How much do knitters talk about swatching? For some of us, it’s like cleaning and sanding an old surface before applying a new coat of paint. It’s necessary but not fun. For others, swatching is their play time. Trying out new yarn, seeing how it behaves, and figuring out how to make it work in a pattern is something they love to do. In a San Francisco yarn store, I discovered balls of yarn in a huge bowl next to a vase filled with knitting needles. The owner encouraged customers to make a swatch of any yarn they had in stock. She called it a “yarn tasting”.
The majority of knitters know how important it is to swatch even if we get defiant about it. It only takes one hugely oversized sweater to understand why gauge is important.
But swatches are guidelines. More advanced knitters may decide to go “off road” and knit a sweater out of fingering yarn when the pattern calls for a DK weight because they like the drape of the fingering yarn or the color. This requires some math but it can be done. Guidelines are the beginning, they are the roadmap that help us find our own way. They give us the information to move forward or to make the changes that we want.
Here is the gauge for Contemplative knitting. What follows are some guidelines for your prayer time. They are just that – guidelines. Just as you might have to change your needle size, you will need to decide what you need to change to make it work for you. You may decide not to follow any of these guidelines. And that’s ok because there are many ways to pray.
Four Guidelines for Contemplative Knitting
- Choose a sacred word – Find a word or two at the most that expresses your intention to be with God. This word or words must be meaningful to you. What’s important is that you invest an importance to the word for yourself. Maybe it’s peace or shalom. Maybe it’s Yes, or Amen (so be it). As you prepare to embark on knitting through Lent try out different words and see what sticks.
- Ground yourself – Sit comfortable with your knitting on your lap. Feel the yarn and the needles. Bring yourself into the present moment and introduce your word. Say it slowly. Begin to knit. Find a comfortable rhythm.
- Let your thoughts go – Thoughts will fly into your head. I forgot to defrost the soup, what do I need at the grocery store?, has the laundry been mildewing in the washing machine for three days?, and so on. Let them go. Watch them go by like a stick on a river with a swift current. They are like birds flying into your head. Don’t let them build a nest. Don’t engage. It’s important not to get frustrated with the distractions. Say to yourself, here they come. I know you’ll be around after prayer time, I’ll pay attention to you then. Use your sacred word to bring you back to your prayer time. Say it gently and slowly.
- Give yourself a minute at the end – When you have completed your rows/time or however you are measuring your prayer time, give yourself a minute. Put your knitting down, take a few deep breaths, and then reenter the world.
Count Down to Lent – 9 more days!