The New Paltz United Methodist Church Prayer Blanket Ministry is our rendition of the more widely known Prayer Shawl Ministry. A prayer blanket is knitted or crocheted in squares by many members of our church and then stitched together to form a blanket. Prayers of blessing, healing, hope, and thanksgiving are woven into the blanket as each stitch is worked. A final group blessing over the finished blanket is held before passing the blanket on to the recipient.
(Note: These instructions are based on the “Prayer Shawl Ministry” originated by Janet Bristow and Victoria Galo in 1998. To view, Click Here )
Before You Begin:
Because this is a spiritual practice, before you begin to knit or crochet, you may wish to make a blessing or prayer, to dedicate the work of your hands and, if you know the recipient, hold that person in prayer. You may want to light a candle and play soft music to enhance your work time, remembering that this is a prayerful time.
– Cast on a multiple of three stitches to measure 4” or 8”. (Using yarn and needles to have 27 stitches for an 8” square seems to work best)
– Knit three, purl three to the end of the row.
– Turn and knit the purl and purl the knit. With an odd set of 3 (21, 27, etc.), you will begin each row with a knit.
– Continue pattern until piece measures 4” or 8” square and finish off.
Always start the next row with the opposite stitch of what you see.
For instance, if the first stitch on the needle is a knit, then start with a purl.
Knit the purls and purl the knits. You are basically making columns of garter stitch. It will come out looking wavy, but should NOT look like 3×3 ribbing.
(This pattern was developed by Linda Mellor)
– Chain a multiple of 3 stitches to measure 4” or 8”.
Chain 1, turn.
– 1 st row: Single crochet in 2nd chain from hook. Single crochet in next 2 chains. * Halfdouble crochet in next 3 chains. Single crochet in next 3 chains. * Repeat to end of row.
– Work pattern:
-> If previous row ended in single crochet: Chain 3, turn (counts as first double crochet). Skip 1st stitch. Double crochet in next 2 single crochet. * single crochet in next 3 double crochet, double crochet in next 3 single crochet.* Repeat to end of row.
->If previous row ended in double crochet: Chain 1 turn. (do not skip 1st stitch) * Single crochet in next 3 double crochet, double crochet in next 3 single crochet.* Repeat to end of row.
– Continue pattern until piece is one row short of measuring 4” or 8” square.
– Last row: Use 3 half-double crochet instead of 3 double crochet in pattern to create an even edge.
Prayers and symbolism for your squares
As you create your squares, you will want to work in prayers of blessing, healing, hope, and thanksgiving, keeping the receiver of the blanket in mind. If you don’t know who will be receiving the blanket, you can work in general prayers, feeling God’s love and energy flow through your hands and into the yarn that you are weaving.
If you need a little help with prayers, the Prayer Shawl Ministry web site has over 20 pages of different prayers people have submitted. To view, click Here.
Both the knitted and crocheted patterns focus on the concept of 3 repeated stitches. I often simply recite the Trinity as I work my stitches (“Father, Son, Spirit”). Or I will choose a meaningful breath prayer that keeps tempo with my stitching (“love, hope, healing”).
Sometimes I enter a very meditative state where I simply sit with God and feel his love flow through me as my hands work on their own.
This is a very personal aspect of this ministry, and the reason why we’re doing this. Everyone will approach their prayer time differently. I am sure you will find your own way to be in prayer with your stitching.
In addition to the Trinity, you may wish to view The Prayer Shawl Ministry web site’s list of many other concepts for the “Significance of Three” from different traditions and philosophies.
