A few weeks ago I was standing in line at the post office (the truth is here in Israel, to most newcomers’ utter dismay, at the post office people don’t actually stand in line office, per se) when in came a friend who has been tying tzitzit professionally for several years. During the course of our conversation I asked him how long it takes to tie tzitzit.
“Fifteen minutes,” he replied.
“Ah, 15 minutes per corner? That’s about how long it takes me.”
“No, 15 minutes for all four corners. Depends whether I’m talking on the phone or not. Sometimes I can get it down to 12 minutes.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. But I was in for a bigger surprise. About a week ago I recounted the conversation to a chassid who I often work. He didn’t say a word in reply, but he didn’t seem so impressed by the 15-minute figure. So I asked him pointedly how long it takes him.
“You mean for the regular custom?” He knows how to tie tzitzits at least 10 different ways.
“Yeah, the regular custom.”
“About seven minutes.”
Seeing my jaw drop to the ground, he offered an explanation. “I’ve been tying tzitzits since I was 17,” he said. “And a while ago someone taught me a technique that speeds up the process considerably.” I got the feeling he did not want to share the “secret” technique, so I didn’t ask.
What’s really amazing is that his tzitzits always come out fabulous. I recently had a customer from the Pacific Northwest who ordered several tallit katans with very specialized tzitzits, and when he received them he sent me an email saying they looked perfect. They had been tied by none other than this very chassid.
This is not to say he can tie according to the Sephardic custom or the Chabad custom or the Rambam in seven minutes flat.
How long should it take for the rest of us to tie tzitzit? I would say about an hour, depending on how nimble your fingers and how particular you are about getting the windings perfect.