True Confessions by Brother Aidan

Confession time. I’m the Knitting Monk, and I’m writing Lenten reflections on contemplation and knitting. I also haven’t touched my crafting of any kind, knitting included, since the pandemic began. Oh, I stitched a few lines on a quilt, but that doesn’t count. I tell you this, not for absolution, but because I have found that whatever I’m going through, some of you are probably going through it, too.
You would think that, with all this time on our hands, we’d be praying and knitting like never before. Perhaps some of you are doing just that. Bravo! I mean that with only a teeny bit of snark. I’m not sure what to attribute my lack of creative drive to. When life is full to the brim, and I only have an hour or two each day in which I can sit down and get my hands on fabric or wool, I treasure that time. It renews me in the midst of a busy life, just as my prayer does. But when the day stretches out long and languorous before me, when I have plenty of time for a walk or a nap, my creative energy is more dissipated than I would prefer.
It may be what the monastic tradition calls “the noonday demon” or “acedia.” It’s a kind of lethargy or ennui that drains you of energy and leaves you listless. Then, too, I may need a time of fallowness to let the earth of my heart and my hands rest. Just because the surface is still doesn’t mean God isn’t stirring up the depths, you know.
Either way, Lent is the perfect time to practice honesty and to trust that, whatever I’m going through, there are others who have been there before me or are there with me now. Such are the seasons of a life. Perhaps with my knitting balled up in the proverbial corner, I can put down being The Knitting Monk and can be just plain Aidan. That’s a good Lenten practice, too.

Br. Aidan Owen, OHC, known online as the Knitting Monk, is Guestmaster and Groundskeeper at Holy Cross Monastery in New York’s Hudson Valley. You can read his writing and access old episodes of his knitting podcast at his blog.  

Project Update: Pattern rows 3-10 pattern #26.

Singing is Praying Twice

I have a chapter in the book Contemplative Knitting entitled “Knitting with Music.” It talks about the power of music to take us to a sacred place. I love music and it has always been my way to God. I got my call to the ordained ministry while I was singing in the choir. It never occurred to me, someone who loves to sing, that I could be knitting and singing during my prayer time!

I was on a zoom call with some knitters in Canada talking about their experience of knitting and praying through Lent. One of the women, Lynn Meredith, said she had been singing Christmas carols as she knit on her blanket. The singing had focused her mind and kept away the random thoughts that we all struggle with during prayer time.

How wonderful to focus on Christmas carols especially at a different season of the year. Singing the old familiar hymns while praying and knitting lets our hearts feel the joy of “God with us.” Contemplating the Christmas miracle without all of the stressors of the Christmas season is transforming. We knit and we ponder the amazing fact that God came to live among us, walked the earth spreading love to those who had been rejected and changed the world forever.

Now we have the gift of the Holy Spirit, that holy wind of love that energizes us as we pray. It’s that overwhelming feeling of love, peace, and comfort that we feel when we sing Silent Night.

The calmness of our stitching with the familiar hymns can lead us into a deeper appreciation of the love that is available to us now. God be with you!

6 rows of Stockinette and 2 pattern rows of pattern # 26

Lent 5

Romans 8:26-28 The Message

26-28 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

Consistency

There are so many sweaters on my wish list.  I put them there in the first moments of passion and then let them linger to see if we are going to have a longer-term relationship.  They wait in my favorites on Ravelry like wall flowers at a dance. I am astonished at how quickly I can lose interest in some patterns that I thought I couldn’t live without.  Other patterns linger because I am waiting for the right time to start or saving up the money for the yarn or until I finish the sweater almost done on the needles.  I tend to get ahead of myself.  I like to start but then I struggle being loyal to one project over the long haul. Then I started watching Fruity Knitting.

     I discovered this podcast on the Modern Daily Knitting website.  They referred to a specific episode and I clicked on the link.  I was mesmerized.  I watched all four years of episodes and marveled at how productive Andrea was with her knitting.  Andrea is a monogamous knitter.  I don’t know too many monogamous knitters, but she had a laser like focus on her specific project.  She shared all of her learnings, mistakes, and progress with her viewers which made me start at episode 1 and watch them in order.

