Knitting Through The Night

     I have knit socks in the past. My first pair of socks were tube socks which don’t have a heel but are knit in the round until they are deemed long enough to start the toe decreases.  The kirchner stitch is used to join the stitches at the toe.  This was over forty years ago.  I was working as a nurse’s aide on the night shift in an extended care facility with another aide, Lila and a registered nurse, Sarah.  Lila and Sarah would sit and knit in between bed checks and Lila made tube socks by the dozens.  She taught me using four double pointed needles and she wrote out the directions for the kirchner stitch.

     I came across Lila’s handwritten instructions in an old knitting bag recently.  I remember knitting through the January nights during my semester breaks from college.  The three of us sat in the dimly lit nurse’s station, our heads bent over our knitting, the wards quiet and still our needles clicking away.  We didn’t talk much but one of us would mention that Mr. Lewis didn’t seem to be doing well.  We would nod, and then knit for a while.  Sarah would say, maybe we could try elastic stockings on his legs to make him more comfortable and Lila would write a note in his chart and we would all go back to knitting.

     Knitting was our prayer for those in our care.  We didn’t need to say much.  We were all in the same space, focused on the person we had decided to bring up to the group.  Knitting was the context of our conversation, the calming medium that allowed us to figure out new ways of caring for our patients.

It was an exciting night when I had finally decreased to the point where I was ready to join the remaining stitches and make a toe.  Lila lined up an equal number of stitches on two doubled pointed needles.  She threaded a needle and started going in and out purlwise and knitwise.  This is how you join the two sides together, she told me.  You do it with patience and love.  I still feel her breath on my cheek, her face close to mine, and I hear her calm soft voice coaching me how to close the gap.  It was that same calm voice that would whisper soothing words to the patients that were in hospice care.  Many nights she would station herself next to the bed of someone who was close to dying.  I would join her in her vigil, and we would knit silently, getting up to make sure the person was comfortable, changing sheets, adjusting blankets, and simply being present.  Our knitting kept us present.

Lila and Sarah had been working at the Extended Care Facility for years.  They had adapted to working the 11pm to 7am shift. Their knitting was their prayer, their way of being present, and their way of helping me become aware of how I could close the gaps of loneliness for others by being that calm quiet presence.

     Project update: 4 rows of seed stitch and 2 set up rows and Pattern rows 1-2 of pattern #56 Japanese stitch bible.

Rascally Rabbits by Rev. Patti Blaine

Rascally Rabbits

I struggle with contemplative practices. I am fairly good at being silent, being still, being solitary. I am an extreme introvert, after all. My thoughts, though. They scurry and rabbit around like, well, rabbits. One thought can produce ten more, and off I go, sitting silent, still, solitary, but planning the next day’s meals and must-dos, mulling over yesterday’s missteps, and wondering what time it is right now.

In my hospital chaplaincy work, I have learned to be comfortable with silence, with stillness, with sitting with someone who is grieving the sudden loss of life or of an old, long-lived way of life. I have learned to train my rabbit-y mind to attend to the details in front of me, to be very present in the moment, to hold space for whomever and whatever. When I am alone in my meditation space, however…Yikes!

This Lenten season, I am striving to provide the same unconditional positive regard that I give my patients to myself. When I sit in my meditation space, I am bringing a mind that will keep traveling far from center. Knitting helps me maintain a center in my contemplative practice. There is so much to be present to with knitting: the sound of the needles against one another, the softness of the wool, the warmth of the steadily growing garment in my lap, the colors and how they play together, sometimes even the musky smell of lanolin.

As I knit, stitches moving from one needle to the other, the yarn flows up from the yarn-keeper at my feet. To one side, my right, I have an imaginary basket. There is another to my left. When a future-based rabbit-y thought scurries through my mind trailing its prodigious progeny behind, I settle it all in the right basket. When a past-based thought does the same, I settle it to my left. There is no wrong, and no right here. They just are. Some mornings the baskets fill to overflowing, and that is okay. Those rabbit-y thoughts can wait. And when I approach my meditation time with gratitude and these intentions, and pray that I will allow the same space to myself that I would give a patient, I often end with a sense of sanctuary that I can carry with me into my work.

