Pocket Prayer Shawls Provide Portable Comfort

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Pocket Prayer Shawls Provide Portable Comfort

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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 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.

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:

  • In your church or wherever you attend spiritual services
  • In schools for both children and teachers to access
  • In hospitals and nursing homes for patients and visitors
  • On your desk or in a communal area at work
  • Conferences, expos and even craft fairs
  • Community centers

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:

  • Counseling centers and doctors’ offices
  • Transitional housing, children’s group homes, homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters
  • Veterinarian offices, shelters and animal rescues
  • Veterans centers and other services for soldiers; The Prayer Cloth Ministry in Texas has sent more than 17,000 prayer cloths to the military

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!

Photo via Southern Belle CrochetFree pattern available.

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  • Could you give us a pattern for the pocket shawl to knit?? Thanks

  • I’m sure that this can be adapted for knitters. The cross can be made using baubles. I’m going to play with this.

    • Yes we had a pattern for knitted ones. You could probably find one by Googling.

  • I would also like a knitting pattern since I do not crochet. Thanks

  • Is there a small poem, prayer that has been written to attach to the pocket squares?

    • I would like this as well

    • The Southernbelle site above links to the original (and somewhat larger) prayer cloth which does have a message card to go with.

      • Thank you.

      • I am not a crafty person but someone i barely know was just diagnosed with Breast Cancer yesterday. I learned about Prayer Shawls and wanted to find a way to get one for her. I live in Germantown MD – she in Seattle, WA

  • I doubt any hospital would allow anything non-sterile into an operating room (and if they do, find another hospital!), but for loved ones in a waiting room, this might be comforting.

    • I have put mine under the cap or in the socks you wear into the operating room-and have had others tell me the same-great comfort to know it’s there just before they put you under!

  • So… a pocket prayer shawl isn’t actually a shawl at all. Do I have that right?

    • Right. The ones we made were about 7″ long.

  • Here is a picture of the Loving Pocket Prayer Square that I mentioned to Sandy below. It is a quick and easy knit pattern with a heart in it.

  • Fooled me! I thought it was going to be a pattern for a prayer shawl with pockets. Maybe we could give this a different name other than “shawl”. “Prayer in a Pocket” for instance.

    • That’s what I thought too! Last year our prayer shawl group was asked to join with other groups to make these for the annual conference in June. We had about three weeks’ notice, thinking we were being asked to make full-size shawls with pockets. What a relief to know that the square is actually about 7″. They were actually fun to make and with more notice we could have made a lot more.

  • Directions for construction:

    Cast on 18 stitches

    Rows 1 through 5 Knit (Garter Stitch)
    Row 6 Knit 8, Purl 2, Knit 8
    Row 7 Knit
    Rows 8, 10, 12 Knit 8, Purl 2, Knit 8
    Rows 9, 11, 13 Knit
    Row 14 Knit 5, Purl 8, Knit 5
    Row 15 Knit
    Row 16 Knit8, Purl 2, Knit 8
    Row 17 Knit
    Rows 18 and 20 Knit 8, Purl 2, Knit 8
    Rows 19 and 21 Knit
    Rows 22 through 26 Knit
    Bind Off

    Cut 3 strands of yarn, each 12 inches long. Fold In half making a loop. Put a crochet hook into the center of the

    3 ½ inch side. Pick up the loop and pull the tail of the tassel through the loop to secure the tassel to the

    Pocket Prayer Shawl. This forms a 6 strand tassel.


    Please contact Kathy Dill or Judy Sandberg, Co-Chairs of the Oakdale United Methodist Church Prayer Shawl

    Ministry. Website: oakdaleumc@earthlink.net.

    Hi All
    Above is a pattern for knitters that I have used.

  • Here is the card we attach to each square. We also add our church name, address and telephone number on the card, and we have received lovely thank-you notes.
    May God’s grace be upon this prayer square.
    May it be a reminder of God’s presence,
    Sustaining in good times as well as difficult ones.
    May the one who receives this token
    Be cradled in hope, kept in joy, graced with peace,
    And wrapped in love.

    Knit, Purl, Pray,

    A knitting ministry of

    United Methodist Church

    Sixth Ave West

    Hendersonville, NC 28739


    • That’s a nice prayer, I may use it with a few changes to my church. if you don’t mind

  • Thank you

  • Instead of giving pocket prayer squares I make crocheted crosses in thread in all kinds of colors they were originally made as bookmarks but I make them and give them out to so many people ,I work as a cashier and I give out the crosses to people who tell me their stories and I give them the crosses to let them know they are never alone. Its always been a thing between my God and me I plant the seed and he does the rest.I have made and given out at least 1,000 of these crosses and I don’t plan on stopping until my dying day.many people have come back to me and said the cross has helped then through their hard times.I have never taken money for them though I have been offered it many times.I make them with the extra chain on top with a tassel some people hang the in their cars ,carry them in their pockets,purses and wallets and of course in their bibles.the power of the cross is strong even the nonbelievers take the crosses.

    • What a wonderful ministry!

  • I want to learn how to crochet a pocket prayer square

  • Can I please get a pattern for a pocket prayer square for crocheting

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