Many Christian persons of faith take up a discipline for the season of Lent—often vowing to do without a comfort or luxury; or adopting a practice of prayer or service for the 40 penitential days. This year, for the second year running, the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) invites knitters to take on a spiritual practice of knitting. The communal offering of time and the fruits of that time, knitted hats, will be distributed to hardworking mariners working the United States’ inland rivers.
“The thing about knitting, and specifically this Knit 4 Lent challenge, is that it is not only a practice of volunteering, but the very practice of knitting is also a form of prayer for many people, regardless of their denomination or religion,” says Jeanette DeVita, Director of the Christmas at Sea volunteer knitting program. “At the same time, knitting can be an offering of time and talent.”
DeVita says that, in her role as Director of the knitting program, she regularly hears stories of knitters who report that, through their craft, they have gained strength during difficult times or illnesses. She relates that some tell her they use knitting to count prayers or infuse garments stitch-by-stitch with good wishes. Knitters who send their completed crafts to SCI will often include a note with a story of knitting, according to DeVita, a creative process that requires an amount of skill and attention.
“There is a twist on this year’s spiritual discipline of knitting for Lent,” says DeVita. The twist she refers to is what in knitters’ language is called “cabling,” crossing one group of stitches over another. DeVita assures first-time cablers that the technique is easily mastered. She says, “It can result in some striking, imaginative patterns.”
The twisting, or weaving patterns created by cabling, can also have implications for Lent, offers DeVita. “The incorporation of cabling provides an outward, visible mark on the garment of being woven together.” For the mariners who receive these knitted hats through the SCI program, the twists of the cable design mirror the ropes that harness cargo or connect a vessel to the shore, and the designs also recall the connection between the knitter and the garment’s wearer.
All knitted items have by their nature symbols of “connectedness,” according to DeVita, so the Knit 4 Lent challenge is not limited only to hats with cable designs. With a goal of 4,000 hats, DeVita believes that a variety of hat designs will be submitted. “In the community of knitters, I hope that we can rally the troops to bring in an overwhelming amount of knitted items this Lent.” All knitters, regardless of whether they use this challenge as a spiritual practice or not, can contribute to the project.
For more information, patterns, and to share your stories of knitting, visit the SCI Christmas at Sea volunteer knitting program’s blog at blogs.seamenschurch.org.