For your squares, you may choose to use specific colors for the symbolism associated with that color. I have seen many different lists with almost any attribute associated with almost any color. The Prayer Shawl Ministry web site lists some common color symbolisms:
RED – love, passion, respect, energy, enthusiasm, courage, understanding, motivation, strength, warmth, vigor
MAROON – bravery, strength
MAGENTA – spirituality, meditation, imagination, release, new beginnings
PINK – friendship, compassion, sensitivity, generosity, warm-heartedness, nurturing, soothing, admiration, gratitude, appreciation
ORANGE – thoughtfulness, vitality, attraction, creativity, energy, enthusiasm, warmth
PEACH – innocence, empathy, harmony, warmth, peace
YELLOW – wisdom, learning, optimism, intuition, faith, well-being, friendship, energizing, happiness, sociability
GREEN – earth, healing, prosperity, fertility, clarity, sympathy, hope, renewal, health, balance, confidence, abundance, growth, life; this color is mentally and physically relaxing
AQUA – courage, balance, harmony, stability, soothing
TURQUOISE – happy, relaxing, refreshing, rejuvenating
BLUE – water, healing, meditation, tranquility, honesty, loyalty, communication, peace, sincerity, wisdom, spirituality, faith, self-esteem, universal color, cool & calming
INDIGO – wisdom, insight, instinct, integration, integrity, spiritual nature
VIOLET – Spirit, spirituality, intuition, truth, memory, nostalgia, humility, comfort during grief or mourning, peaceful
PURPLE – power, leadership, royalty, truth, justice, temperance, spirituality, wisdom
BROWN – wholesome, honesty, steadfastness, simplicity, friendliness, dependability, down-to-earth, stability
BEIGE – optimism, simplicity, calming
BLACK – Self confidence, strength, protection, absorbs negativity, mature wisdom
WHITE – Spirit, innocence, protection, peace, purity, virtue, gentleness, perfection, illumination, reverence, humility
GOLD – masculine energy, enlightenment
GRAY – strength, balance, reliable
Each blanket is uniquely assembled. We have made blankets of 35 squares in 5 columns by 7 rows. We have also made blankets of 30 squares in 5 columns by 6 rows where the columns are joined with additional connecting strips. Often random 8” squares are replaced by four 4” squares, or sets of two 4” squares are interspersed in the columns of 8” squares. One blanket we made had columns of 4” squares separating columns of 8” squares.
Note, that while this is what we have done in the past, every blanket is unique, and you can feel free to experiment and come up with new ways of assembling the blankets.
35 Squares, 5 by 7 ; 30 Squares, 5 by 6
For this blanket, we used 5 columns of 7 squares for a large blanket (or 5 columns of 6 squares is often large enough). Using a foundation color that will connect all the squares, each square is edged in a single crochet stitch (27 stitches per side, with an extra in the corners, works best). 7 squares are joined together to form a column. 5 columns are joined together to form the blanket. Then the entire blanket is edged in a single crochet pattern.
Usually, four 4” squares are joined together for an 8” square. However, depending on the layout of the squares, sometimes it’s nicer to make 2 sets of two 4”squares and intersperse them between the 8” squares in the column.
VARIATION: Edging and Connecting Squares simultaneously
This technique creates columns of edged squares, connected through crochet. The columns are then crocheted together to connect. Yarn ends are crocheted in while while edging to reduce the number of random “tails” to work in later.
- With Column1/Square1, attach your base yarn to the bottom left corner. Evenly space 27 single crochet stitches across the bottom, working in the tail of the starting yarn as you go. Chain 1. Continue with Column1/Square2, attaching the yarn to the upper right corner of the square, and evenly space 27 single crochet across the top. Bring the two squares together, aligning the crocheted edges. Single crochet into the first stitch of Square1. Single crochet into the second stitch of Square2. Single crochet into third stitch of Square1. Single crochet into fourth stitch of Square2. Continue single crochet across all 27 stitches, alternating squares. Cut and fasten yarn.
- Repeat above with Column1/Square2 and Column1/Square3.
- Repeat for remaining squares in the column. However, after attaching the last square, do NOT cut the yarn.
- Single crochet around the outer sides of the column, working in loose yarn ends as you go. Crochet an extra stitch in each of the four corners of the column along the way.
- Repeat steps 1 to 4 for each column.
- CONNECT COLUMNS: With Column 1 and Column 2, align the right side of Column1 to the left side of Column2. Starting at the top, attach the yarn to the first edging stitch in Column1 with a single crochet. Single crochet in the second stitch of Column2. Single crochet across all the stitches, alternating columns on every stitch. Cut and fasten yarn. However, after attaching the last column, do NOT cut the yarn.
- BORDER: For the border, you may use any crocheted border that you choose, making as many rounds as look good. I like to use this pattern:
- Round 1: Single crochet in first stitch. Chain 1. Skip second stitch. Single crochet in third stitch. Continue chain 1, skip stitch, single crochet across the side. In corner stitch: Single crochet, chain 1, single crochet in same stitch. Continue pattern around to first stitch.
- Round 2: Chain3. Single crochet in chain 1 space from previous row. Chain 1, single crochet in next space from previous row. Continue pattern around, with single crochet, chain 1, single crochet in corner spaces.
- Make as many rounds as look good. I usually make at least 5 or 6 rounds. Sometimes for the final round, I will use a single crochet, chain 3, single crochet pattern for a more “ruffled” edge.
- Weave in any remaining loose ends.
VARIATION: 30 Squares with Connecting Strips
Some blankets we have made consist of 30 8” squares. The squares are connected in 5 columns of 6 squares. The columns are joined with connecting strips and a border is crocheted around the entire blanket.
Crocheted connecting strips:
– Chain an even number of stitches to measure 52”.
– 1st row: Single crochet in 3rd chain from hook. * Chain 1. Skip next chain, single crochet in next chain. * Repeat to end.
– Work pattern: Chain 3 turn. Single crochet in first chain space. * Chain 1. Single
crochet in next chain space. * Repeat to end of row.
– Continue to work pattern until piece measures approximately 2 inches wide.
Four connecting strips are needed for a blanket with five columns of six 8” squares.
Knitted connecting strips:
I don’t have a pattern for this. Kerry Kiphart had knitted some beautiful cabled strips for one of our blankets. Feel free to make something up.
Connect the squares and strips:
Lay out the squares and connecting strips in a color pattern that looks good. You will have five columns with six 8” squares each. Use the same yarn that was used for the connecting strips to join the squares together. You can either sew them together with a yarn needle, or you can crochet them together.
Slip stitch the yarn to a corner of one square. Single crochet into a corner of the second square. * Skipping a stitch, single crochet in the first square. Skipping a stitch, single crochet in the second square. * Repeat until one side of each square is joined together. As you join squares and strips together, work in any loose ends.
Once the blanket is assembled, crochet several rows in a border around the edge. Use a border of your choice. I often use the same pattern I used for the connecting strips. You can finish with a shell or picot edge if you’d like.
Final Blessing and Gift
After the blanket is complete, you will want to bless it before passing it onto the receiver. This can be done in many different ways, and you will want to choose the way that is right for each blanket. Often, we have had a group assemble after church and say a simple prayer and blessing over the blanket, including people that do not knit or crochet, but would like to be part of this ministry.
The list of prayers on the Prayer Shawl Ministry web site includes many prayers of blessing if you would like to have a written prayer to add to the spontaneous prayers of the group.
Final Blessing and Gift
After the blanket is complete, you will want to bless it before passing it onto the receiver. This
can be done in many different ways, and you will want to choose the way that is right for each
blanket. Often, we have had a group assemble after church and say a simple prayer and
blessing over the blanket, including people that do not knit or crochet, but would like to be part
of this ministry.
The list of prayers on the Prayer Shawl Ministry web site includes many prayers of blessing if
you would like to have a written prayer to add to the spontaneous prayers of the group.
Many members of our church have been involved in this ministry which grew out of a UMW meeting held in 2005 where we all worked on random-sized blocks for a blanket for George Schneider. Since then, we have made over 40 more blankets, and have identified several blankets we would like to give in the near future. We would love your help!
If you have any questions, you can contact anyone who has worked on our blankets: Linda Mellor, Margaret Howe, or Nani Bautochka. Call or email the church to contact anyone on this list. To see Contact information, Click Here