By Rev. Patti Blaine
Fresh off the needles: (“Unchained,” by Marceline Smith – three hats knit with Lady Dye Yarns DK in colorways “Georgia Pecan” and “Ocean.”)
I did a geeky thing a couple of months ago. I looked up all the times the English word “knit” is in the Bible. The number varies by translation, I learned. I do not recall which uses it more or less than the others, but I remember that where one translation uses “knit,” another translation will use some iteration of the word “bind” in its place.
Many knitters know very well the pain of the dropped stitch – particularly the ones we find after blithely knitting ten or more rows after dropping it without noticing. How did I miss that? I know that if I do not work to catch it up immediately and somehow tie it back in with the rest of the fabric, I will regret having allowed the stitches below to come undone and ladder further than they already have.
Knitters may also know the pain of realizing that a few rows back (or more), one pointy needle pierced and split the plies of one loop of yarn, catching only one strand of the three or four it should have taken up, making a stitch that is a vulnerable, weak spot in the finished fabric. It cannot withstand wear. It will not hold together over time.
We use the terms “cast-on” and “bind-off” in our knitting. We take on something new, and we knit, binding together strands of yarn or string to make fabric. When we are done, we bind-off, in one manner or another, securing the stitches that, together, make up the finished object, whether a hat, a scarf, a cardigan, or what have you. If not bound up correctly, the stitches unravel, undoing our work, threatening, if not destroying altogether, the fabric’s integrity.
Written into our liturgy in the Episcopal Church, in more places than one, is the notion that we are bound together, one to the other, all believers. Take, for example, this line in the Collect said on All Saint’s Day:
“… God, you have knit together your elect in one
communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son …”
(p. 245, The Book of Common Prayer)
What a thought this is to bring to my contemplative knitting! What if I understand that knitting together as my being a teeny stitch in the whole of creation? To whom and what have I bound myself? Where have my threads of connection frayed and weakened? Where have I allowed myself to interweave with destructive patterns or practices that neither edify the community to which I am knit nor me? Can I explore that larger, barely comprehensible fabric like I might examine the cloth I am forming with my fingers as it grows, resting in my lap?
During a Lenten season a couple of decades ago, I participated in a day of meditation at a church in NYC. The priest who led us invited us to meditate on two different hymns. The one that speaks to my thoughts here, and has been on my heart this Lenten season, is St. Patrick’s Breastplate (Hymn 370 in The Hymnal 1982 of the Episcopal Church). I include a fraction of it below. It is worth looking up, however, to read all of what St. Patrick thought worthy of binding unto himself. It also makes for a mighty fine contemplative knitting musical accompaniment.
“Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”
Project Update: Pattern Rows 23 – 28 of Pattern #26 of the Japanese Stitch Bible.