On my knees

The story of a prayer shawl

An old song timelessly echoes through the ages. Today it rings in my heart. I can hear my mother sing it as she cradles my little brother or sister in her arms so many years ago. I feel it vibrating in my ear drum as I rock my child to sleep for a nap two decades earlier. I can imagine grandmother’s on the unbroken plains singing it while they feed the little ones their breakfast of mush and cream.

“Whisper a prayer in the morning,

Whisper a prayer at nooon,

Whisper a prayer in the evening

God keeps your heart in tune.”

Many of my crochet projects are done in specific colors and for specific needs. Shawls, mittens, scarves, afghans, hats, baby blankets and doilies. So many projects get forgotten. So many projects for someone special or for nobody in particular at all. Making the prayer shawl is probably one of my most serene and peaceful experiences.

Through out my house are many shades of color. Eclectic decor was never my original hope some decades ago when my grandmother first taught me to crochet. Never one to consider the large room effect of adding some item to the landscape, a project usually begins with only a thought for what might be on hand. Having tunnel vision in my home is advantages as looking at more than one afghan could be quite a dizzy experience.

There are always leftover yarns. And the leftover yarn projects. Rugs, mittens, hats, afghans, and shawls get the remains in many varying patterns that almost look planned. My mother always calls the leftover meals planned overs. In her quilting there are no pieces of fabrics for the waste bin. Near my working zone I have a stash of scraps that can be used for tied markers or for fringes, or for unbeknownst purposes. About once a month I go through all the projects, arrange their priority and consider who is in need of what gift. Sometimes the gifts sit longer that expected, incomplete or forgotten. Oops.

So this past week as more prayer needs of those loved ones close to me came into focus, I decided it was time to do another prayer shawl.

Specifically.

This prayer shawl has been on my mind for some time. It has so many meanings and thoughts behind the sequences, and colors. The pattern itself is the “Apache Tears Stitch.” I have wanted to do this since the first time I saw it. The “trail of tears” when taken into a prayer has so much meaning.

Consider the natives driven off of their beloved lands and put into reservations. The tears of their lost livelihoods must be a cause for pause as we consider the trials of the modern dilemma. Whether we know the story and plight of those who lived on the plains before us or not, the tearful wailing of change wrought by the hands of another person, reminds us that people can be both cruel and kind.

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with joy” is a spiritual lesson that few really understand. The best example we have for this is childbearing. The idea that birth is brought forth from pain aught to give us great respect for our mothers who bore us. The joy of holding a newborn baby cannot be fully explained without reference to the begetting. While not beautiful on the face, the trailing tears on this shawl are both desirable and attractive. Though Carrie Underwood just debuted her song “You can’t cry pretty” this blanket seems to defy that.

The frosted green, a hint of growth, comes from the leftovers of the new sofa afghan that was made anew. Green signifies growth and spring. We have had our share of long, winter leftovers this April. But a prayer shawl with some green in it gives hope. This same color popped up through our leaf pile over the flower bed this week. It’s shade of pale green indicated that some tulips and irises were trying to find the sunshine. Spring has finally sprung.

Watery Turquoise is both the symbol of tears and washing. A cleansing experience cannot be accomplished without water. So some blue water must be in this shawl. This turquoise was leftover from a doily patterned shawl. I had planned to wear it with my dress for my daughter’s wedding but that didn’t happen.

While blood, sweat and tears characterized our Lord’s prayerful vigil in the garden of the night before his crucifixion, Claret red is the closest color that I could get to blood. The atonement for sin is blood. This is a sacrificial phenomenon that has existed since the first garden’s disobedient rebellion. What prayer shawl would be complete without the hint of this sacrifice? Christ’s tears, his shed blood, and the trail that was left on his face from the crown of thorns upon His brow. What tears I have shed seem so minimal in comparison.

Rosalee pink is color of skin. The skin of the palm of the hand is pink. No matter what color the top of the hand, the palms are all the same. Some years ago I first learned “red and Yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight…”. The pale pink of skin unbleached by the sun was what I though of when I saw this color. The palm and the bottoms of feet are the same hue. Perhaps it’s the pale pink skin that has been bleached by the lack of the sun. While in our flesh we get so distracted with our vanity and our looks that we fail to take into considerations the short time we will be here in these tents. Whatever color your tent is, remember that having an eternal purpose keeps us humble.

In the dark of the night, while the stars burn bright, God never slumbers so don’t you fright. Navy blue is the night sky’s color. While we often sleep all through the night, there are those times when waking, our minds wander towards the care of some individual. Reminding us that God is always watchful can be such a comfort.

Hands folded in prayer have been used for many artisan themes. Some have sculpted wood, stone, and pottery. Others have painted and photographed hands in prayer. One of my favorite pictures is of the elder sitting at the table in prayer. One of both the man and the woman has been done. I haven’t seen this painting in someone’s home for some time.

