By Kirsten A. S. Mebust
…You knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13
My mother tried to teach me to knit at seven. But, left-handed and grumpy, I mostly learned through trial and error, interpreting diagrams and pattern jargon from books. The first red worsted scarf I made took two years and was twice as wide at one end as the other. These days, I knit socks and hats and mittens— in Minnesota you need these easily misplaced items half the year. Knitting, like music, involves rhythm, repetition, contrast and harmony. And practice.
What happens when you knit? There’s yarn—many fibers of wool grown by a living animal, sheared, combed and twisted together into a skein. Laser dyeing processes color yarns that knit into intricate patterns. Needles, ancient technology, help your fingers hook yarn and pull it through previous loops row by row. Small variations patiently repeated shape the garment. Increasing or decreasing, picking up stitches, wrapping the yarn into a knit or a purl, all conspire to make something colorful, useful, fitting, warm, and patterned according to the creator’s delight.
My ancestors unravel led sweaters that wore out and re-used the yarn for scarves, mittens and hats, socks. Small scraps blossomed into afghan blocks. One friend found boxes full of increasingly smaller scraps of fabric in her grandmother’s attic, the last one lovingly marked, “Yarn too short to save.”
In practicing knitting, you learn pattern and design, perseverance to unravel and begin again, patience with small, quiet actions, seeing progress row by row. It’s also a social art. There are knitting cafes and knitting stores, where knitters meet and get help with problems of pattern interpretation or technique. I belong to a church craft group that also is a fellowship of learning and mutual aid. Sometimes we talk about God and Jesus. Most of the time we talk about crafts and the events of our lives. Knitting, crocheting, and quilting exercise our unique creativity and our connections as creators.
Knitters in prayer shawl ministries pray over each row and give the finished creation to someone who is ill or grieving. I’ve received a prayer shawl and made one. But most of my knitting is done for family and daily need. It happens when I take time to sit and pay attention—I knit even in church, on Sunday morning. Counting stitches occupies the part of my brain that would criticize the sermon instead of openly receiving the spirit as I listen. I participate better with my hands.
And why not? Knitting is a pretty good metaphor for the process that calls together a community of creators with quirks and connections. It celebrates the care of a frugal ancestor who preserves all she can, even yarn too short to save. Knitting reveals the patient co-creativity of God and the world that shapes the long skein of our experiences, and makes, stitch by stitch and row by row, many things that are colorful, useful, fitting, warm, and patterned according to the Creator’s delight.