Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reaction: What It Costs To Cover Your Noggin In Jerusalem

A couple of friends have been lovely to me and sent me links to interesting articles and blogs pertinent to our topic of choice.  Here's my thoughts about one of them, with grateful appreciation.

Apparently, NPR has been looking into the price of things around the world- and has come to the price of various headcoverings in Jerusalem.  It's a short read, with lots of pictures, many of them well-done.  The result: with the exception of items that are both very expensive and implied to be religiously extreme (wigs, black hats, and shtraimels/the equivalent, which get called a "crown" at one point in the piece)(not that I quite disagree on some of those items, but still- I can think something, and still feel odd when someone outside says the same thing), you can buy a cheap version of anything mentioned for $5-10.

Interestingly, wigs are mentioned in a more significant manner than tichels/mitpachot/scarves ("For religious and Orthodox Jewish women, dictates of modesty can mean a wig after marriage. The more natural-looking, the more expensive. Otherwise, all kinds of hats, caps and scarves are available, at all kinds of prices.") but there's a picture of the latter, not the former.  In fact, the objects that get the wordage- said wigs and shtraimels, don't get the pictures.  It sends a funny mixed message.

Also interesting is that Jewish and Muslim headcoverings are mentioned together- but Jewish ones are called Jewish, and Muslim ones are referred to as Palestinian.  In fact, neither the word Islam nor Muslim are mentioned in the article.  I'm not sure what to make of the mismatch, but it does seem interesting.  Do any of you have thoughts that might illuminate this oddity?

Monday, December 30, 2013

Side Braid, Back After An Absence

It's been a while- I almost forgot about this style.  This is a turban with a side-braid over it.  I doubled up a thin sash with a narrow scarf in making the side-braid, which gave a little bit more color, and some bulk to the tails that fall over my shoulder.
My favorite aspect of this style is that it has the ability to be done in advance, then assembled, as it were, on the spot, if you want.  Great for days when you need to flow from one sort of activity and level of formality into another.

Tutorial coming soon, since I think this one is easier to learn by seeing than by reading a description.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Simple But Matchy

 I got this yellow sweater with my mom and sister over Thanksgiving.  Thing is, I have almost nothing yellow in my scarf stash.  However, I do have this one silk scarf that's white, yellow and orange, a gift from a friend.  It all came together fairly easily.  One rectangular scarf in what one might call a half-up half-down- one tail over the top of the head, one around the bun, then the yellow and white one twisted and around over the top.
It all went with a purple top under the sweater, so the result was pretty matchy-matchy, but hopefully not over-the-top.  Anyway, wearing gifts and things that I associate with people I love always makes me feel good.  

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Historical Head Covering: Mehdor

Since some of us have a little more time this week- I seem to be upping the blogging schedule.  Here's some pretty interesting information about the Mehdor, a Jewish women's head covering from Morocco.

The Mehdor was made out of silver wire and horsehair or cattlehair.  It was basically a combination of a wig and an ornament/hat combination.  The mehdor was the most elaborate of Moroccan women’s headdresses, but it was worn daily in one region of the country.  It would cover a woman's head from ear-to-ear in front, with two forelocks of "woven hair" visible.  Basically, it came with it's own bit of "wig" in the front.  These bands would then be gathered into braids (after/behind the visible part) which tied the mehdor onto the woman's head.

(In this image, you can see that the "hair" in front is part of the mehdor.)

On festive occasions, women would add a red silk scarf- called a feshtul- trailing down the back behind the mehdor.  Affluent women would then add pearl tiara- called a tasfift- over it.  (This tasfift is related to styles worn by Spanish Jews, and shows a connection and impact between the two Jewish cultures.)  Over it all a they might add another scarf, called a sebniyya- which would fully conceal the mehdor itself.

(This is an image of a woman wearing a tasfift.)

Creating a mehdor was a collaborative process.  First, a silversmith would arrange cattle-tail hair lengthwise, and bind bundles of it with silver wire.  He would then attach vertical silver tubular half-cylinders to this base, which were also decorated with enamel cloisonné and inlaid with colorful beads.  After that, seamstresses added a padded, layered cotton lining with a cylindrical thickened edge at top.  (This gave it shaping.)

Like a number of other historical head coverings (like the Shterntikhl in Eastern Europe, for example) it was used to display family’s wealth.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Where Google Can't Provide

I've been working on some more historical headcovering posts- and I'm finding that this is one area where Google image searches, or Google searches of pretty much any sort, are not coming up with anything.  I think I've finally found an area too arcane for Google and the internet of 2013-almost-2014.

Pinterest has been a bit better, oddly.  I've found some great images there, by searching for the name of a photographer who took many photos of Jewish women in northern Africa in the 1930s, but there are several topics that I've done some writing about, and can't find any images.  (There were some excellent ones in the books I was using at the JTS library.)

It's oddly frustrating- here's this area that I'm interested in, and the internet actually can't provide for me.  (This is highly reminiscent of my luck with research projects as a kid.  My first research project in 4th grade was about the kibbutz, and the only sources I found between school and synagogue library were 1. a film strip, 2. a children's book for little kids, and 3. an adult book about the organization and governance of kibbutzim that was rather above my head.  Nevertheless, I wrote a 10 page paper- Lord only knows how.)

It's also strange to think that I'm googling images of a women's head covering that was still worn not much more than a century ago, and come up with lots of pictures of some sort of stuffed cabbage.  (Really. Truly.)

