Hi, I’m Julie Cicora and I’ve been a knitter for over fifty years. After I was ordained to the priesthood, a good friend gave me the book Beginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom. She knew I was relatively new to prayer and that I was struggling to maintain a regular prayer practice. I was delighted to find a story in the book about a woman who complains to the author that she feels an absence in the silence every time she tries to pray. The author invites her to knit in silence before the face of God. The woman takes up her knitting and soon she becomes aware of a presence in the silence. After I read this story, I wondered, “Could knitting be a way into a contemplative prayer practice? “
Knitting for me has always been about love and connection. Every time I sit down with needles and yarn, I remember my grandmother. I would snuggle up against her on the couch and she would put her hands over mine and show me how to knit each stitch. Every time she picked up my dropped stitches, she would hand me back the needles and encourage me to keep at it. “Results will come with time,” she said. Of course, she was right, over time I learned how to knit and the stitches collected on my needles. At first, I knit for myself and then I began to knit for others. I tried to put the love I felt from my grandmother into each hat, mittens, or scarf that I knit. I thought about the women who had knit socks for their loved ones during the wars. How they must have prayed for safety and comfort. Intentionally putting love into each stitch for the recipient is a prayer.
The idea of knitting prayers into shawls started in the late nineties. Prayer shawls were a way to make intercessory prayers visible. Sometimes I would knit a shawl for someone I knew who was suffering. I would pray for healing for that person every time I knit a stitch. Sometimes I would knit a shawl not knowing who would receive it and I prayed for healing for the stranger I hadn’t met. These prayers made me long for a deeper relationship with God. I realized after reading the story of the knitting woman in Anthony Bloom’s book that starting a contemplative knitting practice could be a way to spend time in the presence of God. I decided I would sit and knit in silence. I had tried to have a contemplative prayer practice in the past. This time, I wanted to figure out how I could stick with it once my initial enthusiasm waned. I decided I would be intentional about how to conduct this new spiritual discipline and I began to research both knitting and prayer. I discovered knitting stories about love and connection. I found advice on establishing and sustaining a habit which I used to develop a template for knitters who wanted to deepen their relationship with God and use knitting as the doorway. This is Contemplative knitting.