Floats

I learned to knit using the English style (yarn held in the right hand and thrown around the needle). I taught myself the continental method (yarn held in the left hand and picked up by the right needle) because I heard that method was faster and it would give the muscles in my right hand a rest. I did not know this was all preparation for knitting colorwork with two hands!

I knit my color projects using two hands. The main color is in my right hand and the contrasting color is in my left hand. When I knit more than three stitches of the main color, I have to carry the pattern color along the work with me. These are called floats. I put the pattern color yarn between the needles and then knit the stitch normally with the main color and the pattern color is caught magically and carried along. (Search Youtube for “knitting colorwork with two hands”.)

As I carry along the white yarn, I am aware of how I feel carried by the love of God. Every few steps, I feel uplifted by prayer. God, the main color catches my attention and keeps me on the right path. This path is how we co-create a beautiful design on the “right side”.

If I drop my end of the connection (prayer) the float becomes too long and becomes in danger of catching on something and potentially fraying or worse yet being broken.

Uneven floats causes tension problems in the fabric. Uneven prayer causes tension is life.

Even floats helps create a beautiful pattern on the right side. It takes the relationship between the two colors to make the pattern.

It takes the relationship with ourselves and God to create the most beautiful pattern that life can be.

Knitters know consistency is what it is all about. It’s how we create the most beautiful five foot shawl and it’s how we create a life long relationship with God. Keep knitting and praying!

The Horror of Blocking

Not Blocked

I am now one of over 8000 knitters that have made the Ranunculus Sweater. I thought it would be a great layering piece not only over this long white blouse but maybe over a blue or black summer dress to protect sunburned shoulders from the evening breeze. I took this picture before I blocked the sweater because I am always frightened of what might happen during the blocking process.

I waited until my husband went for his evening walk. I wanted to be alone while I blocked it in case something horrible happened. I plunged the light airy cotton candy yarn into the water and thoroughly soaked it. When I pulled it out, it looked like a half drowned wet cat. I was horrified. The yarn was matted and heavy. My first thought was “it’s ruined.” Fortunately, there was another voice in my head that told me to gently press out the excess water and roll it up in the towel I had prepared. I followed my instruction and soaked the first towel. I laid the sweater out on a dry towel and it was totally misshapen. I found the schematics and gently pulled and prodded it into the correct size trying not to panic. I kept telling myself the yarn would regain its fluffy nature once it dried.

Blocked

The sweater is still drying but the details of the design were enhanced by the blocking process. I took that soaking wet mess and shaped it into the same dimensions as the schematic. That’s when it hit me. Transformation into something better is messy and can be terrifying, but the creator is there willing and able to gently poke and prod us back into shape. We just have to say yes to God.

I Know!

The third take

I thought I had memorized the four row pattern I was knitting. I had already made one ten inch block in the pattern and I decided to knit the second block without my cheat sheet. In my youth, I had memorized twenty-four row pattern repeats with multiple types of cables. How hard could it be to remember the few things I needed to do in this block? I knitted two pattern repeats before I noticed that there was a problem. I was supposed to have twenty stitches in this one section of the block and I only had eighteen. Plus the pattern didn’t look right. I ripped it out, took out my cheat sheet, glanced at the chart and reassured myself that I knew what to do on all four rows. My problem was with the blackberry stitch which required purling three together and then making three. Sometimes I was purling four stitches together and sometimes I was only purling two stitches together. I resolved to be more careful.

Take two. I knit ten rows and the pattern still didn’t look right. Now I was truly frustrated. “I have no idea what is wrong with this knitting!” I grumbled to my husband who was sitting next to me. “Are you using a pattern?” He asked innocently. I glared at him while I pulled the pattern out of my bag. This time I really looked at it and my mistake become obvious. I had wasted a lot of time because I thought I knew what I was doing.

I know. This was my answer to everything when I was sixteen. I said it so often that my father would start his conversations with me by saying “I know you know, but…” I would roll my eyes. I was surprised that my father found my attitude amusing rather than disrespectful. He knew that eventually I would discover how little I did know and he seemed willing to wait it out.

He didn’t have to wait very long. Thinking I knew everything prevented me from learning and seeing new things. Even now after all these years, when I think I know, I miss out. My mind shuts down other possibilities because they don’t fit into what I think I know.

