Knitted Together

A year ago I started a knitting group for the ladies at our church.  When we meet every other week, we knit or crochet, laugh, cry, and share and pray for one another. We range in age from 90 to 12, we are retired, widowed, married, single, business owners, disabled, students, professionals & stay-at-home moms. We are visually impaired, have mental illnesses, dementias, physical impairments, marital problems, business problems, financial difficulties. We are quiet and shy or talkative and gregarious. We are all quite different, but our love of the Lord, compassion for others and our crafts bind us together.

We knit or crochet items for various local charities:

  • Duke Hospice (prayer shawls for terminally ill patients)
  • Pregnancy Support Services (baby clothes for moms who chose life rather than abortion)
  • Our Children;s Place (hats for fundraisers to raise awareness that every 28th child in NC has a parent in prison)
  • Homestart (hats and scarves for homeless women and children)

Depending on each person’s level of skill they can knit anything from a scarf to blankets & shawls, to sweaters and hats..

I provide free supplies and lessons for ladies wanting to learn how to knit or crochet (although I am not too good at crocheting).

Here are some hats made for Our Children’s Place last fall:DSCN0236

At first we had a dozen or so ladies coming, and I thought that was wonderful and hoped that more would join us. However, the past 6 months or so we have only had five to seven ladies attending.  I became discouraged and considered terminating the group. Then out of the blue I got messages from the daughters of two of the older ladies in the group. Two other members also shared with me the impact that he group has had on them.

One daughter said that her mom is shy and this group has been helpful for her in getting to know other ladies.  She was delighted that now on a Sunday morning folks have greeted her mom by name because they know her from the group.

Another shared how much her mom looks forward to this group (the lady has also shared the same). Her mom has memory problems and had moved from out of state to live with her daughter.  The group has provided her with friends and she has steadily been improving her knitting skills. She is one of my most prolific shawl knitters.

One lady said that she was struggling with issues related to finances, family, work and general stress as a result of this. She told us how much she looks forward to coming to the group and how knitting provides much-needed relaxation for her. This lady was a new knitter when she started coming, now she is taking additional classes to learn new techniques and she is now knitting more complicated things.

Lastly, one of our prolific hat makers struggles with ongoing depression but manages to come to  the meetings. The group provides her with socialization with other believers. She does not drive so I pick her.We often sit in the car, share and pray for each other. I have seen her just blossom in creativity and  interactions with the group.

I know this post digresses from my usual ramblings, but I do have a point.  I have learned through this group that God has a plan. He has provided a safe environment for women of all ages to come and feel welcomed, to find comfort in their craft, to be able to share and help one another, A place where there is no judgement of status, talent or health. A place to escape and unwind from the daily stresses.

So I am listening to God and I am not going to give up because the number of attendees pales in light of the benefits reported. The world  measures success in numbers and quality and I got sucked into that lie when I contemplated disbanding the group.  I have come to see that the quality of lives is what counts, not perfectly crafted items or the number of attendees. Like our knitting, we may have a few dropped or wrong stitches, but the selfless love and compassion that we give to one another as well as to the recipients of our crafts is the real work of art.

So our group may have a few dropped members, and some who do not fit the pattern (in their eyes) but God has knit us together so that we can be God’s hands and heart for one another.

Galatians 6:9  And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Unwinding

Oh, what a wicked winter we have had!  I grew up in the snow belt of Ohio and we had long, gray days buried in snow.  I guess it does make you more appreciative of spring when it finally arrives and decides to stay. So when the winter weather hit NC this year I should have been prepared, especially since I had spent the preceding month snowbound in Ohio.  But, it is not supposed to be that cold here and we are certainly not supposed to have snow that deep here, not now, not ever.  Apparently NC has not caught wind of the global warming epidemic.  I’ll eat my words on that remark come mid-summer!

