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Guide for Giving a Prayer Shawl

A quick knit prayer shawl will provide comfort for both you and the recipient as you add love to every stitch. Plus, be sure to check out the free easy knit prayer shawl pattern below!

By: Kathryn Abrams, Editor, AllFreeKnitting.com
Guide for Giving a Prayer Shawl
Guide for Giving a Prayer Shawl
This image courtesy of AllFreeKnitting.com

Looking for a way to get involved? Check out our "Prayer Shawls for Rush" charity drive and learn how you can knit or crochet a prayer shawl for someone in need. Plus, by donating, you'll be entered for a chance to win an exlusive yarn lover's prize pack!

Have you ever wondered what a prayer shawl is or considered giving one to someone? This Guide for Giving a Prayer Shawl has some great tips, tricks, and advice for anyone who has been thinking about giving a prayer shawl to someone in need, as well as some thoughts on the prayer shawl history. These tips for prayer shawls can be truly inspiring for anyone looking to knit for a good cause!

At the end of the day, there's nothing better than being able to use your craft to make a difference in the community. Once you knit one of these beautiful and comforting shawls, both you and the recipient will be connected in a unique and powerful way.

Be sure to check out the helpful video tutorial below and learn what our friend Heidi Gustad has to say about knitting a prayer shawl for someone in need.

Guide for Giving a Prayer Shawl

Knitting a prayer shawl is a powerful gesture for both you and the recipient. Although a prayer shawl can be given under any circumstance, there are a few guidelines to consider before you begin making such a special garment.

What is a Prayer Shawl?

Knitting a prayer shawl is a completely different experience than knitting just any old shawl. The process is unique due to the intentions of the knitter to infuse healing and good thoughts as well as prayers of protection into the shawl.

Prayer shawls are also commonly referred to as comfort shawls, peace shawls, mantles, etc. The shawl maker begins with prayers and blessings for the recipient and those intentions are continued throughout the creation of the shawl. Upon completion, a final blessing is offered before the shawl is given to the recipient. This can be done in a formal ceremony if the shawl is being given by a group affiliated with a church.

As knit and crochet designer Alnaar Jiwani Harnish from leeleeknits.com explains:

"Knitting a prayer shawl is a great way to deliberately set aside time to pray for the person you are creating the shawl for.  The calming effect of knitting will put you in the right state of mind for sending out healing energy."

Some recipients have continued the kindness by making a prayer shawl of their own and passing it on to someone in need. By doing so, the blessing and well wishes ripple from person to person, with both the giver and receiver feeling the embrace of love.

To make a shawl personal, the giver or the recipient may choose to adorn the shawl with beads, shells, feathers, and charms. When the gift is presented, a blessing or ritual may be offered in order to provide even more well wishes.

Tips for Making a Prayer Shawl

To make your experience easier and more enjoyable, there are certain tips and tricks to consider when making a prayer shawl. Most notably, it’s important to think about the wants and needs of the recipient. You should also consider the type of yarn when working up a knit shawl and include tips for how to launder and care for the finished piece.

Knit and crochet designer Heidi Gustad from handsoccupied.com shared this tidbit about how to make the best possible prayer shawl:

"Any shawl can be a prayer shawl, though if you're making one from scratch with a particular person and occasion in mind, you could be thoughtful about selecting a pattern to suit the situation. Does the recipient have a favorite color? Fiber? Lace pattern? Make this special gift that much more special by customizing it for them!"

See below for even more points to consider when knitting a prayer shawl.

  1. Think of the person: Think about the person you are making the shawl for and consider their likes and dislikes before knitting the shawl. For example, if the person you’re knitting for is in a wheelchair, the shawl should not exceed four feet to avoid wheel entanglement.

  2. Keep it clean: Include tips for how to properly launder and care for the finished piece.

  3. Type of yarn: Using super wash or other yarns that are easy to launder may be a good idea if the recipient or their caretaker currently has a lot on his or her plate.

When to Give a Prayer Shawl

One of the best parts about giving a prayer shawl is you don’t necessarily need a special reason to do so. Instead, you can simply work one up for a loved one you think could use an extra dose of encouragement.

Knit and crochet designer Heidi Gustad from handsoccupied.com also shared some thoughts on who would benefit from receiving a prayer shawl:

"Folks dealing with hospital stays, sick family members, or a tough medical diagnosis are those who you typically think of when giving prayer shawls. Other creative ideas to try are giving prayer shawls for special, happy occasions, like a pregnancy announcement, retirement, or before sending someone on a long trip."

In addition, knit and crochet designer Alnaar Jiwani Harnish from leeleeknits.com says:

"Anyone going through a difficult experience - health or otherwise, can benefit from the intentions sent out during the process of creating a prayer shawl."

Finally, our friend Marie Segares of undergroundcrafter.com, shares her insight:

"When it comes to knitting prayer shawls, if you plan to donate the finished project to a charity or other organization that distributes prayer shawls, my most important tip is to follow their guidelines. Otherwise, your donation may end up being discarded or costing the charity more money to clean or care for.

