The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Best this month

Knitting into the Mystery: A Guide to the Shawl-Knitting Ministry
by Susan S. Jorgensen, a spiritual director and retreat leader, and Susan S. Izard, United Church of Christ minister, is an informative and inspiring guide to a spiritual practice that has given birth to a worldwide ecumenical movement.
Think of a small group of people knitting together. An opening prayer has stitched them together in common purpose, and what they create out of their time, talent and love will nurture someone else and fill them with joy. This group brings to fresh life the ancient Celtic ideal of weaving a simple but satisfying practice into the mystery of God. Those who receive these shawls — perhaps someone facing an illness or a transition in their lives or mourning a loved one — find themselves swaddled in beauty, peace and pleasure.

This book contains chapters on the history of the shawl-knitting ministry, ideas on selecting yarn, keeping a journal for each project, giving away a shawl, and receiving and wearing a shawl. The authors include prayers to be used at each phase of a project. One to be used as a prayer before knitting includes a "blessing to my hands to be the source of something of beauty and love ... a blessing to my yarn to be shaped into patterns of love and caring ... a blessing on the one who will receive the fruit of my prayer and my knitting." This is an essential volume for church libraries for, as the authors put it, "our hands are God's hands" (Morehouse).

KnitLit (Too): Stories from Sheep to Shawl ... and More Writing About Knitting
, edited by Linda Roghaar and Molly Wolf, is a delightful collection of more than 60 essays, stories and poems by people who knit. They describe this activity as an art form, a creative outlet, a refuge from daily frustrations, a source of joy, a means of nurturing themselves, and a way of serving others. For beginners, see Zoe Blacksin's "A Glossary of Knitting," which concludes: "Knitting is the basis, the background. There are mars and mistakes. Elaborate unfurlings and flat repetitions. Patterns and perfection. We wrap ourselves in the fabric. Days unfold, sweaters are finished, scarves are cast on and cast off. Time passes. Knitting doesn't." In a section called "Things of the Spirit," authors count the ways in which knitting comforts them in desert times, leads their thoughts into interesting places and binds them close to God.

After we enjoyed this book's essays, we checked out its prequel KnitLit: Sweaters and Their Stories ... And Other Writing About Knitting, also edited by Roghaar and Wolf. Theologian Sallie McFague relates how knitting helps her deal with the "holes and tangles of everyday living." In "Meeting the Yarn Again for the First Time," Donna Schaper, a pastor, regrets that she can no longer knit in church meetings (because she is running them). Catherine Hinard in "Knitting as Spiritual Practice" emphasizes that it is the act, not the result, which she loves. She writes: "Knitting can be seen as the very process of slowing down and coming home to ourselves — the very thing we have been yearning for in this stressful world" (Three Rivers Press).


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