Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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How “Craft As Therapy” Grew Into a Thriving Community

November 19th, 2015

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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 introduces us to the Craft As Therapy community on Instagram, which is a daily visual celebration of the healing capacities of crafting. Read Kathryn’s previous blog posts on the Lion Brand Notebook here.

When Mandy of the RedAgape Style & Design blog started using the hashtag #craftastherapy on her own Instagram account, it was just a personal thing. She had always loved crafting but after her mother was diagnosed with brain cancer and the diagnosis worsened Mandy’s own illness, she realized just how important crafting was for her health. She began to intentionally turn to crafting as a way to distract herself from the anxiety of this period, and she began to tag her photos accordingly.


yarnsPeople immediately took notice. Others started using the hashtag widely. Mandy says, “It became apparent to me how important craft is as a form of therapy, not just for me, but for many other crafters. Many have shared their stories about why they craft for therapy. Some are suffering with mental illness, infertility issues, chronic illness, physical illness … and some craft simply because it is cheaper than (traditional) therapy and keeps them smiling!”

Mandy was surprised by how much people loved this hashtag, although looking back she says she’s surprised that she was so surprised. She says, “I’m not sure why I thought I was the only one. I mean; there is a reason that coloring books for adults are so popular right now. Everyone is looking for some time out for their minds and crafting is perfect.”


Pocket Prayer Shawls Provide Portable Comfort

September 12th, 2015

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Pocket Prayer ShawlsBlogger 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.

Photo credit: Southern Belle CrochetFree pattern available.


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.

Learn about the benefits of prayer shawls.

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.


4 Ways Knitting and Crocheting for an Animal Can Be Healing for Yourself

May 26th, 2015

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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 explores the benefits of having pets and other animals in our lives and how we can craft for them as a way to heal ourselves. Read Kathryn’s previous blog posts on the Lion Brand Notebook here.

Pattern: Barkley Loves His Blanket
Every week I pick up a friend’s Golden Retriever and together we volunteer through the SPCA doing animal-assisted emotional support therapy. We visit hospitals, schools, housing shelters, community organizations, transitional living residences … and no matter where we visit, the energy of the room changes as soon as the puppy walks through the door. People relax. People smile. People play.

One of the most underlooked ways that animals can help us is through our knitting and crochet. Whether or not you have a pet of your own, you can find ways to crochet for animals that help to benefit them as well as yourself.

1) Crafting for Pets That Are Ill

It can be so difficult on us when our pets get ill, especially with a chronic illness. Animals with long-term illnesses require a lot of care and support. People sometimes reduce their hours at work or change their social schedules for years at a time in order to accommodate the special needs of a sick animal. We do this because we love them but we shouldn’t underestimate how stressful it can be for us.

Having a pet that is chronically ill can lead to the same kind of caregiver stress experienced by people who are taking care of elderly parents or special needs children. Knitting and crochet help to relieve depression in caregivers. Making items for your own pet in need can be a way that you give to them while sustaining yourself. It can feel especially healing to make something that will comfort the animal – a soft new pet bed, a cuddly new pet toy – because it really feels like the time that you’re taking for yourself is also giving to the animal.


10 Benefits of Making and Receiving Prayer Shawls

April 25th, 2015

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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 explores how prayer shawls help both the maker and the recipient of the handmade item. Read Kathryn’s previous blog posts on the Lion Brand Notebook here.

prayer_shawl_april2015A knit or crochet prayer shawl is intended as a gesture of warmth and comfort for the person who receives the item. The maker prays (or sets their intention) for that person with every stitch. When the item is done, a special prayer or ritual may be done to add emotional value to the item before it is sent to charity or given to the person in need. However, it’s not just the person receiving the shawl who benefits from the act; the crafter also heals.

Benefits of Receiving a Prayer Shawl

People who receive prayer shawls often consider them to be special items that they will keep forever. A prayer shawl can be given to help someone who is going through a difficult illness, grieving the loss of a loved one or reeling from a disaster. The item provides physical comfort, actual warmth and a tangible reminder that there are others in the world that care for them.

Wrapped in the snug hug of a prayer shawl, the person can feel the love that went into those stitches. Barbara, who commented on a previous post we did about prayer shawls shared, “When I had surgery the pastor brought one to the hospital and prayed for me and wrapped it around me. It was very comforting. When I feel anxious I wrap myself in it and I feel the love that was knit into each stitch.”