On the needles

Garden Variety shawl by Lisa K. Ross, knit in succulent colors with Miss Babs Yummy 2-ply Toes.


Patti is a deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, NY, and a per diem chaplain at three area hospitals. Currently, she is a full-time student at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, working on a master’s degree in Religious Studies. In her spare time (and during some classes), she knits.

Project Update – 8 rows of Stockinette and the word Hope using duplicate stitch

The Unfinished Afghan

     My Aunt Rose was a knitter.  I called her Aunt Rose because my parents had been best friends with Rose and Don before I was born.  I grew up calling them Aunt and Uncle.  We spent many weekends together during my childhood hiking and skiing together.  Rose and Don had three children and there were three children in my family.  The six of us kids got along, and we loved having this extended family.

     It was Aunt Rose who called my mother every morning after my Dad died to check on her.  They would chat and talk about their knitting.  They even did a knit along together, just the two of them.  They knit the Great American Aran Afghan.  My mother knit hers in a light green and Rose made her in a deep red.  Each square had a unique set of challenges and they helped each other figure out the difficult stitches. 

    Rose was knitting an afghan for her oldest granddaughter, Christine when she found out she had pancreatic cancer.  She was a little over halfway done when she died.  Rose’s daughter shipped the Afghan off to my mother in hopes that she might be able to finish it but it stayed in the bag. I asked my mother about the afghan when I was visiting her.  She got it out and it made us both very sad.  I couldn’t stand the thought of Christine not getting this gift from her grandmother.  I treasure the afghan from my grandmother.

     I took the afghan home.  When I got it out, I saw that Aunt Rose had kept careful track of her pattern rows.  The afghan was a brown wool and had a diamond stitch pattern.  Meticulous pencil marks in a little notebook stuck in her knitting bag guided me to the exact spot where she had left off.  The pattern was fairly easy, but I hesitated.  How would Christine know what her grandmother had knit and what I had knit?  Did it matter?

     It did to me.  I would want to be able to touch the stitches and know what my grandmother had done so I started knitting a different pattern.  I stayed with it until it was the size the pattern had designated.  I shipped it off to Christine’s mother who gave it to her daughter for her college graduation. 

     Christine wrote me a note that I still have expressing her appreciation for the decision to knit a different pattern.  She can physically touch the stitches that her grandmother knit just for her.  She will always treasure that last gift from her grandmother.

     Aunt Rose is gone but the love she put into each of those stitches is still present.  Christine may no longer be able to hear her grandmother tell her I love you but her grandmother’s love is still tangible and transcends time and space through her knitting.

     As we sit and pray with our knitting, as we feel the softness of the yarn, the polished needles creating the stitches, we can think about the love that is available to us from God and how each stitch creates a fabric that can warm and comfort those we love.  As knitters, we make love tangible.

Project Update: Pattern Rows 3-10 of Pattern 56 from the Japanese Stitch Bible.

Why Do We Make Things? By Br. Aidan

Why do we make things? What have we lost with our increasing isolation from the physical world and the skills that have allowed us to flourish within that world? How do we reconnect with our bodies, the earth, and one another? How does the act of making things change us, help us grow, heal us? These are all spiritual questions, and their answer is also spiritual. Making things is an inherently spiritual activity. It immerses us, whether we are conscious of it or not, in the deepest questions of human life. Like any contemplative practice, craft encourages us to slow down, to connect with our bodies, and to enter a state of timelessness or eternity in which we cease to strive, even as we work for an end. The process of making something, beginning with raw materials, engaging our senses and abilities—and our limitations—and following through until we have a finished piece is itself a spiritual inquiry into the nature of reality and the nature of the self. Put more straightforwardly, when I make something, I discover more about who I am, which includes a deeper understanding of the world in which I live. That this knowledge is usually intuitive and implicit rather than explicit makes it no less transformative.

