Monday, August 17, 2009


Why knit a prayer shawl?
Persons of many religions, including Christians, Jews, and Buddhists, wear prayer shawls. They are special wraps draped over the shoulders or head when praying or attending religious services. Prayer shawls help to focus the wearer on prayer, serving to mentally seal off outside influences and promoting a sense of calm and purposefulness during prayer. Sometimes prayer shawls are knitted for other people who need special support as they face illnesses or other serious problems in life.

The Jewish prayer shawl is usually rectangular, rather long, and made with particular symbolic colors. Christians, on the other hand, can use prayer shawls of any size, shape or color (preferably subdued colors, of course). (If it is very warm, they can be held on the lap for seated prayer or simply laid out folded and touched during prayer.)

Here’s a practical pattern for a shawl that can be made up in about a week, working a couple of hours per day. Since this is a fairly long wrap, it can be made as a prayer shawl. Of course, if you want to, this same pattern can be made to use only as a warm wrap -- and not as a prayer shawl.

As mentioned in an earlier page on needlecraft, here, I give only the most general ideas about how to go about these projects. They are not full instructions, but general guides, given to encourage you to knit or crochet simple garments and other useful things for the home. Besides, once you get motivated, you will find dozens of detailed patterns on the Internet for knitting and crocheting almost anything that you can think of.

Easy pattern for a knitted prayer shawl
The triangular shawl described here, is one that I made. It follows a very simple pattern and goes fast with thicker needles. I used size 13 circular needles and worsted weight yarn in 2 shades of medium blue, which I found in my project leftovers bag. Although I didn’t use full skeins, my best guess is that this shawl can be knitted with about 32 ounces of worsted weight yarn, worked in double strand.

My shawl turned out to be about 36 inches long and 64 inches wide. I used only knit stitch (K) throughout and yarn over (YO) for the increases. YO is the action of wrapping the yarn around the needle -- in this case in the direction of a knitted stitch ---and creating a small loop. The YO gives a finished, lace-look to the edges.

If it’s not a special garment for prayer, you can knit it in any length, color or combination of colors that you like. You can make it for yourself and it makes a great gift for a family member or friend. When it's not being worn, it can be draped over a small table or chest of drawers.

Begin this shawl at the triangle top, casting on three stitches. K four rows, front and reverse. From there on work two increases in every other row. To do this:
K 1, then YO once and K to the next to last stitch, then YO and K the last stitch. Increases are on the front side. The reverse rows are only K stitches.

Repeat this pattern and when your shawl is almost as long and wide as you like, then K four consecutive rows and bind off the stitches. The bound edge will be the base of the triangle, and the shawl is complete.

If you like you can put a simple fringe on the edges of your shawl, made with the same or contrasting yarn. You can also crochet a decorative edge. Choose a simple edge pattern. Remember you should always crochet edges on the front side and start at the bottom of the shawl to do the edging. There are plenty of instructions for making fringes and decorative edges on the Internet.

When the edge is finished, weave in any ends of yarn. Wash the shawl in warm water, towel dry it, and block it by pinning it to a towel, laid out flat. As it dries, check it to make sure that it maintains its triangular shape.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I still have a shaw that you knitted for me when you were in college. It is wrapped in tissue paper in my dresser. Maybe I should wear it this winter. At almost sixty-eight, I may have time to wear it out.
Anyone who gets to be a great grandma twice in one day deserves a shaw.