The Meaning of a Prayer Shawl

Posted by Jessica Ybarra on

Peace of My Heart™ Prayer Shawl

The passion you have for weaving is a gift: Treasure it, and honor the gift by exploring it, developing it, expressing it, and sharing it with those around you. Do that, and your love of weaving will be a joy forever.” Sarah Jackson, Sarah Jackson Design

Sarah Jackson 

Sarah Jackson knew she was a weaver from the first time she saw the beautiful colors of yarn on a loom.  She was a young girl on a camping trip to secluded Northern New Mexico where she happened on Craft House (a weaving cooperative founded by Rachel Brown and Kristina Wilson) in Arroyo Seco, a small town about half way between Taos and the Taos Ski Valley. 

It wasn’t until many years later when she took an introductory weaving class at the University of Kansas that she was able to sit at a loom and weave. She’s been weaving ever since. She went on to earn a BFA with a concentration in textile design from the University of Kansas.  Sarah is a former technical editor and weaving editor for Handwoven magazine (which has published her weaving projects and technical support more than 30 times!) She has presented workshops and lectures for weaving guilds and national conferences as well as engaging and encouraging 4-shaft weavers in her Facebook Weave-Along groups for several years.

A collaboration

I first conceived of the idea of a prayer shawl in March 2020 when I felt the need to provide Cotton Clouds’ 4-shaft weavers with a kit that would provide them the opportunity of weaving something meaningful as well as beautiful.

I was inspired by a Sarah Jackson Prayer Shawl, featured in the March/April 2018 Handwoven . When Cotton Clouds quickly sold out of these Tencel 8/2 Prayer Shawls, Sarah and I knew that we needed a new one, specific to the needs of our weavers who are choosing to stay-at-home and weave during the COVID19 pandemic. We chose an earth-friendly, sustainably-grown bamboo –Bambu 12– that would produce a flowing , gossamer-fine fabric suited for an elegant and flowing prayer shawl.

Yet more than anything we wanted to help create a state of mind of harmony and serenity for weavers during these difficult times. We wanted our weaving community to come together through Sarah’s Facebook Group Weave-Alongs because we knew that sharing what we love with others keeps us socially engaged with our hearts filled.

“It’s like giving yourself or someone you love a great big hug!”

The Interview

In early July 2020, just a month before the start of Peace of My Heart™ Prayer Shawl Weave-Along, August 17, Irene Schmoller interviewed Sarah Jackson. Here is an excerpt.

Irene: Sarah, how did the idea for this Peace of My Heart™ Prayer Shawl come about?

Sarah: I had started another Weave Along in early April, barely three weeks after things shut down due to COVID19, and it became immediately apparent that weavers were anxious for new projects and opportunity for community and connection. I knew Irene had been inundated with yarn orders for the prayer shawl I designed for Handwoven in 2018, and I was not surprised that weavers were combining their love of weaving with prayers for special people and circumstances. When Irene approached me with the idea of a prayer shawl for a Weave Along project I immediately agreed knowing intrinsically that such a project would be a blessed opportunity to share my faith and my love of weaving with fellow weavers.

Irene: Why did you call it Peace of My Heart?

Sarah: As weavers we put so much of ourselves into the things we weave, and when they’re given to someone we love it’s a little like giving a piece of our heart. I thought of what I hope this shawl will mean to the person I give it to and how one of my prayers for them is for peace.  So… Peace of My Heart seemed a just-right name.

Irene: Why did you design this fabric?

Sarah: I wanted the shawl to be especially soft and silky so that someone wearing it would have a tangible, gentle sense of the love and care that went into its making.

Irene: What is “slow cloth”?

Sarah: Slow Cloth is a philosophy and approach to working with textiles, created and developed by Elain Lispon in 2007. It isn’t fast. It’s about taking each step toward a finished project in a mindful way with all elements of the process working together to bring joy in the process and in the result.[Resource: Handwoven magazine Nov/Dec 2010]

Irene: What symbolism do you see in the fabric?