With those enticing thoughts, I leave you.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

RIbbon and Braid

It's been a while since I've done a braid.  This one is done with a pashmina, a square scarf, and a small ribbon.  But before you go for it yourself...
I really liked how this looked, with the second layer of the white-and-grey pashmina pulled over and going straight into the braid, but it didn't stand up well to the needs of the weather.  I put the braid up into a hat that I put on to keep my ears warm- it was a chilly day.  When I took it down, the ribbon and general arrangement was quite messed up, and I had to take it down to re-do it.  So this one seems better for a day when you don't need a hat, or maybe you should just wear ear-muffs instead...  (I've never worn ear muffs.  Huh.)

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Lovely Event

I had a great time at my first head covering event on Saturday night.  A lovely group of women got together, and we ate, and talked, and learned a little, had a small scarf-swap, and then got on to playing with scarves. I talked through some of the source texts that I've shared here, and spoke for just a couple of minutes about some of the observations that I've made about those sources.  And in our play, I got to show folks how to do several really pleasant styles, helped people use scarves that they were finding difficult to style, and we did some brainstorming together about using some bulky or otherwise tricky items.

The brainstorming was really special for me, because I wasn't just a guest expert- the community got empowered to play and experiment and create some lovely coverings together.  I loved to artistry that came out as we got going.

A very special aspect of the program, which I hadn't planned, was that one of the women who came is involved with a charity that provides head coverings (hats, scarves, perhaps even wigs) to women who are living with cancer.  So several hats and several scarves that didn't go in our swap will have new homes making life just a tad easier for people who could use them.  

I wish I had photos, but someone else took pictures, so I'll have to wait and hope that I can get some from her...  Instead, here's a recent photo of me with a hanging shabbos braid:

And in the end, we wrapped up (sorry for the pun) by putting a scarf on the shul's rabbi when he came to bring my husband and me to the bus station.  I think he found a Purim costume for this year (but not as a woman, I promise.)  

Of course, I forgot to mention this blog to them, but hopefully I'll eventually make the connection.  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

What's New With HowToCover

I'm very excited to be quoted over at The White Hindu, in a post thinking about passing and visibility as a person in a minority religion.  Ambaa's thoughts are a fascinating addition to the conversation that Liz and I have both talked about here.

Also, I've been doing some tichel style sessions with friends, in preparation for running a program out in West Hartford, CT on Saturday night.  Good stuff has been happening.  I've been having fun, my trial students have been enthusiastic, and it's quite exciting to see how things look on another person's face.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Working Backwards

Now that I already posted a tutorial video for tichel heidi braids, here are some pictures of what the style actually looks like on me.

Here's one from Thanksgiving, with my Dad thrown in...  This one is actually a little different- rather than layering two square scarves, I just put on the one, then took a narrow rectangular scarf, held it with the square scarf's tails and the ribbon, braided down both sides, and it worked out quite nicely.
And here are some earlier pictures, that didn't get up since I was computer-less for a while.
 And here's a view from on top, so you can see the braids and their arrangement clearly.
 And yet another day.
 And here's still another one.  Of course, they're all done with the same purple ribbon, since that's the one that I know is long enough.  (It came off the wrapping of a wedding gift.)
 On this one, I covered up the first scarf entirely, except for using the tails to braid with.  It's a simpler, cleaner loo.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Travel With Tichels: A Capsule Wardrobe

I dug this up in my drafts folder, and it seems pretty ready to go- so here's a mildly editted version of my writing from last year.

In my (admittedly limited) reading on style blogs, I've encountered the idea of a "capsule wardrobe" for travel- that by packing clothes in similar colors, you can pair things together in different ways, and create a bunch of different outfits with a minimum of stuff to schlep around.  So I decided to experiment with the same idea with tichels.

So here are 9 varied styles, all done with just 3 scarves.  6 of them all use the same 2 scarves.  Looking back, I see I did none with just the blue scarf and the white scarf.  So there are another several variations available, which could break up the similarity of some of these looks quite a bit.
1. 2 scarves, the smaller as a headband, with the ends hanging loose.
2. The same 2 scarves, but with the smaller put on first, folded back over the second/larger scarf.  The second scarf's ends brought up as a crown, and the smaller scarf's ends tied over my bun in a bow.  (They could also be left down, twisted with the larger scarf's ends in the crown, or just wrapped plainly over the bun, or tucked under.)
3. Same scarves, braided together.
4. Ditto, with the braid brought over and around the bun.
5. No braid, but with the ends of the two scarves twisted together in two twists, and wrapped around the bun.
6. Same again, but instead of wrapping the twists around, they're twisted tighter, then bent to twist back around themselves at two lengths.
7. Three scarves, two put on as headbands/folded, and the ends braided together.
8. Each scarf put on just a smidge behind the other, then one end of each of the first two twisted together and brought over as a crown behind the third scarf.  The rest of the ends are hanging (or could be stuffed back underneath), and could be secured with a clip, or a bow.
9. The second two scarves, layered over each other, and the ends brought up and over, each just behind the last.

The differences here are sometimes fairly subtle- but moving back and forth between combining different pairs of the three scarves in any of these different ways, with different profiles- I might alternate between an arrangement that has lots of hanging tails or braids first and then one that creates a lot of height, etc, to make the differences more dramatic.  Switching which two scarves are used will also create more of a sense of variation.

Throwing in a fourth color scarf, or a couple of small embellishments (pin/headband/hairclip) will also make more distinction between styles.

Of course, do I listen to my own advice in this post when I pack? Almost never.  Maybe some time soon I will though.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My First Tutorial

I finally sat down and just did it- here's my very first video tutorial, for one of my recent favorite mildly-dressy style.  It basically looks like Heidi braids- only done with 2 tichels and a ribbon.  Think of it as a braided variation on the dutch crown, but with only a very moderate amount of height added.