If you are giving the prayer shawl to your own friend or family member, think about how it will be used before you make it. For example, if it is for a friend who is undergoing medical treatment, it will probably be washed a lot between visits to the clinic, so an easy care yarn is best.

If it is for a family member going through a difficult time, choosing a yarn in a favorite color so it can be worn when s/he needs a little comfort is ideal."


There are even more instances, outlined below, when a prayer shawl can be an extra comforting symbol of compassion.

  1. When someone has received an unfortunate medical diagnosis

  2. When someone’s loved one is undergoing serious and/or long term medical care

  3. When someone has lost a close friend or family member

  4. Baptism, wedding, birth of a grandchild, at the beginning of a personal journey (fitness, lifestyle change, etc.)

  5. During a time of bereavement

  6. During a time of much-needed prayer or meditation

  7. When someone is preparing for a commitment or marriage ceremony

  8. When someone is birthing or nursing a baby

  9. As a bridal shower or wedding gift

  10. Whenever you want to give a loved one (or stranger) an extra dose of comfort and encouragement

Symbolism in Prayer Shawls

There is often a great deal of symbolism in prayer shawls and many religious organizations use these garments for prayer and healing.

In the article for The Spruce entitled, “What Makes a Prayer Shawl?” Sarah E. White explains:

“Prayer shawls are often knit with a symbolic pattern or use colors of yarn that are meaningful to the religion of the person giving or receiving the shawl. For instance, stitch patterns with multiples of three are common in prayer shawls knit by Christians because of the idea of the Trinity.”

Some stitch patterns that involve threes include 3x3 ribbing and Trinity Stitch, so these are popular techniques to use when knitting a prayer shawl. In addition, blocks of three stitches and three rows of knits and purls can also be alternated across the knit fabric for an easy and meaningful pattern.

In Judaism, a prayer shawl called a tallit is very common. There are certain rules regarding the design and construction of a tallit. However, knitted versions are acceptable. A tallit is usually made in blue and white and can include short phrases of inspiration.

Every tallit includes fringes, or knots, tied in a specific manner in each of the four corners. The corner fringes on this ritual garment remind the wearer of all the commandments in the Torah.

Many religions also use some type of prayer shawl during wedding ceremonies as a symbol garment uniting the bride and groom in holy matrimony.

Keep in mind knit prayer shawls can extend beyond religious boundaries. The true meaning of a prayer shawl is centered on the intention of love, compassion, and comfort stitched into the garment – universal truths for most people.

Why Knit a Prayer Shawl for Charity

There are many wonderful reasons as to why you should knit a prayer shawl for charity. Perhaps most importantly, you will experience the positive thoughts and feelings associated with completing a kind gesture for someone in need. Using your knitting skills to help others through difficult situations will leave you feeling fulfilled and grateful.

  1. Therapeutic: Making a prayer shawl can be extremely therapeutic. Prayer shawl crafting is a great way for caregivers or loved ones to process difficult emotions or to show their support during times of need.

  2. Heartwarming: In the end, a shawl is like a hug. Sometimes, a prayer shawl is exactly what someone needs to know they have love and support to help them through a difficult situation - both emotionally and physically. 

  3. Show your love: A prayer shawl can be a very special item to give a person when you’re not sure how else to be there for them. If you’re not the best with words or don't know exactly what to do in a certain situation, a prayer shawl can be a great way to express your love and support.

Free Easy Knit Prayer Shawl Pattern – On the Wings of a Prayer Shawl

Are you interested in knitting your own prayer shawl? Check out this free pattern from our friend Jessica Anderson. Use the different stitch sections to “weave” in a new prayer and in no time at all, you’ll see a finished shawl.

Using a self-striping yarn adds interest and beauty, and the recipient will look radiant with the shawl draped around his or her shoulders. The triangle shape helps keep it on the shoulders and can also be laid across a lap if needed.

Regardless of whether you choose to use this pattern to knit a prayer shawl or select another shawl knitting pattern, knit and crochet designer Alnaar Jiwani Harnish from leeleeknits.com offers these suggestions:

"Look for patterns that are at your level of knitting so that you are not frustrated during the process of creating the shawl.  Also, work in a quiet, comfortable, and tidy place without distractions so that you are in a peaceful state of mind."

- -


ON THE WINGS OF A PRAYER SHAWL PATTERN

SKILL: Intermediate

MEASUREMENTS: Approximately 58” [147.5 cm] wide and 25” [63.5 cm] long, blocked

MATERIALS:  
* Red Heart, Boutique Unforgettable Yarn, 100% Acrylic, 3.5 oz  (100 g ball), 269 yards (246 m) 2 balls, Dragonfly
* Size US 8 (5 mm), 32” circular needle (to accommodate the large number of stitches)

GAUGE: 20 sts/24 rows = 4” [10 cm] in Stockinette Stitch

  1. Instructions

    Cast on 5 sts.

    Rows 1-2: Knit.

  2. Stockinette Section:

    Row 3 (RS): K2, yo, pm, k1, pm, yo, k2. (7 sts)

    Row 4 (WS): K2, purl to last 2 sts, k2.

