Saturday, February 11, 2012

On Knitting and Life

            I’ve begun learning to knit, finally. I tried once before, with abysmal results, but I’ve reminded myself that second graders at Waldorf schools can knit, and so shouldn’t I be able to do this? A young lady from our homeschooling co-op has mercifully offered to teach a group of us all-thumbed mothers to knit, and I think we’re doing better than she expected!

After our first class, I spent the week knitting along at every opportunity. I chose a variegated brown and turquoise yarn, and I’m inordinately pleased at the orderly rows of stitches in the growing scarf my needles produce. There’s something soothing in the repeated actions – knit, click, knit, click, and I can easily knock off a few rows while a child reads aloud or narrates or I listen to piano lessons.

The children were so excited about my progress – Littlest checks, fingers, exclaims over it at regular intervals – that they began begging to learn to knit. We trekked to the market and picked out yarn and needles, and had our first lesson – in which I learned something: teaching children to knit is nowhere near as relaxing as knitting by one’s self. By the end of the first session, I had cast on, untangled knots, unraveled rows that had grown by five or six stitches from the twenty we started with, and cast on again. And again. And again, each time with another voice calling, “Mom, I need help!”

I was not sure whether I needed more caffeine or less to complete this task, but their earnestness and a good deal of silent prayer kept me calm. Remember, I barely know how to knit! After an hour, we put aside our needles and moved on to math.  Throughout that day though, I kept seeing knitting and our session as a metaphor, a microcosm of our lives together and the faith that pulls us through it.

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Ephesians 4:1-3

You see, I’m prone to want to escape a bit from this life I love, from tasks and routines that can just get so daily sometimes. Not a big, Thelma and Louise escape, but little escapes, perhaps into too many emails or blogs or a really good novel. And when I do that, I’m not sharing myself with the big and small people around me – I’m unavailable, a quiet back – and they know it. How easy it is to slip away and spend more minutes than I intended, instead of being fully present!

Now with knitting, I can’t do that. I need to be fully present, or I’ll miss a stitch (mind you, I only know one stitch), or pick up an extra, or let the whole thing unravel. My scarf would be full of holes or wavy along the edges or heaven knows what.  Makes me wonder what I miss or pick up that I don’t need, when I’m escaping, and how that alters the pattern of my life and that of my family.

And then there are these small people who so earnestly want to learn, want to be included in what I do. It is hard to teach sometimes – it means pulling away from what I might desire at the moment and engaging fully with each child. It involves patience that isn’t mine in an earthly sense.

In knitting, when I’m inpatient and tug a knot too hard, it gets tighter, and I’ve created a bigger mess to untangle. How often do I do this with my children, when they’re in a tussle or a tangle or a bad attitude? Instead of gently and prayerfully teasing out the motivation and the heart attitudes, how often I react quickly, tug hard and impatient, and then what a knot we’ve got.

“The exercise of patience involves a continual practice of the presence of God, for we may be come upon at any moment for an almost heroic display of good temper, and it is a short road to unselfishness, for nothing is left to self, all that seems to belong most intimately to self, to be self’s private property, such as time, home, and rest, are invaded by these continual trials of patience. The family is full of such opportunities.”

-         F.W.Faber, Daily Strength for Daily Needs

Throughout the day, children pick up their needles to knit a bit more, and look to me as they go – “Mom, help, please.” I help to find the holes in their stitches, fix rows, perhaps help them cast on again and start anew if they’ve made too much of a mess. As I finger the soft, tangled yarn and try to figure out what on earth they’ve done to it, how thankful I am for a heavenly Father who looks at the patterns of my life, helps smooth out the messes I’ve made, and puts me on the right track again, time after time!

That afternoon I’m tired, and there’s still Archimedes and the Door of Science to read. We gather in the living room, me weary and holding on to patience, boys and dog and cat spread around the couch and chairs and floor. It takes a moment to get settled - I breathe deeply during a brief conflict over who gets to sit next to the dog - and finally start to read. After a few pages, I realize it: to my left and to my right, two 11-year-olds have picked up their needles, and are quietly knitting as I read. Littlest lays on the floor next to the dog, and the Rower is lost in thought as the story progresses. I’m soothed by the knit-click, knit click, knit click coming from needles not my own, and as I read on, I breathe thanks again.

Trusting in Him,


  1. Aimee, This was beautiful and spoke directly to my heart. Thank you for your words. Erin

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  2. Erin Kate, thank you - I'm so thankful if any words can minister to someone else. I pray all is well with your beautiful family. I've prayed for you since I read your post last month; adjustments can be hard - we have been there several times.
    Many blessings,