Tara Jon Manning is another textile artist who knows firsthand the power of craft to express the spirit and touch others. She is a knitter and a Buddhist whose book Mindful Knitting: Inviting Contemplative Practice to the Craft discusses how knitters— or any crafters—can bring a sense of purpose, awareness, and prayerfulness to their work. She, too, believes a handmade item crafted with prayer and intention for another person is invested with a special power. "I really believe that there is an imprint that goes into something that is crafted by hand,” Tara explains. "You are holding that thought and that intention in that place. It is imbued in the object. It is the idea and the essence of generosity.”

Tara writes that a basic tenet of Buddhism is that we should work to relieve the suffering of others. We can do that when we make a quilt or another handmade item to give to someone in crisis. Such an item and the work it takes to produce it, she said, connects us to all human beings because it "connect us to the suffering world. Suffering is what it means to be human. It is the only thing all human beings have in common. But they also have the antidote in common, which is love and good will.”

Tara also says the impact of such an item can go way beyond the person it is intended to comfort. "I believe that when one chooses to do something positive towards the alleviation of suffering, it multiplies in the world in ways you may not even be aware of," she explains. "Just think about what that teddy bear or that blanket can do for a child on the other side of the world, what a gift can do to change things. Someone may be inspired to do the same thing by seeing your project. That potential is truly inspiring. The teeniest contribution can have magnificent repercussions and if we can get more people to think that way we can get the world to shift to a more enlightened place."

If a quilt can change the world, think of what it can do for the one small person it is made for. Perhaps she is sick. Perhaps she is alone. Perhaps she is facing great uncertainty and feeling enormous fear. For each of these people, a prayer quilt can be a lifeline, a link to what makes them feel safe and part of a larger family. Carolyn has made many quilts for hospice and AIDS patients and has seen this happen repeatedly. "When you put your soulful energy into a quilt, your prayerful energy, you cannot help but transfer that to the recipient," she says. "And when recipients see that, they will know that you love them because it was not so easy turning out that work. They will know you took so much time, put so much of yourself into that work, so much of your prayerfulness."

"They will know it is special," she says, beginning to break into tears. "When they feel it, they will know it is special."

The prayer quilters at Foothills Presbyterian Church in La Mesa, California know this, too. When they gathered for a sewing circle, talk about the power their prayers gave the fabric turned mystical. "I don't feel the prayer quilt is just material," says Jo Ann Long. "When I'm making the quilt, I'm thinking that whoever gets this quilt, I want it to guide and protect them. That's an attitude of prayer and I feel that makes the prayer quilt a living thing." Dorothy Dunhouse, another La Mesa prayer quilter, agrees. "The energy of our prayers goes into the minds of the person who receives the prayer quilt," she said. "They get strength and courage and hope. The strength of that—especially of the hope—is very powerful. And if they're not going to survive, our prayers can give them the courage to face that."

So, as you sit to make a prayer quilt, know that you are doing so much more than joining fabric and bits of thread. You are building a link to the past, to the present and to the future: the past is there in quilting's history as a traditional craft; the present is there in your desire to ease another's current situation; and the future is there in the hope you are building into every stitch and every prayer of the quilt.