     I know that consistency produces results.  I’ve experienced this in all aspects of my life, diet, exercise, writing, working, and knitting!  Last summer, I limited myself to one project at a time until it was finished.  I liked the satisfaction of weaving in the last end and celebrating the finished garment.  I started a knitting journal and recorded my observations of the knitting process for that garment.  What was difficult?  Was there a slow part?  What did I like about knitting it?  What did I learn?  What would I do differently next time?  I started to learn, and I became a better knitter.  It was one long uninterrupted process followed by some deep reflection that pushed me to be better.

     Consistency in my prayer life followed by some deep reflection has helped push me forward on my spiritual path.  I pray each day and then I listen to what comes up.  Sometimes it’s questions, sometimes it’s a revelation and sometimes it’s nothing.  As I read my reflections through time, I see how I have changed.  Change can be difficult to measure just like those few rows that don’t really seem to make a difference, but they do.  We notice through time.

     I learned that from Andrea.  She was attentive to her project, she was willing to learn from her mistakes, or take something out because she wasn’t satisfied.  She shared her knowledge of modifications and joked about her preferences.  She went looking for experts, the right teachers to shed light on some of the more advanced methods of the craft.  Her knitting evolved.

     Andrea persuaded her husband, Andrew to knit and it was fun to see him go from a beginner painfully making one slow stitch after another to knitting some pretty cool stuff.  Their dialogue with each other was amusing and lighthearted, just what I needed as I knitted through the pandemic.

    Then Andrew got sick with brain cancer.  After spending many hours watching them, I felt like I knew them.  They had become public people through their podcast on YouTube.  They have gracefully shared their struggles during what must be a horrific time for them.  Andrew is receiving experimental treatment at a clinic in Germany.  Andrea is still knitting and podcasting.  They ask for our prayers.

4 rows of stockinette 4 rows of seed stitch and then duplicate stitch LOVE.

Bonus Material: Scrubby Pattern, Zoom Class and Where to get the book. Scroll Down for the meditative post!

If you would like to go deeper, the book is out and available. It is full of stories similar to what you have read in the blog. If you would like a copy, you can buy it here.

SCRUBBY PATTERN:

Scrubby
Cast on 27 stitches or the number that you need to make this as wide as
you would want.
Sl 1, knit 25, p1
repeat this line until you have reached your desired length.
Cast off.
Securely weave in the ends.
I am able to get 2-3 scrubbiest from one solid skein. If I add stripes,
( there is less yarn per skein on the more decorative) With a decorative
yarn, I can usually make one with the decorative and use the remaining for
stripes on two other scrubbies. So out of a solid and a variegated you will
likely end up with 6 scrubbies.
The diagonal stripe one is a little trickier but basically knitting as well.
Cast on 3 stitches
Sl1, increase two stitches in the next stitch, p 1
Sl 1 knit to within the last stitch, p1
Sl 1, k1, yo, k1, yo, k1,p1
Sl 1, k to within the last stitch, p1
Continue with a yo at the beginning and end of every other row until you
have the desired size.
Every other row will be a decrease by 2. You still continue to yo
Sl 1, k1, yo, sl 1, k2 tog, pass sl st over, k to within the last 5 stitches,
k3 tog, yo, k1, p1.
Sl1, k to within the last stitch, p1
When you get to where you have 3 stitches remaining on your needle, sl1,
k2 tog, pass sl st over.
End yarn

Contemplative Knitting – Zoom Class!

Join us for this introduction to Julie Cicora, author of “Contemplative Knitting” and “All I Can Do Is Pray” and her contemplative knitting class starting April 14, 2021. Julie will be speaking about creating a deeper connection with God through prayer while knitting. Discover how to set up and sustain a knitting prayer practice while learning how the experience of knitting can be a metaphor for our spiritual lives from starting something new to how we handle mistakes.  

This is a 90 minute introduction about what the eight session class will cover.