The pattern of five that is sequentially repeated can teach us so much. When I am asked what I am doing, I often respond with “Counting in sequence.” The stitch for this shawl can be done in many sequences, but because it is a prayer focus, I chose five. Four single crochets (into the back loop chain ) followed by the tear (a dropped treble stitch attached to the third row down). I also chose to double each color in the reminder of two hands folded in prayer.

Five colors in sequence three times. There are so many times that prayers are ended with “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” These three are one. We were blessed recently to attend a local Catholic college spring choir event. After the vocal selections, we visited with two nuns from the monastery. An attendee dipped his fingers into the holy fountain and made the symbol of the three crossed over the heart that we see so frequently. Some forget what it even means. The spiritual baptism and change of heart blessed my thoughts as i considered the gentleman’s actions. The prayer sequenced in three times or words repeated three times are a favorite emphasis tool used in both spoken and written word. So the sequence of the colors is repeated three times. Like prayer morning, noon, and night. Three meals. Three times.

This prayer shawl may have a recipient. Or it may not. I will definitely do another one. I learned I didn’t quite begin with the first chain links long enough for a full wrap of the shoulders, so another one is being constructed in my mind already. Morning, noon, and night the prayers will continue to rise heavenward as I lift up those in need.

While I am sitting in my chair instead of bending on my knees, the project sits on my knees and my prayers continue to rise with each stitch.

Each piece that the choirs sang were prefaced by the tuning sound from the directors pitch pipe. It occurred to me that this little instrument is a lot like the prayer vigils of the nuns. As they go through their days so wholly focused on a Holy God, their days find a rhythm in this pitch pipe of prayer. Oh how I would like to remain in tune throughout my days.

“God answers prayer in the morning,

God answers prayer at noon,

God answers prayer in the evening,

He will keep your heart in tune.”

Four paws-minus one

Hop-along–Cassidy

We have a three legged critter for a few days. I was so worried I made Dad take her to the urgent pet care. It’s just a bad sprain. She’s suppose to rest for three days and take her anti-inflammatory meds at bedtime.

Honestly it hasn’t slowed her down much. She’s just not jumping three feet in the air now. Haha. She’s a little more “clingy” than usual, so we’ll use the opportunity to teach her the word ‘heel.’

When life asks for a pause, how do we take it?

“What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.” Ecclesiastes‬ ‭1:15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Each year as the New Year comes around, January brings with it the bitter winds of winter that demand a different lifestyle. For some people this month is for puzzle solving. For some people it’s a month of catching up on all the episodes of an old favorite television show. For others it’s a chance to read books while laying under layers of blankets. For me, it’s a variety of things.

Reading is not as easily done anymore with the lack of giant print books. One of these days i might actually get that library app on the iPad and read some old books that I enjoyed. But I do have a favorite Bible reading schedule that returns to mind this time of year. There are several reading schedules that are quite simple to remember. Here they are:

Ecclesiastes has twelve chapters. One for each month of the year. It’s easy to remember what month number it is, if you read the first chapter of this book near the first day of the month. Each chapter is full of wisdom and great things to contemplate.

Proverbs has 31 chapters. These can be read in succession with each day of the month. So even if you miss a day of reading, picking the chapter for the day, eventually you will read all the chapters at least a few times throughout the year. It is also packed full of wisdom and common sense.

Psalms has a little more complicated reading pattern. This may require a bit of math! Reading a chapter each day, there are 150 chapters, so it will take five months to complete the book. Or you can read five each day just jumping through the books in multiples of five for the day. Another way is as follows: today is the 20th, read chapters 20, 50, 80, 110, and 140. The 25th day would be five additions of thirty. It’s not too hard. I make a cheat sheet marker of 150 and just cross off the already read.

Gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I try to read them by seasons as follows:

winter is for Mark, because it’s the shortest and daylight is short. Spring is for John because I love his account of the Easter Resurrection story. Summer is for Matthew. And Fall is for Luke because I want to read his account of the nativity several times before the holidays.

There are many different reading schedules for the sciptures. Some people use apps or a 365 Bible. I just really enjoy being creative with my reading patters.

While hop-along (the dog) and I spend the days in a more restful mode, I also like to inventory my yarn piles. But on a nice day, i don’t neglect to get some fresh air. So it was a pleasant surprise to find a ball of thread out in the yard while I marched to and fro picking up sticks and other debris. I decided at that point that my puppy was a thief. The thread was none the worse for it’s trip in the elements. I threw away about a yard of the outer strand. Must be time to work on a doily again, I thought.

My crooked nose cannot be straightened. And the above verse came to mind shortly after I began vainly studying my new look. The swelling has finally abetted, and now the sinuses are trying to discover the new breathing tube! Apparently I have begun sawing the logs through the night. I even woke myself up the other morning.