Benefits of Making a Prayer Shawl

Making a prayer shawl has as many benefits as receiving one. Oftentimes when someone we care about is hurting, we desperately want to help but don’t know how. Making a prayer shawl is a way to channel that stressful energy into something positive. Other benefits people cite of making a knit or crochet prayer shawl include:

  • It takes your mind off of your own stress as you help someone else.
  • It can heal old wounds. For example, someone who has been through cancer herself might crochet prayer shawls for chemo patients and heal their own pain with each stitch.
  • Prayer shawl crafting can be done in groups, which offer camaraderie and companionship to the maker.
  • Some people find it easier to make time for crafting when they have a purpose, such as charity crafting, which allows them to reap many health benefits.
  • It is a way to bring prayer or meditation into your daily life. Research shows that there are numerous benefits to prayer.

Making a prayer shawl is a great way to connect you to your own community. Linda Kennedy finds this is true as she makes baby blankets for the women at her church. (Although we call them prayer shawls, intentional crafting items can be anything at all!) She shares, “I know them and think about them often as I am working on theirs. I have heard some of the women talking about how they can’t wait to get their blanket for their baby. It makes me so happy!” Linda put special attention into a white crochet baby blanket that she made for a mother whose baby had heart problems and they weren’t sure whether or not she would make it and found that this was a way to connect to her during a difficult time. Each experience of prayerful crafting is unique and special. Speaking of another item she made for someone from church, Linda says, “When they gave it to her, she cried because she didn’t think anyone would do something like that for her. Seeing how I can touch someone’s heart is so comfort to me!”

Anja’s Squares: A Story of Making and Receiving

Katinka Steyn shared a story about the healing power of both making and receiving intentionally crafted items. It all began in December 2013 when her eldest daughter Anja had to undergo open-heart surgery after a stent lodged in her heart. She posted in her South African Facebook Group Ons Hekel (which means “we crochet”) about what was happening and “countless messages of prayers and encouragement started pouring in”. Anja made it through surgery and was discharged but continued to have chest pain. On January 22, 2014, Anja passed away in her home.


5 Charity Groups Dedicated to Knitting and Crocheting Prayer Shawls

March 28th, 2015

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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 shares five charity groups who heal themselves and others through Prayer Shawl Crafting, along with tips and information for crafting prayer shawls whether you consider yourself spiritual or not. Read Kathryn’s previous blog posts on the Lion Brand Notebook

prayershawlgroupWhen you knit or crochet a prayer shawl, you set an intention for the person receiving it to heal. You weave a positive thought into each stitch. As you do this, you not only bring healing to the recipient of the gift, you also bring healing to yourself. Learn more about how prayer shawls heal self and others here.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you are religious; it is the act of intentional crafting that soothes the soul. Don’t pray? Get inspiration for secular prayer shawl crafting here.

There are many different ways to donate prayer shawls, but one of the most common options is to join a group that is engaged in prayer shawl crafting. These groups are often, but not always, based in hospitals or churches. To get the most out of prayer shawl crafting, you should choose a group with a mission that touches your heart. These five groups, a combination of secular and spiritual groups, are examples of people who are doing this work today.

Did you know that there are more than two dozen free knit and crochet prayer shawl patterns on the Lion Brand Yarn website? You can search for them in Pattern Finder by selecting “prayer shawls” under “what do you want to make?” in the Category section.

1. HealthEast Care System

This is a Minnesota-based health care system comprised of several hospitals and clinics. They have a prayer shawl ministry through which volunteers can knit, crochet, sew or quilt both shawls and blankets that are given to patients as “a gift of support and healing”. They say, “when the shawls or blankets are left with a patient, it leaves a tangible example of our care and blessings”.

HealthEast Care System has a monthly prayer shawl craft meeting for volunteers who want to knit alongside others. This community spirit can be healing and supportive for all who are involved. However, they also accept knit and crochet donations from people who work on their own at home and send in what they make. They have specific requirements regarding materials (such as only using acrylic yarn) that are based on the needs of their community. Additionally, this group accepts monetary donations to the group, which are used for the purchase of supplies.