Craft is also an inherently religious activity. The word “religion” derives from the Latin “religare,” which means “to bind together.” In the same way a physician binds a wound, craft, when engaged in as a contemplative practice, binds the fragments of our many selves into one unified Self. Vigen Guroian, an Orthodox theologian and gardener, puts it this way: “When I garden, earth and earthworm pass between my fingers, and I realize that I am made of the same stuff. […] Man is a microcosm in whose flesh resonates and reverberates the pulse of the whole creation, in whose mind creation comes to consciousness, and through whose imagination and will God wants to heal and reconcile everything that sin has wounded and put in disharmony.” (Inheriting Paradise, p. 7)

When I knit (or sew, or garden, or pray) I am remade and renewed. I am religioned—bound back together again—and made more whole in the process. Through contemplative crafting, I learn that identity is not something I create. It is something I allow to emerge, seemingly all of a sudden, until a beautiful pattern makes me laugh out loud with joy. Lent needn’t be a dreary time. Joy is perfectly wonderful way to pray and prepare!

Br. Aidan Owen, OHC Guestmaster & GroundskeeperHoly Cross Monastery writing at

Project update: 4 rows seed stitch and 4 rows of stockinette stitch.

Stash Examen

There is a lot we can learn about ourselves when we examen our stash.  Believe it or not, there are some people who don’t have a stash.  A friend of mine just buys enough yarn to complete a project.  She knits up the project, sews it together, blocks it and then may wait weeks before purchasing more yarn for her next project.  I think she is in the minority!

     I have found that my stash has changed through time.  Ten years ago, it was all WIPs (works in progress).  I loved to buy yarn for the latest coolest sweater in the Vogue knitting magazine.  In the full bloom of my excitement, I would cast-on and knit like crazy until I saw the next greatest sweater that I couldn’t live without.  My friends would ask me what my latest sweater passion du jour was.  When I began running out of storage room and project bags, I counted up my WIPs and I had 25 projects on the needles.  My husband started to catch on and asked me “Don’t you ever finish anything?” Fortunately, five of the projects were fairly close to being done, so I finished them in quick succession. 

     Then I started collecting yarn without a project in mind.  I made some poor purchases because I ended up with useless quantities of yarn – not enough for a project or way too much. 

     Yarn is my happy place.  I love looking at it, feeling it, and creating with it.  However, when my stash got too big it made me anxious.  I knew in the back of my mind that I was not going to use the boucle yarn in the back of the closet.  I had made one sweater out of it and I probably had yarn for two more.  I did not enjoy knitting with boucle because my needles kept getting caught in the little loops of the yarn.  There were other piles of yarn that I knew I was not going to use.  Why was I hanging on to it? 

      This was a good question to ask myself. Here’s what I found out. I didn’t want to admit I had made some mistakes in my purchases. I wanted to think I would have enough time to knit all those projects. I love being surrounded by yarn. I want to knit beautiful sweaters out of fingering weight yarn, but I just don’t have the patience.  I can’t knit the second mitten because the tension hurts my hands and I don’t want to admit it and so on.  It’s important to take time to reflect.  Our collections tell us something about ourselves.  It’s good to approach what we have with an attitude of curiosity.  What does this tell me about myself? What kind of action do I need to take if any?  How are my collections a reflection of what’s happening to me spiritually?

     I had reached the point where I needed to do something.  I put Marie Kondo’s strategy to use and went through my stash.  Any yarn I was not in love with went into one pile and the projects and yarn I was willing to commit to went in another pile.

     I took some beautiful and expensive yarn to Sew Green.