So without further ado:

If that doesn't work for you, here's the link to it on youtube.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Historical Head Covering: The Grun

The grun is one of the more distinctive Jewish head coverings that I've come across.  It was worn by married women in the Atlas Mountains.  Grun means horns, and looking at it, you can see why.
(The woman on the left is wearing the grun.  The images in this post are the work of Jean Besancenot, who took them around the 1930s.)

The grun is made up of several parts:
1. Two coils of thick goat’s hair yarn were attached at sides.  This formed the basic structure.
2. This was covered with a hood called bniqa, which was colorful, although not much was seen by the time the whole grun was assembled.
3. What I read was that it was wrapped in swalf- card-woven band of coton and metal thread with two locks of black fake-hair hanging down.  The middle of the swalf had colorful rows of beads and a tiny gold pendant dividing the fake hair into 2 segments.  However, I'm not seeing a swalf in these pictures, although I do see fake hair in another image of the grun on pinterest, but can't add it here for some reason.  If you want to see it, here's the link.
Afluent women would add 4. Long band called mehmel- identical to swalf but without the locks of fake hair, wrapped around the horns of the grun.  The size would prevent women from carrying things on their heads, as was the local practice.

On top of all of that, women would wear an additional 5th piece-  a cover-scarf.  The fancier one for Shabbat and holidays was called a sebniyya del-ghta, and made of silk with tassels.  For weekdays, the cover scarf was white cotton scarf dotted with colorful patterns, and called an izar del-ghta.

The grun was first worn 8 days after wedding, and was put on for the first time with a special ceremony led by a married woman who had never been divorced or widowed.  Afterward, it was worn daily.  Some Jews believed it had fertility-enhancing powers. I don't quite get that, but there it is.

 The information in this post comes primarily from two sources: The Jewish Wardrobe: From the Collection of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, ed. Esther Juhasz and A History of Jewish Costume, by Alfred Rubens.  

Monday, December 2, 2013

Reaction: "My Kippah, Myself"

This article resonates with my own experiences.  It is one woman's description of her experiences wearing a kippah for the last 20 years, starting at age 9.  She shares some of the challenges she has experienced- and the theology and identity that lead her to make, and to continue to make, that decision.  It's worth the read.

I didn't start wearing a kippah as early as Gila Drazen did, nor as consistently- I often swapped over to a folded scarf or a headband.  But when I wore a kippah on the street (or at the grocery store, department store, post office...) I got the same reactions that Drazen did.  They were glorious and they were miserable.  They were, most of all, inescapable.  By the time I went to Israel, it's no wonder that I didn't have the energy for the infamous "Ben O Bat"?" (Are you a boy or a girl?) conversations that many of my friends have had.

Drazen's story reminds me of my own in so many ways.  There is no moment of definition- there's only her moment of recognition that she's known all along- the kippah her parents give her is sparkly, purple and Jewish, of course she was going to wear it all the time.  For me, it was an even earlier moment of "I'm Jewish", therefore- for me, I was 5, and I insisted that my parents send me to Hebrew School.  Her story resonates in its very lack of revolutionary energy.  There is nothing at odds with the Jewish life she already was living in this decision- it barely Was a decision.  It's only later, interfacing with the external world of the broader Jewish community and the non-Jewish world that it becomes a challenge.

I too had a conversation with a man in a black hat about my kippah- except I didn't get to have the conversation.  I was walking with two Jewish men (with kippot and tzitzit) and a non-Jewish woman, a Protestant seminarian, after an interfaith conference.  A man drove by, pulled over, and asked my male colleagues- "why is she wearing that?" I tried to answer- he didn't look at me, or listen to my answer.  "Who said she could wear that?" "Why can't she just bake challah and light candles?" My colleagues tried to answer him- they said what I might have said, only more politely.  Our Protestant company was passed by without comment, although she was wearing jeans, and a low-cut shirt.  But my kippah (over a dress and long-sleeve, high-necked shirt)- now That was confusing, and a threat.

It's a reminder that clothing can be about us as much as it is about our way of shaping how other people see us.  There is a connection between identity and identification, obviously- but the way that the kippah gets grabbed as a signboard can be very trying when one wants to send no message more controversial than Ï am a Jew who is in relationship with God".

In the end, Drazen's message is one I heartily approve of, even as someone who no longer wears a kippah herself- at least when you can see me:
My kippah is not about you any more than the rest of the way I present myself is about you. My kippah is about me, it’s about God. It’s about Judaism and family and tradition. You are not the official arbiter of what Judaism is or is not. I do not require your understanding or your approval; however, respect is appreciated. 
Have you had one of these experiences?   Are you curious about why women wear a kippah, or how they made that choice?  This is an open space for respectful communication about the topic.  Please share stories, questions, and answers.  Anything disrespectful will be removed as soon as I can.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Chag Urim Sameach, Happy (Anticipatory) Thanksgiving, And More

Dear Readers (I've been re-reading Isaac Asimov, hence the opening),

My computer died a few days ago. I hope to maintain a regular posting schedule anyway in the interim, but please be forgiving.

 In other news, I've been doing some really exciting library research to be able to return to my Historical Head Covering series again soon. There are so very many different styles of Jewish head-covering out there, some of them quite, quite unexpected. I've found the (Turkish/Ottoman) precursor to the modern volumizer, a covering that looks like a little girl's princess hat, only prettier, wigs or pieces of fake hair made from silk thread in North Africa, and styles that were first enforced by law, then had to be legislated away because the people refused to stop wearing them. Also, a lot about men's turbans and the meaning of their colors.