When something is missing it simply cannot be counted. And though i inventoried my yarn supply and pulled out some projects to finish, I hadn’t even missed the ball of yarn the little thief took. Kind of makes me wonder what else she has stolen. We are well aware that she ate the roll of stamps shortly before Christmas. There were only two left to count that remained stuck to her paw. We have really no idea how many stamps that she ate, fo the lacking cannot be counted!

Four paws minus one, makes our eight month old doodle a bit of a silly noodle right now. Watching her hop isn’t easy, but it’s kind of hard not to laugh when she “acts” like life is misery. She had no sympathy for my broken nose. I took her to the urgent care for a sprained paw but wouldn’t go to the urgent care for my broken nose. Go figure that one out.

Do over

The third time’s the charm

Recycling yarn is probably my favorite past time. If you ask anyone in my family they will tell you that I have ripped out more projects than I have actually crocheted. So here’s the latest story.

A long time ago, my sister gave me some Aran colored yarn to make an Afghan. this long time ago happened to be before I was even married. While my husband is very distracting today, he hasn’t changed much. The Afghan did not get made until I was pregnant with my first child and had more sit time. Thus is the store of the first time use of this yarn.

Then after a few years of marriage and two girls later, we bought this antique sofa from some friends and had it covered in a deep burgundy claret color. I thought the color deserved it’s own afghan and so that’s where the claret came from. While the two twin afghans did not hold up very well in their ever;day use, I also learned my crochet did improve over the years. When we moved to this “green” room living space, the decision was made to take the two apart and add the frosty green and make an everyday use afghan that covered the sofa to keep the doggy paws from catching on the cushions. This worked for nearly sixteen years. There you have the story of the second use of my sister’s gift.

From this tri-colored sofa comfort came an idea to redo. Oh bother. However, with the nest empty of children, and that first time memory of pregnancy and the Aran yarn, it seemed to be a charming moment. Especially since my daughter is now expecting her first we one, this third time recycling has been a very memory making time.

To this basket of yarn balls, made from the once well used sofa protector, same the use of a tri-colored shell stitch that I found las fall. While recovering from the broken rib, I sat staring across the room at the 27 year old thread, and discovered after a washing that the ties had finally lost their grip. This third time would be so charming!

And that. So from this, to this, and that, an afghan has a story also. Though this beginner shell pattern is quite simple, it’s large hook simplicity came in quite a blessing. The pattern that I discovered while studying pictures during the rib-healing, came in as the savior to my passing time during my broken nose-healing time. While I couldn’t wear my glasses on the bridge of my nose, the large hook pattern didn’t.need my concentrated vision. So I past the time healing my nose, with a crochet pattern that kept me quite warm during the frigid temperatures of early January.

Finally, I recycled the yarn that had held up through all the washings and even had a bit left over. The living room is no longer green. Now it’s brown. And though the new neutral color these days is gray, the frosty green, Aran, clarets crocheted blanket will probably last another 27 years if the dog doesn’t decide to use it too often.

If it’s string

Then it must be yarn

Today I sat on the deck carding some very dirty wool. This is the preparation to spinning the wool into singles-yarmn.  I found it quite fascinating to be the daily WordPress prompt for today. I spend the majority of my time thinking about yarn. 

Last night I searched for an hour trying to find a specific pattern for some woolyhat was ready for a shawl. It took me over three hours into the day this morning to remember that I wanted to try that pattern. Here’s how the rough-spun looks after a days work.


My fascination with yarn began as a child when my grandmother taught me how to crochet. It seems that she taught quite a few of her grandchildren. I have a sister that crochets and knits and a cousin or two that enjoy the craft.  


But it wasn’t until my adulthood shepherd days that I began to crave wool.  It was given to me as gifts and soon I began purchasing the expensive stuff on my own. Thus the desire for a spinning wheel. 

I am blessed to have married into a family of gift-gives and soon was overwhelmed with an Ashford travelier. It is beautifully made of wood and I enjoyed finishing the wheel with some nice poly-red oak finish.  Finishing wood is another story to tell.

My first project became a hat and fingerless gloves. While my first fully carded wool from self to finish became a hat that I gave away to one of my sisters.  I made another for myself soon after.  With our bitter Dakota winter winds a woo garment or two is a nescessity.  The hat or the turtle is the easiest project for homespun yarn as my spinning hasn’t been perfected yet and those objects call for the smaller amounts of yarn that my efforts produce. 

There are many crafts that involve the use of string. But in my humble opinion if it’s string that it must be yarn. Although I  have even learned to crochet with doily thread, but I never do just that. The tiny detail requires rest time for the eyes. Having some bulky yarn handy to do an easy crochet project gives relief to the eyes but keeps the fidgeting fingers pussy  My daughter once said that I was a “lazy”crocheter.  So I proved her wrong by challenging myself with new patterns every once in awhile. 

My ball of string is endless on this topic.  It’s like the beginning chain stitch that knows no other, going on until one runs out of the skein. That won’t happen anytime soon. As long as I have wool, the tools to spin some yarn, and the ability to look up new patterns the craft lives on.