SewGreen@Rochester, Inc., is a 501c3 dedicated to rescuing for reuse of everything to do with sewing, knitting, crochet, and needlework. The second half of our mission is to educate folks of all ages and walks of life in all varieties of creative and practical machine and hand needle arts. SewGreen teaches low cost classes and camps in our shop and has many free club opportunities for the community. We take programs out to schools, libraries, and festivals, and we are determined to revive these skills which as much as they are practical, are also good for our emotional lives

Project Update: Pattern rows 23-28, 1-2 of Pattern 56 of the Japanese Stitch Bible.

Sunday – Lent 3

139 1-6 God, investigate my life;
    get all the facts firsthand.
I’m an open book to you;
    even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
    I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say
    before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you’re there,
    then up ahead and you’re there, too—
    your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
    I can’t take it all in!

Psalm 139, verses 1-6, Translation: The Message

Letting Go

My grandmother used to knit me sweaters and make me clothes.  As I recall, I didn’t like the clothes she sewed.  She was an excellent seamstress, but the clothes tended to be frumpy.  I remember a brown corduroy jumper (a dress with no sleeves that required a blouse underneath) and an orange floral blouse.  She had made a chocolate brown cardigan with cables to go with it.  I hope I was polite when I opened the gifts, but I remember thinking “I have to wear that?” 

My father was an only child and I’m sure my grandmother was thrilled to finally be able to sew and knit for a little girl.  I imagine her now (as a grandmother myself) sitting at her sewing machine, taking care to create the perfect garment or sitting at night in her rocking chair, guiding the cable needle in and out of the tiny stitches.  She worked hard on these gifts all for a little girl who did not appreciate her efforts. She complained about my lack of enthusiasm to my parents and eventually she quit making me things.

     These memories came flooding back after I gave a knitted gift to someone.  They said the right things, but I didn’t get the reaction I wanted.  I tried to be an adult and tell myself that the person had no idea of the hours that had gone into the project.  They were not a knitter and garments like this were readily available in any department store.  For a while, I was angry and disappointed until I realized this was my problem.  I needed to let go. 

    Giving a gift is about letting go.  Once the gift is given, it belongs to the receiver.  A quilter I knew gave away a quilt to a friend only to find it lining the dog’s bed when she went to visit.  When I asked her if that bothered her, she laughed and said no.  I gave it to them, and they can do whatever they want with it.  She had let go.

     The spiritual life is about letting go.  As Thomas Kemp put it in the “Imitation of Christ”

          “To sum up, dear friend of Mine, unclench your fists, and let everything fly out of your hands. Clean yourself up nicely and stay faithful to your Creator.”

I love the image of things just flying out of our hands.  I love the idea of making a gift for someone with no expectation.  I want to be able to hand it over like my friend the quilter.  This will take some continued prayer and work on my part.

I take my granddaughter with me to the yarn store. The pattern I picked out was a beautiful brown with cream lace around the cuffs and waist. My granddaughter wanted pink and purple. She got pink and purple.

     I’ll end with this note to my grandmother.  Something I should have written long ago.

Dear Grandmother,

Thank you for spending hours creating beautiful and exquisite garments for me.  I had no idea how difficult it was to sew and knit.  I didn’t appreciate the gifts back then, but I do now.  You may have thought they didn’t mean anything to me, but the memory was there and now that I’m a grandmother, I finally get it. 

Love, Julie

Project Update: Pattern Rows 15-22 of pattern 56 of the Japanese Stitch Bible

Why am I Dropping Stitches?

Every knitter has experienced the feeling of angst when they discover a dropped stitch.  It’s even worse when you have been knitting for years.  Beginners are expected to drop stitches and it’s a wonderful teaching moment when you can teach a new knitter how to “ladder up” the dropped stitch and fix the mistake.  But after fifty years, discovering dropped stitches in almost every project you have on the needles can give a knitter pause.  What’s happening??

