Prayer Shawl

For many of us, 2017 was a difficult year. Sarah H. Jackson turned to her loom to express her feelings about personal trials and tragedies affecting our nation and the world. The result is her Prayer Shawl woven in 4-shaft shadow weave, which incorporates elements of her faith through the colors she chose and the patterns she picked. —Susan Horton

Prayer Shawl

From the Jewish tallit to the Muslim keffiyeh to the meditation shawls found in Hinduism and Buddhism, the tradition of prayer shawls goes back millennia and spans faiths around the world. In the Christian church, prayer shawls find their roots in the tallit (the plural is tallitot). While the maker of a Jewish tallit must follow very specific rules as to shape, fiber, and finishing, Christian prayer shawls have no hard or fast rules. Although dissimilar in their creation, these shawls are both physical reminders of love and hope—the cloth envelops a person much like a hug, providing comfort and warmth, both physical and spiritual.

For my prayer shawl, I incorporated elements that I find meaningful. I chose shadow weave for the structure, as the name itself reminded me of the darkness that sometimes seems to block out the light in our lives. In Marian Powell’s book (see Resources), I found shapes and patterns that seemed illustrative of my faith. I chose the border pattern, reminiscent of waves or ripples, to reflect Jesus as living water. The main pattern motif reminded me of a cross, a symbol of the resurrection. Blue, the color of the cloth that covered the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle, represents a close association with the Word of God and the keeping of the commandments. The beads between the fringes symbolize the tears that so often accompany our prayers.

Prayer Shawl

The creation of the shawl coincided with a season in my life filled with personal heartache and loss as well as grief for our nation and world. As I wove and prayed for so many, I wished for more shawls than I could possibly weave, and I wondered to whom I should give the shawl. When it was finally finished, a friend admired it and encouraged me with her own loving, gentle words. Recently, I learned she has cancer; it is clear to me that the shawl belongs to her.

You can re-create this shawl, but I share my story in hopes that you will be inspired to design your own, either for yourself or someone you love. Powell’s book is a good place to start with its many four-, six-, and eight-shaft threadings, all with multiple treadling variations for combinations of shapes and patterns that might speak to you. There are resources online that define the meaning and general attributes of colors to help you find a combination that has special meaning for you. Whatever you decide, my hope is that you will be blessed in the making and the giving of something special and beautiful.

Structure: Shadow weave.

• 4-shaft loom, 19″ weaving width
• 10- dent reed
• 2 shuttles.

Yarns: 8/2 Tencel (3,360 yd/lb, Cotton Clouds).

Other supplies:
• Fringe twister
• 74 seed beads, size 8
• Embroidery needle, size 8
• Mesh laundry bag

Sett: 20 epi

Woven length (measured under tension on the loom): 78″.

Finished size after washing and hemming: 15¾” x 71″ plus 5″ fringe on each end.

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  1. Teresa S at 5:47 am March 23, 2018

    What a beautiful story to go along with the beautiful shawl. Thank you for sharing. Wishing you peace.

  2. Jennifer C at 2:26 am March 29, 2018

    I turned to this article just when I needed hope. One day I am going to weave myself a beautiful, comforting prayer shawl. In the meanwhile may I ask of you to please remember my children in your prayers.

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