Each of the 107 shawls, blankets and wraps handcrafted by a group of Gonzales knitters and crocheters is meticulously recorded in a white three-ring binder that serves as a scrapbook for Threads of Comfort prayer shawl ministry.
Started less than two years ago by Ginger McInnis and a group of women at the First United Methodist Church in Gonzales, the ministry has distributed the colorful creations to those in need from India to Gonzales.
The goal of the group is a simple one: to knit, crochet or sew “shawls for those in need,” McInnis said.
“The shawls are hugs from us to others,” said June Thomas, a member of the group.
Threads of Comfort is one of the many mission projects of the church and its women’s group.
McInnis got the idea for the shawl project in 2012 and invited a knitter from St. John Methodist Church in Baton Rouge to explain their shawl ministry.
That first talk inspired a few women to start work on shawls right away.
“That’s when I was touched so much that I started knitting,” Thomas said.
A few month later, McInnis asked women with a prayer shawl ministry from First United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge to serve as the guest speakers at a Sunday service.
At that January 2013 service, some of the first shawls created by the women were blessed, McInnis said.
“That’s when our ministry really got started,” McInnis said.
Prayer shawl ministries are popular across the country, McInnis said. Books, websites and blogs are dedicated to spreading the word about the people who create the gifts and those who receive them.
“The prayer shawl is a way to create something tangible for people in physical or emotional need,” McInnis said.
“It lets them know that they are being prayed for and it also allows us, the maker of the shawl, to grow in our relationship with Christ,” she said. “Being able to pray while we work with our yarn becomes a very spiritual prayer time that allows us to help not only the receiver of the shawl but it also helps in our faith journey.”
Prayer shawls come in all shapes, colors, sizes and stitches.
Group member Wendy Gonzales said that while her knitting and crocheting skills are weak, she contributes by sewing baby blankets.
Those who aren’t experienced knitters can learn from others in the group, said Mona Bickham. Others, McInnis said, help deliver the items or collect supplies.
The women get together at 10 a.m. on the fourth Thursday of the month at the church fellowship hall.
They meet with another group of crafters, Peaceful Quilters.
“We’re hoping the word will spread and some young folks will want to join our ministry,” McInnis said. “We even talked about having a night group for those who work during the day.”
While some of the items go to others in the church congregation who are facing surgery or having a baby, many go to strangers across the country who request the shawls.
Many send thank you notes and photos of them wearing the shawl.
Inside that white binder, the history of the group’s ministry is found through photographs, thank you notes and crochet and knitting patterns. Several prayers — which are recited by the women before the shawls are delivered — also are included.
As the women gather at a recent luncheon, the conversation quickly centers around some of the photos in the binder.
They remember each creation and the circumstances of the donation.
One went to a woman pregnant with triplets and many went to people battling cancer or other illnesses.
McInnis points in the scrapbook to one red-and-white round shawl knitted by Jody McKee.
“That one went to Wilma’s husband, Rex,” McInnis said.
Wilma Pierson, a member of the church, pulls the shawl from a bag underneath the table. Pierson said the shawl meant so much to her and her family that after her husband died she had it framed.
“It’s a precious keepsake now,” she said.
Another photo shows Leya Mathew’s sister-in-law in India, wearing her shawl.
“We’re international,” McInnis said as she flipped through the pages of the binder.
As the women talk about sore fingers and aching hands, they remember what is at the heart of the ministry: prayer.
One member even counted each stitch that went into one of the shawls she created.
“It takes 10,000 stitches and if you pray over each stitch, it’s 10,000 prayers that go into each shawl,” Shawn Hayes said.
Anyone wishing to take part in the Threads of Comfort can call McInnis at (225) 955-4675.