Knitting and prayer

There are just a few notes of instruction on the BSJ knitalong on Mrs. Foss’s blog…  Go look but come right back.
 Most of us have gotten to a really easy part of this sweater, without any stressful new skills.  Therefore, I thought perhaps we could talk about the powerful combination of knitting and prayer.  Many people inaccurately attribute the simple phrase “ora et labora” to St. Benedict.  His concept was actually a bit more complex, including adding “holy reading” to the mix, but few of us, Kelley Petkun excluded, can knit and read at the same time.  I think, though, that all work done with the right spirit can be a form of prayer.  And of course art can be prayer, and a way of leading us to prayer.  Many non-Christian religious traditions have movement associated with their prayer rituals.  And what about methodically moving our fingers along the beads of our Rosaries?
Some people find knitting helps so much with prayer.  Those of us (like me) who don’t sit still well, don’t listen well, and absolutely can’t meditate do so much better when our hands are moving.  But what if you’d like to pray while you knit even though the two things seem incompatible… how can you concentrate on two things at the same time?  Here are some ideas:
Only concentrate on one thing.  Only try to pray while you’re knitting easy parts, like all that garter stitch between rows 11 and 48.
Listen to your prayers while you knit.  Try a CD of the Rosary set to music…
Catholic Music Our Lady's Musical Rosary
My very favorite is Our Lady’s Musical Rosary, by  Donna Cori Gibson, which you can find here : 
Knit while your family prays together.  I’m sure that your family doesn’t have any boys who have a hard time sitting still during read alouds, but if you did, you might want to put knitting needles in their hands and see what happens 🙂
My favorite thing to do when nothing else seems to help me settle into my prayers or my knitting is to add rhythm to both.  Knitting sort of has a 4/4 beat.  In.  Around.  Through.  Off.  Try this while you knit… Have.  Mercy.  On. Us.   Have.  Mercy.  On.  Us.   or  Hail.   Mary.   Fullof.   Grace.  Hail.  Mary.  Fullof.   Grace.   or even Yes!   Jesus!   Loves!   Me! 
And what if singing is praying twice?  Another option, which according to St. Augustine, reportedly (but sadly probably also inaccurately…) gives us “double extra credit bonus points”   in the prayer department  (Danny’s words 🙂 ) , is singing while we knit.  The rhythm has to be right, though. 
Start with “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” or “God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen” if it doesn’t drive you crazy to sing Christmas hymns out of season.  Those two have the right tempo and time signature.  Go SLOWLY at first… if it’s hard to sing those carols slowly enough to get into the beat, try “Tantum Ergo Sacramentum”  All those steady quarter notes are perfect.  Once you can get your needles and your voice working in unison, other songs that work well are “The Church’s One Foundation” or perhaps “Holy, Holy, Holy”???  Skip songs like “What Child is This” (too many dotted eighths and sixteenths right lined up with “THROUGH” ) and “Hail Holy Queen (those half notes act like quarter notes and will really slow you down) 
Tomorrow or the next day, on Mrs. Foss’s blog, we’ll move on to the increases that line right up on those diagonals.  Here again, you get to choose between several options… one increase is the KFB kind that we did for those 9 stitches over the cuffs .  The kind Elizabeth Zimmermann writes about it a kind of M1 where you pick up your yarn and make a backwards loop on your right needle.  I think perhaps we might get Emily to make a video of this for us?   I have photos of the results of both choices so you can choose which one woks best for you.
Tomorrow on my blog I want to tell you that I just figured out what I want to be when I grow up.  Either that or maybe I should post all my First Holy Communion pictures.  But tonight, even though it’s dark and raining, just one more photo… my roses are blooming and you have to see

12 thoughts on “Knitting and prayer

  1. What a beautiful post. I’ve thought a couple times that there must be some way to connect knitting and prayer, and I’m looking forward to trying these ideas.

  2. I always liked “The Church’s One Foundation”. As you can imagine we don’t sing that much at St. Catherine’s. But now it will be in my head for the next day, which is a good thing. I am sure the family would thank you for replacing what’s there now: “You light up my life”, as in “so many nights, I sit by my window.”. (gotcha back, didn’t I?)

  3. Good Morning,

    Thanks for this post. I have been trying to incorporate more praying. I really like the rhythm of the rosary for knitting, but I don’t really like many of the recorded ones out there I will check out your suggestion!

  4. Beautiful rose! And thanks for your thoughts on knitting and prayers — I find knitting to be such a meditative practice, and as I knit for someone in particular, I find that my intentions, prayers, and hopes are knit into each stitch.

  5. crocheting kept me sane during Bible studies. my therapist told me that people with anxiety disorders do better if they can have something in their fingers like crocheting or knitting.

  6. I can’t pray well on counting rows. But on long rows of garter or stockinette without counting? I can pray a bunch of prayers! I knit Continental so I think I need a 3/3 beat if I’m going to try to sing, pray, and knit all at once. My rhythm is in-scoop-pop, only 3 beats. But really, the movement is so fast that it’s barely more than a word in a prayer. I don’t think I could milk it for three beats.

    On the other end of the spectrum is making nylon cord rosaries…. just one Ave “bead” takes me a whole Ave’s duration to make! And the Pater knots? Fahgettaboutit. They take several Aves’ duration!

  7. i am participating in the knit a long too, and i am afraid i discovered a potentially disastrous mistake I have made. Can I email you and explain my problem to see if there is any hope? my email is mmklepac AT gmail DOT com

  8. I often thought that you could connect praying with knitting. When I was working on a scarf earlier this week, I was attempting to pray while knitting (both were successful I think!). I find it to be unbelievably relaxing.

    Unfortunately I have given up on the BSJ for now. After the 12th attempt and winding up in tears of frustration, I decided to wait. My mom is going to find her copy and walk me through it (hopefully) over the phone.

    Happy knitting!

  9. I just got home from your fair city and was amazed by all the roses in bloom in the neighborhood where my son lives! Charlotte is a beautiful city, though I didn’t see much of it this trip. Meeting my grandson for the first time was much more important than seeing the city and so heart warming, too.

    I have just caught up on your blog and will now go see Danny’s.

    Bless you and your family.

  10. Pingback: Floods. Rain and tears. « Keep on Spinning

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