Knitting Through Times of Crisis

I’ve never understood why anyone would willingly work on a tedious, difficult, and mentally taxing knitting project. Until now. 

Since my teen years, I’ve always been a “meditative knitter.” Give me a project that’s easy to memorize, not too difficult, and lets me zone out. I love to make prayer shawls, easy pullovers, and straightforward yoke cardigans. 

As I’ve tried to up my knitting game, I’ve tried more difficult patterns and techniques. This past fall, I took a course in double knitting at the Vogue Knitting Convention in Ohio. Double knitting took every bit of concentration I could muster. I found myself thinking, “if I’m ever in a situation where I want to block out every single thought in my head, I’ll do this kind of knitting.”

Well, here we are. On the evening of March 12, the school system closed for the year. By the next afternoon, the shelves of my local grocery store were cleared by panic buyers. Then, six weeks later, my husband was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer and given only months to live. 

Needless to say, I’ve spent a lot of time knitting my way through these crises. During the worst moments, I’ve sat in my home office, working on an extremely intricate pattern with tiny needles and ultra-thin yarn, blocking out every single thought and emotion running through my body. I still work on a meditative project each and every day as my personal self-care and spiritual discipline. But I’ve also added a half hour of knitting that vanquishes thoughts of everything else going on my life, if only for a few minutes. And this has helped me simply get through each day, taking me away from the huge responsibilities suddenly placed on my shoulders.

So now I know why knitters work on all those difficult, intricate patterns and stitches. For me, it’s a more hard-core form of the meditative knitting I’ve always done. At times like these, I value my knitting for giving me peace, for giving me something tangible and constructive to do, and for helping me keep my sanity in a time of crisis. 

Blessings to all my fellow knitters facing times of crisis, 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.

Staying In to Knit? Count Me In!

As the corona virus threat looms, many of us are at least thinking about – if not outright preparing – for a long period of hunkering down in our homes. Here in Tennessee, only one case has been confirmed, but we know it’s only a matter of time before it hits. 

Those of us who knit may be more prepared than most for a couple of weeks of staying home and entertaining ourselves. In fact, some of us may even look forward to a quiet period of sticking close to home. As long as we have a good supply of yarn and knitting needles, we’re good to go.

Knitting has always been something of a survival activity. In times past, people knitted to provide clothing for their families and to stay warm. In times of war, women knitted socks, mittens, and sweaters for the troops on the front line. 

Experts have long predicted a pandemic that would disrupt normal life as we know it, and here we are.  For those of us who knit and do other handicrafts, I’d like to believe we’re a bit more prepared than most for this time in our lives. We have something to do with our time. We have something to do with our hands to keep them from touching our faces. We have something to do that will give us peace and a sense of calm, no matter what calamities take place.

And now, we finally have the perfect rationalization for hoarding all that yarn. It’s time to knit that stash, fellow knitters!

Blessings and prayers for good health, Cindy

If you need something to do while sheltered-in-place (besides knit), please take a look at my two novels, The Prayer Shawl Chronicles and Ginger’s Reckoning, both available in e-book and paperback editions, both available worldwide.

Ten Reasons To Teach Knitting or Crochet To Young People This Summer

Looking for a engaging, worthwhile activities for your summer camp? Offer Knitting or Crochet lessons. Why?

  1. It teaches a craft they can practice and enjoy for the rest of their lives.
  2. You’re teaching “real” life skills, not an “arts & crafts” project they’ll trash as soon as they get home.
  3. Knitting and crochet help young people calm down and get away from their phones.
  4. It’s perfectly acceptable for both boys and girls to knit and crochet these days.
  5. Finishing a knitting or crochet project gives you a huge sense of accomplishment and self-esteem.
  6. If you knit or crochet, you can make your own clothes, hats, scarves, and blankets.
  7. If you use cotton, wool, alpaca, or bamboo yarns, you’re introducing a sustainability lesson, too.
  8. You can engage members of your community as teachers and create bonds between generations.
  9. Local crafters will likely donate much of the yarn you need (because all of us knit and crochet folks have leftover yarn and secret stashes we know we need to give away). You may even get donations of needles and hooks, too!
  10. Your young people will remember “the summer I learned to knit” as one of their best memories of summer camp. 

Cindy Coe is the author of two resources to help children and youth engage with nature during summer camps. Her latest book is “The Prayer Shawl Chronicles,” a collection of interrelated short stories set in and around an Episcopal Church in Tennessee. 

