Traditionally a tallit or Jewish prayer shawl is made of white wool and decorated with either black or blue stripes.  Today tallitot can be found in a wide variety of fabrics, colors and patterns.  Defining the difference between a traditional tallit and a modern tallit can be quite difficult.  What is considered to be modern to some may be viewed as traditional by others.

Today many modern tallit are colorful.  While many designs still use a white base, which is said to represent purity, many tallit designers have replaced the traditional black or blue stripes with those of color, or with bands of colorful decoration in a variety of designs. One common design is a Joseph’s Coat Tallit or rainbow tallit. Similar to a traditional tallit, a Joseph’s Coat Tallit will be white with rainbow colored stripes. The Stripes are colored in the rainbow to symbolize Joseph’s coat of many colors.

Other modern tallit may be an entirely different color other than white.  Many modern tallitot feature a variety of typically colorful patterns and designs.  Common designs feature scenes of the old city of Jerusalem or the Western Wall.  Other popular designs feature geometrical patterns, floral patterns, and religious symbols including the Star of David, the Tree of LifeThe Twelve Tribes, and the Seven Species.

These often elaborate designs can be printed onto the fabric of the tallit, sewn on in a patchwork design, woven into the tallit or embroidered on top.  In addition, many of these colorful tallitot are available in tallit sets and come with a matching tallit bag and kippa.

While traditional tallitot are made of wool, modern tallitot are made of a wide variety of materials including silk, organza, embroidered soft cotton, and viscose.  One of the most popular materials used is silk because of its dexterity with the amount of detail that it allows for. Silk shawls also portray colors vividly, which gives it a unique appeal when making a tallit.