What is the meaning of a Prayer Quilt?
In a few words, Prayer Quilts become a tangible symbol of prayers that are
said for a person in need. There is no special power in the fabric, the
power remains in the prayers through the work of God.
Quilts are a comfort to many people, they keep us warm, wrap us with a hug and
are a beautiful, timeless art. These can become a passed down family
heirloom that has a powerful story of how people cared enough to make
and gift it to a relative in a particular time of need.
Who should receive them?
You can make and give a prayer quilt to anyone in need. They may be going through a challenging time with a
physical illness, or an emotionally difficult situation, or any
hardship in which prayer is called for.
A Prayer Quilt is always given free, no money is ever exchanged! There should be
no obligation to the receiver in any way. The receiver should be informed of the
quilt and be willing to receive the prayers said for them. Out
of respect for that person, you should never
someone with this ministry.
The heart was appliqued over a stain that wasn't caught
while making the prayer quilt. An easy, simple solution that adds
character and charm.
Patterns and Materials
The first step is picking the material. Using what is available and keeping
expenses to a minimum, cutting up used clothing is our fabric of
choice. We've had wonderful donations of fabric and used clothing to
help with this part of the expense.
You should try to stick to cotton or cotton blends but I love the beauty of
silks too. Using raw silk keeps the fabric quality more consistent with
the cotton because it's heavier than the slippery silk. I've made
quilts with slippery silk and satin, it's tough, I don't recommend them
for these quilts. Another benefit to using recycled clothing is it's
preshrunk and softened by wear and time. It has a history, stories,
We live in the Appalachian Mountains of east Tennessee. Traditionally,
everyone made quilts out of what they had available to them. We love
carrying on this tradition as well as recycling what would normally be
past it's usability.
A side note about sewing machine quilting...
Please don't think we're opposed to using a sewing machine, certainly use it
if you like! We just enjoy the hand stitching and gives us more
reflective time to pray for the person we're constructing the quilt
for. If you search Pray Quilts on the internet, you'll see that most
people sew these by machine. We're not poo-pooing that, it's just not
our method, neither is right or wrong, please do what fits your time
Lions and Tigers and ...Fishing lures?
You may wonder how we tailor these prayer quilts to fit the personality of
the receiver. Easy. Just ask what interests and favorite colors the
person has. We've made quilts for men which feature squares with
fishing lures, horses, flannel, hunting themes, denim, etc. For older
women, we usually focus on calico and flowers. Children get
quilts with brighter colors and fun kid prints. A baby receives one with baby
colors and themes.
Patterns and Materials with meaning...
Younger women are fun to create for because just about anything goes. If they
have special fabric materials from their children's clothes or a
special piece that has a wonderful memory, like grandma's apron, it
goes into the design. Of course this same concept would work for anyone
you create a quilt for. It becomes part of the special story of the
This velvet quilt was made for a young
woman with a personal flair.
We all agreed, although it was the toughest to sew because of the
material,slippery and some was stretchy, but it was our favorite quilt
so far. Amazingly, all of it except the backing was made from scraps of
material and old clothes. It is so soft, warm, and comfy. We love
the dark, rich colors. The additional weight from the velvet also made this
quilt extremely cuddly.
Cut, Iron, Cut some more.. then SEW!
We cut out several 4" x 4" pieces of mat board. Heavy cardboard would work
as well, not the corrugated kind though, too flimsy and would
misshape over time. Of course, you can buy these size quilting squares
made out of clear plastic from sewing shops, but we're trying to do
this on a budget!
Next, we cut out the clothing along the seams to get the largest piece of
material. Cut off collars, gathered trim, button and button hole
strips, pockets, cuffs and zippers. Cut sleeves and pants legs
apart. Our girls use the collars, lace trim, pockets and any fancy work for
making doll clothes. They also re-use zippers for making coin purses or
pocketbooks and bags. We recycle the buttons for craft projects
or our own clothing.
Go with the flow...
Iron the material to flatten it for marking and cutting. Position your 4"
square so that it runs with the pattern and grain of the material. This
is an important step. It helps give your quilt a uniform, pleasing
look. Imagine a striped or checked material not cut on the patterns,
just messy looking and not as strong when sewn together. We use a
permanent marker to mark most colors, a piece of chalk works great to
mark very dark colors.
Moving on... piece by piece...
After marking and cutting as many different types of material as you can,
separate them into colors. Then they're ready for picking and choosing
for each quilt. We keep ours laid out on a table, pieces
overlapping to show 1/2" of each square to save space. It makes it very
easy to add squares in the proper color spot as we re-stock and pick
out squares that correspond with pattern and color for each quilt.
