Blogger and author Kathryn Vercillo is an expert in the area of using crafting to heal, having researched the topic extensively for her book Crochet Saved My Life. In this post she tells us about pocket prayer shawls, which are fun to craft and healing for recipients. Read Kathryn’s previous blog posts on the Lion Brand Notebook here.
Prayer shawls provide comfort to those who make them as well as to the recipients of these special gifts. However, it can take a long time to knit or crochet a shawl and some people, although they appreciate the gift of one, don’t ever wear shawls. Pocket prayer shawls address both of those issues, allowing crafters to quickly work up comforting handmade squares that any recipient can carry at any time for constant comfort.
What is a pocket prayer shawl?
As the name suggests, this is a miniature version of a prayer shawl that is small enough to fit inside of a pocket. As with all prayer shawls, the crafter infuses each stitch with a prayer or loving intention to provide love and goodwill to the person who will receive the small item. Pocket prayer shawls, also called prayer squares and prayer cloths, are small enough to be tucked into pockets, purses and even inside helmets. They can also be carried into surgery and taken on vacations.
Who needs pocket prayer shawls?
Who might receive a pocket prayer shawl? Anyone who needs the comfort of a handmade item! You might craft an individual pocket shawl for a specific person you know who has had a recent loss or who is going through an illness. Alternatively, you might knit or crochet many of these and make them available to people to take them when they feel that need that comfort. A basket of these shawls, each with a prayer or note attached, can be placed so that those who are seeking extra support can feel comfortable taking one.
We all need a little bit of comfort sometimes; we aren’t always comfortable asking for that but can often more easily accept the love of a handmade item. Taking a pocket prayer shawl from a basket of them is a way to ask for help and immediately receive it. Create a basket with a sign that lets people know that the prayer cloths inside have been crafted with intention and love and that anyone in need of a prayer is welcome to take one.
Some of the places where you might place a basket of pocket prayer shawls include:
You might also check with the following places in your local area to see if they might be interested in a donation of pocket shawls:
A gift for a group
Pocket prayer shawls can also be given to groups of people, including family members of someone who has received a standard prayer shawl. Let’s say, for example, that a friend of yours has a fatal chronic illness, and you knit her a prayer shawl as comfort. You might also knit small pocket prayer shawls for everyone in her family who is also going through this difficult time with her. Group gifts of pocket prayer shawls can be given at funerals, when companies close down and when a community faces a tragedy together. But prayer shawls can also be reminders of positive times, too! They can be given out as favors to wedding gifts and also gifted to graduating classes and the families of newborn babies.
Big shawl, little shawl
Many people choose to create a small pocket prayer shawl that matches every big shawl that they make. The recipient then has the option to always have that handmade love to carry with them, even when it’s not appropriate for them to wear the big shawl. This is also great for the type of people who don’t like to use handmade items for fear of “ruining” them; they can tuck the big shawl away somewhere special for safe keeping and feel comfortable carrying the little pocket shawl with them as a reminder. Alternatively, the pocket shawl might be given to a second person, such as a spouse or child. You might make a prayer shawl for a mom who is ill and she may give the pocket prayer shawl to her child to hold when mom’s away in the hospital.
Who makes pocket prayer shawls?
The great thing about pocket prayer shawls is that even a beginner crafter can easily learn to make them. They are a great group crafting activity and so are frequently made in craft groups. You’ll find people making them together in ministries, schools, therapeutic environments, library groups and yarn stores. Of course, you can make these as an individual as well. And no, you don’t have to be particularly religious or of any certain faith to craft prayer shawls; see our tips here for making prayer shawls even if you don’t pray.
Since pocket prayer shawls are so small, they are great for any crafter seeking an instant gratification project. They are also a great stashbuster item. You can use up a lot of your leftover yarn and have it go to a great cause! They’re also a great opportunity for practicing new techniques; even if you don’t like the technique you’ll have made something worthwhile while learning it!
Pocket prayer shawl patterns
A pocket prayer shawl could be a miniature version of a standard crochet shawl pattern, perhaps just a small section of it. Alternatively, it could just be a small square or other motif. For example, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Glen Burnie, MD has a crafting group that crochets small squares consisting of just five rows of 20 double crochet stitches each. This is a super simple pattern that anyone can learn to make in order to provide comfort to others. Other great motifs to consider for pocket prayer shawls include granny squares, hearts, coaster patterns, bookmarks and knit or crochet flowers. You might even make tiny purses or wallets and slip a prayer or message inside. Each of these items is a variation on the pocket prayer shawl and can easily and affordably be made available to those in need. As long as the item is crafted with intention and small enough to be carried everywhere, it will serve its purpose!