At one point, I used to record a monthly video podcast called “A Maker’s Pilgrimage” that explored the intersection of contemplation, ecology, and the fiber arts. This podcast chronicled my explorations of spirituality and the fiber arts mostly through knitting, but also through sewing. It’s what I’m probably best known for online.
You’ll find an archive of my work as the Knitting Monk below.
WHAT’S A KNITTING MONK?
When I first came to the monastery, I felt drawn to the outdoor spaces. I’d lived my whole life in cities and had never had a garden, but something in the neglected flower beds surrounding the monastery guesthouse called to me. I dove, as they say, head first into the work, learning as I went. I found my creative energies bolstered rather than quelled, though. During my first winter at the monastery, I felt a bit like a caged tiger. I had all this energy and didn’t know how to use it up. I did spin classes on our indoor bike and read constantly, but I never seemed to quiet the creative energy of my body.
One of my brothers joked that I needed a ‘winter sport.’ Near the end of the following summer, I remembered a few short knitting lessons I’d had during seminary. To that point, I’d only made a couple of rather hole-y cotton dishcloths. I thought that I might enjoy taking up with knitting again. So, I found some YouTube tutorials and easy but beautiful patterns to try. I started like I do everything: head-first into the proverbial deep end.
At the beginning, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I’d look at pictures of various projects and think, “Wow, that’s so beautiful.” Then, I’d cast on. Three months into my time as a knitter, I saw Purl Soho’s Traveling Cable Hand Warmers. They were so beautiful. I bought yarn for them, studied the magic loop technique, and cast on. They were SO HARD for a three-month old knitter. I had never cabled a thing, and my tension was still really tight. But I would not give up. I made it through that project stitch by stitch, often gritting my teeth, and at the end of the process I had a beautiful gift. I was so proud of myself.
I also learned a wonderful lesson about knitting. Every single project is made stitch by stitch. There are an incredible number of resources out there to teach whatever techniques and skills I’m lacking, and I won’t ever get any better if I don’t try them out. Since that time, I’ve knit many projects, large and small. I find that I have a deep love for all things cabled, and I’ve never met a sock I didn’t like knitting. Other than that, I’m real knitting omnivore.
Knitting has become, with gardening and writing, an essential part of my creative–and, therefore, spiritual–life. It helps me to channel the urge to midwife beauty into the world. And it connects me to the fructive nature of the earth. Grass becomes wool. Under the guiding hand of shepherds, spinners, and dyers, wool becomes yarn. With my own manipulation, yarn becomes something the people I love can wear for beauty and warmth and to be reminded that I care for them. In that way, knitting is prayer for me.
It’s hard to articulate the privilege of midwifing beauty. It’s at the same time extraordinary and ordinary. I’m not some prodigy knitter (nor some prodigy monk, for that matter). But I am a craftsperson, which means that I craft, usually with care, material objects that make the beauty of the world more apparent than it was before I made that object. In that process, I, too, become more truly who I was before I made that object. That’s why I knit.