Knitting through the Seasons of Life


On my morning walks I often imagine my legs are like knitting needles. The rhythmic, scissored, criss-cross of steps create an invisible loop and line all around my neighborhood and surrounding streets. The fact that I have walked these same paths for 13 years is akin to the repetitive daily work of knits and purls which create a beautiful fabric.


What if we could see the fabric of our steps? Would it change the way we experience the daily grind if we knew it was achieving an overall picture of beauty and grace?


Morning walks, though they follow the same pattern every day, continue to enchant me. So does knitting. The subtle changes in and through each season delight the eye as colors shift and diminish; as textures evolve with the changing landscape of yards and fields. These same changes occur in the colors and textures of wools, cottons, linens I choose for knitting and crochet. As I walk on even the hottest or the coldest days, my scissoring legs delight in the movement, carry me through familiar views, allow me to breathe, expand, and return home. The very same can be said of knitting, no matter the season or the weather. 


As I turned another year older, I am grateful for these gifts of walking and knitting. They are a grace in my life that continues to sustain, enchant, offer solace and sanity, and to lead me home. May we continue this daily delightful work of regular stitches and familiar steps, keeping in mind that though we may not see it, something beautiful is being made!

But I Can Knit!

My husband stood there gawking at me, unsure how to proceed. It was an awkward moment but there was a slight smile on his face. You see, I had made the coffee early that morning, as I always do when I come downstairs. He had gotten me a new coffee maker, as the old one (really really REALLY old) had fallen apart. Literally. It had been the kind that needed a paper cone-shaped filter. This new one required a paper basket-shaped filter to be placed down into a removable plastic basket.

I had made coffee in this shiny new red coffee maker for several days now. Delicious hot coffee to wake me in the morning. This particular morning it seemed to gargle and spurt a wee bit more than usual. There was some kind of water or brownish stuff leaking out the bottom, but oh that could be explained by a little spillage as I poured the water into the reservoir. I wiped it up. No biggie. Poured myself a cuppa. Good stuff.

But when my husband came downstairs, he stood there asking – Honey…what happened here?

What became evident to everyone standing around by this time (son and daughter too!) was that, whoever made the coffee that morning had forgotten to put the plastic basket into the gizmo. With only a thin paper holding the coffee as it brewed…well…you can imagine.

My son just grinned, got a cup of coffee, and went somewhere else to laugh. Hubby cleaned up the mess. I grabbed my knitting and sat down. Yeesh.

The thing is…things like this are happening more often as I get older. I know, I know…51 is not old. But I seem to be having little glitches of memory, temporary spots of insanity every now and then. For now, they are cute, funny, laugh-off-able.

Later that afternoon, sitting in the living room with my son as he did college homework (he was home on break that week), I was knitting the lace pattern on the yoke of a new sweater. Well, actually I was realizing that as I had stayed up late the night before in a lace-knitting frenzy, I had made a mistake. One little mistake that led to the last four rounds of knitting being off and therefore wrong in one section. When I realize things like this, I put my knitting down and get up and do something. I chose to fold laundry, to put dishes in the dishwasher, pick up stuff and put it away. As I do all this, I ruminate…shall I tink back four whole rows? Shall I just frog it and hope that the cotton/linen yarn will hold their stitches enough for me to get all two hundred and ninety some-odd stitches back on the needles? Should I put in a life-line? Or could I just unknit each stitch down to the fourth row below and re-knit it back up as I do for a dropped stitch? And then could I do this for about twenty stitches AND keep it in the lace pattern, complete with yarn overs, k2togs and ssks?? Hmmm.

I returned to my knitting, with a plan sorted out in my head. I would try the latter idea picking out each stitch with a crochet hook and if that went awry, I would frog it all back to before the offending lace errors. Carefully, ever so carefully, reading each stitch up and down the four vertical lines of rows and following the lace pattern, I unknitted and reknitted, repurled, and made all the stitches, one by one, as called for. I surveyed the resulting fabric and blurted out without thinking –

“D#%n, I’m good!”

Now I’m not one typically taken to such flowery language so you can understand my son’s surprise at this exclamation! I stood up, did a little dance (something to the tune of “I fixed my knitting, I fixed my knitting!” and sat back down to utter these words with some volume:

“I may not be able to make coffee properly, but I CAN FREAKIN’ KNIT!!!”

