Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Prayer Shawl Pattern for Wheelchair Users and Those in Bed

In a previous post, prayer shawls were discussed. I was searching for a way to make a shawl from quilting or fleece fabric because it would be much quicker to construct by sewing, using purchased fabric.

While browsing the internet, I came across more than 200 sites about prayer shawls, but not one reference could be found on how to make a shawl using fleece or flannel material. So if you are looking for something not requiring the time and expertise commitment of using yarn in a knit or crochet technique, this pattern idea might work for you. It is especially useful for wheelchair users or for those who stay in bed most of the time.

Here is some background on prayer shawls before I get on to the quick pattern I devised below:
The Prayer Shawl Ministry was started by Janet Bristow and Victoria Galo in 1998. Susan Izard and Susan Jorgensen wrote Knitting Into The Mystery which is an excellent introduction into the rituals of prayer shawl knitting. A very good introduction into the process and a good reference for starting prayer shawl ministries. But, there was really only one pattern so it was a bit limited in terms of yarns that would look good with that pattern.
This reference to the Prayer Shawl Ministry was found at Kelly Petkun's site. Kelly has a weekly podcast that her dog Xena helps produce complete with voice-overs.... I mean bark-overs in the background. You can listen to the Knit Picks podcast here at KnitPicksPodcast.

Kelly talks about knitting, products, and interviews guests discussing recent knitting designs and life, in general. Kelly and her company are virtual friends by way of download! And every bit of yarn that I have purchased from the Knit Picks website has been of good quality and arrived quickly.
The above picture is a shawl used as a prototype for the pattern I cut out this morning. The original outside dimensions are 63" (length) by 50" (width).
To make this shawl for someone who stays in bed, the fabric was cut down in the back so that the shawl will drape across the shoulders and warm the front of the body. Cutting out extra fabric from the back makes it easier to maneuver in a wheelchair, and also decreases bulky fabric while using in bed.
Here are some easy directions and a picture of the work in progress:
Fabric requirement: 2.25 yd EACH of two contrasting fabrics (fleece, flannel, old quilts, etc); or a total of 4.5 yd of 45" wide fabric from the same fabric bolt
Notions: thread

1) Cut two pieces of fabric 39" long (includes 1/2 inch seam allowance). The total width will be 50", most of which will be used for the front of the shawl. You will need to piece these two cuts of fabric together, making a seam down the center back, ensuring the width of the cut pieces, when sewn together, is about 50" wide. Press pieced seams flat.
2) Cut a "U shaped" window from the fabric from the bottom up, leaving about 8" at the top for neck and shoulder placement (the "U shaped" cut out should be about 8 " wide and 29" deep and will be placed behind the neck).
Repeat the above steps for the second fabric side.
3) With right sides facing each other, sew the two fabric pieces together, leaving about a six inches opening for turning the shawl right sides out. Press seams flat.
4) Hand sew the opening together using a slip stitch.

Here is a picture of a finished flannel shawl using the same fabric on the back as on the front. It looks warm, will be easy to use in bed, is washable, and will be more comfortable because some of the bulky fabric has been eliminated in the back. This is for daughter Julie while in the hospital, at the nursing home, or in her wheelchair.
Good luck in making some of these for people you know who might need a little comfort, with a prayer sewn into them.
Leave me a comment if you have questions.


  1. thank you for sharing your pattern.....plan on making
    a few for our church. This looks like a very warm and functional
    thank you again

  2. Good morning and happy Mother's Day.I found your tutorial on prayer shawl patterns for wheelchair user's My friend from church will be confined to a bed or wheelchair for the next three months due to a severely broken right leg and crushed left foot.I read your instructions for the shawl and am confused.I bought 2 and 1/4 yrds of flannel each.A print and a solid.I cut one of the pieces in half making it 40 and 1/2 inches long then I sewed them together along the selvedge edges with a 1/2 in seam allowance. I am an experienced sewer but I can't make out what to do next.Do you have a visual to go along with your written instructions? Thank you and God bless you. Joyce

  3. Not sure exactly how to tell you what to do except cut out two fabrics into a shape that looks similar to the picture, then sew right sides together. Leave an opening to turn inside out. Turn inside out and hand stitch the opening. Press.

    Hope this helps.

  4. Thank you for your reply Miss Nancy.I think I got confused because my fabric is flannel and it is 42'wide not 45'I will go ahead and eyeball it and whip it up tonight. I'm sure she will like it because I stitched it with love and prayer's for her.One flannel is lavender and the other is a pastel floral with lavender flowers.Cozy woozy for these chilly mornings and evenings we've had God bless you all.

  5. I was in a bit of a pinch as my Mom was admitted into a nursing home and is always cold. I found a fleece throw on clearance for $2.99/ It measures 50" x 60". I folded it in half and measured down from the top 8" and started cutting a 4"wide (from the fold) strip down to the bottom. When you open it, you have the 8" u and can run a finishing edge with the sewing machine or use the "braided" look that they use on fleece blankets. I was able to make the prayer shawl for my mom, inexpensively and easily. The Physical Therapy Department are aksing how to make them. I will show them tomorrow.

  6. Miss Nancy, thank you for sharing your instructions and pattern. As it blesses others may you too be blessed.

  7. Nancy, thank you for this pattern. I was looking for a pattern for my mother, who is in a nursing home an wheelchair dependent. This is perfect. I think I will also make a few to donate to the nursing home for Christmas presents for those residents in need. Thanks again.


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