Knitting As A Spiritual Practice

by Christine Sine

by Lisa Scandrette

I believe my busy hands can fix the world—or at the very least my world. When I begin to feel anxious about the events of life, I take out my knitting. The yarn, warm and soft, glides through my hands, rhythmically making one loop after another. I may not be able to solve my daughter’s health puzzle or take away a friend’s tragedy, but I can make loop after loop after loop. As I do, my shoulders relax, my breathing slows, my mind slows down. My love and prayers flow from my heart, down my arms, out my knitting needles and into the fabric. Sometimes I need this process over and over and over.

As I knit, I begin to build tangible warmth and love, embodied in fabric… a shawl for a friend grieving the loss of a child, one for a woman dying of cancer, hats to keep babies warm in Nepal, clothing for refugees from Syria, special items for celebrations and milestones. When people wear the items I create, can they feel the love and prayers? Because I think my hands believe they can heal the world.

Whatever the impact my creations have on the world, they are part of my own process, healing and connection with God. Though I have created things with my hands since I was a child, I am only beginning to recognize and have language for the potential of my knitting as a spiritual practice. I am entering a new season of life. My kids are all adults now and in college; for me the transition has been difficult. Though I thought of myself as a person who was calm, and of my kids as people who were competent with growing independence, I found myself experiencing almost daily anxiety. I journaled, I memorized verses, I talked with friends. Each of those practices would help for a bit, but seemed overused and stale to me. I longed for some new ways to engage with God.

Last fall, I decided it was time to cultivate my interests more deeply. I stumbled upon a workshop at a local yarn shop called “Knit the Sky”, based on a book by the same name. The author, Lea Redmond, expresses a desire to “draw attention to the already storied nature of knitting and explore ways to creatively engage that phenomenon in a way that deepens our humanity, both as individuals and social creatures.” My curiosity was piqued, and I signed up for the workshop. Throughout the evening, we played with knitting and story and Lea walked us through brainstorming ways to knit the stories of our lives.

Combined with my desire to experiment with my own spiritual practice and to address my anxiety, I was freshly inspired to draft a project. Throughout the course of the school year, I would knit a scarf for each of my children. This scarf would represent their life that year. I wanted to explore an appropriate role as a mother of grown children. Clearly their lives were their own, not mine. However, we will always be connected as family, so each day I could pick up their “lives”, and knit two rows. During the time it took me to do this, I could pray for their concerns, celebrate their accomplishments and pray my hopes for each of them. I even had special stitches to knit for both particularly difficult and happy days. However, when the rows were done, it was time for me to set down their lives for the day.

So, every day I did this. I prayed for them as I knit. I calmed down. I reminded myself of the truths that God cares for my children and will not leave them alone. I cannot say that I was not tempted to pick up their worries and concerns at other times of the day, but when I did, I thought of their scarves, a tangible reminder of the separateness of their lives from mine. And as time went on, the practice became easier and I could catch myself sooner.

The scarves were completed during finals week, spring of 2016. I wrote each of the kids a note, telling them about my project, affirming their growth, and my confidence that they are each growing into capable, lovely adults. I will always love and support them, but they alone have the challenge, joy and privilege of living their lives.

For me, the knitting of my prayers and concerns provided a daily tangible reminder to trust that something beautiful beyond my control is transpiring. It has left me more able to watch for God’s good work in the lives of those I love. And it has provided me with another way that God meets me right where I already love to be—hands busy making beauty.

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13 comments

Cynthia Helton September 28, 2016 - 5:50 am

Absolutely loved this! I’m inspired!!

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Lisa Sands Scandrette September 28, 2016 - 4:36 pm

Thanks, Cynthia! I love engaging my hands in prayer, in addition to my head and heart.

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chaplaineliza September 28, 2016 - 1:26 pm

I loved this. Thank you for your prayers, and I so appreciate your caring gifts to your children.

It reminded me of a blog post I wrote some months ago, on my blog A Year of Being Kind. My friend Jill and her knitting group found a way to reach out with knitting supplies, overseas. And, be kind.

Yarn Alive Being Kind (Feature Friday!) #BestOf #ayearofbeingkind http://wp.me/p4cOf8-md

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Lisa Sands Scandrette September 28, 2016 - 4:31 pm

Thanks for sharing that! Giving the elderly Japanese knitting supplies helped them, I am sure, to feel cared for and calmer in the midst of a difficult time. We all need to be seen.

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Lisa Sands Scandrette September 28, 2016 - 4:34 pm

Thanks, Cynthia! I love engaging my hands in prayer, in addition to my head and heart.

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Bev. Wilson September 29, 2016 - 10:39 am

What a beautiful post – thank you, Lisa. An inspiring discipline and I love how you write about it here.

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Lisa Sands Scandrette September 29, 2016 - 1:47 pm

Thank you, Bev!

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Bev. Wilson September 29, 2016 - 10:04 pm

Welcome, Lisa……I hope you write for us again! 🙂

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Jan September 29, 2016 - 9:46 pm

This is so beautiful…I have prayed myself thru grieving my mothers death by quilting. I often bead…the word to bead means to pray…these comfort me.

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4 Keys to Individual and Congregational Disciple Making - V3 Church Planting Movement January 4, 2017 - 5:01 am

[…] Others, such as the exercises encouraged by Sybil MacBeth in Praying in Color, writing poetry, knitting, whittling and the meditative archery taught by Angie Fadel, show an emerging world of creative, […]

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Marilyn January 13, 2017 - 7:42 am

I head a prayer shawl ministry in our church.we have given out over 1050 shawls to people in need. Not only are we in prayer when we knit, but we are helping others at the same time. We include a prayer with each shawl given. Thank you notes tell us that our prayers are felt and appreciated. What a joy to help others with your hobby.

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Christine Sine January 18, 2017 - 8:39 am

Wonderful to hear this. I think that prayer shawl ministry is a wonderful way to combine prayer, service and the things we love doing.

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Jen - Liminal Luminous June 7, 2018 - 3:09 am

This is an utterly beautiful idea – thank you

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