I hope I've gotten you a little excited about what's to come.

But I wonder about the plausibility of wearing things inspired by some of these historical fashions. Is borrowing from the past as inappropriate as borrowing from other contemporary cultures? How appropriate is it to borrow from Jewish cultures that aren't your own ethnic background?

 It reminds me of my teenage angst over whether to identify myself on various forms as white/Caucasian or as Jewish (a write-in, obviously). My reasoning at the time was that I identified more with other Jews, no matter what their ethnicity, than I did with people who shared my skin color. Now obviously, that isn't what statisticians are looking for when they are analyzing standardized test scores.  Similarly, the people who get say over who can be part of their group are the group itself, not the people asking for admission.

 But when the question is- which group affiliation is dominant- religious community (which dictates the practice that is shared) or ethnic community (which dictates the style that someone wants to copy), how do those things interact?

 Does the passage of time change any of these factors? Do I still have ownership and identity connections to a style my great-great-great grandmother last wore, and which I likely have never heard of or seen? What if I've seen it in a museum?

 A lot of questions, no real answers. If you have thoughts, as always, I'd love to hear them.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Lazy Shabbos Outfit

I want to let you know that you can now like How To Cover on Facebook, for more chances to share reactions to posts, share your own pictures of your inspired coverings, receive an alert when there's a new post up and more. Please join us over there as well!  And now, on to pictures...  

This is actually a previous shabbos- this week we were away at my husband's internship.  
This was a pretty lazy shabbos, in terms of picking outfits.  Here's what I wore with this covering.  A favorite, very comfortable dress, and a multicolored shirt, along with a necklace that came from my grandmother at some point (I really, really don't know when- when I was quite little, I think), and earrings Mom picked out for me on a family vacation ages ago.

The covering itself is fairly homogenous in colors, although there are two scarves going on there.  I wanted to play with having less contrast.
But to make this special for shabbos, (and to add a little excitement) my friend the purple clip came back out.  Surprise!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bright and Cheery

Once in a while, I have no inspiration for getting dressed- but by the time I get to my head, I find it.  This was one of those days: dark clothes, picked for comfort, and and a bright, exciting head covering.
 I'm pretty pleased with this combination, and grateful that it got my mood back on track...
 This is a rectangular scarf underneath, then a large square (actually a piece of fabric I bought- I haven't gotten around to hemming it, but I happened to think of it yesterday, and took it out anyway), with the ends twisted up with ends of the base scarf.  One was longer than the other, the way things turned up, so I tucked the shorter into the longer, which means I had one twist on one side, and two on the others.  I rather liked the differentiation.
 I added a purple flower from the dollar store (you've probably seen it before here), which gave the whole thing a bit more pop.  I originally put it where I tucked in the second end, but it ended up feeling better farther to the side.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Comment Worth The Sharing: On Passing And Jewish Identity

Liz Shayne offered these thoughts as a comment on a previous post.  I found them really interesting, and from a perspective that was new to me, maybe since I'm living in New York City, where Jews are plentiful and pretty identifiable.  I thought it was really interesting and worth getting more attention.  I invite you to read on, and share your own thoughts and reactions in the comments section.  

"Visibility is...an interesting problem because I've found there's a difference between looking different and being visible as a member of a group. There's a strange space between passing and proclaiming identity where I look different from everyone else, but my surrounding culture lacks the necessary cues to identify me.

This is another sticky place between privilege and presence, because I look "stylish" when I cover my hair with a hat, especially when I'm wearing a beret/wool cloche during the winter. And even my headscarves pass for intriguingly retro or offbeat on the street. There are days when I want a large sign taped to the back of my head saying "This covering has religious significance for me!" and then there are days when I very much don't.

When I first started teaching, I only wore hats because hats, as Rachel says, help one pass. By the end of my first year, I was more comfortable wearing scarves to teach (and I was running an 8am section and taking my orals at that point so the fact that I got to the classroom with a lesson plan and my shirt the right way round was an achievement) and, over the summer, I deliberately wore a large, rectangular scarf on my second day as an odd kind of "this is who I am" statement.

But I never know if the statement I'm making is the same one other people are hearing (this has often been my experience with teaching, especially in the beginning).

So I value being able to pass because I am uncomfortable standing out without standing up. And yet there seems to be a lack of cultural awareness of Jewish hair covering as a recognizable form. This, I imagine, is because the how of covering has always been culturally determined and so Judaism, as such, does not have a distinctive style. We adopt the style of the culture around us and cover accordingly. And the current Western style of public hair covering is to not, which complicates matters and means that the current generation of Ashkenazi women (for the purposes of this conversation and making sweeping claims, lets say women under 40) find themselves in search of a tradition/stye of hair covering they can turn to and (assuming they have a job that does not mind scarf-like coverings) they, somewhat naturally, turn to the Israeli styles and modify them for the kinds of scarves and styles suited to the West…and attempt to avoid cultural appropriation in the process.

Do we fail to stand out because we pass or because we aren’t identifiable in the first place?" 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Simple But Shiny

Here's a very easy way to dress up a very basic scarf.

Basically, take a ribbon and wrap it around your already tied scarf in whichever style you prefer (this is just a basic triangle with the ends tucked under to give a little bulk).  I like to wrap twice- it gives some consistency.  A shiny or patterned ribbon can add significant excitement, without adding any difficulty to tying the scarf or bulk on the head, and they go on quickly.
I think the ribbon does a nice job of making this dollar-store scarf look worthy of a work day, or even a shabbos.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"Holy Hair": Interfaith Awarenesses

Over on Morethodoxy, Rachel Kohl Finegold shares her experience of an interfaith panel at Le Mood.  In short, in reaction to Quebec's proposed law against wearing "religious symbols" while working in public life, they held an interfaith panel discussion, in which head and hair covering became a major topic, in discussion with a Sikh gentleman.

