Prayer Shawl Ministry
If you've been thinking about lending your knitting or crochet skills to charity work, I'd like to recommend one of my favorites - the Prayer Shawl Ministry. There is such beauty and power in these prayer shawls (aka. "comfort shawls") for both the giver and the reciever.
The first shawl I made was for a friend diagnosed with ovarian cancer. As I watched her go through both surgery and chemo, I wanted so desperately to do something, ANYTHING, that might comfort her through that terrible ordeal. While surfing the Net, I stumbled upon a reference to prayer shawls. Googling the term led me to a website where I learned that these shawls are made and given to people in all sorts of life-changing situations (illness, grief, depression, etc.) for comfort, love, and inspiration.
I found a basic Trinity stitch pattern, pulled some exquisitely soft bulky yarn out of my stash, and went to town on size 16 needles. Knitting for only a few hours each evening, it took me about 2 weeks to complete the shawl. When I wrapped that shawl around her shoulders and told her of the prayers and love I put into its creation, we both cried. She later told me that everytime she felt like she needed a hug, she'd wrap that shawl around her shoulders. She fought that terrible disease over nearly five years requiring multiple surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy. When I couldn't be there for her, the shawl was. She died this past June and the shawl continues to comfort her grieving family.
Since that first prayer shawl for my friend, I've made a dozen more that have been given to others through my church's pastoral ministry. Besides being rewarding charity work, creating these shawls has also strengthened my faith and helped me develop a more contemplative prayer life.
If you'd like more information on prayer shawls, you can find it here. The founders of the Prayer Shawl Ministry, Janet Bristow and Victoria A. Cole-Galo have also collaborated to bring aspiring knitters thirty-eight distinctive and lovely prayer shawl patterns to knitters of all skill levels in the pages of:
The Prayer Shawl Companion: 38 Knitted Designs to Embrace, Inspire, and Celebrate Life
Beautiful pictures, easy to follow patterns, and anecdotal personal stories make "The Prayer Shawl Companion" so much more than just another book of patterns. You'll learn the meaning and traditions behind the kinds of shawls showcased, as well as the importance of these shawls to those who make them and/or receive them. Thoughtful, inspiring, and educational - knitters at every level of ability and proficiency will enjoy this book.
I encourage you to start a prayer shawl for someone you love. I'm so glad I did.