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Home : Community : Newsletters & Stories

Newsletters & Stories

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Stories from the Prayer Shawl Ministry
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Tea and Sympathy Shawl

In my book, Zero Grandparents, second-grader Calliope James is very upset about the upcoming Grandparents Day celebration at her school. All her grandparents are dead. Who can she bring to the school's celebration?

Calliope's grandmother, Flory Sophia, died before Calliope was born. She was a great knitter and Calliope even has a lacy shawl she made. As Calliope aches for a grandmother of her own to bring to school, she wraps herself in her grandmother's shawl. It feels just like a hug.

Although I had been knitting most of my life when I wrote that line, I had never knit a shawl. But it seemed to me that a hand-knit shawl was exactly what Calliope needed. A woolly hug from the grandmother she never met. And, indeed, when Calliope arrives at school on Grandparents Day, hoping she will be able to share what she knows about her grandmother Flory Sophia, she clutches a grocery sack with the shawl inside.

Click here for the pattern.
The free shawl pattern is available in crochet or in a knitted version.

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.

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 sympathy shawl.

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 triangle.

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.

Need help with this pattern? Click here and let us know how we can be of assistance! 

Authored by

Michelle Edwards is the author/illustrator of A KNITTER'S HOME COMPANION and many award-winning children's books including CHICKEN MAN and STINKY STERN FOREVER. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys talking about books in schools throughout the US and beyond. Her newest book, Room for the Baby, will be available from Random House in Fall 2012. Visit Michelle Edwards at her website or on Facebook.
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