Finegold finds a place where she has more privilege than her Sikh co-panelist: she can pass as just someone wearing a hat, whereas his turban is visibly a religious item.  Her observance would be marginally safer than his, if this law passed.  She is less visibly different.

She also finds in herself a new sensitivity. The Sikh feel discomfort about having his turban patted down, based on Sikh belief that the head is a holy part of the body, not to be touched by other people.  Hearing this, Finegold realizes that her own experiences in airport security are offensive to her.  People ask her to take off her hat, which feels to her like being asked to take off her shirt.  She'd never been offended by it before, but now, she was noticing the cultural insensitivity of the request.

She says that the conversation "sensitized me to my own tzniut".  And yes, in a context where covering is the norm, it would be offensive to ask someone to uncover their head or hair.  But in a world where indeed, she might pass, whether she is intending to or not, I have this feeling that there is also room for patience and tolerance- because the TSA folks might just not know.  Educating the uninformed is worthwhile, getting offended at them may be more reaction that is needed.  At least, that's my reaction today.

It seems that visibility cuts both ways.  It's riskier- but you can also use that visibility to advocate for yourself and your community.

I'd never considered covering my head as inconspicuous, but I suppose that with a hat, on the street, it is.  It's always a little squiggly feeling, noticing a privilege you have, if you want it, when you usually feel visibly identified and identifiable.  I wonder if that's what Ms Finegold was feeling.

Do you feel like you can hide your religious identity when it's convenient?  How does that feel for you?

Monday, November 11, 2013

A New Hat (Made By Me)

I've had a burst of crochet energy for things made of yarn and not just kippot (I should start showing some of the kippot I've made though- I think I was planning to, at one point).  So I just finished a new winter beret for myself.  My old one is stretched out a bit (from getting it on over my frequently bulky scarf arrangements, also from being 5ish years old and made when I had less crochet experience), and while I hope to give it some new life by adding some elastic at some point, in the meantime, it was a good excuse to make myself something new and different.  So without further ado, here it is.

It's made with two strands of yarn- one wool, the other this novelty stuff that I bought years ago, realized I had no idea what to do with it, and have been eyeing with desire and mystification ever since.  It's perhaps slightly larger than necessary, but it's really pleasant to wear, so far.  This is it with a bulkier scarf underneath.

The "pattern" as such is very easy.  You start by crocheting a kippah/pancake of massive proportions.  It should be just a little larger than you want the widest part of the hat to be.

Do one row without increases, then start decreasing (pull up a loop in your next stitch. then don't finish that stitch- pull up a loop through the next stitch, and finish the single crochet pulling through all the loops) with about the same frequency as you were adding before- maybe a little more frequently.  Continue decreasing along your spiral until the opening is about the size of your head (I try it on every once in a while as it gets close).

Once it has, do several more rows at just that width.  I did two rows with a nice alternation of front and back post half-double crochet around the bottom, so it feels snug and a little stretchy around my face.

And for kicks- here's how I used to wear berets.  I still like it, it just doesn't work so well for me right now.  But the hat is large enough to do this even with my hair underneath, which most berets can't manage...
I know it's a bit odd, wearing a hat over a scarf.  Some folks seem to find the scarf enough, even in winter.  I don't, especially since my scarves don't usually cover my ears.  What do you do to keep your head warm in winter, without being too hat indoors?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Women's Head Covering In the Talmud, Part 3

Coming back to the Talmud, here's another piece, this one an aggada, that discusses women's head covering.  It's an interesting one.

אמרו עליו על רבי ישמעאל בן קמחית פעם אחת סיפר דברים עם ערבי אחד בשוק ונתזה צינורא מפיו על בגדיו ונכנס ישבב אחיו ושמש תחתיו וראתה אמן שני כהנים גדולים ביום אחד ושוב אמרו עליו על רבי ישמעאל בן קמחית פעם אחת יצא וסיפר עם אדון אחד בשוק ונתזה צינורא מפיו על בגדיו ונכנס יוסף <עם> אחיו ושמש תחתיו וראתה אמן שני כהנים גדולים ביום אחד ת"ר שבעה בנים היו לה לקמחית וכולן שמשו בכהונה גדולה אמרו לה חכמים מה עשית שזכית לכך אמרה להם מימי לא ראו קורות ביתי קלעי שערי אמרו לה הרבה עשו כן ולא הועילו
It was told of R. Ishmael b. Kimchit that one day he spoke to an Arab in the marketplace, and spit from his mouth flew on his garments, and therefore his brother Jeshebab entered and served in his stead. Thus their mother saw two high priests on one day. Furthermore, it is said of R. Ishmael b. Kimchit that he went out and talked with a certain lord in the street, and spit from his mouth squirted on his garments, and therefore Joseph his brother entered and served in his stead so that their mother saw two high priests on one day. 

Our Rabbis taught: Kimchit had 7 sons, and all of them served in the high priesthood.  The Sages said unto her: What did you do to merit (or deserve) this? She said: All the days of my life, the beams of my house have not seen the plaits of my hair. They said to her: There were many who did likewise and yet did not succeed. 

