At the end of this week’s portion, Shelach L’cha, Chapter 15, verses 37 through 41, mandates a precursor of the tallit, a sort of poncho. God says to Moses, instruct the Israelites to attach a cord of blue (t’cheilet) to the corners of their garments. The cord of blue is a reminder to God’s commandments. You are familiar with these verses, because these verses constitute the third paragraph after the Sh’ma.
The tzitzit nowadays are complicated, double knots separated by seven, eight, 11, 13 winds of the strings that form the tzitzit. Probably, in Biblical times, the blue cord didn’t have a special manner of tying. The Talmud mentions an upper knot and one wrapping of three winds. It states that between seven to 13 winds be tied. The traditional tying of the tzitzit is due to the Kabbalists. (I investigated the origin of the tying tzitzit, but I didn’t find anything about Kabbalists; the wrapping of the tefillin straps is due to Kabbalist influence, and the tying of the tzitzit is probably due to Kabbalists.)
The tallit was traditionally made of wool or linen (from the flax plant); these materials were available in Biblical times. Silk and cotton are acceptable, but the tzitzit should be made of wool. A mixture of linen and wool is forbidden by the Torah (except the Priests), but the mandate of wearing tzitzit overrides the forbidden mixture.
The Torah commands all Israelites to wear tzitzit, even women. In the Talmud, Tractate Menachot recounts one of the rabbis made women in his household wear tzitzit, and another rabbi said that the women were exempt.
I read an article about a Persian article of clothing that had fringes. The author went out of his way to say that tzitzit did not have anything in common the article of Persian clothing, but the article shouted, “Except in the briar patch.”