If you're knitting a prayer shawl, you're going to give it away, for FREE, right? For the glory of God, as an extension of His love. "Blessed be those who mourn, for they shall be comforted". Two things occur to me about this. First, that if you're doing this as a ministry, the amount you spend on yarn could be counted toward your tithe. Second, that any joy you get as a result of knitting the shawl will be the right joy of doing God's good work.
About tithing. We give 10%. When I first got married this led to some lively discussions between me and my husband. I broke it to him that I believed in tithing, 10% of all income. He had a fair bit of income so that was a nice chunk of change for him to consider giving away! I told him my beliefs, that everything in the world is God's and only ours as stewards. That any things or money we accrue is due to God's love and protection and blessings. So although we can never deserve his blessings, which are freely given, we do owe Him a debt of gratitude and one way to show this is to give some on, to those less blessed but equally loved by Him. Then came the "Before or after taxes" discussion. LOL!
So if you tithe 10% you can easily afford good yarns for your prayer shawl ministry. When I think of something I'm giving to comfort a grieving person - a woman who found out her child or husband is dying, or lost a child in the war, I think cashmere. Pure cashmere. Good quality cashmere. Touching it is like touching puppies. It's warm yet light as a feather. It reminds me of an angel hug, or the breath of God. Not only that, but because it is so warm and soft, you can use lace weight for the shawl and wind up with a lot of coverage in a few ounces, so it becomes portable in a way a worsted weight shawl isn't.
That brings us to the next point. Knitting cashmere! Oh it feels so soft in my hands! It's such fun to "pet" it as the work progresses. It's fun to think of the joy it can bring the right person to own such a garment. If you've only knitted with cheap acrylic yarns, then knitting cashmere is such a wonderful treat! And doing God's work, working for God, should be fun, enjoyable, and all that great stuff. After all, we're not doing this for ourselves, but to give away freely, just as God gives us His gifts freely. But this is a ministry of love, not penance! Joy is right to feel when the heart is in the right place!
I hope when I make things from cashmere they get used and used, and don't get put away because they're "too nice" for everyday use. I hope the recipients use them all winter, for reading, watching TV, prayer, knitting, whatever.
You can buy recycled cashmere on ebay, just search on recycled yarn. People actually buy sweaters made of cashmere, silk, angora, etc. and unravel it (I've tried this before - it's a lot of work!) then make it into balls or skeins and sell it to be reused. Often they wash the garment first, too, so the yarn is nice and clean. Or you can go to your local yarn store and get some of that wonderful cashmere from the special place where they keep the neatest yarns. It may be $35 a skein or more, but often the fingering or lace weight is 400 yards or more to a skein, enough for a shawl. Remember, this isn't YOUR money you're spending, it's God's, and He cares enough to give the very best! :)
One thing about knitting cashmere, if you knit the lace weight on #10's it comes out looking more lacey - there are "holes" even where you've only done stockinette. But it blooms and believe me, it's warm anyways! Don't waste your money or time on cheap cashmere either. I've made that mistake. If it's cheap, too good to be true, it's probably the short fibers, which will pill and make an ugly product after a few uses. You get what you pay for.