Sarah: I chose shadow weave as the structure. The name itself reminds me of the darkness that sometimes seems to block out the light in our lives. The central pattern, reminiscent of cross wood grain, brings to mind life’s seasons of growth and change, and the narrow border on all sides of the shawl reminds me that I am “hemmed in on all sides” by the height, and breadth, and depth of God’s love.

Irene: Why did you weave two shawls in two different colorways?

Sarah: I loved weaving the first shawl in subtle colors of Pearl and Honey (Serenity colorway), but I was curious to know how Lime and Indigo (Harmony colorway) would work knowing many weavers would like stronger colors. If I have time I would love to weave another shawl in a third colorway!

Irene: What is a Weave-Along and how does it work?

Sarah: Weave Alongs offer a unique opportunity to find encouragement and inspiration as we share our love of weaving while working on the same project for approximately four weeks. The schedule allows time for warping, weaving, and finishing, plus sharing and celebrating the completed projects. Like a virtual workshop each Weave Along is a place for community and connection where weavers encourage, help, and support each other. 

Irene: How do I join?  Do I have to have a Facebook profile to join?

Sarah: While you need a Facebook profile to join I understand that some people are uncomfortable with Facebook. Fortunately it’s possible to participate in a completely private way. Privacy options can be set so that your name and information remains hidden. If someone wants to participate anonymously I suggest asking someone familiar with Facebook for help in setting up a profile to maintain privacy.  

Irene: Who is this Weave-Along for?

Sarah: The Weave Along is for everyone who loves to weave, for everyone who wants to learn more about weaving, for everyone who relishes the community of fellow weavers, and for everyone who believes that prayer is powerful  and effective.  All skill levels are welcome. Weavers should be able to warp a 4-shaft loom and be familiar with basic weaving terminology. Join “Peace of My Heart” Weave-Along now!

Irene: What makes this Weave-Along so special?

Sarah: I have some very special plans for this Weave Along including opportunities to share prayers, poetry, inspirational music, and art. My hope is that each of us will contribute in ways that will bless all who participate in unexpected ways.

Irene: What are hopes and dreams, prayers and poems did you weave into your shawls?

Sarah: I didn’t pray while I was actually weaving as I needed to concentrate on the treadling sequence. Instead, I prayed as I sat at my loom preparing to weave. I normally don’t weave for more than an hour at a time so each time I sat down to weave I quieted myself and prayed for a specific issue or person before beginning to weave. In doing so, I found that the person or circumstance I prayed for remained on my heart during the course of weaving. 

Weave Your Prayer Shawl

Weave this stunning prayer shawl on any 4-shaft, 22″ wide loom with a 15 dpi reed using our Eco-Friendly, Sustainably-Grown bamboo yarn, Bambu-12. We’ll include just the right amount of yarns (plus some) to weave this shadow weave motif fabric, finished size: 18″ x 71″ plus 5″ fringe on each end. 

Yarn Pack

Our Yarn Pack provides you with just the right amount (plus some) of the colors you’ll need to complete the project. We know you’re going to love our shimmering, 100% bamboo rayon yarn, Bambu-12 for it’s silkiness and sensuous drape. It is so complementary to shadow weave.

Many Thanks to Handwoven

Cotton Clouds received a $2,500 CARE Grant from Long Thread Media, home of Handwoven magazine to be used on their website towards digital advertising. We chose to use those funds to promote this Prayer Shawl Weave-Along in a one-time sponsored e-newsletter to their 50,000 subscribers. Plus 6 weeks (corresponding to the time of the Weave-Along) of a banner ad.

We are deeply honored and grateful to receive this award for the work that Cotton Clouds does to foster growth in our weaving community. Thank you Linda, Anne & John!

Come join Sarah Jackson and Cotton Clouds as we celebrate our passions for weaving together. 

Irene & Sarah


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