Friday, November 03, 2006

For All the Unitarian Universalist Knitters Out There

Please read this important letter from Rev. Tracy Sprowls Jenks.

Dear Friends,

I am starting a project called UUs Knit! (A Caps to the Capital Project).

In many poor countries four million newborns die each year within the
first month of life, two million of these die in the first 24 hours of
life. A few simple health measures can be provided that would prevent
this huge loss of life such as antibiotics, training to birth attendants,
immunizations, education on breastfeeding and basic care such as keeping
the baby dry and warm.

Here is where we come in! I am collecting 1000 knit caps from my
congregation and the UU congregations around the continent. I need
knitters in your congregations to be informed about this project. Then,
have knitting circles! Teach your RE children how to knit! Knit away and
then send me the caps you have knitted! I will gather all our knitted
caps and then I will mail them to Save the Children (under the UU name)
and then they will be shared with President Bush to draw attention to this
very fixable problem.

Click here for patterns and more information about Caps to the Capitol.

It is this simple: knit a cap (or two), give them to Tracy Sprowls Jenks,
and save the life of a child! Look for future notices on this soon.
Shortly, I will have posters available to hang on your bulletin boards in
your congregations.

My contact information is below. Please let me know how I can help get
this project off the ground in your congregation. The goal is to collect
1000 knit caps by December 28th. That's 1000 children whose lives will be
saved. Imagine what these children could contribute to the world!

This project runs from now thru the end of December. I will mail all
caps by December 28th.
Rev. Tracy Sprowls Jenks
Religious Education Minister
Unitarian Society of Ridgewood
113 Cottage Place, Ridgewood, NJ 07450

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Yarn Basket Upgrade

I harbor a lovely image of sensible knitters: one discrete basket of yarn and a few needles resting artfully against the edge of a sofa or rocking chair, preferably in the vicinity of a black cat who would never dream of shedding on a work-in-progress. I myself went to Trader Joe’s and purchased a lovely basket. It was even lined so little pieces of basket would not get caught into my yarn. And I rested it in the living room, at the corner of the loveseat.

My perfect little basket of knitting.

For about three days.

Until I admitted that I also had to count the two humongous plastic containers large enough to store quilts which I have hidden in the basement. And two beloved friends (including my housemate) are allergic to cats, so I cannot have any (much as my witchy self might mourn). Two days after that I made the mistake of visiting the local yarn store. Then I had my cute little basket, and two pink bags which were required to haul home my latest fiber debauchery. My yarn basket kept expanding as I decided that more materials had to come upstairs from the basement containers to satisfy my projects’ needs.

Soon we had to break ground on the LunarAwe Living Room Pile of Knitting Crap… I mean Supplies… which began to take on a life of their own. There was nothing cute about this. So I felt I had to share my latest joy which came under the guise of a 50% sale on summer bags… which were just perfect! Yarn baskets which can be tucked under your arm as needed. You will see my original “cute” yarn basket mixed in with the others. At least there are no more plastic bags in the living room corner.

I think we could all benefit from Yarn Basket Confessionals on a regular basis. It clears the mind! If you would like to share any of your own, write to us at


Monday, August 07, 2006

Shimmering Prayer

I am not as accomplished as my sister and brother directors; I knit more from prayer than skill. This project is a prayer shawl in progress for a dear friend struggling with serious illness. I cannot be with her, but to knit for her is to hold her constantly in the light, and probably does more for me than for her.
Having said that, the experience of working on this piece is making me ambitious. I gaze longingly at sweaters and ruanas, and even the lowly (!) sock--all of which is currently beyond my capacity. But fall is coming, along with committee meetings of every kind. I'll be signing up for a "Beyond the Basics" class any day now so that I can sit and knit and listen with more compassion as the church year begins.....

Sister Mary Purl
Board of Directors

Friday, August 04, 2006

Garter Stitch Revenge

I had just finished that beautiful lace wrap for the Irreverent Reverend Mr. SpeedySox. I was recovering from the journey which began with two and ran all the way up to three hundred and seventy-two stitches of Estonian Leaf Lace and I thought, "Enough!"


There would be no more yarn-overs haunting my dreams just waiting to slip off the tips of my needles. There would be no more wondering how they managed to leave a typo in a forty-five line repeating lace pattern. There would be no more fiddling with tiny brass beads while wondering if they really do make crochet hooks small enough to be useful (turns out they do… every knitter on the planet should visit Lacis in Berkeley, CA). There would be no more nightmares of baptizing an armload of wool incorrectly and ruining that final moment of blocking... at least not for a while.

For a while I would knit something simple… something that challenges a different portion of my brain... something which requires no memorization whatsoever. Something in… you guessed it… garter stitch.

I had help with this garter stitch conspiracy. Inspiration came from Cheryl Oberle, the author of two glorious books of knitting patterns: Folk Shawls and Folk Vests. Her pattern for a Ruana seemed absolutely perfect. I am a huge fan of warm, colorful wraps. Ruanas are traditional among many of my peoples. How could anyone not love wearing something that is basically a blanket slit halfway up the middle so it covers your back, splits around your neck and hangs down on either side in front? This project would allow me to fondle and purchase several types of delicious yarns since variety is, in fact, the point. Basically it was an invitation to weaving on knitting needles.


My belief in honesty compels me to tell you that I do in fact love my Ruana-in-progress (high marks to the first person who notices how many bazillions of projects I currently have in progress) in all its colorful glory. Yet I think the garter stitch itself is getting back at me for all those years when I was disdainful of its usefulness… crabby from all those projects-gone-wrong before my grandmother agreed to teach me something else. I have to witness to the fact that deciding between shades of red, streaks of purple, fiber content, enough sparkle?, too little?, and everything in between requires almost as much concentration as the lace did.