My problem wasn’t memorizing a four row pattern repeat, it was thinking I knew how to do the blackberry stitch.

Restarting this block reminded me to look closer at the things I think I know just to be sure I’m not missing anything. It reminds me that when we make assumptions we are right only fifty percent of the time. It reminds me to slow down and be open to seeing things that are right in front of me but often overlooked. It reminds me to be fully in the present and not planning a future knitting project while knitting the current one. It reminds me that the spiritual life is being in the present and knowing that God is there too.

Learning to Knit

There is a saying “meet people where they are.” As I grow older, I have found this concept to be helpful especially with children. My four year old granddaughter asked me to teach her to knit. I took some short fat needles, some hot pink yarn, and cast on the first row. I showed her how to make new stitches and how to turn the work at the end of each row. I put my arms around her and guided her hands but I knew she was young and I could see her attention wandering. Then I realized what she really wanted was to sit next to me and enjoy my attention. So I let her “knit” her way.

She made a huge and beautiful mess and she loved every minute of it. We were doing something together that allowed us to feel creative and at the same time be present to each other.

Her younger sister can knit. She was six when she asked me to teach her. I was visiting and all I had was the project I was knitting on, a blanket for the baby yet to be born. I cringed when I handed it over to her thinking she would drop a bunch of stitches, destroy my tension and then I would be left trying to fix a bunch of mistakes. Instead, she carefully inserted the needle, carried the yarn up and over and pulled it through making a perfect stitch. She knit a few stitches and then went off to play. When I finished the baby blanket, my granddaughter proudly told her parents that she helped make it.

The best teachers are the ones who listen carefully to the student so they can figure out how to guide them in the right direction and create just the right challenges to propel them further down the road.

I am learning to let go of my expectations and meet people where they are so we can see where we can go together. I am conscious that it is not always about the activity but more about the time spent together. There will be time for skill building in the future with the grandchildren if they decide to knit. Knitting is about enjoying the creative process at any skill level and it is also about being connected to the community of supportive knitters.

God is the knitting teacher that meets us where we are. All we have to do is show up, sit down, and spend the time.

Confessions of a Bag Lady

I love bags. I also like starting knitting projects. Casting on something new is always a thrill and I go hard at it. Then I hit a point in the pattern that causes me to have to try something new or takes more concentration than I have in the moment and the project joins my other WIPS (works in progress) in a beautiful bag.

A friend, who is a professional organizer, suggested that I hang my beautiful bags in my sewing room instead of storing them in a closet. I bought some large hooks and hung up most of my bags. I love looking at them but after a few days I had no idea what was in them.

So I created an index in a notebook which has now disappeared in the depths of my sewing room. I still love the projects in the bag but whenever I took one down to work on it, I would get discouraged because I wasn’t sure where I had left off.

Out of sight, out of mind, they say.

I needed a strategy. I watched a lot of knitters talk about how to deal with their WIPS and the answer was pretty simple. Make a commitment to finish a project.

I choose a few projects (I’m not a monogamous knitter) and put them in plain sight. I thought about my original motivation for each project and I wrote it down. I made an easily attainable daily commitment to each project (like 5 rows a day) and I was off and running. I worked on each project consistently and my WIPS started turning into Finished Objects.

The spiritual life is about raising our level of awareness, putting stuff we need to work on in plain sight. We may have stuffed parts of ourselves in bags and attempted to ignore what’s inside. If we leave it in the bag, it will never change. We have to take out our WIPS of grief or betrayal or frustration and examine it, figure out where we left off and what we can do to stitch it together. It’s painful but necessary in order to make progress.

I recently took an old betrayal out of my emotional bag and started to untangle it. It was complicated like a colorwork sweater yoke. I knew I had to examine each piece of it and figure out how to make it into something I could wear. I looked at my disappointments in the relationship and thought about what I had learned. It’s still a work in process, but I’m committed to working through it.

I know I will always be a work in process, I just need to keep doing the work. I know from my knitting, that doing the work will create something beautiful and precious.

Tearing out the Ranunculus Sweater

There is that moment when the voice in your head lets you know that something is wrong. If you ignore it, the voice gets louder and more incredulous. Why are you continuing to knit when you know the stitches aren’t adding up?

I don’t know, I thought I could fix it.