Five Reasons to Go to a Knitting Convention

Hello Fellow Knitters! I’ve just returned from the Vogue Knitting Live Convention in Columbus, Ohio, and I’m bursting with new ideas, skills, and enthusiasm for the craft of knitting. Have you ever attended a knitting convention? If you haven’t, here’s why you should:

  • The Sheer Geek-Out Factor: High quality yarn everywhere you turn, like-minded new knitting friends, lots of new ideas, knitting fashion shows, and it’s perfectly okay to sit and knit at each and every event.
  • The Classes: Take classes by well-known, highly skilled teachers and learn advanced knitting skills – mosaic, double knitting, brioche, you name it. Plus hear talks on knitting fashion trends, design skills, sustainable wool production, and more. 
  • The Marketplace: Find all those small but crucial niche products you need for your knitting but can’t find locally. Try out those new-fangled knitting needles you’ve had your eye on and buy directly from the manufacturer. And did I mention the yarn? Lots and lots of yarn.
  • Meet Craftspeople Who Make Knitting Possible: Talk to the actual craftspeople who dye the yarn, make the wooden buttons, and even raise the sheep. Put a face with that yarn you’ll use for your next project and those handmade buttons you’ll put on your next cardigan.
  • Re-charge Your Knitting Life: All of us need new ideas and skills to revamp, re-charge, and re-invigorate our hobby once in a while. By immersing yourself in all-things-knitting, you’ll discover new ways of practicing the knitting life you’ve always loved. It’s the ultimate “me time” for knitters.

I’ll be blogging more on what I learned and observed over the next week or so. Follow this page or the Sycamore Cove Knitting Facebook page for info on latest knitting fashion trends, product news, and how I flunked Brioche 101.  

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.

How Many Knitting Projects Do You Need? 3. You Need 3.

How many knitting WIPs (works-in-progress) do you currently have going? In looking at the online knitting forums, the answers vary widely. 

Most of us knit for several reasons. It calms us down in an overly busy, wired world. It gives us something to do while we’re waiting to see the doctor, waiting in the pick-up line for kids to come out of school, waiting for a meeting to start or the bus to come. Most of us start with something simple, but eventually, we need to bump up our skills and learn something new. Portable projects are great for on-the-go knitting, but many of us will want to knit a blanket, sweater, or other project that takes up to half a room. 

So for those flummoxed by why some of us have several projects going on at one time, here’s (generally) the three kinds of knitting projects most of us really need in our lives:

  1. A Meditative Knitting Project (also known as “Medknitation”): Mindless knitting just to knit and unwind requires something simple, something we don’t have to think about. Prayer shawls, simple blankets, scarves, or even a simple placemat can fill the bill. The idea here is to tune out, knit, and rest your mind. Repetitive patterns requiring little or no counting work best. Knitting while watching TV is included.
  2. A More Challenging Knitting Project: Meditative knitting can get monotonous, so we need something to challenge us once and awhile. Everybody needs to keep growing and expanding their skills.  Working on a new knitting technique or stitch keeps us mentally fit and interested in the craft. These projects might include learning to make socks, learning mosaic or brioche knitting, or making a sweater with challenging stitches or techniques new to you.
  3. A Portable Project Kept in Your Purse or Car: For a knitter, nothing is worse than finding yourself in a waiting room for more than ten minutes without a knitting project to work on. No, you don’t want to read the magazines on offer. You want your knitting needles!!!! So most of us keep a small project in our purse, tote bag, or even in the car for such modern inconveniences.  Personally, I keep a placemat project in my tote bag, using circular needles (harder to lose than straight needles) and cheap cotton yarn. If it gets stained, dirty, or lost, it’s no big deal. 

Many of us, of course have lots more projects than three on the needles. There’s that project you lost interest in, the one you ran out of yarn for, the one you somehow misplaced or forgot about. No judgements!  

And if you just have one project on your needles, consider another one. For those who do meditative knitting, try something challenging. As if you’re lost in a difficult project, slow down and knit something simple. But always have a project you can pick up and take wherever you go!

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.

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.

Stressed? Sit and Knit Awhile

It’s been a bad week here in America. Two mass shootings, stock market volatility, and the usual political divisiveness. Nerves are frayed, and many of us feel the stress.

For those of us who knit, a breather is just a couple of knitting needles and a ball of yarn away. If you’re suffering from jangled nerves, facing personal challenges, or just dealing with ordinary stress, pick up those needles and knit. You can knit anything – it’s doesn’t matter. The easier the project, the better. The point is to take a few minutes for yourself and your own mental health, check out from the rest of the world, and enjoy the peace and quiet for a while. 

In times of deep stress, I’ve always turned to my knitting needles. Several years ago, as I waited to travel to another part of the world to adopt my youngest child, I learned that the children in his orphanage could use handknitted hats and scarves. Delighted to hear this, I used this knitting time to soak up my stress and calm my nerves. When it came time to finally travel, I had an entire suitcase full of warm knitted hats and scarves for children who had no personal possessions, plus scarves for all their caretakers. 

Knitting can heal. Knitting is our own little time and space where we can re-group, re-think, and prepare to face the realities of the world once again.

Blessings for peace and resilience, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, fictional short stories about knitters of prayer shawls and how their gifts bless people they know or have never even met. The story “Hats for Orphans” is based on her own knitting of hats while an expectant adoptive mother. Available in e-book and paperback at this link.