Prayer shawls, comfort wraps, healing shawls. They’re known by many names, and their definitions and uses are just as diverse: weddings, births, mourning, birthdays, home illnesses or hospital stays, welcoming gifts, rights of passage, and so much more! The feeling of wrapping yourself up in a shawl perfectly symbolizes the emotional and spiritual message you want to convey with the gift: comfort, warmth, security, peace…
The basics to know are that you, alone or with a group of people, make shawls and give them to someone for comfort, support, celebration, etc… Sometimes you will know the person the shawl will be going to, so you can personalize it greatly, or sometimes you and/or your group wants to make piles of shawls to hand out as necessity comes along.
In the case of prayer shawls, different groups have their suggested ways of going about the prayer part, and it can be quite interesting. I’ve read that some pray for an individual person before, during, and after making the shawl for them. Sometimes there are predetermined prayers made to cover a wide range of situations so that you can make the shawls and put those positive thoughts and your energy into the project before you even know who it’s for; or even if you’ll never know who it’s for. Other times I’ve read that making the shawl is a good time to listen to your Bible on audio and simply be in the spirit while working on it. Some even get a group together and have a bible study while they stitch away taking turns reading, leading, and stitching. I don’t think you can really go wrong here with the sweet intentions and focusing on your holy text. I think that making shawls for people in the first place is very thoughtful and kind, and any more love and concern you put into the project only deepens the experience in a healthy way for you and the recipient.
If you don’t know of a group in your area, or if this sounds like a fun project for you but you don’t really know how to zero in on where it’s needed, there are many established organizations out there you can join up with, and I’ll link to a few. These places will give you advice on what type of yarn to use, patterns, their favorite methods of prayer if that is involved, and their mission statements will let you know if they’re a place that speaks to your heart or not right away.
If you’re not so sure about committing to an unknown charity, or you feel that an organization is needed in your own home town or within your church, it is not very difficult to begin one on your own. If you are a busy person, you can always make a shawl here and there and give them to your church to give to anyone they feel needs the comfort. Pastor’s usually do a lot of visiting the sick and elderly, and they also are one of the first one’s to hear about when someone passes away and there are heartbroken family members in need of comfort. When people choose to do this individual style, they often times print out a little explanation about what a comfort shawl is and what went into it. For example, maybe the note would mention that you prayed for peace, God’s presence in the recipient’s life, or comfort, but be very careful what you put on there. You don’t want to say happy cliche things to someone who’s grieving and sad. It’s also never good to wind up sounding prophetic instead of just being a well-wisher. So…no promises about how things will look up, or if they wear the shawl good things will come to them and bad things won’t happen, or don’t say the next time the phone rings while they wear the shawl they’ll win a million dollars. Okay, so maybe that last part was obvious, but still…just be supportive in a calm, neutral kinda way. Lionbrand Yarn has a page with pointers about what to say with these notes, and they even have a downloadable card that you can print out and use for your project. I love how they phrase their advice on this topic. Check it out here.
Here is a note I organized that you can use as much as you need to print out or you can use the phrasing and organize it onto business cards. I made it with a white background, a black background, and a simple Times New Roman Font, and also a personalized looking font if you’d like that better. If you pick your own font, make sure it isn’t difficult to read, and again try and fit the situation. A party font might be odd for a somber situation:
If you have more time on your hands, (or more yarn and a stitching addiction that leaves you elbow deep in shawls even after you’ve made one for everyone you know), then it’s a good time to begin looking around for someone who is always in the know of someone that needs comfort. Again I’d suggest looking to your church, but if you don’t go to a church, you can check women’s shelters, retirement homes, or even have a heart-to-heart with someone at the funeral home that can work as your eyes and ears with a stash of your shawls in their office ready to hand out to that one person that is so, so, so alone and looks like, more than anything, they could use some personal consolation. Oh, man…now I have to go watch a funny video to get that out of my mind. *Sniffle* Sorry if that brought you down. Here, watch the trololol guy video, or the Re Dub of the Whistler Guy.
If you’re starting a group, or simply going for a few shawls on your own here and there, just remember to use soft, cuddly yarn, (my favorite for these types of projects is Lion Brand Homespun.) People like to be thought of, and they like free stuff. At least, that’s my impression of the world. For information on colors to symbolize certain awareness/support subjects, you can check out the awareness ribbon meaning chart on this wiki page for ideas!
I’ve also put together a lady wrapped in a shawl using the paint tool on my computer. I don’t mind if you use this image for charity purposes. There’s the gray background version at the beginning of this post, or you could even use it in the manner of a card:
I’m going to include lot’s of links to FREE shawl patterns that I’ve found in different places online. You can click on the image to take you to the pattern. Some of these were labeled as prayer/comfort shawls, and others I added because they look similar enough to me to be used as a simple shawl for the purpose. I’m also adding several shawls/wraps that have extra little details, trim, and a more complicated pattern in case the situation you’re making the shawl for isn’t for a somber subject. The right color combination and type of yarn can turn tons of patterns into the perfect shawl for a particular situation, or even make them a nice neutral shawl to be used as needed. Personally, I’m a lazy crocheter and like instant gratification, so when I choose patterns I pick ones that look like they use larger, more spread out stitches so that I can make the project more quickly. I get excited to do a project, then I’m excited to finish it and see how it turns out too! If something takes too long I lose focus, but many crocheters adore putting those finer touches on their work, and it really shows in your finished project! If you’re not sure which type of shawl pattern to choose, just go for simple. If someone is sick or elderly and you think they might get tangled in a larger/longer wrap, go for the smaller shoulder wrap variety. You don’t want to gift a tiny little ol’ lady a 6 foot shawl that she’ll wind up tripping over and putting her right back in the hospital just after her last broken hip healed! If you feel the recipient needs warmth and comfort, though, they might want something that will swallow them up so they can hide in it. Be confident with you decisions, for all you need is a little empathy to make an appropriate choice, and if you’re not sure you can choose a plain variety that is a medium size. You can do this! 🙂
Other cute designs for random occasions: