You may have started reading this article with the idea that I'm going to be talking about using prayer shawls or lap blankets, but I'm not. Not that these things are not useful prayer aids, but today I want to talk more about the making of them, rather than the use of them, as a prayerful practice.
If you knit or crochet, you may very well already know what I'm talking about here. People who knit and/or crochet (and I'll throw in spinning and weaving too) consistently talk about the meditative experience they have while making various things out of yarn. The rhythmic, repetitive movement, the focused attention, the often altered state of consciousness that can be achieved, the camaraderie between craftswomen and men who share this interest all create a very spiritually based experience, whether the participant is alone or in a group.
Entire ministries are created around knitting prayer shawls to be given to those who are experiencing difficult times, or as a way of offering encouragement, or as a show of community support. Hats are made for cancer patients or the homeless, baby clothes made for orphans or babies being taken into foster care, or endless other possibilities for donating the fruits of one's labors to those in some need.
Isn't that the coolest thing?
I have to confess that my own knitting skills are meager, and I don't crochet at all. It takes a lot of "warm-up" time for me to be able to get into a prayerful state of mind while knitting. It often results in dropped stitches, pattern errors, or making other mistakes that challenge my patience and result in the use of language that I would not think of as being *ahem* prayerful. I do have to say though, those times that I have been able to get there, have been pretty darn remarkable.
So, how do you go about giving this try? I recommend starting off with some small project that you would like to give to someone else as a token of support or comfort. A hat is a good place to start. Before you begin, pray about the purpose of the project and give yourself time in that prayer to settle your mind down. As you work your project, choose how you want to pray. Some people really do repeat a short prayer at each stitch- much like praying with a rosary. Others will say a prayer at the end of a row or round. Others still begin and end their activity time with prayer but do not say any prayers while they are actually working. Some choose to work in silence, focusing their attention less on praying per se, and set their minds to prayerful listening. Do what speaks to you at the time.
If you want to learn to knit or crochet but don't know anyone who can teach you, there are a lot of good instructional videos on YouTube or on websites of yarn stores.
Knit Picks- an online store that sells absolutely delicious needles and yarns:
Go to YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/ and type in a search for "knitting" or "crochet" and you'll literally find hundreds of instructional videos for darn near anything you may need help with.
There are also community groups where people get together to knit in coffee shops, yarn stores or other venues. These folks are very often willing and more than able to offer some basic instruction to get you started.
You can find very inexpensive, perfectly serviceable yarn at dollar stores, and thrift stores can be goldmines for needles and yarn. A few dollars can literally open this avenue for you developing a new prayer practice. Give it a try and let me know what you think!