    Row 5 (RS): K2, yo, knit to m, yo, sm, k1, sm, yo, knit to last 2 sts, yo, k2. (11 sts)

    Row 6 (WS): K2, purl to last 2 sts, k2.

    Repeat last 2 rows seven more times. (39 sts)

  3. Garter Stitch Section:

    Row 7 (RS):
    K2, yo, knit to m, yo, sm, k1, sm, yo, knit to last 2 sts, yo, k2. (43 sts)

    Row 8 (WS): K2, knit across all sts, slipping markers as you come to them, k2.

    Repeat last 2 rows four more times. (59 sts)

  4. Eyelet Section:

    Row 9 (RS): K2, yo, k1, *yo, k2tog; rep from * to m, yo, sm, k1, sm, yo, k1, *yo, k2tog; rep from * to last 2 sts, yo, k2. (63 sts)

    Row 10 (WS): Knit, slipping all markers as you come to them.

  5. Stockinette Section:

    Row 11 (RS):
    K2, yo, knit to m, yo, sm, k1, sm, yo, knit to last 2 sts, yo, k2. (67 sts)

    Row 12 (WS): K2, purl to last 2 sts, k2.

    Repeat last 2 rows nine more times. (103 sts)

  6. Garter Stitch Section:

    Row 13 (RS): K2, yo, knit to m, yo, sm, k1, sm, yo, knit to last 2 sts, yo, k2. (107 sts)

    Row 14 (WS): K2, knit across all sts, slipping markers as you come to them, k2.

    Repeat last 2 rows four more times.  (123 sts)

  7. Eyelet Section:

    Row 15 (RS): K2, yo, k1, *yo, k2tog; rep from * to m, yo, sm, k1, sm, yo, k1, *yo, k2tog; rep from * to last 2 sts, yo, k2. (127 sts)

    Row 16 (WS): Knit, slipping all markers as you come to them.

    Repeat last 2 rows once more. (131 sts)

  8. Stockinette Section:

    Row 17 (RS):
    K2, yo, knit to m, yo, sm, k1, sm, yo, knit to last 2 sts, yo, k2. (135 sts)

    Row 18 (WS): K2, purl to last 2 sts, k2.

    Repeat last 2 rows nine more times. (171 sts)

  9. Garter Stitch Section:

    Row 19 (RS): K2, yo, knit to m, yo, sm, k1, sm, yo, knit to last 2 sts, yo, k2. (175 sts)

    Row 20 (WS): K2, knit across all sts, slipping markers as you come to them, k2.

    Repeat last 2 rows four more times. (191 sts)

  10. Eyelet Section:

    Row 21 (RS): K2, yo, k1, *yo, k2tog; rep from * to m, yo, sm, k1, sm, yo, k1, *yo, k2tog; rep from * to last 2 sts, yo, k2. (195 sts)

    Row 22 (WS): Knit, slipping all markers as you come to them.

    Repeat last 2 rows two times more. (203 sts)

  11. Stockinette Section:

    Row 23 (RS): K2, yo, knit to m, yo, sm, k1, sm, yo, knit to last 2 sts, yo, k2. (207 sts)

    Row 24 (WS): K2, purl to last 2 sts, k2.

    Repeat last 2 rows nine more times. (243 sts)

    Row 25 (RS): K2, yo, knit to m, yo, sm, k1, sm, yo, knit to last 2 sts, yo, k2. (247 sts)

  12. Ridged Lace:

    Row 26 (WS):
    K2, purl to m, rm, p1, rm, purl to last 2 sts, k2.

    Row 27 (RS): k2, purl to last 2 sts, k2.

    Row 28 (WS): K2, purl to last 2 sts, k2.

    Row 29 (RS): K2, k1, *yo, slip 1 st knit wise, k1, psso; rep from * to last 2 sts, k2.

    Row 30 (WS): K2, purl to m, rm, p1, rm, purl to last 2 sts, k2.

    Row 31 (RS): k2, purl to last 2 sts, k2.

    Row 32 (WS): K2, purl to last 2 sts, k2.

    Row 33 (RS): K2, k1, *yo, k2tog; rep from * to last 2 sts, k2.

    Repeat Rows 26-33 one time.

    Row 34 (WS): Knit.

  13. Suspended bind off.

    *Knit two stitches together through the back loop, move the st from the right hand needle to the left and needle; rep from * to the last two sts, cut yarn and pull through remaining stitch.

  14. Finishing

    Weave in all ends. Wash and block shawl as desired.

Abbreviations

K
knit
k2tog
knit two together
m
marker
pm
place marker
P
purl
PSSO
pass slipped stitch over
RS
right side
rm
remove marker
sm
slip marker
sts
stitches

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I have an accidental Prayer Shawl Ministry. I make and give shawls to people at church or friends or family who experience some type of difficulty. I make the shawls as I find patterns that interest me and then I give them as the need arises. Never intended to do this Ministry, but it has been part of my knitting journey.

Prayer shawls are such a lovely way to show someone that you care! Personally I love handmade gifts, and I would LOVE it if someone gave me a prayer shawl. These are perfect for Christmas gifts )

This is fascinating - I had no idea about the symbolism behind prayer shawls. What a beautiful gesture to someone in need!

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