So much for taking a breather.

Off I go… (dreaming of that lace altar cloth whose yarn is burning a hole in my basket).

Board of Directors

Monday, July 31, 2006

Liberal Religious Knitting

So how often do you find yourself justifying your knitting in Unitarian Universalist settings?

Just this past General Assembly in St. Louis, I was confronted by a woman who labeled my knitting, "so... domestic." You know, with that pause that lasted just long enough for me to contemplate speed-knitting a swatch to stuff in her mouth. Then, sadly, I thought better of it.

Since when does creating art with my own hands somehow diminish my power as a female minister? When did domestic become a bad thing? If (as a colleague wondered recently) God had not invented stores, wouldn’t my skills be celebrated? Where would the religious educator, minister, or administrator on the go acquire that oh-so-tasteful sweater set?

Personal soap box (and annoyance at having too-little knitting time at GA) aside… how is it that we as Unitarian Universalists express our values in our knitting?

One of my favorite ways comes back to fair trade goods. Coffee hour in our various congregations and societies is often blessed with fair trade coffee and tea, but I am missing good dialogue in the UU Movement about fair trade yarns and other knitting supplies.

Two favorite suppliers come immediately to mind, and I think we should support them.

Manos del Uruguay (hands of Uruguay) is a glorious collective of women in Uruguay who create some of the most stunningly lush yarns I have ever seen. Whether you are called by solids or multis these yarns will incite your fiber lust, and this nonprofit organization is worth your yarn-splurge dollars.

I myself succumbed to the glory of their yarn. Above is my in-progress sweater in the round in Manos #13 – green. The all-over cabling will hopefully help keep me warm in the freezing winter everyone tells me is on its way.

For those moments when we express our religious values by living simply, Knit Picks is a life saver. This company was started by a knitter who, to put it simply, decided that knitting was too expensive and that the people raising sheep, goats, rabbits, and alpaca probably were not supported by our extravagant habit. She made that better by contracting those same people to do spinning, dying, and packaging (and keeping revenue in the countries where the animals are raised) and as she says… passing on the savings to us! I love a company that lets me feel good about spending under $30 to knit a sweater that covers my large and comfortable body.

May your projects benefit others!


Board of Directors

A little bit about The Guuild

Right now, we're just a small (very small...think change-the-skein-every-two-bleeping-rows small) group of UU RPK's (gotta have an acronym!) who love the serious and the silly in the spiritual and the spun. We've noticed that there are many of you--

yes, you...and you...and you, too, back there in the corner, hiding behind the ficus tree in the sanctuary...We see you...

--who knit.

You've shown up at GA, in committee meetings, at Ferry Beach on Quillen porch during RE week (ahem!), in sanctuaries, classes, choir, and shawl ministry gatherings. You've made each stitch into a contemplative practice. You enter yarn shops with a combination of lust and reverence that would make our Puritan ancestors' skins crawl. We've seen you. We know you.

We are you.

And we decided it was time to announce ourselves to the blogosphere. We hope that you'll find this a place where patterns can be traded, stories swapped, pictures posted, and the interconnected web made real in yarn and word. But we know you have questions, so...

Board of Directors?
Yes. Every guild has to have one...even if the only authority they have is to post now and then and check the email for the blog.

Good grief! Is The Guuild a UUA affiliate?

A non-profit?

A membership organization?
Well, if by that you mean members knit and are UU religious professionals, then sure. But we don't do dues, registrations, or arcane initiation rituals.


We're thinking about that lace shawl on size 1 needles with all the fiddly bits as our hazing process. You know...that shawl. The one that you secretly lust after, but simultanously pooh-pooh as too old-fashioned, or too lacy, or just too-too. That's the one...all lighter than air and easily snagged. Now, make it out of thinnest bouclé mohair. In pale grey that disappears in the light.

Consider the gauntlet (faux chain mail, of course -- choose your glove pattern in silver metallic) thrown!

May you never drop a stitch!
The Irreverent Reverend Mr.SpeedySox
Board of Directors

Shawl Ministry: The Thread of Love

Many of you by now have heard of the phenomenal work of Janet Bristow and Victoria Galo, founders of the Prayer Shawl Ministry. These women have worked with many to create physical reminders of the interconnected web – helping others to feel an unconditional embrace as they experience life’s greatest challenges and joys. Their purpose is simple. Through prayer, intention, generosity, and love members of various religious organizations and knitting groups (I hear there are crocheters, weavers, and machine knitters as well) make shawls to give to others in need. Bristow and Galo have collected stories, photos, patterns, and prayers on their site which truly does encourage us to find new ways to knit at work.

Their ministry helps thousands to feel wrapped in the arms of God.

This call for physical embodiments of intercessory prayer has served to inspire Unitarian Universalists across the continent. At the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Poconos in Stroudsburg they tag each finished shawl with a poem by one of their members, Jim Elsaesser:

One fine thread
Runs through the fabric of this shawl
A thread of all the colors,
The memories and moments,
And faces through the years.
It is the thread of love.

The UU Fellowship of Fayetteville has founded Hook and Needle, a fiber arts Ministry. The Unitarian Society of New Haven's Shawl Ministry is going strong. The UU Fellowship of Harrisonburg, Virginia was gifted with every's knitter's favorite dream when they received as a donation the contents of an entire knitting store! They put this dream to excellent use by starting the Belva Redmon Knitting Guild which benefits their community by knitting.

Who says you can't knit in church?

If you have inspiring knitting stories to share, projects to bemoan, or interest in The Guuild feel free to email us at

Happy Knitting!

Board of Directors