Comments: The second "section" of this piece is the more relevant- this woman had 7 sons, and somehow All of them got to be the Kohen Gadol (high priest).  That sounds like a tremendous honor.  And it seems to be on the basis of her actions that this comes to be, both in the rabbis' eyes and in her own.  They ask what she did to merit this- and she has an answer ready.  Everyone seems to see this as a result of her actions.  It's great women's empowerment- a great reward for personal piety.  Except that the context complicates matters.

The beginning section of this passage is part of that complication.  How did her 7 sons all come to serve as High Priest?  At least two of them got in because their brothers behaved in ways that caused them to become disqualified to serve as High Priest for Yom Kippur.  At a time when they were supposed to be studying, meditating, and maintaining their scrupulous ritual purity, they were talking to various people out in the shuk, the marketplace.  In other words, they were disqualified, and called on their brothers to fill in, because they were doing what they shouldn't have been doing, in a place they shouldn't have been.  Not, to my mind, such a great honor for their mother, then.

The second complication is that the rabbis assert that Kimchit's great merit is not so unusual (which tells us interesting things about at least what the rabbis thought women did in their head and hair covering practices).
What does this have to say about the potency of the merit of covering your hair, then?  If nothing else, it sends a pretty ambivalent message.  It suggests that women saw great spiritual merit and power in the practice, and in taking it to an extreme- and that the rabbis weren't so sure about that.  Was this a way of taking away from the power of women's spiritual practices or making light of them?  Or was it a way of voicing the different attitudes both felt in the tradition?  Perhaps it's a call for moderation- after all, I haven't yet seen a halakhic source that asks one to cover one's hair at home/in the presence of only one's family.

I come out of it feeling ambivalent.  What about you?

Stay tuned for the parallel Yerushalmi (Jerusalem or Palestinian Talmud) text, and a comparison.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Adapting Hijab Styles And More

One of the things that I do (I think I may have mentioned it once before) when I'm feeling  in a rut with my covering styles, is to look online at tutorials and how-to videos.  And while there are more Jewish or similarly styled videos out there now then when I first looked around, there is a much wider variety of videos available for styling hijab.

Of course, many of the ideas don't work at all for someone not looking to cover their neck (and I don't wear styles that do for reasons of 'truth in advertising' and communal acceptability/sense of who I am).

But some of them do.  And others have ideas that are adaptable to the styles that I wear, with a little experimentation.

Here are a couple of general principles that I've developed, in figuring out what works for adaptation:
1. Anything that covers just the head, with instructions to "pin to a turtleneck" is obviously basically just a tichel style.  Just don't pin to a turtleneck, and you've got something immediately wearable.
Here's an example:

2. A lot of things that involve creating folds look nice, and I keep thinking they should be adaptable, but I haven't had much luck yet- most of them keep the folds with pins, and I'm not ready for pins.  (Are you?  How is it?  Do you get poked often?)

3. Wraps focus on moving around the face fabric comes around in front of you, covering the neck and perhaps chest as well) instead of around the back of the head are going to be inspiration, not directly convertible.

4. Hijab tutorials are great places to look for interesting color combinations, ways of tying scarves decoratively on the side (I've seen some great side knots on friends lately, actually.  Anyone want to fill me in?), or for ways to incorporate accessories.  They were the first places I saw good ideas for using headbands and pins.

And More:
I've joined Pinterest.  You can find me (and some of my favorite coverings I've worn, along with some items that I'm hoping will inspire me, and a small but growing collection of useful how-to and tutorial videos) at http://www.pinterest.com/mayaresnikof/boards/ 

I know there's a way to connect it to this blog, I just haven't figured it out yet.  Advice is welcome.

And just for kicks- what I wore one day recently:
I've been really enjoying layering ribbons on my wraps.  This patterned one especially adds to the sense of complexity without adding lots of bulk or bits that can cause the rest of the wrap to slip out of place more easily.  I'd guess it's a good technique for relative beginners who are looking to add interest without adding difficulty, since it's just wrapped and tied to itself on top of the rest.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Some Tribute Photos As I Try New Styles

I've seen two really interesting new style videos recently.  One was Wrapunzel's criss-cross wrap.  Here are my first attempts.

I'm doing this without layering underneath, so my criss-crosses are closer together than her's, and the scarf forms a slightly different shape on my head.

The ear-covering is really necessary for this style while putting it on.  At first, I thought it was a necessity, but I've now tried popping my ears out, and everything seems to remain pretty solid, and for me, that's Much more comfortable.  The effect is barely minimized.
The second is The Daily Tichel's video on how to use a shirt as a tichel.
(The above is a short-sleeve synthetic top.  Useful, since it's hard to match turquoises, and I don't have a brown tichel.  But the short sleeves made it a little tricky- it's basically just knotted around itself in the back.)
My first thought was that this was a great thing to keep in mind for emergencies, or for the very creative.  But as I played around with different shirts, I realized that it was a really interesting way to make use of things like ruffles around the collar.

I did these without an underscarf or added volume (although I'd probably use one for all-day wear, mostly, especially since a lot of the shirts I was playing with were synthetic and a bit slippery or stretchy), since I was just experimenting.

Long sleeves provide some different options than short-sleeves do.
 (As here, there's a full wrap-around the bun.  Also, they do a good dutch-crown sort of affair, or just layered around the top.)
A lot of these wraps feel a little less secure, probably because I'm not practiced with them yet.  One of the things I enjoyed was that they made some pretty neat pony-tail arrangements.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thoughts About the קלתא (Kalta)

When I wrote about Ketubot 72, I simply translated a the word קלתא as basket.

A reminder: the context is: A (married) woman may go out with a קלתא on her head and fulfill at least the biblical requirements for head covering (and in semi-private situations, e.g. a courtyard, it would even be enough rabbinically).

קלתא isn't a really familiar word.  (Jastrow defines it as vase-shaped basket, or women's work-basket.  My guess is that he's basing it on the Rashi we're about to look at, since none of the other texts he cites have any particular clues as to its shape, although they do all reference it as an item specifically used by women.  If you want a look, it's on page 1383.)

On the top of Ketubot 72b, Rashi defines it as:
קלתא: סל שיש לו בית קבול להולמו בראשו ובית קבול מלמעלה לתת בו פלך ופשתן.

Kalta: a basket that has an indentation to attach closely to the head, and an indentation above to put a spindle and linen.  

קלתא is basically a hat that you can store things in.  But this does seem to be some sort of starting place for the practice of wearing a hat with one's own hair showing.  (Although I haven't looked at sources for that practice yet, so I don't know how it will actually be set up halakhically.  This does seem to be where I'd start, at least, since it is at least sufficient in semi-private space.)  

However, it's also an item that seems designed to be removed once you're setting yourself up somewhere.  At least, I'd find it easier to take my spinning out from a basket at arm level, rather than one directly above my head.  I wonder if that, more than it's incomplete coverage, might be a source of why it would be viewed as insufficient covering in public.  It feels a lot like why I don't often wear hats on their own- hats often feel like things you wear outside to stay warm or keep the sun off, and then take off when you get indoors.  It seems sort of tempting.  

If that temptation to remove it were the reason that the קלתא is deemed insufficient in public- it might well open the door to hats that don't cover all the hair...  

An irrelevant aside- I have a hard time picturing a basket that adheres closely or joins to the head.  

What do you think?  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Variations in Red: What I Wore

 I took a couple of notes from The Daily Tichel.  I used her base method (which I wrote about a while ago), pushing one end of the orange tichel underneath, which left me with a more manageable set of tails to wrap- especially since the dark red scarf is a triangle that I sewed, and the lighter red is fairly short.  It was just right to try adding a ribbon to this sort of multi-scarf wrap.

I've found that this sort of base wrap creates a very nice, balanced base, but it tends to slip just a little more than my usual, which involves a square knot, rather than just an over-under.  I had to pull this forward once or twice over the course of the day, and re-clip, in order to keep it quite where I wanted it.  Still, the method has its advantages, and practice may help me keep it more stable.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

My Fascination With Twisty Crowns Continues

I went to an outdoor wedding a while ago- a very good friend from college got married.  It was a picnic-style wedding.  So I was aiming for something that looked really festive, but wasn't too formal, and would put up with dancing, eating, hanging out, outside.  Most of my coverings are pretty stable, honestly, but it meant that adding sparkly things kept on only by bobby pins didn't have quite the appeal that it usually does for me.  Here's what I came up with:
It's made up of: 1 square scarf, folded into a triangle (blue with stripes) , 1 rectangular scarf (purple pattern), and 1 small square scarf (light green), roughly folded into a band.  

I put on the base scarf, and left the tails dangling.  Then I twisted the purple rectangle and the green square around each other, in the same manner as I do the tails for the twisty crown, (Wrapunzel has a how-to here) so that the middles of each scarf were together.  I tied that around my head, using up all the green scarf, but leaving tails on the purple one. 

I then twisted one blue triangle tail with one purple rectangle tail in the same fashion, and wrapped it over my head, behind the purple-and-green twist.  The purple reached about half-way around, the blue reached all the way.  I tucked in the blue tightly, and used it to secure the purple.  I then repeated the same thing with the other side, tucking under the first blue-and-purple combo.  I threw in a bobby pin in the middle to help keep things secure.  

I then added a small black and white headband to set off the two crowns.  

The whole thing stood up to dancing, pincnicking, hula hooping, and 3 young relatives.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Women's Headcovering in the Talmud, Part 2

Finally, returning to our friend the Talmud.  Ketubot 72a-b.  It's been a long time since I've done text here, but that only makes it high time to get back to it.

First of all, the Mishnah:
מתני': ואלו יוצאות שלא בכתובה. העוברת על דת משה ויהודית. ואיזו היא דת משה? מאכילתו שאינו מעושר, ומשמשתו נדה, ולא קוצה לה חלה, ונודרת ואינה מקיימת.
 ואיזוהי דת יהודית? יוצאה וראשה פרוע, וטווה בשוק, ומדברת עם כל אדם. אבא שאול אומר: אף המקללת יולדיו בפניו. רבי טרפון אומר: אף הקולנית. ואיזוהי קולנית? לכשהיא מדברת בתוך ביתה ושכיניה שומעין קולה.

And these are the women who leave [can be divorced] without a ketubah: One who transgresses against the law of Moses or [the law of] Yehudit/Jewish women.  And what is the law of Moses?  She feeds him [her husband] [food that] isn’t tithed, or who has sex with him while she is in Niddah, or who doesn’t take challah, or who makes a vow and doesn’t fulfill it.  And what is the law of Yehudit?  One who goes out with her head uncovered/wild, or who spins in the marketplace, or who speaks with all men.  Aba Shaul says: even one who curses his parents in his presence.  Rabbi Tarfon says: Even the Kolanit.  And what is a Kolanit?  When she speaks within her house, her neighbors hear her voice.  

I have conveniently bolded the most relevant piece of this Mishnah, and left you the rest for context.  One significant thing to consider is that where this version (following the print version) says דת יהודית, the manuscripts say דת יהודים, making it more like "the laws/ways of Jews"- the way that respectable people behave.  That's why we're not looking for who Yehudit was, and why she was significant enough to be a parallel to Moses- she isn't a person, she's the way the society behaves. 

So the Mishnah implies that cultural violations are enough to allow a divorce where the woman doesn't get her monetary settlement.  And these violations include violations of the dress code and the behavioral code.  For our interests, it leaves the requirement for a married woman to cover her head as a very strong cultural norm, which gets included in this religious law code.  So from the Mishnah, it seems to have this ambiguous social/rabbinic force.  

But stay tuned- the Gemara is about to (as usual) complicate matters.

Then, the relevant pieces of Gemara: 
ואיזוהי דת יהודית? יוצאה וראשה פרוע:
ראשה פרוע דאורייתא היא, דכתיב (במדבר ה, יח) ופרע את ראש האשה. ותנא דבי רבי ישמעאל: אזהרה לבנות ישראל שלא יצאו בפרוע ראש. דאורייתא- קלתה שפיר דמי, דת יהודית- אפילו קלתה נמי אסור. אמר רבי אסי אמר ר' יוחנן: קלתה אין בה משום פרוע ראש הוי בה רבי זירא. היכא? אילימא בשוק- דת יהודית היא, ואלא בחצר אם כן, לא הנחת בת לאברהם אבינו שיושבת תחת בעלה. אמר אביי, ואיתימא רב כהנא- מחצר לחצר ודרך מבוי:
And what is the law of Yehudit?  One who goes out with her head uncovered/undone.  An uncovered/wild head is a Biblical prohibition! As it says (Numbers 5:18): and he uncovers/musses the woman’s head.  And the house of Rabbi Yishmael teaches: [this pasuk is] a warning to the daughters of Israel, that they should not go out with their head uncovered/wild.  Biblically, a basket is also permissible [as a head covering], according to the law of Yehudit, a basket is also forbidden.  Rabbi Asi says in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: wearing a basket is not considered to be an uncovered head.  Rabbi Zeira spoke about this statement [of Rabbi Yochanan].  Where [is he talking about]?  If you say in the marketplace- this is a matter of the law of Yehudit! Rather, would you say in the courtyard?!  If so, you haven’t left a single daughter of Abraham our father who can remain married!  Abaye said, and some people say Rav Kahana said, [the situation is] from one courtyard to another, by way of an alley.  

This Gemara takes on the Mishnah's assertion that head covering is only a rabbinic or social requirement, and points out that since it's mentioned in the Tanakh, it must be a biblical requirement.  Having established that, it begins to establish two levels of requirement.  The first suggestion is that the difference has to do with how much territory is covered: a biblical requirement that is satisfied with a very basic head covering- the level that an indented basket would cover- that is biblical, and a rabbinic requirement for a larger covering. 

The other option establishes that location/public access is relevant (as to whether or not the basket is a sufficient covering).  It points out that women aren't accustomed to covering extensively in the courtyard- meaning at home.  So if extensive covering can't be needed at home- if so, no marriage would be left intact.  A classic example of halakha following communal practice.  The end is a compromise position, to harmonize, leaving alleys as the smallest place where full covering is necessary.  

How does this sound to you?  What are your reactions?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

So You May Have Noticed Some Changes

The blog was starting to refuse to show me comments again, and I couldn't fix it (last time I just ignored it for a while, and one day they were back and functioning again), so I've gone to a different layout, which so far, seems to have fixed the problem.  

If you prefer the old format, tell me, and I'll make an effort there, but otherwise, I think this variation may be here to stay for a while.  

As for real content..
I was thinking about a question one of my readers sent me quite a while ago, that my life over the summer prevented me from writing about- "How did you make the decision to go from kippah to tichel?".  I went back through what I've written here, and found this post about my transition, written around my  first anniversary.

Another year (and a few months) later, I'm feeling reflective about how that change felt.  The decision making was very much the organic process that I wrote about there.  

What I didn't write about is that I'd already made a decision that I wanted to cover more territory once I got married than I did as a single woman, so as to have some "space" to communicate (to myself, mostly) that I was covering for multiple purposes now.  

I wasn't expecting to want to cover all my hair- I had been thinking about leaving my hair down under a scarf or hat, as my presumptive place to start experimenting from.  I'd seen women do that, and it looked appealing- frum but not too frum, not so different from my unmarried practice, but different enough.  Then I got married, and I found that covering more thoroughly really called to me.  I'm still figuring that one out.

The other aspect of the question is a little more vague- I was rarely a "kippah all the time" person.  I covered my head all the time- but I had some scarves that I wore, headband style (I know this isn't news to longer time readers), in place of kippot a lot of the time.  So it was more a matter of unfolding those scarves and wrapping them in different ways some of the time.  Maybe that's what made tichels so appealing to me- they were already comfortable pieces of my wardrobe and of my religious life.  

What about you- I'm curious about other people's experiences in developing their current head covering practices.  Did you make a transition in your covering when you got married?  At some other point?  I'd love to feature some of your stories here.  Please leave comments, or talk to me by comment or email about writing or expanding something for the blog.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Hat Attack October

I'm job hunting, these days.  So here's what I wore for a day at home- at least, on my head.  After this, I'm off to the library.  More informative and reflective posts coming fairly soon.

But first, it's time to participate in October's Hat Attack, organized by the Style Crone.  I wonder who else will participate this month.  It would be awesome to have more scarf-wrappers and innovative head coverers involved...  So you might head over, check it out, and maybe participate yourself.
It's done with two scarves.
 But it's less fuss than wrapping all the tails up and over- that takes some fuss to make them all fit.  This is quicker and easier.  I'm also enjoying the chance to do more styles with hanging ends, which never felt quite right for work at the hospital.  Who knows what will be right for my next job?