What is a Prayer Shawl? And Other Ways to Craft Intentionally + 40 Knit and Crochet Patterns for Prayer Shawls

You have probably heard that you can knit or crochet a prayer shawl. But what exactly does this mean? And if you’re not someone who prays regularly, then can you still make a prayer shawl? Of course you can. Let’s talk about what a prayer shawl is and how to comfortably craft one even if prayer isn’t part of your regular practice.

What is a prayer shawl and can you make one even if you don't pray?

What is a Prayer Shawl?

A prayer shawl is a handmade shawl. Usually people knit or crochet prayer shawls. The only difference between a prayer shawl and any other shawl is in the process of making it. When making a prayer shawl, the crafter is very intentional about their work. They infuse the piece with a prayer. This soothes the crafter as they work. Moreover, it perhaps gives energy to the item itself, which is then gifted to a recipient who can feel the love and care that went into the piece.

Ways to Make Any Shawl Pattern a Prayer Shawl

How to turn any knit or crochet pattern into a prayer shawl

Any knit or crochet shawl pattern can be a prayer shawl. It’s all in the process of crafting. Here’s how people make a shawl into a prayer shawl:

  • Choose a prayer before beginning the craft project.
  • Choose a project recipient as well. This might be a specific person that you know. Alternatively if you make prayer shawls for charity, then it might be a general person but try to picture them in your mind’s eye.
  • Repeat the prayer before you begin crafting.
  • Repeat the prayer aloud or in your mind as you stitch. This works best for knit and crochet shawl patterns that are repetitive and don’t require a lot of focus.
  • When the piece is finished, gently fold it, reciting your prayer as you do.
  • Some people choose to include a handwritten version of the prayer as a note when gifting a prayer shawl.

In other words, you simply turn your attention to the prayer as you craft. The idea is that you are spending your time and energy handcrafting a shawl for someone you care about. They can feel that intention when they receive the item. They know that you’ve been praying for them, which is comforting. And each time that they wrap the shawl around themselves, they feel that again.

What If You Don’t Pray? How To Make Intentional Shawls

The fact is that not everyone feels comfortable with prayer. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that you’re forever doomed to make impersonal shawls for people. After all, it’s all about the process. The prayer that people choose is very personal, so personal, in fact, that it doesn’t have to be a prayer at all.

You can replace a prayer with any of the following intentional messages:

  • An affirmation such as “everything you need to heal yourself is already within you” or even the simple “this too shall pass.” Imagine that you’re going through a tough time and someone that you love crafts you a shawl with the repeated message “this too shall pass.” Then they give you that shawl with that note. It can be immensely healing as you feel the hug of that shawl and the message behind it. You remember that you’re going to be okay, things are going to get better.
  • Depending upon your spiritual practice, then you might feel comfortable repeating a mantra. These are universal sounds or messages in another language. Find some here.
  • A favorite song. Find a song that is filled with meaning for you. Play it or sing it while you craft intentionally for the recipient of the prayer shawl.
  • A line from a book or poem. Keep a list of quotations in a journal as you read. When you want to knit or crochet a prayer shawl, you can pull a line from the journal for intentional crafting.
  • A single word. What do you most want the recipient of the shawl to feel when it wraps around them? Love, peace, health? Repeat that word stitch upon stitch to send that energy into the work. You might even choose a filet crochet shawl pattern in which you stitch the word directly into the piece!

You Can Make a Prayer Shawl for Yourself

We’ve talked a lot about making a knit or crochet prayer shawl for others. However, you can heal yourself through craft as well. If you’re going through a tough time, making your own prayer shawl is a great way to practice self-love, self-compassion and gentleness with yourself. Each time that you sit down to craft the piece, infuse it with the messages of love, care, and wellness that you wish you felt even if you don’t feel them right now. You might even write a letter to yourself to store with the shawl when it’s not in use, reminding you of the message.

The Best Knit and Crochet Patterns for Prayer Shawls

Make a knit or crochet pocket ruana
This pocketed ruana, available as both a knit pattern and a crochet pattern, also works really well as a prayer shawl.

You can use absolutely any knit or crochet shawl pattern as a prayer shawl. That said, it’s often best to choose an easy pattern with a simple stitch repeat. That allows you to sink into the meditative, prayerful aspect of knitting or crocheting. If you have to focus too much on the pattern then it can take away from the prayer practice. Therefore, using a very simple pattern – or a shawl pattern you’ve crafted many times before – is a top choice.

20 Free Crochet Prayer Shawl Patterns

In this roundup we shared 20 free crochet prayer shawl patterns, which gives you a great place to start as a crocheter. This includes ten of Marly Bird’s best crochet shawl patterns for intentional crafting.

20 Free Knit Prayer Shawl Patterns

And here are 20 free knit prayer shawl patterns for you to work with. These, also, include ten popular Marly Bird shawl patterns. You might also find some good patterns in our roundup of nearly two dozen knit summer shawls free patterns.

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Marly Bird

The One and Only, Marly

Marly is a knitwear and crochet designer (and yarn addict) that is here to help you learn how to knit and crochet in a way that's fun and approachable.

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