Not long ago I could count the number of things I had made with my hands… on one hand. There was the obligatory pillowcase in Home Ec, that horrid attempt at a dress when my mother tried to teach me the ways of a seamstress, the needlepoint I made as a bored and budding eight year old. Sadly, none of those skills followed me into adulthood, but years later their absence haunted me.
And so, six months ago I learned to knit, from a You Tube video nonetheless. I lamented that it wasn’t at the feet of my sweet grandma in her rocking chair that this skill was passed down to me, but sometimes you have to take what you can get. Since that moment when I twisted that first strand of yarn awkwardly around my shiny new needle, a skill that used to be a necessity and is now a faddish hobby has begun to open my eyes to more of the heart behind hand work.
The popularity of crafting as a recreational activity or hobby has risen in recent years. Today the Hobby Lobbies and other superstores hold everything we could hope for in any crafting area we might desire. But in my return to the simple, time-honored tradition of knitting, I wonder if there is something more to it.
Recently I came across a quote from a book (that I have not yet read) and could not get it out of my mind.
“Failing to notice a gift dishonors it, and deflects the love of the giver… But to turn the gift in your hands, to say, this is wonderful and beautiful, this is a great gift– this honors the gift and the giver of it….notice the gift. Be astonished at it. Be glad for it, care about it. Keep it in mind. This is the greatest gift a person can give in return. ‘This is your work,’ my friend told me, ‘which is work of substance and prayer and mad attentiveness, which is the real deal, which is why we are here.'”
-Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature by Kathleen Dean Moore.
The ability to make something with your hands requires time, thought, skill, and perseverance. And then to give it to another—that is love. Perhaps a part (not the whole, but a part) of our lack of care for our things and for one another is because of an absence of making and giving things with our hands. An absence of time spent, of thought lingered on, of skill labored over and above all the sacrifice and service and pouring out of love.
I want to make things and give gifts that are of substance and prayer and mad attentiveness. And I want to be thankful for the things I have and the gifts that have been given me in the same manner.
I look at the simple knit hat in my hands, stitched carefully, somewhat imperfectly, but knowing it is the real deal as is the person I am gifting it to. I think on handmade gifts I have been given: sweaters, scarves, trees, soft grass, vegetables, fresh eggs, children, a husband, friends, neighbors… and the mad attentiveness and prayer poured into those gifts makes me weak with gratefulness.
Perhaps the current trend in handmade crafting is not just a cultural fad, but something our souls need and long and were even created for.
Have you considered the importance of the work and craftsmanship that pours from your hands? Whether it is with thread or thimble, bread or butter, or something entirely different?
Have you considered the importance of the handmade gifts you have been given, whether by a loved one or neighbor or Creator?Leave a Comment
Southern Gal says
That quote is amazing. Some of the most meaningful items in my life were handcrafted by my grandmother just for me. I soak in her love everytime I gaze at them. I’m trying to be very deliberate in the items I handcraft for my children and now their children. I want to give a little piece of myself.
And I have been wanting to learn to knit for so long, but was afraid I couldn’t do it. You’ve inspired me!
You can! you can!
I like the way you say “give a little piece of myself”… it seems to wrap both love and sacrifice up together and place it in someone else’s hands.
I am so inspired too; and to teach my daughter. (lol after I learn!) It’s never too late right!
never too late… I keep saying I’m going to become a knitting evangelist. It’s so wonderful, I think everyone should learn!
While reading your post I couldn’t help but think about the current fad of giving Gift Cards. Not exactly something that required ” time, thought, skill, and perseverance prayer and mad attentiveness, sacrifice, service and the pouring out of love,” Another example of another seemingly innocent and morally neutral cultural shift in practice may have a deeply negative impact on We, the People who make up that culture.
It’s true. I think it’s important to think about the ramifications of what we’re doing with the material goods around us. And then I read too much Laura Ingalls Wilder and it just makes me want to make everything from scratch:)
Denese B. says
Gee, Christine, thank you so much for sharing that quote! Wow!!!
Marilyn from AsGoodaDayasAny says
Lovely quote, lovely post.
You reminded me of the socks Ann was gifted with, each prayed-over stitch.
“Mad attentiveness” – great expression. The holidays approaching but still far off, a good time to think of whose direction we can throw some mad attentivenss toward. You’ve inspired me today.
Thank you for that link. I loved that “mad attentiveness” line too… it keeps popping in my head even when I’m doing something a little less charming than knitting… like scrubbing dirty dishes.
makes me want to go through my craft closet this weekend and make some new things…craft and make something with my hands. Thank you for this post and for the beautiful quote from that book.
This quote “I want to make things and give gifts that are of substance and prayer and mad attentiveness.” is amazing! I am not ‘crafty’ at all. But I feel this about the words of encouragement I write or share – words can be ‘handmade’ gifts too!
