How the Internet is Saving Traditional Crafts (Like Knitting)

The internet is accused of destroying many things (quality family time, the dinner hour, peace and quiet, etc.). But ironically, the internet may save traditional crafts – including knitting.

Last week, I read the galley proof of a new book on heritage crafting, “Spinning and Weaving” by Lynn Huggins-Cooper. It’s an interesting history of textiles, commercial knitting, and fabric production in the UK. The second part of the book profiles a number of British women who engage in the traditional crafts of spinning their own yarn and making fabric out of it.

What struck me as most interesting about these traditional crafters is that many of them learned this heritage crafts on the internet, some of them completely self-taught. This made sense to me. Most of us probably don’t have someone around in our neighborhoods, towns, or cities who still know how to take a wad of raw wool and turn it into something you could actually knit into a sweater. But do a search on the internet for how to do such things, and presto, you’ll likely find videos for each step of the process.

I’ll have to admit, my knitting skills have improved exponentially this past year, mostly due to resources available on the internet. For Christmas last year, my husband bought me a shawl kit from an online company. It scared me at first, forcing me to learn new techniques and stitches. But I soldiered through it, and I’ve now mastered mosaic colorwork and include professional looking I-cord edges on all my work. I’ve even learned to make socks (!) in the past few months, using free videos available on YouTube. 

Better yet, I’ve connected with many of you, swapping stories and photos, ideas and resources. With all this combined wisdom floating around on the internet, I would bet the collective skill level and availability of knitting resources has never been stronger!

Happy Knitting and Sharing! Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited! 

Knitting in Ninety-Five Degree Heat

Knitting in 95 degree heat is not fun. With a stash full of new wool yarns, I looked forward to starting my fall knitting soon. I planned two sweaters for myself, an attempt at my first cardigan-knitted-top-down, and socks for all the guys in my family. But the daily highs are in the mid-nineties, and working under a pile of wool does not appeal.

We keep the air conditioning set on 70 degrees and all the shades down to block as much sunlight as possible, but it’s still uncomfortably warm indoors. All I’ve managed to knit are socks. Not that I anticipate wearing handknit wool socks anytime soon, but socks are small enough that they don’t take up much space while knitting. The heavy shawl I’m making actually makes me sweat, the larger it becomes. I’m looking forward to casting that thing off double-quick!

I love to knit, but I’m thinking I’ll need to re-evaluate what I knit as the summers get longer and longer and as we get less and less snow here in Tennessee. After making several sweaters I felt really proud of last winter, I have to admit I stuffed them in a drawer at the end of January and haven ‘t seen them since. I wear cardigans quite a bit, and I’ve decided to re-route my efforts into garments I can easily peel off this season. While I love to knit pullovers, I have to acknowledge that they will get limited wear.

Will the pattern designers get the message that those of us in the South don’t need sweaters anymore? I was delighted to get a pattern and yarn for a sleeveless tunic from a knitting subscription company last month. A sleeveless sweater in October? Actually, it’s too warm for such a thing now, but in December, a sleeveless wool sweater with a cardigan over it or t-shirt under it will be just what I want to wear.

Patience, fellow knitters! Even here in Tennessee, it will get cool enough (I hope) to wear a hand-knitted wool sweater without melting inside the thing. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll soon see designers and yarn companies offer more goodies for us to knit that will be lovely and useful in warmer weather. 

Happy knitting, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited! 

The Story Behind Every Piece Of Knitting

As I cleaned out a closet today, I found the very first baby blanket I knitted for my son. It’s a small, lacey, baby blue blanket blessed by one of my favorite priests and taken all the way to the Arctic Circle when we adopted our youngest child. It was the first “prayer shawl” I ever made. 

Pulling that blanket out of the closet, I noticed a couple of crooked seams and a section of the blanket that badly needed blocking. But that didn’t matter; it was the story behind that baby blue blanket that mattered more than anything. 

As soon as I had that baby blanket in my hands, the whole story of becoming my youngest son’s mother came back to me: the waiting, the paperwork, the trips to the homeland security office in Nashville to get his citizenship lined up, the cold trip to the Arctic in the middle of winter. I could smell the diesel fuel during a long flight delay in Paris. I could see the faces of the doctors, drivers, and adoption agency staff who shepherded us along the way – all from taking one glance at that baby blanket I had knitted.

Don’t we all have stories woven within almost all of our knitting projects? We remember that Harry Potter scarf knitted for a son when he was in the second grade. That confetti-sparkled hat knitted for a daughter when she was a pre-teen. That hat your husband wanted for his camping trip last fall. 

As I began my book, The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, I realized that we all have rich, often poignant stories behind our knitting projects. When we give our knitting projects as a gift to someone else, it becomes part of their story, too.

What’s on your needles now, and what’s the story you’ll remember months or years from now? I hope your stories will be tales of overcoming the stress and challenges of daily life, woven with the joy you get from knitting.

Blessings, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited! 

Knitting and Mindfulness

Take a deep breath, take a seat, and just knit.  As knitters, most of us know the secret to winding down, tuning out, and experiencing a deep sense of calm.  