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After the holidays, I headed north to spend some quality time with my mother while she was battling the winter time blues.  Each visit with her, I treasure as if it could be the last.  She is close to 90 and has outlived her parents in age, her brother, and her husband. We talk about what it is like to be one of the last in your generation.  I grieve, albeit prematurely, about the loss of my history.  My parents and I emigrated from England when I was in my first year of school.  When Mum passes there will be no one left to reminisce with about the homeland; no one who knows what it is like to move 10 times in 10 years time and live in 3 countries and 2 different continents chasing dreams and looking for work.  No one who knows how poor we were, or the shame of evictions, the lack of heat or indoor plumbing. No one who knows the friends and family we left behind.  As a child, I was insulated from these experiences by the love and protection of my mother.  They are not painful memories, just a part of the fabric of who we are; a common bond. And, so we sit late into the winter nights reminiscing. Our conversations peppered with “Do you remember the time . . ?” and, “I wonder what happened to  . . .” We lament over monuments to our past that are gone, people, schools, homes, parks and stores. I furtively struggle to capture and record those precious stories and memories with Mum before it is too late.

Mum was creative and determined to never allow us to experience the pain of poverty that she knew all too well. Many was the night that she went without food so the rest of the family could eat. She was blessed with much artistic talent, but she also had great faith and an unwavering hope. No matter how much we lacked in money and things she would always have flowers in the house, from her garden or even weeds from the field. Our dinner tables were set as if we were expecting the Queen to dine with us. Our worn out clothes were creatively patched and hemmed and new clothes appeared from chicken feed sacks, curtains and recycled clothes. She spent hours late into the night and early mornings sewing and knitting for her children; all six of us.  She made handmade toys to raise money for food.

Old age and infirmity have stolen her manual dexterity, dimmed her vision and clouded her mind just enough that learning new skills are a challenge and old skills are impossible.  She is sad that she can no longer knit because of her arthritis and slowly has relinquished her patterns to me and her granddaughters who also knit.  Last year she bequeathed me with the pattern for a knitted farmyard. It seems like just yesterday when she made it for a church auction. It was a work of art and a labour of love. She spent a year knitting it and when the auction time came, two of her children tried to outbid the highest bidder!  They succeeded and for $800, which I think was a steal, the farm stayed in the family.

Georgette_s_Farmyard_medium2

I taught Mum how to knit hats on those round knitting looms and while her fingers can manipulate the yarn and hook, her brain forgets what to do next.  After 2 weeks, she managed a hat which she gave to her granddaughter who delighted in it.  So in some small way she can still “knit” and make gifts for her family. Being able to provide for others is a way of life for her and when she can no longer give of herself I fear she will give up this life for her eternal home with Jesus.

On cold snowy nights this past February, we sat together knitting and looming. The silence occasionally broken by memories reminisced, pleas for assistance with the loom knitting and yes, heartfelt discussions about her impending death.  I will cherish those moments forever. They will live on in my knitting for as long as I can knit and hopefully one day, I will make my own knitted farmyard.

Our time together is unwinding, but the fabric of our love and relationship will never unravel. I love you Mum!

Tangled Threads

Tangled threads used to be a nightmare, but I have found more recently that I actually derive pleasure from the process of untangling a ball of yarn.  Recently I finished a lace shawl that I started eight years ago.  I ran into a knotted tangle that defied my patience at the time. I had given up on it, put it away and forgot it at the bottom of my stash.  It got packed away when we moved and eventually buried under new yarns and leftovers.

When I decided to have a go at untangling the yarn I found myself drawn into the memories of what I was doing eight years ago.  It was almost a meditative process to follow the ends and rewind, passing the ball through the many loops that had evolved mysteriously and slowly, ever so slowly, unravelling and rewinding the yarn.  Eventually I was back to the beginning and could complete the project that I had started with a great deal of satistfaction.

I wonder if we had the patience to unravel the troubles we have in life with the same degree of patience and persitence if the world would not be a better place.  Too often we just quit or cut the offending knot out and toss that peice of yarn aside.  Relationships, like yarn are too costly to waste by setting them asisde or trashing them.  I pray that I have the same sort of patience and persistence to get the knots of life untangled.

I’ve Come Unraveled!