There is hope, when I am actually old, and can’t remember where I put my teeth, that I will still be able to knit, purl, k2tog, psso, yo, ssk and all the rest!

***

“A life in knitting is a life worth living.”

I just thought of that.

You can quote me on it. 🙂

Trying to Find the Words

I’ve been trying to find the words, but they just won’t come. I sit with knitting in my lap, needles clicking on socks, a sweater, and I swoon. No, maybe “swoon” isn’t the word. It’s a feeling like that though…of love and adoration, for the color, the texture, the yarn, the process of hands moving, producing a fabric.

But there’s something else too, that the word “swoon” doesn’t touch. There’s memory, of past times when I sat making the very same stitches but for my children, or when I was healing, or for gifts for friends, or knitting with my mom or my daughters.

And then there’s focus. A settling down and into a rhythm I would prefer to spend my days. A pace that isn’t frenzied. A repetition of hands that allows my mind to muse and sort out the days events. An anchoring activity that no matter what else is going on, this, these stitches remain the same. And I can do these simple stitches, one after the other, and eventually accomplish something, SOMETHING at least!

All this you say? In the stitches of knit and purl? Well, yes. And yet, so much more. Can the love of knitting be put into words? Perhaps not. Perhaps that is why knitting is wordless, soundless, except for the clicking of needles, the faint swishing of hands.

Perhaps not every knitter swoons. I imagine sometimes the women of past generations who knitted out of necessity, may have just knitted to be knitting and “swooning”, or whatever that feeling is, wasn’t a part of the process for them. But I’m sure some of them did. And perhaps they too couldn’t find the words to describe it.

I’m seeing now that there are a few words here. As little as they may make sense, I have found some words to begin to describe the swelling of my heart, that fullness of contentment, as I knit. Sometimes I even have to put my knitting down just to revel in it without moving the needles, to try to pin down exactly what is going on there as I knit. But then it shyly scoots away and only revisits again when I’m lost in knitting…

…no words, just the clicking of needles and colorful yarn running through my hands.

Everyday Stitching

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If I could climb into each knitted stitch…there would be something there to learn.

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If I could freeze a moment in the warp & weft of everyday living…I might be able to find what it feels like I am missing.

I want to be able to experience the same wonder and marvel at ordinary knit stitches, made over and over again, in my everyday tasks. Is it possible to approach laundry, meal prep, cleaning, errands, and all the myriad of things we do every single day, day in and day out, over and over, with the same stillness, calm, and enjoyment as the over/under of weaving?

I don’t know. I haven’t been able to master that. At all.

I’m reading a wondrous book. Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Warren, is a beautifully honest, life affirming litany of the mundane tasks we engage in every day. Her writing encourages me to remember that these same tasks, boring and never-ending as they are, have the opportunity to be oases from which to drink of the goodness God has for us.

Yes! Yes..this is what I long for. For many months now, I’ve been craving a more contemplative life. I long for this in my creative life as well…to make things slowly, carefully, with presence in body and purpose of mind and heart. I even daydream of living a type of monastic life filled with daily prayer, meditation, knitting, spinning, weaving.

It sounds idyllic. Well, to me it does. The thing is…I would still have meals to prepare. Cleanup afterwards. Laundry to do. Lightbulbs to replace. Repairing broken things. Upkeep and maintenance of everyday appliances. Etc. I’m actually quite spoiled in those latter few…my husband does most of the upkeep and maintenance around our home. And yet I still grumble about all the other stuff that seems to fill much of my days.

I’m in sore need, here at the beginning of a New Year, of reorienting my mind and heart to this truth:

“The crucible of our formation is in the anonymous monotony of our daily routines.” -Tish Warren

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Like knitting the same stitch over and over and over again. Like running a thread over and under and over again. This is where beauty is wrought. I know this. I believe this.

Lord, help my unbelief.

The thing is, I’m a dreamer. I dream of grand things, of accomplishments, of revolutionary beauty being brought into the world. Tish Warren does too:

“I was, and remain, a Christian who longs for revolution, for things to be made new and whole in beautiful and big ways. But what I am slowly seeing is that you can’t get to the revolution without learning to do the dishes.” 

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I won’t get to wear the sweater or give the knitted gift, until I’ve slogged through countless knit stitches. I won’t see a lovely tapestry until I’ve worked the over-under over and over again.

Yes. Today. Tomorrow. And on through 2017.

