The concept of knitting prayer shawls for people is a really beautiful one: those who need comfort receive it through the love and support you knit into a shawl for them, making it the most literal version of a knit hug we can get to.
The folks at Leisure Arts love sharing ideas for prayer shawls, and they've got a nice collection in a portable format with Knit Prayer Shawls: 15 Ways to Share. The book offers designs from 11 knitters in a range of styles perfect for knitting for others.
Because most of the patterns in Knit Prayer Shawls incorporate lace or cables (and, in one case, both), they're not for strict beginners. Two of the projects are rated easy +, and the rest are for intermediate knitters.
Each pattern includes a full-sized picture of the wrap in use and at least a couple of close-up pictures that make it easier to see the stitch pattern. That's a great detail that you don't find in every knitting book but that makes it a lot easier to decide if you want to knit a particular pattern.
Some of the standout patterns in the book to me are Comfort Abides, a triangular shawl with a diamond lace pattern worked in a self-striping yarn; Colors of Joy, another self-striping project that's sure to bring a smile to the knitter and recipient alike; Wishing You Well, a pretty mobius worked in a bulky yarn; and Swaying Cables and lace, a deliberately wonky pattern of shifts and twists.
Most of the patterns use yarn that is very widely available and not too expensive, meaning your thoughtful gift -- whether for someone you know or for charity -- won't break the bank.
The book is spiral bound with hard covers and a small size perfect for tucking into your knitting bag and taking with you when you knit on the go.
Knit Prayer Shawls and its companion book Crochet Prayer Shawls (Compare Prices) are good references for pretty, not too complicated shawls that you can knit to show someone you care. The design of the book makes it that much more convenient to use, whether you're knitting at home or in public.
Publication date: June 2010