Friday, May 19, 2017

"X" Marks the Spot on a Knitting Chart

In days gone by it seemed that most patterns consisted just of row-by-row instructions that you followed along from top to bottom on the page as your knitting grew below your needles, usually from the bottom of a project up. Nowadays it is common for a chart to be included that helps the knitter visualize how the pattern will look when the work is completed. I normally use them for reference only, but some people find it easier to follow a chart when overwhelmed by the complexity of detail given in row-by-row directions. One the rare occasions that I've designed my own patterns, I've drawn them out on graph paper, making an easy-to-follow chart in the process.

When looking for a chart to include with this post, of course I couldn't find one that used an actual “x” for any of the stitches! Any symbol works to indicate a kind of stitch or knitting process; charts are filled with dashes and dots, circles and filled squares, arrows and other symbols, all of which are explained in the associated “key” somewhere on the pattern page.

There are a couple of rules to remember when following a chart in your knitting progress. One is that you are working from the bottom of the chart up, rather than reading from the top down. It's helpful to have the row numbers marked to the right of each row to help you follow along. In addition to that I've taken to putting a “<” or “>” symbol in front of the row, to remind me whether I'm working from right to left across the pattern (the “right side” of the project) or left to right (the “wrong side” of the work). I've learned the hard way that the finished product won't look anything like the design on the page if you're not careful to remember this important point. And even though the rows are numbered, it is sometimes easy to lose yourself in the mass of symbols on the page before you, so I place a ruler under the line I'm working on to help prevent mistakes, sliding it up a row at a time as I go along.

It's okay to lose yourself in your knitting; just don't do so on your chart!

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it,' whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.”
(Isaiah 30:21)

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Always Worried About my WEIGHT

When I started knitting so many years ago, there seemed to be just two choices when it came to yarn weights; worsted or fingering yarn, thick or thin. Since then the yarn world has seemingly exploded with yarns of varying thicknesses, and it can be hard to determine which to use for a project at hand.
A safe bet is to simply use the yarn recommended in the pattern, but if you have a closet full of accumulated leftover skeins, it's helpful to know if you can substitute something you already have for the yarn in question, and still have the knitted piece end up the right size.

One simple way to determine this is to check the WPI (wraps per inch) of both types of yarn. Simply wind the yarn around an object such as a pencil or a ruler, and count how many wraps occur in a one-inch space. If the numbers match, the yarns are the same weight.

Another easy way is to simply count the stitches and rows in a four-inch square knitted with the yarn in question and compare it to the gauge listed in the pattern or on the label of the yarn to be swapped out. If it is bigger or smaller than needed you can sometimes substitute smaller or larger needle sizes to correct the sizing. While most of us want to just jump into the project, it is wise to take the time to check the gauge if there is any doubt at all about a suitable yarn weight.

Each of us carries a different weight in the spiritual realm, as well, influenced by the length of our walk with God and the experiences we have had with Him. The Bible says we each have a measure of faith, but that initial amount can be expanded as we learn to trust God more and more each day. It is not a good idea to compare oneself with others in this arena, however, as we are likely to become either puffed up or pushed down in our Biblical self-esteem as a result, both of which can lead to problems on down the road. It is best to simply concentrate on making our own spiritual experience the very best it can be, that our lives turn out to be exactly what God intended them to be.

Therefore, my out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
(Philippians 2:12-13 NKJV)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Versed in the VOCABULARY

Like so many other hobbies, knitting has a vocabulary of its own. Words that are common in other interests often have a somewhat different meaning when used in connection with the craft. A cable is normally a strong cord or wire made out of rope or wire. In knitting it's used in reference to a certain type of twisted stitch pattern. A ladder is a tool for climbing up or down and consists of two sidebars connected by metal or wood rungs hung at regular intervals between them, but in knitting it's the gap in a knitted piece left by a stitch that has dropped several rows down into the work. Garter is a type of stitch, not something worn around a leg.

Abbreviations for certain actions often only add to the confusion, and are often unique to the pattern itself. Sk2p, wyif, m1p, and pfb are not typos that somehow slipped through the spellcheck on my computer but common knitting techniques or yarn positions used in many patterns.

When I first started knitting, such uncommon words and strange abbreviations intimidated me to the point that I wisely would not even attempt a pattern if I couldn't decipher the directions. Today there are so many internet helps and videos that trying something new is much easier, fun and educational.

Communication with others about one's current passion is difficult if they aren't versed in the vocabulary that goes with the territory. It's especially common among Christians who try to talk to unbelievers about their faith. Terms such as born again, slain in the spirit, anointed, and speaking in tongues rather than with tongues can be confusing and may cause the listener to abandon the subject completely rather than struggle to understand. Communication involves more than merely talking; it's connecting with another in a way that gets an idea across rather than sounding like so much gibberish.

If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.”
(1 Corinthians 14:11-12 NIV)


I used to think that the back of a knitted piece was unimportant; it was only the front that the world could see that mattered. Surely I didn't care if the other side of was a mess of crisscrossed yarn, ends woven in without thought to color blends and the like. I was more interested in having fun with a project than making sure both sides of the work were picture perfect.

Then my sister started entering stitchery projects into her local county fairs, and visiting the needlework barn became a part of my regular summertime fair experience. It is one thing to put a finished item on display; it is another thing completely to have someone judge the work, to actually pick it up and examine it closely, and yes, to look underneath to see what lies behind the front that is on display. Even though I haven't yet entered the local competition and have no plans to do so, our discussions on what the judges might be looking for remains in the back of my mind and impacts the care with which I knit and finish a project.

Some of us live our lives the way I used to go about my knitting; making sure everything looked fine on the outside and thinking that what lay underneath the front I presented to the world was unimportant. Then someone mentioned to me the concept of a Judge Who looks behind the visible facade and sees the contents of the heart inside. Thoughts I would never have voiced are audible to His ears; sins hidden from others, He sees. Intentions, motivations, cut corners...nothing escapes His eye, His ear, His heart. And while He loves us, forgives us, and works with us to change, there will be a day on which the the way we've lived our lives is exposed for all to see and judged. It will not matter then whether we have believed and intentionally subjected our life's work to His scrutiny; our first breath was our enrollment and early withdrawals are not an option nor exempt from consideration.

