Prayer Shawl Ministry

Prayer Shawl Ministry by Ann Goodwin

One morning I saw a spectacular Mexican sunrise:  yellow, orange, turquoise, mauve and peach.  It was so wonderful that I thought that I should try to save it in a Prayer Shawl.  How is it that I had all those colors in my stash of yarn?  One of the stitches is a Faggotting stitch.  My mother chose that stitch to knit our curtains when I was a child.  Knitting that stitch brought my mother to visit me.  I don't remember much of her. Dad was away in WWII and mom became quite invisible under an overbearing mother-in-law.  This is the 16th Prayer Shawl and was given away on Christmas Eve.  Yesterday I finished the 17th shawl.  This had a modified sunrise design surrounded by royal purple and will be placed on the Altar this Sunday (Dec 31). There have been no two alike.  Each evolves as I knit, if I make a mistake it becomes part of the design.  If I run out of yarn, I change the design.

"Magical" things happen when "I" am creating these shawls.  Pattern repeats end where they are supposed to even if I did not pre-plan the last row placement.  Designs happen, shapes happen (The last one being about 150 deg. arc.)

I said "magical", but is it?  Do I have any control over what happens?  Mistakes change into design;  rows end with just inches of yarn left;  circles not completed due to insufficient yarn suddenly acquire a triangle of 19 Trinity stitches in a contrasting color.  (Invoking the Holy Trinity for those who are sick has enormous power.)

In preparing  to knit a shawl I pray over the needles and wool before starting and continue to pray and send healing thoughts to the recipient while knitting. I consistently invoke the Holy Trinity, as the number of stitches is usually divisible by three, while the patterns and rows are formed from multiples of three.

A usual shawl contains over 50,000 stitches and takes from 20 to 50 hours to finish. The shawls are given free of cost as a ministry to anyone in a crisis, most often to those facing illness or in mourning.

From  feedback I have learned that many recipients immediately feel better as soon as they wrap the shawl around themselves.

Every shawl that I make is first placed on the altar and given to God, and most of them have been blessed by a priest, before being given further.

I believe that a Power greater than my hands or my skill is at work here.  My hands used to be stiff with arthritis but now I can knit for hours with no pain.  I usually become easily bored with large projects when knitting for myself and these are frequently tossed into a cupboard half finished.  I started a scarf in 1994 and it still is not finished.

I don't expect everybody could or should make as many shawls as I do, but I do think everyone who has the use of their hands can make one shawl.  I have suggested to some people that they make a shawl for a sick family member, their immediate response is, "I can't knit".  I think in most cases the word "won't" can be substituted for "can't".


Anyone can knit.  After all there are only two stitches to learn.  As in math there are only two things you can do with numbers.  There are many wonderful formulae from just two basic functions.  A Balance Sheet can be totaled using only the one function of addition.  In the same way a shawl can be made using only one stitch.  About 63 stitches knitted in one row, and this row repeated until the work is about 50 inches long and you will have completed a shawl.  As you are knitting, pray for the person for whom you are knitting.  This shawl is now full of prayer; and is now a Prayer Shawl.


For prayers to use whilst knitting, many patterns in English and Spanish, letters from knitters and shawl recipients, go to the international Shawl Ministry website:

Yarn and needles are easy to find.  The tianguis sell very inexpensive yarn.  Small shops in Chapala and Jocotopec also sell inexpensive yarn.  The Knitting Club in Ajijic carries luxurious yarns at prices comparable to USA and Canada, also knitting needles are available here.  I will give the Club phone and address on request.

Psalm 139:13-14 - "You created every part of me, knitting me in my Mother's womb.  For such handiwork, I praise you.  Awesome this great wonder!" God is the Knitter, all you and I have to do is hold the needles and the yarn.

I’ve been published!!! Wow, I’m tickled pink. The Shawl Ministry emailed me approx. 2 years ago and said that they were running a contest and the best 38 entries would be printed in a book.  I started knitting and the result was my Mexican Rainbow shawl.  I mailed it to them and was delighted when they emailed and said Thank you very much for your shawl, now will you send the directions. Oh oh!!! What directions!!  I never write directions, each shawl I make is an original, made up as I knit.  Well I had to start a duplicate so that I could write instructions as I knitted it.  Well it was one of the best 38 so I am in the book “Prayer Shawl Companion”  Also in the book is a shawl by Kaffe Facette.  16 of the shawls in the book have been designed by professional designers like Kaffe, who earn their living writing knitting books, so I am in good company. 

I have now made approximately 45 Prayer Shawls for people at Lakeside.  There are now a couple more people volunteering to help knit while I am gone.  We are going to be Snowbirds, spending the summers in Kincardine, Ontario, so any shawls I make will be given to the congregation of our new church.  We will be back by 1 Nov 2010 for the winter.

While in Wales some years back, I made 9 shawls while I was there.  There are some of the pictures on the website which are now in Wales, with the exception of the Mexican Rainbow shawl and the one under it (quite similar in different colours) The Rainbow shawl is on tour throughout the United States, with the authors of the book on a signing tour.

While in Wales I wrote an article for the Llandaff Diocese newspaper called “Croeso” about Prayer Shawls.

I can be contacted any time by email: