FAQ – Shawl Ministry Program
WHAT IS THE SHAWL MINISTRY?
Alone or in the company of others, members and friends of the congregation make comfort items — shawls and lap robes — for use by First Church members going through difficulties such as illness or bereavement. We offer a monthly shawl-making gathering at church to create in the company of others.
What distinguishes Shawl Ministry from the craft used to create the items is the spirit of intentionality that goes into the creation of each piece. Traditionally, at times during the making of the item, the person making it ‘weaves in’ thoughts or prayers of comfort and healing for the person who will receive the item.
DO I HAVE TO BE A MEMBER OF FIRST CHURCH TO PARTICIPATE?
Most people who create shawls are members and friends of First Church. However, we also accept hand-made items made by people who consider our church a significant part of their lives. This may include, for example, people who have moved away but still keep strong ties to our church community.
WHAT CRAFTS ARE INVOLVED?
- Items may involve knitting, crochet or weaving.
- All items to be made by the person who is giving the item.
- Items must be made from soft fibers which are machine washable and dryable.
ARE THERE ANY ITEMS THAT WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED?
Connections within our church family are at the core of the Shawl Ministry. For that reason, we can only accept items that were made specifically for the First Church Shawl Ministry.
We will not accept used items, those that are “store bought” or items that may have been gifted to you that you don’t need. This helps us keep true to our intent of hand-creating with care a soft shawl or lap robe that will be a tangible sign of our love and care for church members going through difficult times.
DO ITEMS HAVE TO BE LAUNDERED BEFORE THEY ARE TURNED IN?
While not required, it is greatly appreciated. The shawls are often given to people with multiple sensitivities and fragile health conditions. Laundry products should be unscented, with no herbal oils. We suggest Arm & Hammer Unscented Washing Soda, Tide Free or Cheer Free, Allen’s Naturally or Seven Generations unscented laundry detergent. Since many people have allergies to pets, it is especially important to wash items if you have been around pets while making them.
WHO PAYS FOR MATERIALS? ARE MATERIALS PROVIDED OR DO PEOPLE SUPPLY THEIR OWN?
Most participants provide their own materials. We want everyone who desires to participate to be able to do so, so if purchasing supplies would be a financial barrier for you, we have a small amount of funding and a limited amount of “kits” available containing yarn and patterns. We will provide these while supplies last. Please contact Associate Minister Dena McPhetres to request materials.
WHO RECEIVES THE ITEMS CREATED? WHO BRINGS THE ITEMS TO THE RECIPIENT?
Recipients are members of all ages in our congregation who may benefit from receiving the comfort and connection symbolized by the shawl or lap robe when they are going through difficult life transitions, illness or grief.
Items are most often given by our Pastoral Care Associates and Ministers. Your suggestions for who might appreciate receiving an item are always welcome. Simply contact Rev. Dena or Rev. Jennifer or our PCA Coordinator.
WILL THE PERSON WHO CREATED THE ITEM BE ACKNOWLEDGED IN THE GIVING OR ARE THE ITEMS GIVEN ANONYMOUSLY?
We encourage you to let us include your name with the items you create, but if you prefer to be anonymous to the recipient, we will honor that.
HOW AND WHEN DO I TURN IN COMPLETED ITEMS?
Items are collected at monthly Shawl Ministry Gatherings. If those times are not convenient, we will gladly accept your item at the front desk in the church office. Please call ahead to arrange this.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I’VE GIVEN AN ITEM?
How quickly an item finds its way to its new home depends on the needs of the congregation, so you can expect that some time may elapse between when you give an item and when it is received by a member. Know and trust that your creation will be gratefully appreciated when the time comes!
WHAT SUPPORT IS OFFERED FOR BEGINNERS?
There isn’t formal teaching at Shawl Ministry Gatherings, although there are often experienced people who are able to help out with the basics. If you’d like to learn how to knit, crochet or weave, we encourage you to check out local classes near you.
WHEN AND WHERE ARE THE GATHERINGS?
There are monthly drop-in gatherings at the church during daylight hours on the weekend. Gatherings are advertised through regular church communications channels like the Enouncements, Newsletter, website, etc.
Gatherings are open to all. You don’t have to attend a gathering to be part of the Shawl Ministry. Some people only come occasionally and others prefer to work on their own.
HOW DO I GET INVOLVED?
WHAT ARE THE GUIDELINES FOR PATTERNS AND YARNS?
You are free to choose your own patterns. We also have patterns available through our Coordinators and can provide links to websites where you might find more.
Please select easy-care yarns that can go into the washer and dryer. Examples include, but aren’t limited to, Vanna’s Choice, Caron Simply Soft, Wool Ease 4-ply worsted weight, and Lion Brand Homespun.
We have a full set of guidelines for shawls and lap robes. Read on!
GUIDELINES FOR SHAWLS AND LAP ROBES
Rectangular shawls seem to be favored over triangular shawls, especially by men.
Rectangular shawls should be approximately 24” x 60” not including optional fringe. Larger is OK.
Triangular shawls should be 60” from left to right and 30” from neck to bottom.
For adult lap robes we recommend approximately 36” x 45” not including optional fringe.
Comfort blankets are also given to young children who are experiencing loss, hospitalization, or other difficult life transitions. We recommend that these items be about 30” x 36.” They may be larger but not smaller.
Thanks to First Unitarian Society of Madison for their template of Shawl Ministry from which much of this material is borrowed with permission.