This revelation is not to inspire fear, as surely if we have accepted God's offer of salvation, the future for us holds no fear. But rather it should inspire us to live the very best life we can, to live carefully and remember that even the smallest details matter to God. When we hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant...”, we will know a joy that no blue ribbon on earth can provide.

Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
(1 Timothy 6:18-19 NIV)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

THUMBING Through Reasons to Knit

There it is in the photo to the left – the reason I picked up my knitting needles again after laying them down forty years or so ago. Do you see it?

It's not the multitude of beautiful yarn available, the abundance of fun patterns to work up, or even the joy of passing on a beloved hobby to a new generation of needleworkers...wonderful though all those things are.'s the phone lying face down on the table, ignored for the moment in the midst of colorful skeins of wool, attention focused on something other than Facebook, fingers and thumbs busy with with actions other than tapping, texting, scrolling and sending for a minute or two.

Don't get me wrong; I love my phone. It's my constant companion, the answer to my many questions, my entertainment when I'm bored... my connection to the rest of the world. But it was becoming my world, and I didn't like the way I reached for it every time I sat down, woke up, or a commercial break interrupted the program I was watching on TV. I needed to make a change.

And suddenly I got the urge to knit. I remembered the comfort of relaxing with the latest project, the satisfaction in seeing the work grow underneath the clicking needles...the freedom to let my mind wander while my hands remained happily employed with knit and purl stitch counts. Now I problem solve, I dream; my mind is free to set its own agenda instead of constantly searching other people's posts for something new to think about.

But what to knit? Pairing purpose with the pleasure I found in creating items added excitement to this venture; couldn't I make things other people could use? The ideas started flooding in. Of course, there were the obvious; little gifts for Christmas, seasonal items to decorate the home, baby items to give as shower gifts or donate to needy mothers. My sister mentioned a group of knitters in her area of the country who were making scarves and gloves to hang on park fences for homeless people to find and use; soon I found a local group I could contribute to who were doing the same. Now I find I can't knit fast enough to finish all the things I want to make before one season ends and another arrives with a whole slew of new ideas of its own.

It turned out I had it partially right. There was a human purpose to pursuing a passion...but what if there was a divine connection, as well? For no apparent reason I selected a snuggie as my first project, one of those little baby sacks or “cocoons” in which to cuddle a newborn, and did it up in blue, even though nobody I knew at that moment had a pregnancy nearing its due date. As my knitting grew, so did a friendship with a coworker who was new in town and who soon found out she was pregnant...with a little boy. It eventually became obvious to me who the snuggie was to be given to, especially since the project on my needles and the baby in her belly were “done” at the same time. But it was as I was writing a note to go with the gift, that I felt a nudge from God to write a few words from His heart, as well as my own. It wasn't anything mystical or deep, just a few lines of light and love spoken into the life of a young woman at a special time in her life. And suddenly it hit me that that was why I had picked up my my hobby again after such a long period of deliver that very message at this particular time. The pleasure I found in the action was beside the point.

A light bulb turned on in my head. What I thought was my need to knit again was actually God's need for me to do so, that He might deliver a message of love to a daughter I “happened” to be connected with. What if God had me learn to knit forty years ago just so that He could call that skill into play decades later and use it to bless a girl who wasn't even born at the time I began? Could it be that many of the details of our lives that we thought originated from our own thoughts and desires are really planted inside of us by God to bud and bear fruit in the time of His choosing, in ways we couldn't have imagined originally?

Looking back, I realize now how many other passions in my life have come and then seemingly gone, only to be resurrected and given new life at a later point in time. How good of God to replace the sadness when a particular season ends with an eager hope that it may roll back around again on down the road! And, oh, how the joy we find in them is multiplied when those interests are used for God's purposes rather than just our own!

And my social media addiction? I still use my electronic devices mostly to find patterns on Pinterest or check in on the picture posts of my knitting buddies' current projects. The internet lists a host of physical and emotional benefits that come from picking up a pair of knitting needles; for me the best was the spiritual blessing that came with the excuse to put the phone down.

...make it your ambition to live quietly and peacefully, and to mind your own affairs and work with your hands...”
(1 Thessalonians 4:11 NIV)

Slip into some SLIPPERS

I have an ongoing love affair with slippers. I love the cozy warmth on feet that seem perpetually cold. My feet slip into them constantly from mid-October through mid-April. Such use results in a lot of abuse; they rarely last more than a season or two before there are holes in the soles or worn places on the sides and they are begging to be replaced. So it shouldn't have been a surprise that patterns for knitted slippers would catch my eye.

What a delight to find that they abound these days! When I first picked up a pair of knitting needles it seems like there was just one kind that could be knit for men, women, and children alike. They featured a garter stitch body with a few inches of ribbing at the top; two single-stitch strips of stockinette stitch (try saying that five times fast, lol!) made them fold naturally in thirds to fit around a foot. They were easy and fast, and my siblings and I made them by the closetful.

It was only a matter of time before I would have the urge to knit a pair when I came back to the hobby decades later. Deciding to make a pair for my husband in his favorite football team's colors, I tried in vain to find the pattern that I knew I had kept even after casting the needles aside, a handwritten memory from my youth. Thankfully Pinterest came to the rescue once more; the only issue was adjusting the pattern for size. I simply guessed on the stitch count. Later, while gathering dirty socks for the load of laundry I was starting, I just “happened” to catch a glimpse of some bluegreen wool in the back corner of my husband's closet. Instantly I knew what it was! I was still knitting in the days I started dating him; I had forgotten that I had made him a pair of these very slippers 37 long years ago! And he still had them!!!

The trouble with knitted slippers is that they don't last. Unless a sole of leather or suede is attached to the bottom, the yarn wears through after constant contact with carpet and other flooring. I could see why he didn't wear them anymore; the slipper I found sported a big hole, the yarn unraveling around it. But the fact that he kept them anyway touched my heart (and explains why we have a clutter problem in this house!); I was thrilled all over again to be making him a new pair. And the best thing about finding this treasure was that I could easily count the stitches to see if I was making them the right size!

Nowadays there are an abundance of interesting patterns with which to decorate one's feet in knitted warmth! I fell in love with one such pattern I discovered at my favorite yarn shop; it was another instance of falling in love first with a certain kind of yarn and then wondering what I could possibly make with it; the store owner had wisely placed a finished slipper underneath the bin and offered the pattern for free! I bit on the bait, bought my yarn and made the first on a long football-filled afternoon with the family. The pattern was quick, fun, and taught me some new techniques – what's not to love?! I knit the other a day or so later and then discovered that the way the variegated yarn had worked up made one slipper look mostly gray and the other blue! The happy solution was to make another set the same way, then match the blues and the grays; I doubled the fun and got two pairs instead of one!

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor...”
(Ecclesiastes 4:9 NKJV)

Friday, April 21, 2017

Remembering the ROWS

I have nothing against flesh-and-blood humans, but when it comes to knitting buddies, my best friends are circular bits of plastic. They are my row counters, those tiny trackers of the rows knit behind me, so that I can always find where I am again in a pattern after setting a project down for any length of time.

Many was the time I was called away from my knitting and thought to myself that I would easily remember where I was, the pattern being so obvious that surely I could just pick up where I left off and be on my way. But too often I'd come back to it and struggle to remember how many repeats of a certain row or a segment I'd completed, and have to resort to counting stitches to try and find myself once more.

Now I use row counters and I have them rolling about everywhere; I need one for every project and slipping one on my needle first thing is as necessary as casting on the first stitch; I simply can't start something new without one.

Counters come in all sizes and styles; there are some that can be worn around one's neck and are advance by a click of a button rather than the turn of a circular end. Trial and error determines what works best for each individual. Inexpensive and easy to use, they have become an indispensable part of a project's success.

In life apart from knitting I live by lists. Pen-and-ink notes have become a necessary part of my life success. They help me keep track of what I have done and what I have yet to do. Actions I need to have completed by a certain time or date have little chance of getting finished on time if they are not noted down on paper that I view on a daily basis. My lists include everything short of taking a breath,including exercise regimes, cleaning routines, letters to write, things to do on my day off...I simply write everything down. The emotional satisfaction of marking something off as completed is (almost!) as wonderful as turning the counter to show another row completed.

Knitting reminds me that no matter how big the task in front of me, if I tackle each step one by one, the project gets done.

So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
(Psalms 90:12 NKJV)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Don't be a QUITTER Knitter

Quitting is an every present temptation in optional activities when times get tough. The notion seems to linger just on the fringes of our consciousness, and the moment our current occupation gets just a little bit difficult, the devil pops up and pulls it into play.

“You could always just quit," he says. "Nobody said you had to do this.” And once presented, the thought persists, and we mull it over for a time before deciding what to do with it. The process is like sorting through mail that comes in to our mailbox, each envelope a thought to be kept or discarded. Part of the reason I have a clutter problem in my home is that I hold on to too many things for future consideration. While quitting something can sometimes be a positive action leading to beneficial results, more often than not the thought arises in periods of exhaustion or stress, when the effort to push through a temporary difficulty seems more than we can muster at that moment in time.

Just days ago I almost quit this year's Blogger Challenge. For some reason April is always an incredibly busy month for me and adding a project that requires non-existent extra time doesn't seem like a problem until I lose momentum midstream and am floundering in my over-extensions. I fell a couple of days behind in my posts and thought about giving up the ghost. But I thought back to the reasons I took it on this year in the first place; they were still valid, which meant I just had to push on through. And eventually I caught up and it all became great fun again.

I've had knitting projects that I've been tempted to quit on, as well. It's easy to do that when the work in hand does not match the picture of it you hold in your head. For some reason it looked better in thought than in actuality and you wonder if you should devote any more of your time and money on what seems like wasted effort. I was knitting a pillow cover recently that I was initially incredibly excited about, but as the work progressed the colors weren't coming together the way I was expecting, and I began to like it less and less. I thought about abandoning it completely, but wisely sent a picture of it to my sister via text, hanging it out there like a fleece, and letting her reaction to it be the deciding factor.

For two days I heard nothing, and thought maybe that was an answer in itself. But then she sent me a response that caused me to look at it in a different way, and that change in perspective saved the day. I pushed on, got some fresh ideas and renewed motivation, and was happy with the result in the end.

The Bible says a wise person seeks counsel before making decisions. What better Counselor do we have concerning our life situations than the God who created us and knows the plans He has for the length of our days? And if He has approved an action at the outset, why would we doubt the continuance of His support when the going gets a little tough? Unlike us, He doesn't change His mind midstream. Instead He sends us the encouragement and strength needed to carry on and continue. He simply never gives up; neither should we.

Jesus replied, 'No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'”
(Luke 9:62 NKJV)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Patterns and PROJECTS Abound!

Half the fun of knitting is the actual yarn-and-needle action. The other half is dreaming about what to make next. Scrolling through the Pinterest app on my phone is the most pleasant way to kill a few minutes while waiting in line somewhere that I've found yet. The pictures pull me in for a closer look, the accompanying patterns just a thumb press away. Once I've expressed interest in one type of item, ten ideas or more for something similar pop up in the stream for me to check out next. It's like an attention current that I can't escape from, a whirlpool action that sucks time away from me and whisks it right away. But what a way to go! The process of pinning an item to one's one board holds it there for easy access in the future; unfortunately I've pinned so many things on my Knit-a-Bit page that scrolling through them to find a particular pattern can be a project in itself!

I love the variety of having several projects going at once, and I work on a different one each day until an approaching gifting deadline forces more attention to be placed on one over the others. This month's knitting opportunities for any given day include the two squares for the afghan I'm knitting simultaneously with my daughter-in-law-to-be, a sweet pair of baby booties in pale yellow, a cabled gift card holder made up in blue, and adding length to the scarf made with that Painted Desert yarn. A knitting emergency like a lost cable needle, darning needle, or shortage of yarn can sometimes put a halt on a particular project until the problem is resolved; it's always good to have another project (or two or three) to work on in the meantime.

God understands our fascination with looking ahead with anticipation to the next project; the Bible says he does the same with the days of our lives. He is even more excited about our future than we are, and His joy comes in seeing our response to the great things He has in store as they unfold. Some of them are a long-term work in progress, so He always has something cooking on the stove in the meantime while character traits and necessary skills are being developed in us in the intervening years. Multiple projects mean there is always knitting pleasure at hand to enjoy; similarly I want to make sure I pull all the joy possible out of each day I've been given...while looking eagerly ahead to what is coming next down the pike!

'...For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'...”
(Jeremiah 29:11)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Ooh, That OMBRE Yarn...

Because I am easily bored when things stay the same too long, I like variety in the colors of yarn I use. And nothing gets better than having the colors change in the single skein I'm using at the moment! I didn't realize until recently that there are different types of colored yarn, from ones that change color in a repeating pattern to those that change completely and gradually from one shade of a color to a darker or lighter one or to a different color completely. The latter gradual color change type is known as Ombre yarn, a French term meaning shaded. And it is my current passion.

What reeled me in was a pin I saw on Pinterest that had three picture “hooks” on it – a stunningly beautiful photograph in vivid colors, a ball of yarn that moved gradually from one color in the photograph to another, and a completed knitted project using that very yarn. When I visited the website I found similar three-point sets in one incredible color combination after another. It was impossible to pick a favorite, they were all so vividly beautiful.

I love combining the beauty of the colors of nature with my knitting passion. One reason I loved the Painted Desert yarn so much that I wrote about in my Yearning for the DESERT post was the image of a beautiful desert scene the name of the yarn invoked in my mind. In similar fashion I would hold the photograph that comes with the purchased kit this company offers while knitting the pattern included in the similarly colored yarn. And I would love every minute! It's definitely on my knitting bucket list.

Perhaps it's the hunger for change in every aspect of one's life that keeps it from getting boring. Surely it's what keeps me hungry for my morning devotional times with God – He continually surprises me with new thoughts or a shake-up in the way we look at His Word together that makes every day a surprise and the process an on-going adventure.

Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”
(Lamentations 3:22-23 NKJV)

NEEDLESs to Say...

I never used to think much about what kind of needles I used, apart from making sure I had the right size to knit whatever project I was working on. Some people knit more tightly than others, and so need to use a larger needle size or a lighter weight yarn than the pattern suggests to end up with an end product of the same size. As a result most patterns include a line at the top urging the knitter to check their gauge before proceeding. A simple tool called a gauge ruler allows one to check their stitch and row count against what the pattern suggests and make adjustments accordingly.

But there are other options besides size to consider when selecting the needles with which to knit. Some people prefer wooden needles over the metal variety, circular as opposed to straight, double-pointed versus single pointed... the decisions are many! One kind of needle may work better than another on a particular pattern, and some are easier to use than others. Sometimes a pattern will have you switch the size of needle you're using in midstream to shape a piece in a particular way, or move from a circular needle to a set of double-pointed ones when decreasing the stitch count to shape the top of a hat, for example. Finding what works best for you is largely a function of trial and error. It doesn't take long to have an abundance of sizes, types and lengths of needles in one's collection, especially if working several projects at the same time that all require the same size needles! I don't want a needle shortage to ever limit my creative expression!

Some people do that in their relationship with God. They limit their spiritual experience because they don't have the tools on hand to assist them, chiefly a Bible in a version that facilitates the reading of God's Word. Thankfully there are many options available these days to meet every reading level and study need. Differences in translation, print style and color, included study helps such as dictionaries, commentaries, and concordances all make it possible to read God's Word in a way that you can most understand. Many people own several Bibles of different types and use them to meet different needs or read them at different times of day. Again, trial and error determines what works best for you.

You won't return to needles that are difficult to use; neither will you spend time in God's Word if the process is frustrating. Explore your options today; some things are too important to be left up to chance.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
(Psalms 119:105 NKJV)

Mere MINUTES a Day...

It doesn't have to be a long period of time...but devoting some time each day to something you love, even if it's just 15 minutes, has been shown to have a beneficial effect on one's health and mental outlook. Who doesn't have 15 minutes they can squeeze out of the twenty-four hours in a day to spend on something fun?

I know, I times my life seems filled to the overflow with an abundance of little 15-minute squeezed-out time segments of things I want or need to do , so much so that I feel like I never get anything really accomplished. I will always have more items on my to-do list than time to accomplish them all. But taking a short knitting break at least once a day motivates me to keep making the effort!

There are still some days when I just can't seem to fit that fifteen minutes to knit in anywhere, and to keep myself from becoming frustrated and angry, I hold those minutes in reserve for my next day off, and I catch up then. Knowing that I will have that joy sometime soon eases the frustration as well as gives me an extra something to look forward to.

The one non-negotiable time segment in my day, holding precedence even over the hours I have to spend at work, is what I call my Devotional Hour of Power. I simply have to have sixty minutes (four time-segments, lol!) of solitary time to drink coffee, think good thoughts and talk to the Lord. And it's important to me to do it first thing each day. Unlike the minutes devoted to knitting that I can hold in reserve, my day is simply messed up if I don't start it out right, and there's no catching up on that missed opportunity at a later time. Occasionally I am scheduled an early shift at work, and I've found out that I'd rather get up in what seems like the middle of the night to get that time in than sleep a little later and go to work without it. One morning recently as I sat down at the table I looked for the little leaf coaster (see the previous story, Falling LEAVES) that stays there to set my steaming mug of coffee on. I found it turned upside down and tucked under some table clutter nearby. As I grabbed it, flipped it over and arranged it properly under my cup, I laughed to think that that's what God does to me in our time together - He turns me right side up and pointed in the right direction for the day ahead.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
(Romans 12:2 NKJV)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Falling LEAVES

Maybe it's because of my forester background that I've always had a love affair with leaves. So it should have come as no surprise the year I first got back into knitting that I fell in love with a simple leaf pattern I found while scrolling through Pinterest one day. What was a surprise was the simplicity of the pattern; it was something even I could handle while refurbishing my knitting skills. And yet it contained some techniques that, while new to me, were easily mastered and added to my knitting repertoire.

As a result of the above, I went a little overboard in my creation of the same. I began to wonder if we would soon have enough fall leaves scattered around the house to gather in piles, jump in, or (heaven forbid!) burn in bonfires! I made just about that many. They were simply irresistible to me! A quick knit, they satisfied a creative need in my life and helped me to celebrate the fall season while it was still in full swing. Each leaf didn't take require yarn, but of course I had to have them in an abundance of fall colors. If I hadn't been away from the hobby for years upon years, this would have been the perfect project to use up leftover yarn from previous projects. But I was new again to the joys of knitting and so I had to replenish my supply; replenish I did, coming out of the yarn shop with my arms filled with enough skeins of yarn to knit an army of afghans instead of a bucket of leaves. At least gift-giving became easy; anyone with a fall birthday received a fall-themed coffee mug, some hot chocolate or spiced cider mix, and a bundle of brightly colored knitted leaf coasters on which to set their drink! It was a three-month stretch I remember now with much joy.

Maybe the leaves meant so much to me because they reminded me of a message I received long ago that really touched my heart. For some reason I went through a season of silence in my ability to hear from God, and when you are an inspirational writer, there is no greater disaster than to be cut off from your source of inspiration and ideas. The effect on my writing was merely a spin-off of the void I felt in my personal spiritual life; it was as if I had lost my Best Friend. I knew He was there, and I knew He wasn't angry with me; I just didn't understand why He seemed to have nothing to say to me anymore. I sat on my deck one fall day at the very end of that summer, a mug of coffee in hand, feeling pretty desolate in my spirit over the a situation I could do little to alter. And suddenly there He was with me, pointing out the leaves falling from the trees in the nearby woods, comforting me with the promise that the things He still had to say to me were more numerous than all the leaves on the trees! And shortly after that experience they did indeed start falling into my spirit once more. The months before had taught me to gather, meditate and treasure each one; I don't take them for granted anymore. Perhaps that was the point.

Similarly, when the fall months ended last year and I'd knit all the leaves I could possibly make before the season changed, I was sorry to see the experience come to an end. So it was a special joy to dig deeper into Pinterest and find that there were leaf patterns in abundance, differing in shape and difficulty level...seasons yet of knitting delight ahead of me! There was no shortage of “thanksgiving” for me at the end of that fall!

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!”
(Psalms 139:17 NKJV)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

To Sit and Knit a Bit in the KITCHEN

While I will jump at the chance to sit and knit a bit anytime, anywhere, there are certain places and positions that seem to facilitate the process. Perhaps a function of age (sigh), I find that nowadays I need a lot of light to knit successfully. And I also find that I need a lot of room. The bumping of knitting needles into armrests and end cushions on couches is a bothersome distraction. Sometimes I like a television nearby for background noise, although I am usually too involved in the pattern and the progress of the project to pay the TV much heed. As a result of the above, I've found that my favorite spot to indulge in my latest passion is at the kitchen table.

If the kitchen is the heart of the home, the table at the end of it seems to be the center of my life! Amazingly, yesterday I found time to eat at it, when I wasn't sitting there busily wrapping packages I needed to get in the mail. Later it became my office as I wrote some checks and got my taxes ready to mail before the deadline. I'm grateful that the open floor plan of our home allows me to work at the table and still feel close to and a part of the action going on in the living room nearby.

Light pours into that end of the room through the double glass doors that lead to the deck outside. Feeders hang from the tree right outside the window to lure the birds in in abundance, while squirrels and even a raccoon compete with them for a morning snack. When I look up from my knitting I thus see lots to entertain me while rejoicing in the greening yard around me. Perhaps for that reason I don't accomplish quite as much as I would if I were knitting elsewhere in the house, but the excuse to take the moment to enjoy the peace and the place I've been given make my seat there simply irresistible.

I also spend more time looking deeply at the color blends in the yarn I'm using and the pattern development in my latest project when I sit there, just because I can see them so much better in the full light of day. And perhaps that's why it's my place of choice for my morning devotions, as well. I can see my life so much more clearly when viewing it in the Light in God's Word. I spread my books out at the end of the table each morning, with a cup of coffee and a sleeping cat nearby, and simply enjoy those moments of the day in the companionship of my Savior more than any others that are to follow. I invite God into the very center of my life and He fills it with good things, helping me discern between the precious and the worthless thoughts that come to me, much as I later have to sort through the mail and clutter that accumulates on the table at which I sit.

While I know God is everywhere and with me constantly, I think He likes to sit and knit my life together at the kitchen table best, as well.

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.”
(Psalms 139: 18, 18 NKJV)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


We don't need to justify pastimes we pick up for fun, but sometimes it helps to have an excuse for engaging in them, just in case! So when I was thinking of getting back into my knitting hobby, my sister loyally supported the idea by passing along information about the many health benefits associated with it.

It is amazing how much physical and psychological good can come from picking up a pair of knitting needles and some yarn. The repetitive motion of the activity induces a relaxed state similar to that achieved through meditation or yoga. The production of useful, tangible products boosts self esteem, keeps hands flexible as well as busy, the latter useful when trying to control one's weight or quit a smoking habit. Studying difficult patterns keeps the mind active as we age and can help improve math skills in the young. Knitting together in groups enhances social skills. Focusing the mind on something outside the body is even useful in controlling chronic pain.

Perhaps what interested me the most was learning that (at least when past the initial learning curve or a particularly challenging part of a pattern) knitting can slow the heart rate and reduce blood pressure. The latter is an issue for me; I love the thought of my doctor prescribing a daily knitting break as well as a pill to keep mine under control!

My doctor appointments usually begin with an initial blood pressure reading...followed by several more in succession, as the nurses are never satisfied with the results the machine gives them. They hope for a more positive number combination to put in my record before the doctor enters the room. But he knows that my readings are likely elevated by the thought of going to the doctor's office in the first place and the rush to get there; he routinely waits till the end of our time together to take it one more time and hope for a more favorable reading once I've relaxed and sat for a bit.

We reached such a moment in my appointment last week, and as he wrapped the blood pressure cuff around my upper arm, he said, “Here we go. Think good thoughts...!” And so I did. I pictured my current knitting project, a thought which never fails to delight. A minute or so later he pulled the stethoscope out of his ears, unwrapped the cuff with a huge smile and declared, “120!” impossibly low systolic reading for me!

I didn't know till just now that April happens to be National Stress Awareness Month, and people everywhere are invited to join the crafters' campaign to Stitch Away Stress! Excuse me now while I step away and take my blood pressure “medicine” for the day...!

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.
(Philippians 4: 8 NKJV)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Overindulgence Leads to IDOLATRY

This may be my most important post of the whole blogger challenge this year. It may very well be the reason God reminded me of the event with just 48 hours to spare till the start. He knew that we would eventually reach the letter I.

I struggled with an idea for this member of the alphabet. When I was considering participating this year, I grabbed a piece of paper and listed ideas for almost every letter of the alphabet almost immediately. But the space next to “I” has remained empty for eleven days or more now. Even as late as yesterday evening I was reminding God that I needed an idea; I vowed to quit the challenge before I wrote on the only words I was coming up with on my own. As I drifted off to sleep, I was still pleading with God for help.

So I woke up this morning, and one of my first thoughts was, “Oh, no. The letter 'I'. I don't have an idea.” And then, just like that, one came to me, and I understood then why coming up with it had been a an ordeal.

I stands for Idolatry. An idol is anything that takes the place of God in your life. And God wanted to use this post to warn me not to let knitting become one in mine.

It could easily do so. In fact, the red flags are already waving.

Funny, the Blogger Challenge itself led me a few days ago to a delightful post somebody had written on the subject of the children's book, Tootle, by Gertrude Crampton. I had smiled as I read it, remembering the many times I'd read the book to my boys when they were little and loved it as much as they did. But I see now that even that post was pointing me in the direction of this one, as the book is about a little engine that wouldn't stay on the rails but jumped them repeatedly and ignored the red flags warning it to get back on track.

I have an addictive personality that causes me to overindulge in things I find appealing. I'm not physiologically dependent on them (well, maybe to coffee!), but psychologically so. I tend to take good things and go a little (or a lot!) overboard with them. It's why I no longer drink beer or wine anymore, despite the pleasure of a glass of wine with dinner, and the remembered joy of a cold beer on a hot summer's day. Experience has shown that I can't trust myself to stop before I become a drunken sop. For the same reason I no longer buy barbecue potato chips in anything larger than a single serving bag and refrain from even opening a box of extra-toasty Cheezits until I am within my weight limits on the bathroom scale.

Food and drink cravings aside, there are a lot of things available to us for enjoyment purposes that can become destructive when indulged in to excess. God allows them into our lives but works with us to keep them in check. Too often we act like my little engine friend, Tootle, jump the tracks and go our own way, ignoring the red flags God puts in front of us at every turn. The penalty for repeated overindulgence in things is their complete removal from my life experience. I simply don't want that to happen with my knitting.

And so I take this post today to remind myself to take heed to the guidelines God has put in place to keep my hobby under control. I set a limit on how long I will sit down with a project each day so that I will fulfill the other responsibilities calling for my time and attention. I remember that my God and my husband are more important to me than my current project, and will hasten to the side of either when the opportunity arises. And I will keep my eyes open for any red flags that say I'm headed the wrong that the joy I find in my knitting needles will be one that is here to stay!

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!...Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry...'Everything is permissible' – but not everything is beneficial. 'Everything is permissible' – but not everything is constructive. So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
(1 Corinthians 10:12,14,23, 31 NIV)

Monday, April 10, 2017

In Need of Knitting HELP!

Help! I need somebody
Help! Not just anybody
Help! You know I need someone

The Beatles were big when I was first learning to knit. “When I was younger so much younger than today...”, my options were few when it came to getting the help I needed. My mother who taught me was basically a knit-and-purl person; her patterns varied little from the basics. And the pictures illustrating the few how-to books I came across were difficult to decipher. There were a lot of patterns at that time that I pushed aside because they contained stitches I couldn't comprehend how to do.

But the world has changed in the last 40 years. Now we have cell phones always at hand, and on them, YouTube videos available that show us how to do stitches that are new to us. If one video doesn't illustrate the process quite as clearly as I'd like, there are five or six more on the same subject that can be tried. They can be viewed multiple times on repeated days until the procedure is firmly planted in one's mind.

A lot has changed in my spiritual life in the last 40 years, as well. I still need help in a myriad of ways on multiple subjects; “And now my life has changed in oh so many ways. My independence seems to vanish in the haze. But ev'ry now and then I feel so insecure, I know that I just need you like I've never done before.”

The “you” in that sentence for me is God. He's the help I turn to these days. I didn't know Him like I do now when I first picked up my knitting needles. I'm so glad He is available to me now, especially on days when knowing how to knit a particular stitch is the least of my problems! He is even more available than my phone, and has personal answers on subjects that matter so much more than anything YouTube can handle. A cancer diagnosis, a rebellious teenager, a troublesome job situation...He has answers and options for them all. I am careful to keep our relationship charged and ready to go so that I am always in a position to hear His voice when He returns my call.

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.'”
(Isaiah 58:9 NKJV)

Knitting for GIVING

One of the major joys of knitting is surely making items to give as gifts. Unfortunately, the abundance of Pinterest patterns sparks more gift-giving ideas than there is time to make them all. Sometimes it's a special occasion in a person's life that inspires a new project...a birthday, a wedding, a new baby. At other times it's just a notion that a particular someone would enjoy an item because it connects somehow to one of the passions of their hearts. And sometimes it's just the holiday season, and gift-giving is commonplace; it's good to be prepared.

The joy of a project is doubled when it is done to be given away. The knitting itself is enjoyable, whether it be the pattern or the yarn or the combination of the two that intrigues us. But there is also the constant anticipation of the recipient's reaction that keeps the needles clicking away. It is simply fun to put effort into something for somebody else's benefit. Perhaps the selflessness of the action produces happy hormones deep inside of us that add to the enjoyment of the process.

Sometimes, however, a deadline on a project detracts from the enjoyment I experience by adding a level of stress over whether I will have the item finished on time. One solution, of course, is to give myself plenty of advance notice in starting something that has to be completed by a certain date. A friend shared another: if her project isn't done on time, she wraps it up while it's still on the needles and simply gives it as it is, in it's unfinished the recipient gets a sneak peak of what is coming their way... someday! I like that; the occasion is honored, the recipient is remembered, and the fun of the hobby is preserved! It sounds like a winner all the way around!

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all...”
(Galatians 6:10 NKJV)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Knitting FAST and Furiously...or Not

It was a a pin on Pinterest, I believe...or maybe it was an ad on Facebook that I came across, perhaps, that advertised techniques for speed knitting. I didn't read it because I don't want those last two words to be side-by-side in my knitting experience. A voice in my head whispers that I am a stuck-in-the-mud oldie who is just resistant to change. But rushing through a project just to get it done seems to defeat the purpose of knitting in the first place, which was to relax and enjoy the hobby.

Oh, I get it. Sometimes you do have to knit in a hurry. There are deadlines in knitting just as in anything else. One lady had to have knitting samples completed for a photo shoot scheduled as a book publication date loomed. The holiday season doesn't delay its arrival dependent on the progress of the gifts we want to give. And babies come when they are ready, even if the baby blankets we want to wrap them in are not. But to deliberately knit faster just so I can finish one project and jump quickly into the next doesn't appeal to me at all.

Perhaps my reluctance to try this new idea stems from my enjoyment of the knitting process itself, even more than the projects I complete. The speed-knitting techniques I've passed in my online scrolling seem to use just the fingers rather than the full-hand movement to wrap the yarn around the needle each stitch. But I find the rhythm of that repeated arm motion to be soothing and comforting in its steadiness. Maybe because everything else in life seems so rushed, it is nice to have something I can do slowly, savoring the enjoyment I find in the minutes devoted to the activity. I love to be able to stop frequently and simply enjoy the sight of the knitted piece growing from the needles, or examine the way the plies of yarn blend together to form the irresistible color combinations that attracted me initially. A whole amount of joy is lost in the hurry to simply get another thing done.

I've been thinking about that a lot of late at the start of my days. As I sip my coffee I've been instructing myself to take the time to simply enjoy the hours ahead of me... to notice the minutes as they pass and the joys each give thanks for the same. Maybe it's having reached an age where the end of my life is nearer at hand than the start of my life which has sparked a greater appreciation for the moments in between. I am just not in a hurry to spend them any more quickly than I need knitting included!

This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
(Psalm 118:24 NKJV)

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Endeavoring for EXCELLENCE

In knitting as in all other endeavors, I always try to do the best job I can. There's no point in doing a thing if you're not going to give it your best effort. But sometimes we push past the pursuit of excellence and pine for perfection. It's then that we often lose the joy of the project, which was the whole point of the undertaking in the first place.

To combat that loss, I've given myself freedom to be human and make mistakes in my knitting. I forgive myself for errors that have crept into my work despite my best efforts to keep them out. I do try to make things right if at all possible. If the mistake isn't too many rows back, I force myself to undo what I've done and do it correctly the second time around. And there are other considerations; if the project is a gift, I'm more likely to correct mistakes than if it's for my own use only. But mostly I use my “joy meter” as my guide. Since I'm knitting for fun, I ask myself whether the nagging presence of the error will bother me more than going back and fixing it will...and then I act accordingly. And I live with whatever decision I make.

Life is a lot like a giant piece of knitting. We go along day to day, doing the best that we can, knowing that we're bound to make mistakes along the way. Thankfully God gives us more grace than we frequently extend to ourselves! How much more we would enjoy our earthly stay if we would learn to correct what errors we can, apologizing to those affected along the way, forgive ourselves for things we simply cannot change, and strive to live, love, (and knit!) better each and every day!

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might...”
(Ecclesiastes 9:10 NKJV)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Yearning for that DESERT Yarn

In knitting days gone by, I would first find a pattern that caught my eye and then look for yarn to make it with. But in the decades that have passed since my first needle project, the many types, weights, and colors of yarn that have become available have reversed the process; I see a skein of yarn I simply can't live without and wonder what I can possibly make with it. Thankfully there is usually a pattern and a finished product posted nearby to give me an idea.

Such was the case with the Painted Desert yarn. The name itself invokes images of incredible beauty, and the yarn lived up to the billing. The colors grabbed my soul and wouldn't let go. I had come into the shop for bulky yarn with which to make a pair of slippers, and spied the ball of Painted Desert on a shelf to the side. A fingerling weight yarn, it wasn't right for slippers, but I vowed to come back at another time and and grab it for my next project. I stayed true to my word; returning with Sarah a few weeks later I found balls of the “Brick” variety in the clearance room (are you kidding me?!) and so even got it at a reduced price. My only regret was that I just grabbed one, thinking one ball of yarn would be enough for one scarf.

In the days since I have simply delighted in working the pattern up, watching the glorious colors gradually change from yellows to reds to blues and back again. Even the slants in the pattern as it was knit reminded me of the long sloping rock formations found in pictures of the Painted Desert in Arizona that I found on my phone. 

