More than a thousand hand-knitted shawls bring comfort and love

Knit three, purl three … over and over, totaling more than three million loops on knitting needles, for 22,000 hours.

That’s what it takes to create 1,100 prayer shawls.

And that’s exactly what a small group of women at Kennewick First United Methodist Church achieved in the last decade to offer comfort and warmth and to mark moments of celebration.

Shawls of many colors are blessed at church services and offered to those who would like one for themselves, for a family member or for friends or strangers, nearby or far away.

Always, a few shawls are kept in the church office for those who stop by and ask for one.

The word shawl, borrowed in the 15th Century from Persia, stands for a knitted cloak that is made for comfort, as well as beauty and warmth. Today, small knitting groups in mission, such as the one at Kennewick First, are active across the world.

As the lovely wraps are created one by one, good wishes and hopeful thoughts go into each stitch. Today, the Kennewick shawl makers are led by Pat Walker, who once served in the Peace Corps in Honduras.

She welcomes new or experienced knitters, and also crocheters, to come to their meetings the first Saturday of each month at the church at 2 S. Dayton. Assisting her in working with others are Janet Shelton and Annie Baker. They have patterns for both knitting and crocheting to share.

Or, new participants can bring new material or patterns to be considered. It’s a time for sharing friendship and ideas.

You may see one of the knitters working on a shawl almost anywhere … waiting in the doctor’s office, riding on the bus, watching a Dust Devils baseball game, attending a club meeting. Of course, most of their knitting is accomplished at home.

Their primary yarn is Lion Brand Home Spun. Three skeins will make a shawl perfect to drape around shoulders that need a bit of warmth or a touch of love. Children also like to snuggle in the shawls with their loved ones and to be told stories.

The group keeps making shawl after shawl because they are always so welcomed. One touching note said, “Thank you for the time, effort, love and prayers it represents. I am a cancer patient … and often have to sit and rest, for which this shawl is perfect. I can wrap myself up and feel God’s comfort through your kindness.”

One of the joys is choosing the color you think a person would like. Red is preferred by only a few, but those few are delighted with a bright red or maroon shawl. Blues, greens, purple, multi-colored or creams are most often picked but there are also white, gray, and yellow hues knitted.

There is a myriad of prayers said by church congregations in shawl blessing ceremonies. One prayer says, “May the one who receives this shawl be cradled in hope, kept in joy, graced with peace, and wrapped in love.”

Tags are put on all shawls with the creator’s name. The knitters agree that making shawls is a good way to keep both hands and mind occupied in positive ways.

Pat Walker shares, “My biggest motivator is the idea that no one is alone. A shawl knit with love is a tangible reminder that God is always present. People tell us that particularly in the dark of night, when worries grow, warm prayer shawls raise their spirits.”