Facilitator: Julie Cicora
Date: Thursday, March 25, 2021
Time: 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM Zoom
Fee: Free will, suggested offering $10

There will be an eight session class starting on April 14th! Go to Mercy Spirituality Center for more information. Click here.

Regular Post – Winding Yarn

Do you wind your balls by hand or do you use a ball winder? I have a ball winder at my house which I drag out and set up when I have a sweater quantity of yarn to wind or I’m doing over 400 feet of fingering yarn. I’m not at my house so I have been winding all of my yarn during the last year.

I used to like to wind my yarn by hand. This was in the days when it was part of the process because I wasn’t aware of ball winders. It wasn’t an option. I stood with my arms apart for my mother holding the skein tight, bobbing and weaving to help her efforts along. I used to put the skein on a chair and walk around it. Now the skein sits over my knees. I must say 400 yards of fingering is long. It’s a little over 2 tenths of a mile. Winding my yarn myself is like walking whereas using a ball winder is like riding in a car. You miss a alot with the ball winder.

There are small imperfections in the yarn that are noticeable when your hands connect with the entire length of the skein. Finding these small imperfections can prevent greater disappointment down the road.

I was preparing to cast on a lace shawl made using a fine sticky mohair. While I was winding the ball, I found a knot. I would have been horrified if I had discovered the knot in the middle of a row. I hate taking out lace but sticky mohair lace??? Yikes. I cut the yarn and started a new ball. Now I could be in control of when I started the new ball of yarn which would NOT be in the middle of a row.

We all have small imperfections that can blossom into bigger problems if we don’t recognize them. When we discover some of the little things, we can try not to let them blow up out of proportion. We can cut out the knot, create a second ball, decide when to join the new yarn instead of having a big mess in our well planned lace. We can splice together the two ends and let the knot fall to the ground. But we have to find them first. We may have to put away the super fast ball winder and slow our process down. We may need to spend more time with our raw material, feeling each inch of the 400 yards until we discover where the problem areas are. This can take time, but it is time well spent.

8 rows of stockinette

When Struggle Becomes…..Gratitude by Rev. Georgia Carney

A package arrived in the mail from a close friend maybe a year ago, though it may be more like 2 years, and I was excited to open it. There was a card in it and some goodies and under all of that was a yellow bag with something soft in it. Hmmmm….whatever could it be? I carefully opened the bag, and wherever you were at that moment, you probably heard the psychic scream! Inside was a lace stole I had knit for my friend when she received her MSW several years before. The yarn is Elsebeth Lavold silky wool and each end of this stole is weighted with knitted-in gold glass leaves. It has an earthy but soft quality that suits this friend well, and in wearing and enjoying it, the stole had suffered an accident. It looked to me like it had simply caught on something and torn, and my friend was quite certain that I could restore it to its original state. Feeling more than a little dazed I packed it back into its “Partners in Caring” bag and prayed for a miracle.

A few days later I searched my studio but could not remember the name of the pattern or where or even if I still had it. I would look at the bag every few days and somehow it got slowly moved away from my worktable and onto a shelf. I had to acknowledge a few hard truths about my knitting self: I am a bit of a perfectionist, I don’t like to ask for help, and I am not good at reverse engineering. I really needed the pattern to preserve as much of the length of the stole as possible. I told my friend I was thinking about how to fix it and mostly tried not to think about it at all. I wasn’t giving up, but I had no idea how to move forward. Time passed and I would have the occasional guilt trip and avoided calling my friend.

Two weeks ago, my husband Mark asked if I could move a couple of bookcases. This meant clearing all of the shelves and sifting through books and papers and deciding what to keep. In the sorting, I suddenly held the pattern leaflet I needed in my hand. Hallelujah! Snoopy Dance! I could move forward now with the information I needed in hand. Grace had been there all along waiting for me to put in the work? Stumble across it? Mostly to just be so grateful in that moment?  In my Lenten journaling, I have discovered a pattern in my life of struggle becoming gratitude, not immediately but over time. Sometimes I do just have to pack things away and wait in faith.

Pattern rows 7-10 of #56 From the Japanese Stitch Bible plus 4 rows of Seed sttich.

Time – The Most Precious Gift by Rev. Karulynn Koelliker

We do not know how much time we have.  It is a precious commodity and a most generous gift when we choose to “give it away”.  This realization struck me about 20 years ago.  Each year we are asked to ponder our resources and give sacrificially.  Instead of dollars what I was able to give was time, my most precious resource.  Until this realization, I never equated the time I spent on Altar Guild duties, cooking for Lenten Suppers, serving in the soup kitchen or knitting prayer shawls or ‘scrubbies’ as a sacrifice and I still don’t.  In indirect ways, I received more than I ever gave.  I find this to be true with any of the hand made items that I gift, a photograph, a plant, a meal, a ride, a quilt or a ‘scrubby’.  What the recipient does not know is they are filled with prayer.

Water has always been a very relaxing, comforting place for me.  I float easily and have to be careful that I don’t lull myself to sleep.  When floating is not possible, a nice warm comforting shower can provide the same calm feeling.  So imaging having your hands in dishwater or in a nice warm shower and washing with a ‘scrubbie’.  This cloth was created with the mantra peace, comfort, love, health, strength, grace.  The prayers that were prayed while making it will stay in reserve with that ‘scrubbie’ until those prayers are needed. The recipient will not know where the answer to their need came from but it is there for them when they ask.  All they have to do is ask.  What a priceless gift to be able to give and give in ‘secret’ as we were called to do. 

People have asked if they can buy the ‘scrubbies’.  My reply is that they were made from my heart and my heart does not take money.  I will gladly give them some and if they want a set number or they can buy the yarn.  If they are so inclined they can make a donation to their favorite charity or whatever they are called to do.  If a check comes to me it goes into the discretionary account for those in need. I learned many years ago that a gift needs to not have strings or expectations attached to it.  I created it out of love and the love stays with the creation to be used when needed.  We all need the love and prayers of others to make us whole.

During this trying time, let us continue giving our time in whatever way with prayer and hopes of a brighter tomorrow as we all grow in love.

BIO The Rev. Karulynn Koelliker

I am a Deacon in the Episcopal Church serving at Emmanuel Greenwood in the Diocese of Virginia.  I have been ordained for 9 years.  I lived most of my adult life along the coast of Georgia.  I returned to my roots in Virginia 3 years ago.  All is new and in many ways exciting while being challenging.  My needlework journey had provided many opportunities to grow and create, vestments and paraments for churches where I worshipped, my own stoles that are quilted and appliquéd, and making many prayer shawls to name a few.  The meanings or feelings associated with colors cross mediums and add special significance to the things that I create.  Doing what I love and doing it with prayer adds a wonderful dimension to the finished offering. 

Project Update: Rows 27-28, 1-6 of Pattern 56 of the Japanese Stitch Bible

The Forgiveness of Scrubbies

By The Rev. Karulynn Koelliker

Have you ever picked up your knitting when anxious or angry or impatient and found that the stitches were too tight?  You had to struggle to get the needle into the stitch to complete a new stitch and the new stitch did not want to slide like it should on the other needle.  After a few rows you looked at your work and the sides were indented and the stitches looked smaller.  You measure and the 6 rows did not make the inch that you anticipated that they would.  “Scrubbie” is not like this.  The nature of the way this yarn is created makes it rough and very hard to knit too tightly.  Once the project is completed you can pull and stretch and the shape evens out and looks as if all were stitched with the same precise tension.  Worsted yarn is not like this for me.  When this happens, the tension is too tight or loose (does not match the swatch) a decision has to be made – reverse stitch it or leave it.  The choice is always the creators.

Did you ever take the time to reflect on why this happened?  What had you so tense or overly relaxed?  After prayerful consideration, is it something that you should act on?  I will solve the problem with the item on my needle and only give a fleeting thought to why. When I remove the wonky knitting, I’m missing some important insights, if I don’t figure out why it happened.  I have learned to knit on ‘scrubbies’ when upset and hopefully work through the challenge.  I know the outcome of the ‘scrubbie’ won’t show that it was knitted when upset. It is a good way to calm myself and think through what has me so tense so upset.  “Scrubbies” provide a calming way to change my focus.  Additionally I don’t have to do any reverse stitching and once calm am ready to pick up my real work?  ‘Scrubbies’ are forgiving. 

