Knitters have known this for a long time, and a knitted shawl is almost always received with joy and treasured for years. The more spiritually-minded knitters often call their creations "prayer shawls," a reference either to the fact that a handknitted shawl reminds the recipient that he or she is being prayed for, or to the fact that shawls have been worn since time immemorial by people in the act of prayer.
I have made a number of shawls recently, and though I don't usually call them "prayer shawls," I do often write on the gift card that they are intended to be received as long-distance hugs. I thought I'd share with you a couple of pictures of some very simple-to-knit shawls that make quick, easy, and treasured gifts.
1. The Straightforward Triangular Shawl.
This one is easy enough for a total beginner to knit up in one or two evenings, and it made a spectacular last-minute Christmas gift for the family member whose name I drew in our annual Secret Santa. Cast on five stitches. On the right side, knit two, yarn over, knit to the last two stitches, yarn over, knit two. On the wrong side, purl across. The shawl will have a clear right and wrong side, and the yarn-overs at the edge make a pretty lace border. Cast off when the shawl reaches the desired dimensions. This example took two skeins of Brown Sheep Burly Spun, colorway Sable, on size US 11 (8mm) needles.
(The little metal "handmade" charm is made by Dritz and is available in yarn and craft stores. They come in all colors and sizes. Sewn at the inside neck, it provides a pretty and practical touch.)
2. Add A Cable
This is a triangular shawl similar to the one above, but made in garter stitch (all rows knitted, both sides). For interest, I added a simple six-stitch-wide cable in the middle of the back. I sent it to a friend who had been bereaved twice in a short amount of time, and the thank-you note I got in return might be the most touching and beautiful thank-you note I have ever gotten in my life. This shawl used four skeins of Misti Alpaca Chunky, colorway 643 Blue, on size US 10 (6mm) needles.
3. Crazy Soft
I designed this triangular shawl for a friend who was undergoing surgery. I thought it would be nice to have something soft, warm, and pretty to put over her hospital gown when people came to visit her, and later to wear at home if she caught a chill. It's fancy enough to wear out for an evening, too, when she's feeling better. I loved knitting with this yarn - it is unbelievably soft and light, and the color is gorgeous.
The pattern is exactly the same as the first simple triangular shawl above, except that I added an eyelet row two rows before casting off, to make a slightly dressier edge. The yarn is Berroco Kodiak, colorway Alpine, worked on US 11 (8mm) needles.
4. Getting Fancy
All of the above shawls are very easy to make, and suitable for beginners. For something a little fancier and only a little more challenging, an intermediate knitter might want to try this free Lion Brand "Splendid Shawl" lace pattern, available on the Lion Brand Yarns website. I made it up for a dear friend's birthday, in Knit Picks' Cadena yarn, colorway Blackberry, on US 9 (5.5mm) needles.
Whatever type of shawl you decide to make, from the simplest to the most sophisticated, the recipient is bound to be thrilled. There is no gift like a handmade shawl to comfort someone in need or just to let a friend know she is loved.