     A few weeks ago, I noticed a hole in my work.  I just picked up the stitch and moved on saying softly to myself, don’t worry, it happens.  The next day, I found another dropped stitch in a different project.  This time, I paused and wondered why I dropped the stitch, but I quickly became distracted trying to find a cable needle the right size in order to grab the loose stitch.  The next incident involved a dropped stitch in a fair isle project.  This is what finally got my attention.  The stitch had wandered down a few rows and I had to figure out which yarn on the ladder was the float and which yarn was the correct color for the pattern.  This was not a fun process.

     I had no idea why all of a sudden, I was starting to drop stitches on a regular basis.  Did I need new glasses?  I decided to pay more attention to my knitting.  I forced myself to slow down and watch my hands.  It happened.  I saw my needle go in-between the stitch I was going to knit and the stitch next to it.  The yarn went around the needle came through the hole and I pushed the unknit stitch off the needle essentially dropping it.  I was missing the stitch, but my hands were making the motion and if I was looking away, it felt like I had knit the stitch.  Why had I started to knit in-between stitches?  Why was I missing the loop?

     I think it’s because I’m using size 4 US needles and fingering weight yarn.  These thin pieces of yarn require the knitter to aim.  My knitting was asking for my attention.

     When we sit down to pray our intention is to spend time with God.  Just like with any other relationship, we need to be attentive during that time.  We need to listen.  The dropped stitch is a good example of what happens when our attention drifts whether it is in our everyday lives or during our prayer time.  We drop stitches and then the fabric of our lives is weakened.  There are holes that can become larger if they are not addressed immediately. We miss the stitch entirely and then it is gone.

     There is so much clamoring for our attention.  People, projects, chores, children, ideas, work, and even yarn!  There is so much content out there.  It’s everywhere inviting us to look away from our focus. 

     Being in silent prayer can help us learn to focus our attention again and that focus will translate to the people we love.  There is no greater gift in any relationship than being truly attentive.

Project Update: Pattern rows 7-14 of Pattern #56 of the Japanese Stitch Bible.

Knitting in the Dark – Rev. Georgia Carney

I will knit pretty much anywhere at any time. I have projects suitable for many different knitting environments from meetings-mostly Zoom meetings these days, waiting for appointments, family gatherings, and quiet time at home. I save my lace, cable, and colorwork projects for quiet focused time under my Ott light. Truth be told, I have a hard time sitting still and focusing without something in my hands. This includes occasions like going to the movies. Years ago (in the pre-pandemic times), I had a weekly date to the Little Theatre with friends and at first, they laughed out loud when I pulled out a sock to knit during the movie. As weeks went on and I continued knitting in the dark, there was less laughter and a few other brave souls tried it. Why not? If you make a mistake, it can be fixed.

I am thinking right now about folks who have knit in the dark through the centuries because light in the evening, when one might have the leisure to knit, was precious and limited to a candle, a lantern, the fireplace. In a family setting, those who were reading would have been closest to the light. You can imagine the women and men knitting as a family member read or perhaps sang to pass a winter’s evening. Currently, my thoughts are with those in areas without electricity and how their knitting has provided them with warm garments, blankets, and I am betting they have found a way to keep knitting through it all. Knitting calms us, helps us to feel a bit of control when we are forced to acknowledge that the bigger picture is beyond our control. 

For those of you knitters who work with impaired eyesight, you have much to teach those of us who take our vision for granted. I look forward to hearing your observations in the comments. If you are already an experienced knitter or a novice, let’s try a simple exercise together: Choose your most basic project in garter or stockinette. You can wait until evening falls-and in fact knitting as darkness falls around you is a great way to enter this experience. You can also just choose to close your eyes while you knit. Take time to be very aware of how you are sitting in your chair. Take time to breathe deeply and center yourself. 