This sweater as of April 30th is in 7954 projects on Ravelry and in over 6000 queues. To say that the pattern is popular is an understatement. I felt like I had been living under a rock because I just discovered the pattern watching an old podcast. The woman in the podcast had made four of these sweaters! They were beautiful and I was smitten.

I chose Gleem Lace in the colorway Blush and CaMaRose in the colorway GammelRosa and tried to cast on. It took me a few tries to get the double twist loop method even though there was an excellent video on the technique. The designer includes a video for all of the techniques used in the sweater.

I kept getting different stitch counts so I would just increase or decrease during a knit round to “correct”. I kept knitting telling the voice in my head to be quiet. The next time I counted, I was off by 28 stitches, more than ten percent. This I could not ignore. I knew I had to unpick, rip back, and frog. It made me angry and the sweater went in the naughty corner while I stewed. Every knitter I know goes through this process. I’m amazed by the stories I’ve heard about people ripping out entire sweaters when they realized that the size is too big or the chest is too tight. I was barely into the yoke.

After a day, I summoned the courage to rip it out. I was able to get the stitches back on the needles so I didn’t have to redo the short row shaping. All of a sudden my eyes were opened and I could see the mistakes I made the first time. I had read large sections of the pattern incorrectly even though the pattern and the videos were clear.

I started the sweater with the wrong mindset. I thought I knew it all. I wasn’t looking for the sweater to teach me anything and when I had difficulty with the cast-on, my ego was bruised. I’ve been knitting for fifty years. I should know this!

There is a concept called the beginners mind. When we attempt things as a beginner with no preconceived ideas about how we should do it, we are open to new ways. If we think we know everything, we miss out because we make assumptions, have particular expectations, and we become blind to everything else. Walk down a street you’ve walked down many times before and see if there is something new to see. Pick up your needles and try a different cast-on and a pattern that includes some new techniques.

The spiritual life invites us to new ways of seeing the world. Unraveling our preconceived ideas and assumptions can leave us open to discovery of new things. That’s exactly what happened with me and the Ranunculus sweater.

The Importance of Finished Objects

I’m a sweater knitter. Very occasionally, I’ll knit a hat or a mitten or a fingerless glove but I mainly knit complex sweaters. I’m convinced this is why I have many works in progress (WIPs). I get to a section that is difficult and I tend to put the project in time out and move on to something different.

I was watching an advertisement for a master class in writing and the instructor, Joyce Carol Oats, suggested that writers should work on a short story or a poem so they could experience finishing something. She said it was important to have that feeling of completion. It is what keeps us motivated to work on longer pieces.

I had just finished knitting the lightweight hipster shawl when I heard Joyce Carol Oats talk about how important it is to finish something. I knew exactly what she meant.

Contemplative prayer is something that is never finished but a piece of sacred knitting can be finished. I recently downloaded some wrist warmers to use up the leftover yarn from my Lenten Scarf. I’ve never knitted wrist warmers but I’m experiencing some tendonitis in my wrists so I thought maybe keeping them warm might help. Plus, they can be finished quickly. When we finish a piece of sacred knitting we can spend some time celebrating our piece. We can reflect on the experience we had with that particular piece of knitting. What did we experience during our prayer time? What kept coming up in our thoughts? Did our knitting keep us grounded?

Our Lenten knitting is an offering of our ourselves and our prayers to God. It’s Easter Season and we can be about being a resurrection people. What will you be working on during the fifty days of Easter?

Contemplative Knitting Class

Contemplative Knitting

Julie Cicora, author of “Contemplative Knitting” will help you transform an already calming and meditative activity into a spiritual practice. Whether you are an experienced knitter or are a beginner, this prayer practice will help you develop a “close-knit” relationship with God. Learn how your knitting experience can inform your spiritual life. There will be opportunities to reflect, knit, get some practical advice, and be inspired. Come join us for these 8 sessions (once every two weeks): 

Facilitator: Julie Cicora
Dates:
 Wednesdays, April 14 –
July 21, 2021 (every two weeks)
Time: 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM Zoom
Fee: $120

Julie Cicora is an avid knitter who believes in the power of prayer. After being ordained as an Episcopal Priest, Julie began studying prayer which led to her first book “All I Can Do Is Pray” about her experience as a hospital chaplain.  She started a contemplative prayer practice which she found very hard to sustain until she combined it with knitting. Her new book, “Contemplative Knitting”, has just been released and is the basis for this program.