Knit my stitch. Weave my thread. Do my dishes.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Knitting from the Hem

knittingthehem

Ofttimes when I close my eyes

this is what I see –

Genevieve knitting with a string

from the Hem of His garment.

The throng of living is pressing

in on all sides.

Yet He has stopped, turned

and bending over

He lifts my face

to gaze into His own.

In this way

I shall knit on.

***

‘Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak.  She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.’

Matthew 9:20-22

*****

“Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your dis-eases.”

Psalm 103:2-3 (hyphen added)

The Camaraderie of Stitches

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They come in to the shop or home with at least one bulging bag. It is not only bulging with yarns, needles, hooks and patterns, but also the events of their day. As we greet each other and settle into our “pews” (somehow we adopt a chair that becomes “ours” each time we meet:), the bags are set on the floor and the contents are slowly pulled out and offered on the table.

The contents of each person’s bag are as varied as the individual. The projects, chosen colors, ways of working with the yarn are all unique to each woman. As they begin knitting or crocheting, our conversation is woven just as the stitches are. Laughter, kindness, the occasional tease, and-oh yes-the jokes and funny stories flow through our group as fibers flow through our hands. Beauty is in the making.

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What each woman brings to the table can be staggeringly different from the gal next to her. Some are single, others married, and many are mothers. Some are teachers who have spent their day (and their energy) with students. Some are nurses who have been on their feet tending the sick for 10 hours. Some are postal workers who have driven miles and miles delivering post. Others are computer tech workers, paralegals, law professors. Some hold positions in human relations, animal hospitals, and banks. Some are retired yet equally as busy as those working full time. These women are all different ages, backgrounds, and have differing political and religious beliefs. Yet we are all there for the love of making things with string. And that string binds us all together.

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I have the privilege of being among them with the title of “teacher”. I don’t actually think of myself as “the expert who has great knowledge to impart”. I view what I do as a facilitator, a guide, an inspirer and encourager to women in their fiber journeys. As we gather around the table, the real teacher is the yarn. Whether it is knitted or crocheted, the stitches teach all of us. I am there to offer new stitches, to give guidance for getting out of tangles, to provide inspiration, and to marvel at the beautiful lives being knitted together.

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The camaraderie of stitches is one of the most amazing and wonderful things I know. As a dyed-in-the-wool introvert, I am transformed into an extrovert by the common love of yarn and all things stitching, whether knitted, crocheted, embroidered or other. It’s as if each woman’s yarn is attached somehow to my heart and a love for them flows through my hands to theirs as we stitch together. I am grateful for the privilege and honor to have so many comrades in yarn.

As they pack up their bags, I imagine that their load is a bit lighter for having been together, sharing our lives through the vehicle of our stitches. I know my bag is lighter and more colorful for having been with them.

To all my students, who are also my friends…thank you.

And to Knit One Smock Too, thank you for being a beautiful hub for women to gather, to find all the yummy yarns and tools they could need.

***

“When peers thus knit, a kingdom ever stands.” -Shakespeare

The Silence of Stitches

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It isn’t often that I am alone in our house. On top of that, to be alone and sitting down with feet propped up, knitting in hand. I know you may think I get to do this a lot. But the thing that is so very delicious right now is the

SILENCE.

Oh how I crave silence. That deep, rich silence, punctuated only by the tick of a mantel clock and the click of knitting needles. I marvel at it. I revel in the silence as one who slowly twirls in falling snow reaching out the tongue to taste it. It’s that kind of silence…snow silence…albeit with an air-conditioner running in the house.

This silence seems to seep into my body…shoulders relax, brow unfurls, weary thoughts abed, breathing slows. Only the automatic movement of hand and fingers belie the stillness infusing my mind and body. I drink in the restorative properties of silence.

Silence with reading is not true silence for me. My mind is still taking in words and words are not quiet. Silence with someone else in the room is not true silence for me either. My energy is still tied to them. Silence with my eyes closed is good for a few minutes, but if it’s late in the day, like it is now, I’m asleep in the span of 2 minutes, head lolling about as I sit on the couch.

But silence and knitting is perfection. The no-thought activity of my hands keeps me awake to the silence, alert in its presence, and almost seems to allow the silence to be knitted into the fabric of my mind and heart.

Knitting and crocheting is wonderful with friends. It’s terrific while waiting at soccer practices, the pick-up line at school and while riding in the car. But knitting or crocheting in absolute silence is a delectable treat you must allow yourself from time to time.

No. Check that. It needs to be quite often!