We have learned that forgiveness is for us and not for the one who has wronged us.  Forgiving ourselves is hard and takes practice as well.  Let’s use our knitting as away of finding forgiveness in our hearts so we can be what our Heavenly Father created each of us to be. 

BIO The Rev. Karulynn Koelliker

I am a Deacon in the Episcopal Church serving at Emmanuel Greenwood in the Diocese of Virginia.  I have been ordained for 9 years.  I lived most of my adult life along the coast of Georgia.  I returned to my roots in Virginia 3 years ago.  All is new and in many ways exciting while being challenging.  My needlework journey had provided many opportunities to grow and create, vestments and paraments for churches where I worshipped, my own stoles that are quilted and appliquéd, and making many prayer shawls to name a few.  The meanings or feelings associated with colors cross mediums and add special significance to the things that I create.  Doing what I love and doing it with prayer adds a wonderful dimension to the finished offering. 

Project Update: Rows 19-26 of pattern #56 of the Japanese Stitch Bible.

Why Scrubby? by Rev. Karulynn Koeliker

I’ve been drawn to most fiber related endeavors, where some form of “needle” is critical, since I was 6 years old. (That was many decades ago).  I have developed a very experienced sense of touch.  The better it feels the more expensive it is likely to be.  I enjoy working with fibers that feel good and that special sense of “touch” is satisfied. This Lent I have chosen to work with a rough textured, corse feeling yarn called “scrubby”  and to use colors that challenge me.  You might ask why?

I asked myself, am I seeing with eyes on my heart?  How do I ruminate on such an unknown?  Choosing a fiber that feels rough will hopefully keep me focused on the roughness in me that needs cleaning.  “Scrubby” is made from polyester so it is not very absorbent, doesn’t hold onto dirt, grime or odors, is forgiving, and is not “bleached” or “faded” by constant use.  The roughness is good at removing the dirt and grime.  I’m hoping that these 40 days of focusing on what needs to be “scrubbed” away will become evident. 

I’m beginning the third week and can say that I have not had an epiphany.  I am cognizant of small changes that are occurring all around me – the song of a bird in the early morning where fog is heavy, the subtle change in the still bare trees as they get ready to bloom, the warmth of the sun when sitting with the sun on my back and knitting.  I know that spring is around the corner and that many do not have the luxury of knitting in the sun or hearing the first spring bird sing. For these blessings I am thankful.

I was cleansed through the waters of baptism. Am I living into this special grace with the eyes of my heart in focus?   I will keep searching for the new lens while I continue making “scrubbies”.  I pray that I can put to rest any “soil” that needs attention – laying down any burden. This year of the pandemic has created new angst and change for all, giving us new opportunities to grow in unique ways.  How can I be of more help to all struggling?  Will project “scrubby” provide the needed answer?

BIO The Rev. Karulynn Koelliker

I am a Deacon in the Episcopal Church serving at Emmanuel Greenwood in the Diocese of Virginia.  I have been ordained for 9 years.  I lived most of my adult life along the coast of Georgia.  I returned to my roots in Virginia 3 years ago.  All is new and in many ways exciting while being challenging.  My needlework journey had provided many opportunities to grow and create, vestments and paraments for churches where I worshipped, my own stoles that are quilted and appliquéd, and making many prayer shawls to name a few.  The meanings or feelings associated with colors cross mediums and add special significance to the things that I create.  Doing what I love and doing it with prayer adds a wonderful dimension to the finished offering. 

Pattern rows 11-18 of Pattern #56 Japanese Stitch Bible.

Sunday Lent 4

Psalm 51: 7-15 (The Message)

Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,
    scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
    set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don’t look too close for blemishes,
    give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
    shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don’t throw me out with the trash,
    or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
    put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
    so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
    and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
    I’ll let loose with your praise.

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