sure the atara is very close to the edge, but very slightly below, to make sure it doesn't chafe the neck
  2. Line it up using the stripes, not the creases; don't assume a crease running down the center is really at the center
  3. Use plenty of pins, otherwise the atara might jostle out of place once you fire up the sewing machine

Typically the atara you sew on is not going to be the same size as the one removed. So what about the stitch marks? Not to worry: sometimes they won't show at all, if they are visible they are quite faint, and in any case, it's very easy to iron them out. To iron out stitch marks, it goes without saying that you'll want a low wool setting. If you're very nervous, you can lay down a piece of thin cotton between the tallit and your iron. The ironing should just take a minute or two, since you just have to iron a very small area.

Tallit lining

A tallit lining is just a piece of plain white cotton cloth positioned on the opposite side of the atara. You should be able to buy a yard of plain cotton from any fabric store and sew over the edges. For the length, you'll want it to go just a bit beyond the tips of the atara, and then for the width (i.e. from the top edge going down the tallit) typically a lining is approximately 50 cm (20 inches).

Tallit side bands

Tallit side bands are made from either a special synthetic ribbon, plain cotton or the same fabric as the tallit. The synthetic type is quite similar to a standard white atara, but with a different pattern and narrower. Cotton is often used on chassidic tallits, which typically have fairly wide side bands, but it's fine to use cotton instead of the synthetic ribbon, and you can make them any width, up to the width of the corner squares. Side bands are not highly visible, but still some people will prefer cotton if they don't like the shiny look of the synthetic type.

Sidebands should be sewn so that they touch the corner squares on one end, and the lining on the other. Occasionally someone will opt for side bands on a tallit without a lining; in that case the side bands should extend up to the point where the lining would have ended had there been a lining, i.e. a bit before you reach the ends of the atara. If you go beyond that point, you'll have unsightly stitch marks running across your atara.

Tallit middle band

A tallit middle band is always made of the synthetic ribbon described in the previous section. Be sure to position is right on the middle crease, whether or not the crease is perfectly centered. If you just have a hole right in the center and don't really like the idea of a shiny middle band running the entire length of the tallit, you might consider just sewing on a very short strip to cover up the hole. The aesthetics are debatable. Note that a tallit with a middle band rarely folds up as nicely as a tallit without one.


Some of those doing sewing work on a tallit want to tie on tzitzit as well. Although it's certainly great for the tallit owner to do the tzitzit tying himself, tzitzit tying is a very involved topic which is beyond the scope of this post.