Many people call this experience “mindfulness.” It’s something crafters have known and practiced for hundreds if not thousands of years.  If you do a Google search for the definition of “mindfulness,” you find this: “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”

Sound familiar? Knitting allows you to put everyday cares aside, focus simply on the movement of your hands, and truly live in the moment of whether you need to be knitting or purling at this specific second of your life. Some of us need an intricate pattern to accomplish this. Others of us use a simple pattern we know by heart. It all accomplishes the same thing, the state of mind we now call mindfulness.

Hope you’re having a wonderfully calm day of knitting and mindfulness, Cindy

Recommended new book:

Mindful Thoughts for Makers by Ellie Beck: An excellent, well-written book on the meditative nature of crafting by hand. I truly enjoyed this book and read it at one sitting. I appreciated the author’s thoughts on slowing down, taking a break from our busy lives, and enjoying the pleasant simplicity of crafting. She also reminds crafters that it’s the process – not the finished product – that’s important. This book would be great as a gift for anyone who crafts – sewing, woodworking, knitting, crochet, and any other handmade crafting activity.

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited! 

When Do You Pull the Plug on a Knitting Project?

In the past two days, I’ve pulled the plug on not one but two new knitting projects. First, I tried to knit socks with lace weight yarn. That was Fail Number One, due to utter unsuitability of the yarn to the project. Fail Number Two was more complicated.

I planned to knit a scarf as a Christmas present for Son#1. He recently moved to Nebraska and suddenly needs LOTS of cold weather garments. I miss him terribly, but this gives me a new focus for my knitting. Need a hat, cowl, or winter scarf? I’m all over it! 

But the pattern I selected for this scarf just didn’t seem right. Mind you, there was nothing inherently “wrong” in this pattern – a traditional Scottish horseshoe pattern. But it wasn’t right for son. And that bothered me. I kept knitting the pattern, but I still didn’t like it. Finally, I pulled the plug – or should I say, the yarn – and frogged the whole thing. I re-started the scarf with a tried and true pattern I enjoy and could do in my sleep. (And I’m reasonably certain my son will love it.)

Friends, knitting is something we do for fun and relaxation. We need to knit what we want. If you start a project and don’t like it – for whatever reason – pull that yarn and start over. Knitters have a huge advantage over other crafters: we can re-use materials if we need to start over, and no one’s the wiser. Plus, you get “extra knitting time” with the same yarn if you decide to frog it.

So knit what you want, what you really really want. If you don’t like it, remember this is a HOBBY for most of us. And the whole purpose of a hobby is to relax and do something pleasant. If you find yourself knitting something you don’t like – for whatever arbitrary reason – yank the end of that yarn and be done with it!

Blessings, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited! 

Our Season of Fall Knitting is Here!

Today in the grocery store, I spied a new knitting magazine full of new autumn designs. Cozy sweaters, cowls, wool hats, and mittens – all in autumnal colors of burnt orange, yellows, greys, and harvest greens. I grabbed that magazine and hurried home to plot and plan my fall knitting season.

For North American and European knitters, fall is truly our season. After wearing thin cotton dresses, shorts, and sleeveless tops throughout the hot summer, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and envision ourselves actually wearing wool sweaters again. Not yet, but it’s coming! 

Of course, most of us who have knitted for years already have fall sweaters in our wardrobes, ready to wear after a good airing. But no matter, it’s time to get knitting new ones anyway. We can always swap out new ones for the old ones, give away a few garments to make room for new ones, or even donate some things to a charity shop.

And then there’s Christmas. Who hasn’t given at least a passing thought as to what family and friends are getting in the way of handknitted gifts for the holidays? Between the turning of the season and an impending holiday, we knitters have plenty to do in the coming months. With no apologies whatsoever, we can now stock up on lovely squishy yarns and hit the “buy” button on interesting new patterns.

Just don’t forget to enjoy it all! After all, what’s the point of all this knitting if we can’t relax and enjoy a little “me” time each and every time we pick up the needles?! 

Happy Fall Knitting! Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited! 

Knitting and Creativity

Often, I may look like I’m sitting in a quiet corner, knitting. I may look absorbed in my stitches, paying no attention whatsoever to what’s going on around me.

I’m actually “writing.”  And by “writing,” I mean I’m in the middle of the creative process that eventually ends up as a short story, a blog post, the outline of a non-fiction book, or even a novel. And it all includes those crucial half hours of knitting.

Other creative people probably have some form of creative meditation – fishing, woodworking, cooking, sewing. Anything relatively simple that gets you out of your daily cares and allows your subconscious to run free works as this sort of creative preparation exercise.

When I knit before writing, I always knit something I don’t have to think about too much. Several rows of garter stitch work wonders. If I know a pattern so well I can do it in my sleep, that pattern becomes “meditative” for me. It forces me to sit down and focus on a problem, while also giving my mind an opportunity to go off exploring. 

I’m sure knitting-as-meditation works for anyone, even if you’ve never called it that. So for anyone who has a problem they can’t figure out, an impasse on a work project, or a relationship dilemma, take a few minutes and knit. After a few rows, the perfect answer might just pop into your head. 

Blessings, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited!