Knitting and Natting as a Spiritual Discipline

Graduate student, Connor Walden shares how creating a prayer shawl turned out to be so much more than knitting and purling.

I’ve been really into grace lately. I love John Wesley’s “grace upon grace” theology and how we are to expect it as we are and to expect it now. In my own artistic and spiritual practices, I am learning the importance of discipline as part of the supernatural transformative powers of God’s sanctifying grace. In order to intentionally develop my faith, I decided to look into knitting prayer shawls. My interest in prayer shawls was piqued by two things: community and power. The first was the opportunity to meet people and knit with them while getting to know them. The second was the power of the prayer shawl. I am curious about the power of prayer being prayed into an object and how a person is affected upon receiving the shawl and in using the shawl.

I first reached out to my grandmother over Thanksgiving who taught me the basics of knitting: casting on, casting off, and the knit stitch. Then, I connected with Margie Clark, a longtime member of Bothell UMC, to teach me about knitting prayer shawls. As a graduate student, I don’t interact with many people younger than 21 and older than 40, so this was a special opportunity for intergenerational dialogue. My first meeting with Margie, she taught me how to knit a prayer shawl, how to make a purl stitch, and then lent me some prayer shawl material. The next time we met, she taught me how to add a second color, showed me the blessing to say over someone as you gift them a prayer shawl, and gave me a new pattern to knit.

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The first knit pattern Margie lent me

I have seen Jesus in the budding friendship and apprenticeship with Margie as a chance not only to learn how to knit, but to learn about her life and to share my life with her. Since spending time with Margie, I have knitted and natted with a few others with many more to come. I love that I am taking part not only in a rich tradition but getting to engage with people here and now who can teach me the trade of knitting and listening.

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A star pattern from the Fair Isle’s “Robe of Glory”
  • Knitting proves that my time isn’t worth as much as I think it should be. This breaks me from the production and profit mindset I’ve been taught in school and society.
  • Knitting takes time and includes making mistakes and amends. This is a safe space to make mistakes and to not fret about the consequences. Working to fix the errors is a meaningful challenge with observable results.
  • Knitting slows me down. In a society where instant gratification is pervasive, I learn through knitting that change occurs slowly. Just like my relationship with God and my neighbor, it takes many moments and choices that build up to cause observable growth and change. It won’t happen overnight, and it will take work.
  • Praying during every stitch is a spiritual discipline. The mindfulness, intention, and humility of praying during every stitch is a transformative and radical shift from spending time on my phone or laptop doing social media or email.

God has used knitting to transform my life by helping me work against societal norms that hinder my spiritual growth.

 

3 thoughts on “Knitting and Natting as a Spiritual Discipline

  1. I love your description of what all goes into making a prayer shawl especially the mindfulness that goes into it. What a beautiful way to meditate and pray while at the same time providing someone with such a thoughtful gift. I have been a receiver of one of these shawls and I can honestly tell you it had brought me much comfort. Keep knitting. ❤️🙏😇. P.s. I have tried many times to knit but unfortunately have just not gotten it to work for me but your writing sure makes me wish I could. 🙏❤️

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  2. Knitting and walking and to a certain extent writing have been my ways of prayer when I don’t have the words. When all I can do is knit, purl, knit, purl in offering to God. It’s not about supplication or confession – it’s about being. Being in the moment, in relationship with God.

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