Types of tzitzit strings: Machine-spun, hand-spun and Niputz Lishmah

Posted by Ben G. on 11th Aug 2016

This week we received an order that looked a bit odd to me: several tallit katan products sized for very small boys and thick Niputz Lishmah tzitzit strings to tie on them. I contacted the customer to clarify, and discovered that the order was placed by a very conscientious mother who has a few gaps in her knowledge of tzitzit. I'm posting the exchange here, because I think it might be helpful for other customers wondering which type of tzitzit strings to use.

This note was appended to the order:

I am confirming that the two undershirts that I am ordering with tzitzit will have Sephardic windings of 10-6-5-6.
Please email and/or call with any questions.
Thank you.

I sent an email to Abby:

Tying Sephardic 10-5-6-5 is no problem, but your choice of tzitzit strings raised my brow. Are you sure you want to keep such a stringency with a little tyke?

She replied:

What about our choice of tzitzit strings raised your brow? I am interested in learning more and don't understand your concern. If the question is about the Sephardic winding 10-5-6-5, yes: our nusach is very important to us, and this is part of it. We want him wearing tzitzit in our tradition from the beginning. It is part of helping him to develop a clear and consistent Sephardic identity. If there is another aspect of the tzitzit strings that we ordered that raised your brow, please let me know. Thanks!
P.S. Are you THE "Ben" of "Ben's Tallit Shop?"

In response to her P.S., I told confirmed my identity, to Abby, "guilty as charged," and explained to her as follows:

To prepare tzitzit for a customer, I need to know three things:

1) Which tzitzit garment to use
2) Which tzitzit strings to use
3) How to tie the tzitzit strings
In your case, (1) and (3) are crystal clear, but we need to clarify which tzitzit strings to use.
How do you choose tzitzit strings? Thin or thick is just a matter of aesthetics. Thick costs a tad more and holds up better. If you ask me, thick tzitzit on a little kid looks a bit odd, but some people would differ with me on that.
The other question is halacha. There are three types of tzitzit strings sold: machine-spun, hand-spun and niputz lishmah. To understand what that's all about, refer to this post.
Most people use machine-spun for kids at least until the age of 10 or 11 or 12. Sometimes you will come across fathers who are fed up with their kids' tzitzit getting grungy and mangled (in bike chains, etc.) and so they decide to buy some thick tzitzit strings and tie them on themselves.
Usually the cost is prohibitive (we charge $12 for a set of hand-spun thick tzitzit strings), but I'll tell you a secret: sometimes it's possible to get thick machine-spun. We happen to have a dozen or so sets, although you won't find this as a product available on our store.
In any case, what raised my brow was that you ordered Niputz Lishmah tzitzit for a youngster. Hand-spun is considered a stringency for kids. (Personally I try to get my kids to switch to hand-spun around the age of 12.) So Niputz Lishmah is a super stringency.