Maybe because I am older, I seem to need more light when I knit than before; despite turning on the extra set of overhead lights when I sit on the couch to do so at night, the living room remains too dark for the details of the two-ply yarn to come alive. But when I pull out a chair to sit at the kitchen table by day, the light streaming in through the glass door nearby makes the individual colors of the blended yarn stand out, and I stop frequently to simply marvel at the beauty of the colors as they unfold.

I like the comparison to lives lived in darkness rather than in the Light of God's love and Word. Without Him in our hearts we miss so much, walking without much hope and purpose and joy. But when we find that relationship with Him and start letting the Son shine on details we once kept in the dark, so much is revealed. The true colors of our nature are apparent, and change becomes visible as God gradually changes us into the image of His Son. It simply doesn't get any more beautiful than that!

...God is light and in Him is no darkness at all...if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
(1 John 1:5,7 NKJV)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Camaraderie in COMMUNITY

And the Lord God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” (Genesis 2:18) Neither did God think it was good that a woman should knit alone, so He made a community of yarn-and-needle-minded souls to help and inspire her, and simply to share in the fun.

I'm grateful for the same that I'm collecting around me, gathering them like project ideas I pin on Pinterest, references I can turn to in times of need or buddies to sit and knit a bit with when we have the chance to get together. They consist of family members, friends, and even total strangers I have connected with over the checkout lane in the grocery store in which I work. I've noticed a customer wearing a pretty knitted scarf, asked her if she made it, and suddenly opened a door to new avenue of fun and fellowship. The joy spreads as the lady next in line overhears the conversation and joins in, and the one after that, the same...till my day is brightened and my load lightened simply by talking about a subject I love.

A good place to find fellow knitting enthusiasts is in your local yarn shop. Luckily for me, Lambikin's Hideaway is nestled in a old building on the outskirts of town on a road I travel by on a regular basis. I love pushing open the old door, stepping onto the creaky wood floor and entering a world overflowing with beautiful yarns and project ideas. Surrounding a table in the back I always spy a group of ladies, chatting away while the needles click busily in their hands, knitting friendships as well as sweaters and scarves. It turns out they have a regular Monday night knitting circle and issue an open invitation to any who might want to come and join them. Sarah urges me to do so; my introverted nature has used my unpredictable work schedule as an excuse for not having done so to date. I know I lack courage rather than time. But I haven't closed the door completely on the idea. The entryway beckons me; one of these days I may still climb those crumbling concrete steps, push through the fear and enter a whole new level of knitting enjoyment in the companionship of others who do the same.

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another...”
(Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV)

Monday, April 3, 2017

Itty Bitty Baby BOOTIES

Is there any more welcome news than that someone you know is expecting a baby?

In days gone by I would celebrate such tidings by sending the mother-to-be a pair of fancy white baby socks, the kind with the fuzzy mohair on top that came in a clear plastic gift box and were available everywhere. Now they are nowhere to be found, and the multi-pair packages hanging from a rack in the baby care section of stores just don't have the same celebratory feel. So it was exciting to me to discover that there are plenty of patterns available (on Pinterest, of course!) to simply knit your own! And oh, the cuteness factor! Once you start scrolling you simply can't stop; it's hard to know where to begin in knitting delights for little baby feet and the moms-to-be!

My future daughter-in-law, Sarah, and I took a break from our afghan-making one time she was in town to whip out an exploratory pair from an easy pattern, to start. We were experimenting with different yarn weights and needle sizes; it's great to know that whatever size the booties turn out, the tiny feet will eventually fit into them! Sarah's first pair were donated to one of her daughter's dolls, who never before had more cuddly feet!

Funny, God likewise celebrates those who bring His “good tidings” to those in their life circle; the impending birth of His Son into hearts that are cold or careless, lost and lifeless. Who can we tell today? Somebody near us may be (spiritually) dying to hear the news.

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace, who brings good tidings of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, Your God reigns?”
(Isaiah 52:7)

Saturday, April 1, 2017

It All Began With AFGHANS

I don't remember being taught to knit; I just know that at some point in my early childhood my mother passed along her skill to the three of us, my brother, sister, and I. We made the obligatory beginner slippers by the boatload, and then I began making afghans. I remember the joy of the entire process, the weekend shopping excursions with my dad to buy the yarn, the joy of watching weekend football with him while knitting square after square, the delight in the final product when the individual squares were finally sewn together. I finished several before packing my knitting needles away later in life, but the one that stands out the most to me was the one I made for him to use when an aching back forced him every night to move from his bed to the living room couch. Surprisingly, he didn't use that one, saying (to my mother's horror!) that he wanted to save it and be wrapped in it when he passed from this life on to the next.

Once I picked up the hobby again, it wasn't in my plan to knit any more afghans. But as the end of last year approached, my future daughter-in-law, a new knitting enthusiast, told me she was going to make one in 2017, knitting two blocks a month, and that I was going to join her in this endeavor! My fondness for her found me eagerly signing on. Every month now she posts the latest pattern, and we get to work, sending picture texts throughout the thirty days to keep each other posted on our progress. Now three months behind us, we each have a growing stack of blocks completed and are eagerly engaged in the project. In fact, we've already made plans for next year, when we plan to each knit a temperature blanket, an afghan knit one row per day in a color determined by the day's temperature!

I think what appeals to me about the process of knitting an afghan is the long-term aspect of the project. It's not something you decide to do one day and are done with a couple of days later. It requires commitment and perseverance if the end result is to be something beautiful and useful, rather than just a bunch of abandoned balls of yarn stuffed in a closet somewhere.

In the same way, a relationship with God isn't something that's developed overnight. It requires the daily discipline of time spent together and experiences shared that over time develops into something that wraps you in layers of comfort and love and carries you into eternity. It's a joy that's meant to be shared with others as you daily delight in your Father's love.

If that's the case, I think I will be happily knitting afghans of one sort or another till the day I die.

"My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up."
(Psalm 5:3 NKJV)
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