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Two years ago, I retired to pursue my hobbies, learn some new ones and take better care of myself.  Since retiring [from my previous job (explanation to follow)] I finished my doctorate degree, ran two half marathons, lost weight, started gardening, developed a love of cooking and dug out my unfinished knitting projects that were languishing in storage. I volunteered to teach Sunday School, assist with our Senior (old folks) ministry and started a knitting ministry at our church. I have been taking some cooking classes, knitting classes and was teaching English as a second language. I also signed up to participate in medical research at our local medical school which pays enough to support my knitting addiction!

If you are keeping track, you will note that I added a lot of new activities to my agenda.  My new love of cooking led me to wanting to remodel my kitchen and upgrade my appliances, but my refusal to go into debt posed a dilemma, until a job offer came my way after only 18 months of retirement.

I accepted the job and decided I needed to cut back on my volunteer activities, so I quit teaching English.  How’s that working for me, you ask?  Well, life is filled with lots of good intentions, but, I have come unraveled! I have not let go of the other activities and the first to suffer was my physical fitness.  I have seen the weight creep back on (my job is hours spent at the computer doing secondary research).

This week I had a little talk with myself while finsihing up a shawl which had been hibernating for six years (pictures). Knitting is great for meditating and prayerfully focusing. I joined a gym last week and signed up to run another 1/2 marathon this coming May and I have decided that if work gets in the way of my physical health, comittments or relationships, then it is time to really retire (again).  Pray for me, please.

 

Feather_Fan Shawl_edit.jpg

 

 

 

Following the Threads

lincoln-sheep

For those who have read my previous blog entries,  you will know that I like to relate the similarities between knitting and life.  It is not surprising to note that the Bible is replete with many references to both knitting and weaving (sometimes used interchangeably in different translations).

For me knitting is about creation, beauty, form and function and it is safe to say that a loving God had the same in mind when He created us. The following scriptures speak to this:

Job 10: 11 You clothed me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews.  Psalm 130: 13 Certainly you made my mind and heart; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Colossians 2: 19 He has not held fast  to the head from whom the whole body, supported  and knit together through its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God. Collossians 2: 2 My goal is that their hearts, having been knit together   in love, may be encouraged, and that  they may have all the riches that assurance brings in their understanding of the knowledge of the mystery of God, namely, Christ,  3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

I admit that I have plucked these verses out of their surrounding contextual verses, but I think you get the picture. Knitting (or some form of it) is an art that dates back to biblical times, if not earlier.  The oldest knitted items that have been discovered were socks (circa 50-220 AD Egypt).  Hop on over to this website if you want to learn a bit more about the history:  http://www.knit-a-square.com/history-of-knitting.html

Knitted sock 050-220 Vand A Museum London

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

In closing, check out these verses from Proverbs, I think that about sums it all up:

Proverbs 27: 25 When the hay is removed and new grass appears, and the grass from the hills is gathered in, 26 the lambs will be for your clothing, and the goats will be for the price of a field. Proverbs 31: 13 She obtains  wool and flax, and she is pleased to work with her hands. 

The Long and the Short of it. . .

Yarns

A beautiful skein of yarn beckons me as I gently handle it, appreciate its colour, softness, and potential.  What will it become, I wonder?  I fall in love with the yarn first, then I find the perfect purpose and pattern to compliment its qualities.

With determination and precision I begin my project.  I delight in the yarn rising up from the skein being coaxed by my needles into a garment to delight, comfort and protect the wearer.  I discipline myself when I make mistakes and unravel and reknit until I get it right.

My finished project is as perfect as I can make it.  I learn new skills and patience along the way and I delight in sharing or wearing my new cardigan. I search for the perfect buttons, the perfect accessories and   I look forward to wearing it, matching it with items in my wardrobe.  A new cardigan revives my wardrobe. At first everyone notices my cardigan; I take pride in my accomplishment and I wear it season after season.