Happy Easter!

Thank you for reading and praying!

Thank you for journeying through Lent with Contemplative Knitting. Stay tuned to the blog for upcoming events and more posts. As an Easter Gift, I have written the pattern for the shawl. It has not been tested by anyone so knit at your own risk and if my directions are muddy make up your own! Many blessings to you all and thank you to all our guest bloggers!

Julie

Pattern for the Lenten Shawl -Faith, Hope and Love Shawl

Materials:

Japanese Stitch Bible

West Wool Tandem (DK Weight) Colorway: Glow

Needles: Size 5

Cast on 50 stitches with any method

Keeping 1 stitch on each edge as an edge stitch use 48 stitches and complete rows 1-16 of Pattern 191 from the Japanese Stitch Bible. (8 repeats of the 6 stitch pattern equal 48 stitches)

The first four stitches and the last four stitches are worked in seed stitch from now until the end of the scarf.

Work rows 1-28 of Pattern #26 from the Japanese Stitch Bible.

Work rows 1-28 of Pattern #26 from the Japanese Stitch Bible again!

Work 4 rows of stockinette stitch then 4 rows of seed stitch.

Work 12 rows of stockinette stitch then 4 rows of seed stitch. Using duplicate stitch embroider Faith in the 12 rows of stockinette stitches.

Keep 4 stitches at the beginning and the end of the row in seed stitch. On right side knit 3 stitches right after the seed stitch border place a marker then start set up row of Pattern #56 from the Japanese Stitch Bible. Pattern until 7 stitches from the end. Place marker, knit 3 stitches, last four stitches are the seed stitch border.

Work two full repeats of Pattern #56 from the Japanese Stitch bible keeping the first and last four stitches in the seed pattern and the next 3 stitches in stockinette on both ends.

Work 4 rows in seed stitch, 12 rows in stockinette (Keeping the seed stitch border) and 4 more rows of seed stitch.

Using duplicate stitch embroider Hope. I made this work vertical since this is the center of the work and I want hope to sit on the nap of the neck.

Keep 4 stitches at the beginning and the end of the row in seed stitch. On right side knit 3 stitches right after the seed stitch border place a marker then start set up row of Pattern #56 from the Japanese Stitch Bible. Pattern until 7 stitches from the end. Place marker, knit 3 stitches, last four stitches are the seed stitch border.

Work two full repeats of Pattern #56 from the Japanese Stitch bible keeping the first and last four stitches in the seed pattern and the next 3 stitches in stockinette on both ends.

Work 4 rows in seed stitch, 12 rows in stockinette (Keeping the seed stitch border) and 4 more rows of seed stitch.

Using duplicate stitch embroider Love on the 12 rows of stockinette.

Work rows 1-28 of Pattern #26 from the Japanese Stitch Bible. Repeat once for a total of two repeats.

Work 2 rows of stockinette.

Cast on 50 stitches onto separate needles size 5.

Keeping 1 stitch on each edge as an edge stitch use 48 stitches and complete rows 1-16 of Pattern 191 from the Japanese Stitch Bible. (8 repeats of the 6 stitch pattern equal 48 stitches)

Knit 2 rows of stockinette.

Graft the 50 stitches from pattern 191 to the scarf. Weave in ends.

Holy Saturday – The void

I think about Holy Saturday as the absence of God, a void, a silence that seems empty. I imagine the disciples walking around devastated by what they had seen on Good Friday. Jesus was dead. The man they had left their lives to follow had been executed in the most horrific way. All of the hopes and dreams for a better world had been crushed.

Sometimes we feel this way. There are moments where we feel devastated, crushed with grief and we wonder how we can possibly continue.

This is where we need our faith. Faith is the result of repetition. Over and over, year after year we live into the pattern of the church year celebrating the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. We know that even if we don’t feel it the love of God is with us. We know because every year we hear that love conquers death. It becomes ingrained in our thoughts. So in those moments of deep grief, our faith is our rock. It’s there. It has become our foundation.

Just like the athlete who practices every day, we practice every day with prayer. When the time comes, we are ready to stand in the face of the void sure of the resurrection and the triumph of love over everything, including death.

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