Here are some of the senses around your knitting to contemplate:

  1. How does the yarn feel as it passes through my fingers? Do I need to change how I hold my yarn?
  2. How do I use my fingers while I am knitting? What is the job of each of my fingers? Are my hands, arms, and shoulders relaxed and balanced? Do I grip my needles tightly?
  3. How do the tips of my needles feel as I take each stitch and wrap the yarn around? What do I hear? How do I feel?
  4. What is the pace of knitting without light as opposed to my regular experience? Is it frustrating or perhaps something else?
  5. If I am knitting in the dark, am I struggling to see or can I accept the help of my other senses? 
  6. If I drop a stitch or feel like I am making an error, how will I manage it? Will I forge on figuring to fix it later? Wait until there is light? Should I use my sense of touch to try and correct it in the dark? If I am knitting with someone else can they help me?

How I approach each of these questions, informs me about how I approach my prayer/ spiritual life. Full disclosure- I often forge right ahead and only ask for help when I have thoroughly messed up. This is where I will focus during Lent – how to prayerfully ask for guidance from the Spirit with each stitch. I look at this post as a beginning of a conversation. Thank you for reading and knitting with me and I look forward to the insights you will share with me and our knitting community.

Bio: Georgia serves as a Deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, NY. In 2015, she founded the not-for-profit SewGreen@Rochester, Inc. in cooperation with the original SewGreen, Ithaca through a major grant from the National Episcopal Church. Find us online at

Two set up rows and pattern rows 1-6 of Pattern #56 from the Japanese Stitch Bible.

Holy Moment

How many times have you been happily knitting, stopped to admire your work, and to your absolute horror, discover a mistake a few inches down?  Now the knitter has a decision – to frog or not to frog – that is the question.  There are some obvious times when frogging is necessary. If we mistakenly cast on the wrong number of stitches and the sleeve will have close to the same stitches as the body, that’s an easy answer – frog.  But what about a small mistake?

     I have a friend who says, if you can’t fix it, flaunt it.  I love that idea.  Make the mistake into a design enhancement.  You can tell I’m not a perfectionist.  Thank goodness, because I make my share of mistakes.  I find it interesting to observe my own tolerance level for my mistakes.  Some things bother me, and others don’t.

     I saw this celery green sweater (picture above) in a Bergere de France publication.  The woman wearing it was standing in a field on what I imagined was a beautiful spring day, her hair blowing away from her face, her chin slighted lifted toward a blue sky with wispy clouds. I had to make it.  The sweater promised the beginning of warmth, crisp air, and the flowers poking out of the ground.

     This was the knitting project I grabbed when I ran out of the house to make the 7-hour drive to the hospital where my Dad was going to have surgery.  He needed to have his Kidney removed and I knew I was going to need something to do while we waited.  It was the perfect project because I felt like it represented something beyond that hospital room where I sat and knit by his bedside. 

     My father was used to seeing me knit.  Both my mother and I typically had a project on the needles (ok, I have a LOT of projects on the needles) and when we were forced to sit and wait, we pulled out our knitting.  He never really asked me about my knitting but one day in the hospital, he asked me what I was making.  I showed him the pattern and he told me it was beautiful.  I think he got the same feeling about the sweater as I did.

     A few weeks after his surgery, I was running out the door to make the same drive.  My dad died before I could get to the hospital.  The sweater stayed in the project bag in hibernation for over a year.  The next spring, I took it out and finished it.  When I got it done, there was mistake smack in the middle of the back.  I had forgotten to cable one of the cables.  If you look closely at the picture, you’ll see it.

     I’m ok with this mistake.  I was paying more attention to my father at that moment than I was to my knitting.  It reminds me of him and that time we had together in the hospital.   Sometimes our projects or our yarn represent important moments in our lives.  Knitters understand that their creations can become reminders of holy moments.  What do you treasure?  Which one of your pieces represents a holy moment?

4 rows of stockinette, 4 rows of seed stitch and then embroidered Faith onto the stockinette stitch area using duplicate embroidery stitch.

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