To Think Is To Create says
This post spoke straight to my soul. Focusing on the life-things that carry meaning. The details. The heart.
Holley Gerth says
Christine, I love this perspective. You got to the heart of handmade. I’m one of those women who is scared silly to make anything. I worry that I won’t get it “right.” As I read your post, the verse “love casts out fear” came to mind. That made me feel so much better! It’s not about perfection but about love–about embracing a gift and creating one in return. Thank you!
a post in itself… this is a great point and good to think on. Thanks Holley.
Oh, goodness! Your words stir me up to make a decision that has been lingering all week. I will make the quilt for them as a wedding gift – even if the wedding is only 3 weeks away. It will be the best expression of our love and will cover them all the days of their life together. Your words came exactly when I needed to hear them. Thank you so much – as I go to the kitchen to make more batches of salsa and chutney – and some will be given away :))
Christina! I just saw your post on incourage & loved it 🙂 I’ve been knitting & crocheting for 5 years and somewhere lost my passion for it and am trying to did it again. Where do you get your patterns? Besides your kids who else do you make things for? My biggest problems are
1. Finding people or charities to make things for. Any ideas?
2. Being able to make contemporary, stylish pieces. It seems like all charities that make knits are somewhat frumpy.
Would love your input
well I am a beginner with knitting so don’t have too much to offer in the way of advice. I have a friend who is also trying to rekindle her flame:) so maybe you two should talk! But so far I have made mostly things for nieces/nephews, new babies arriving, friend’s children (this is where the handmade hits the road… who knows if all my work will really be appreciated– but that’s where the prayers part has gotten me), etc. I also know of someone who knit for local hospitals, especially in poor areas.
As far as patterns, I adore ravelry.com, maybe you already know of it… they have tons of free patterns and lots of stylish, fun ideas.
I hope the passion returns for you… but even if not, there are likely other things with which you spend your handmade care on that can be those gifts of mad attentiveness! Blessings to you!
Thanks Christine! I do have a ravelry account. My name is roxiequeenbaby (haha, cheesy i know! It’s after my dog). Anyways, you do a great job for a beginner, I looked at your blog but my comment didn’t go through. The vest for your daughter is adorable
Michelle DeRusha says
This is a beautiful post…and I just had to tell you…I own that book, and I LOVE it. I’ve read it through like 3 times — it absolutely speaks to me!
I have knitted for 2 years and initially started to deal with my own stress. Now anytime I my friends or family have a “challenge” (happy or sad), I knit something up for them and pray for them while knitting it. When I give it to them, I let them know it was knit specifically for them, I prayed for them while I was knitting, and every time they use the item they should think of it as a hug from me. Perfectionism is detrimental to crafting! Some of my favorite projects were “mistakes”! The awesome part of knitting is that if something isn’t working, you just frog it (rip it out) and start again. Sometimes that is the most therapeutic part! As for knitting for charity, the easiest thing to do is google “craftivsim”. Lots of ideas. One group I have knit for is Save the Children (www.SavetheChildren.org). Check with local hospitals, homeless shelters, and knitting groups.
Thanks Jennifer, I will have to check them out 🙂
Mel's World with Melissa Mashburn says
What a fantastic reminder…I loved your insight, your reflection and your sincere desire to share. Thanks! I am not the most “crafty” person in the world, but I do like to create (when time permits) and over the years I have painted and quilted.
The quilting is something that both of my great grandmothers did and having pieces of their work, even the unfinished pieces, brings me closer to them and allows me to share that with my kids. I haven’t quilted in over 10 years now but there will be another season when I will.
Thanks for the reminder of the “mad attentiveness” that comes along with receiving these gifts as well.
xoxo, Melissa 🙂
captivating fi says
I love what you have opened up here with handmade. I beleive there is a revisiting and renewing of these arts right now. I myself only started knitting about 6 months age and am doing a few sewing projects too. I read alot of the ladies comments and alot of them say ‘ I am not very crafty’. I was the same I always used to say ‘I’m not very creative’. And I always avoided those crafts because I was scared of messing it up. Then I started to change the way I thought and spoke. I sarted to say ‘ I am creative’, ‘I love creating with my hands.’ I recently wrote a post about HANDMADE (http://wwwshematters.blogspot.com/2010/08/handmade.html) because it is not only the end product in creating something, it is the whole process of what happens in THE MIDST of creating it. I really think God is showing and highlighting to many women across the globe, that they can create with their very hands. After all He is a CREATOR, why shouldn’t we be the same as our Heavenly Father? Love to you <3
Love fi xxx
Mandie Segura says
I learned to sew earlier this year, & have been working on making ALL of my Christmas gifts this year. I have really enjoyed learning this craft & knowing what I’m capable of. 🙂 It’s a really great feeling.