Writing about shawls made me want to knit them. Was there ever a more
perfect way to wrap someone you love in warmth?
My children and my friends' children are now teenagers and young adults.
They are experiencing the bumps and pains of the path to adulthood. I wanted to make them
comforting shawls like the one Calliope's grandmother had the vision to knit carefully enough
to hearten her grandchild long after she had died. I wanted a shawl that was like the tea and
sympathy that has eased troubled minds for generations.
My oldest daughter was graduating from high school this year. I listened to
her and her friends talk. They were jittery and excited and nervous about finally getting to
do what they have been yearning for all year: to fly away from the nest. I knew that the
months ahead would be thrilling, but hard on them. I thought "tea and sympathy"
shawls would make a great graduation gifts.
One spring evening, when my usually noisy house was quiet and empty, I sat alone with my shawl
thoughts. I found a pair of circular needles and a few skeins of Homespun yarn. I had never
really written my own pattern before, but how hard could it be? After all, a shawl is just a
I searched for a shawl pattern that was fast and easy to knit, and that would drape softly
over young shoulders. I couldn't seem to find the right one. A knitting catalog arrived with a
dropped-stitch shawl pattern with fringe, knit side to side. It was not the shawl I was
searching for, but I could see that the drop stitch might be good for making a tea and
After a few attempts, I was able to get a pattern going that I liked. I
used garter and the drop stitch and I did simple increases every few rows to get a triangular
shawl shape. The dropped stitch and the soft thickness of the Homespun yarn made my shawl grow
fast. And when the shawl looked large enough to cover a range of shoulders and graze the
elbows, I cast off the stitches. I took a light bright color from my Homespun stash and edged
the v of the shawl with a single crochet border. I grabbed a third color. I crocheted a chain
and made a loopy fringe. My first tea and sympathy shawl was done. I tried it on. It felt just
like a hug.
I stepped outside. The evening had turned cool as it often does here in the
spring. The shawl kept me cozy and warm. It was then that I realized that this tea and
sympathy shawl, the first of many I would knit over the next few months, was for me.
You can knit a tea and sympathy shawl for a graduation gift, or a present
for a very tired nursing mom. You can knit one for someone you know is going through a rocky
time, or someone who just needs a sign that they are loved. The world is full of young and not
so young people who need a tea and sympathy shawl. And, you, too, may be one of those worthy
folks. So remember this: it is okay to knit one for yourself.