How many pieces per quilt?
72 pieces is what we use. This makes a nice sized lap quilt. Try to pick
only two or three of the same fabric to make it interesting, that means
more variety in the fabric squares. Solid colors help add a visual
place for the eye to rest, so use these throughout your quilt.
Laying it all out
We lay out the squares on a dark green carpet, which doesn't detract from
the colors we're picking out, but you could also lay them out on a
white or solid color sheet on the floor. I find this important because
if you tried to lay it out on a multi-patterned or colored floor it
would be difficult to get a true idea of your color and pattern of
the quilt. Your eye would be detracted by the surrounding floor surface.
I place 8 squares across, then 9 squares down one of the sides. Fill it
in from there. Just trust your artistic eye to see which colors go
where, space brighter and darker colors farther apart, mix in some
solids, a healthy dose of stripes, checks, calico, and assorted
What was I thinking?!!
Laying them out this way gives you the opportunity to take a look at it and
change anything that seems out of place before you sew it all together.
Sometimes I leave it laid out while going on to other chores. When I
return to look at it with fresh eyes, I can easily spot changes I'd not
seen were needed before. I
recommend this method! I've caught myself putting two stripes or checks side by side, or the
same pattern too close together. You'll see these mistakes in our quilt
pictures. Now is the time to change this!
Notice how this quilt got by quality control
and has too many medium burgundy squares going down in a row in the top
right area. Some of the darker colors could've been spaced better too.
Check it before you sew it for these mistakes! We don't consider these
quilts works of art, they are made with love and we try to never lose
sight that this mission is about the prayer, not the quilt.
Pile it up Sweetie..
After you're satisfied with the look of your quilt squares, start at the top
and pile the first row of nine squares on top of each other, making a
neat square pile. Safety pin a piece of paper with a "#1" on it through
the pile. Do this to each pile, making sure you put the pin with each
numbers 1-8 on the top piece so you keep your pattern straight.
Sew... that's the way you do it, huh?
Yes, you can do this. We've taught adults and children who've never sewn a
stitch before how to sew these squares together. All it
takes is a simple straight stitch, pretty close together, a 1/4 inch
from the edge. Take each numbered pile and start sewing the squares
together. You'll end up with eight strips of nine squares each. Keep
the pinned number always on the same first square so you'll keep your
pattern just like you had it laid out on the floor.
Then sew the strips together, starting with one to two, two to three and so
Putting it all together...
Choose a backing that compliments the quilt top colors. It's usually best to
choose a solid color so it doesn't get too busy. We've used polar
fleece and flannel or cotton sheets. Just use your best judgment, this
is your artistic expression! Cut the back to overlap the quilt top by 2
inches on all sides. This gives you enough room to fold over the top,
and turn under the edge.
Cut the batting (filling) to fit the quilt top. It should be the same size.
You may want to iron the Prayer Quilt top first so it lays out to the
exact size. We've used old blankets and cotton mattress pads for our
own quilt projects, but with quilts we give to other people, I use new
high loft poly quilt batting. One roll of king-size poly batting will
cut down to fit 6 of these Prayer Quilts. It's easy to wash, doesn't
shrink, and if tacked correctly, doesn't bunch up after repeated
Sandwich the quilt batting in between for thickness and warmth. I pin
safety pins in each square corner where my ribbons will go so i know at a
glance where they are when I do the tacking. Turn the backing edge
under about 1/2 inch over the quilt top and pin all the way around.
Corners are just squared off and sewn. Hand sew this all the way around
using small neat stitches in a matching color. This stitching will be
seen, so take your time and make it neat!
You're almost there Ethel!
This last step with your Prayer Quilt goes pretty quick.
Tack with colored embroidery thread and satin ribbons and tie these in bows.
We tack the quilt every other square corner, and every other row.
Thread all six strands of embroidery thread through a large eyed needle. Knot
off one end of the thread about 3/4 inches from the end, leaving a
fray. Go through the quilt from the back, go over your satin ribbon on
the quilt top (cut about 8 inches long), and back through the corner so
the thread comes back out right beside the knot. Tie off the thread to
the other knot and cut 3/4 inches out so it matches the other fray. Tie
a bow in your ribbon on the front side and move to the next square
corner you have pinned. We use about 4-5 different color satin ribbons
and embroidery thread, but that's just our preference. Use all the same
if you like.
CONGRATULATIONS!!! You've made a Prayer Quilt!
Prayer Quilting is sweeping our country. There is a national organization
which supports churches who would like to be involved.
Visit Prayers and Squares website for more information on making Prayer
Quilts- check them out
for more about Prayer Quilts here