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Knitting New Circles

We’ve been given so much that we might put to good use

Ten years ago, we were going through a huge family change. Job loss, relocation, back to school, small kids in tow – the whole shebang. Part madness, part adventure and a heap of faith in a pilgrim life. And with that upheaval, I picked up the knitting needles. 

I’d first learned to knit as a teenager and knit myself a huge blue shawl-collared cocoon to hide in, then moved on to smaller things like mittens for boyfriends. After high school, I didn’t knit much; I was going places, studying, exploring life. I did not want to sit still.

But jump ahead to our great disruption and things changed. We moved in with my parents for a few struggling months and my mom suggested a project might help. She hauled out a heavy suitcase and let me rummage through her yarn collection. Take anything you like, she generously offered. I chose a vest’s worth of muted pink rustic wool from New Brunswick. One skein would do, but she gave me all she had – seven heavy skeins. She couldn’t remember what she’d planned when she bought it but if I liked it, I might as well have it. Put it to good use, she said. 

That vest knit up quickly and I packed it to take to B.C. that summer, when we’d be living with the other set of parents, still waiting for our next step to start. With a long road trip ahead, I’d need another knitting project. This time, I’d make a cardigan for my toddler son with the alphabet knitted in rainbow colours. The pattern was a complicated thing with symbolled charts and new-to-me techniques, but I had plenty of time on my hands. I loved how the colour-work took shape and the wool felt soft in my hands, comforting to hold as I worked.

Backwards and forwards

Wool lasts and my son wore that bright sweater for years, as did his little brother after him. And I kept on knitting. Scarves, more mittens, sweaters, hats, whatever the family needed or I dreamed up as necessary. After finishing a pair of socks for my husband earlier this summer, I wanted a larger project – maybe a vast scarf to wrap about my shoulders. I pulled out the bag where I keep my own wool collection and there was that pink wool, all those extra skeins, still waiting for its good use. 

A sweater’s worth. And more – greens and a darker pink, all the same weight, randomly added to my collection over time, but they’d fit well together. 

My plan was a little mad. I’d make a thick, yoked, multi-colour pullover, something ideal for cross-country skiing or hunkering down at my desk on a frigid morning. And I decided I wouldn’t use a pattern; I’d just make it up as I went along. I wanted to see if I could learn how to do this – to make something entirely new and wearable from just an idea. I got out graph paper and coloured pencils, and doodled, counted and calculated. I looked at traditional colourwork patterning and found some holiday photos of brick work in Italy that looked knittable. I sketched and counted again and then eventually cast on. 

This unmapped project is ongoing and involves a lot of backwards and forwards. I’ve unravelled so many stitches, learning where best to widen circles and where to keep them tight. Fitting work in these days. I’ve written here before about walking in circles and this project is helping me work through the frustration of new limits. In my circling stitches, I’m feeling a calming and Psalm 139 is persistent in my heart. The God who knit us each together calls us each into our ongoing work. We’ve been given so much that we might put to good use. And the world needs every generous and gentle gift we can muster.

“For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well” (Ps. 139: 13-14).

  • Katie Munnik is an Ottawa writer living in Cardiff with her Spouse and three growing children.

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