Cardigan

 

Now it is no longer new, the fabric has worn and is becoming thin over the elbows.  I have shaved little balls of yarn from the surface to make it look better and the colour is fading.  No one asks about my cardigan any more; doubtful that they even notice it.  I wear it around the house and rarely go out in public wearing it.  Its glory days are over.  I lost a button and frequent washing have not been kind to it. I wear it when I am working and need something that I do not have to worry about snagging or getting dirty.  I need to let it go as it hardly has any purpose these days.  It is not even  fit for a donation to the Goodwill.  It is hard because I know how much work went into making it; I know the places it has been and the things we have been through, but alas the time is near to say good bye.

 Like that new skein of yarn, we come into this world as infants, full of hope and potential. Loving hands cradle and caress, guide and shape.  Our parents have their hope and dreams for us, but our creator has our ultimate purpose in His hands.  As we leave the safety of parents’ homes we venture into the unknown, seeking our own dreams, finding our passions and leaving our mark.  Youth sees the future as full of opportunities and time as limitless.  Old age sees the future as limited and time as but a fleeting moment.

 As I look back on my life, consider my future and ponder on whether I have truly found God’s purpose for my life, I think about my mother who is in the sunset years of her life.  She has endured so much in her life: war, disability, loss, pain, disappointment, betrayal, rejection, loneliness and yet she is the perfect example of faith, forgiveness, endurance, strength and love.

 I watch my mother as little by little her life wears down.  The loss of a spouse, loss of mobility, chronic pain, failing eyesight, diminished hearing, health problems that have take away her ability to garden, knit, drive, enjoy her favourite foods. She has gotten her wear out of life, she has more bad days than good. She takes it all in stride, but she is ready. Ready?  She has made her funeral arrangements, planned her memorial service and given most of her precious belongings away to her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.  She has loved and lived well; she has given us life, taught us well and demonstrated great faith;  She is ready to meet her maker.   She is looking forward to a new life. she will leave a loving legacy.

 My cardigan?  I will unravel the yarn, dye it a bright new colour and reknit it into a scarf or a hat.  I will give it new life. And, that’s the long and the short of it. . .

Follow this thread . . .

As I ponder on the similarities between life and knitting, I think about all the skeins of yarn I have aquired over the years.

A skein of yarn beckons me from the shelf (or the Internet page).  I am drawn to the fibre, the colour, the texture and immediately dream of its future in my care at the mercy of my knitting needles and my abilities as a knitter (which are still being honed). Most of the time there is an immediate attraction.  Call it love at first sight!

I tend to buy yarn, then decide its fate. Sometimes I acquire yarn from friends who have “inherited” it from a family member,  or they bought it, dreaming of learning how to knit or crochet, only to give up and leave the yarn languishing in some obscure corner of their attic. It does not matter much how I came by the yarn, it matters how it speaks to me. Will it be a scarf, socks, an afghan, a sweater, prayer shawl, hat, oh what will it be?

Seaside Shawl 1.3

Some skeins come perfectly wound, ready to knit others have to be wound into usable balls of yarn, some must be painstakingly untangled; a task which can take hours to accomplish. I have even had to wash some yarns before I start to knit because it collected dust, dog hairs, cigarette smoke, or heaven-forbid, all three in its previous owner’s home

Psalm 139: 13 says , “For you created my inmost being;    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” I love that God is a knitter!  When the Creator gave us life, we like a skein of yarn were not yet completely finished. The stitches were cast on but the design was yet to emerge.  He gave us a pattern to follow, but some of us don’t yet understand how to follow it.  SOme of us are rebels and go our own direction, some just keep making mistakes while others sail smoothly on. We go through life one day at a time adding more and more stitches.  We make mistakes, we unravel, we let our lives get tangled up or waste our time wandering aimlessly.  Some blame our parents for tangling up our lives, or not giving them a pattern to follow, but ultimately we have to finish the work that God started in us. But we do not have to do this alone.  Phillippians 1:6 tells us “. . .,  that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

So while my little balls of yarn go from dreams to reality, I knit, I fix, I unravel, I re-read the directions, and I pray a lot.  One day just as my finished works are pleasing to me, I pray that I will be pleasing to my creator.  We are all uniquely made and perfect in His sight.