Jennifer Gingerich is a Clinical Chaplain at Providence Portland Medical Center in Portland, OR and an active member at Salem (OR) Mennonite Church. She graduated from Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in 2012 with a Master of Divinity degree concentrating in Pastoral Care and Counseling. She enjoys spending time with her friends and family (especially her nieces and nephews), playing games, reading, knitting, music, and listening to all of the Harry Potter books repeatedly.
It all began in 2005 when I moved back to my home area and initially had a distance to commute. My aunts lent me all their audio books for me to listen to on my drive to and from work. I left the Harry Potter books for last because I was determined not to listen to them at all. They were exceedingly popular and I deemed them a fad not worth getting into.
After some convincing from my aunt, and for lack of anything else to listen to at the time, that March I begrudgingly started book one. I was hooked right from the get-go and would find myself getting home or to work and sitting in the car listening. My housemates would sometimes arrive home over an hour later than me and find me still sitting in my car listening! I decided it had to stop. I dug my old “Walkman” (!!) out of a box and cleaned the house so I could keep listening. Then I did all the dishes, reorganized my room, put together all the puzzles in the house, and I was still only on book two. What was I going to do so I had a good excuse to keep going through books three, four and five (six and seven weren’t written yet)?
That was when I decided it was time to take up knitting.
My mom had tried to teach me to knit when I was a kid. I already knew how to crochet, so she worked with me to get my long skinny fingers to coordinate the two needles together. I got so fed up and frustrated. As an impatient and stubborn child (okay – I admit these are still qualities that I can draw on!) I have memory of throwing down the needles and refusing the impossibility of the task. I felt too clumsy.
Needing a new craft, I decided to fight with the needles once again and tame my impatience. My housemate retaught me the basics of casting the yarn on the needle, and I sought tutelage from my mom (and she patiently dealt with my initial clumsiness and frustration once again) on how to hold the yarn and needles the way she does (aka the “right” way – because she is also stubborn and refused to let me knit any other “slower” way).
With the basics, I sat in our most comfortable chair, kicked my feet up, pressed play on the Walkman, and started in knitting.
I knitted dishcloths at first. Back and forth, knit and purl. Working out the correct yarn tension, practicing making even stitches. My first dishcloth ended up really tight and stiff. The second ended up tight at one end and really loose at the other end. In time, and chapters later, I finally had the tension. I made dozens of dishcloths as gifts before moving on to scarves, and then hats. I made up the patterns as I went, experimenting with different stitches and combinations.
Eventually I learned how to read and follow other people’s patterns, as well as make my own variations and bring in other colors, threads, etc.
Like any skill, knitting took a lot of practice and it has become a spiritual practice as well. Sometimes when I need some quiet prayer time, to keep my mind from wandering I’ll pick up a simple knitting project that doesn’t take any concentration. I knit and allow my mind to focus on whatever is weighing on my mind, or simply am quiet and listen for that still small voice within.
I have given away most of the products of my knitting as gifts, but I’ve kept a few for myself as well. There is something really satisfying about being able to make some of the gifts I give and pour my love, energy and prayers into the projects for the specific people they’re made for. One of my favorite projects was a prayer shawl I crafted for a woman in my church. I sought the perfect pattern to fit her personality and spirituality, yarn colors that would suit her well, and prayed my way through the whole thing. Probably my greatest knitting accomplishment is the R2D2 sweater and hat combo that I created based off a picture I saw on the Internet.
From dishcloths and scarves, hats and mittens, socks and slippers, to afghans and sweaters, knitting is a creative expression of my energy and love for others. It’s usually considerably more expensive for me to knit something for someone than just buy a similar item, but I love being able to give a product of significance that I have made. I have a long list of projects I want to work on and I’m behind on making promised items for a variety of people. Currently I am finishing a wedding afghan for a friend who got married in July, and I have many slippers on my list of things to make. Someday I hope to craft a special afghan for myself that symbolizes my spiritual journey. I’ve collected different patterns I want to combine into a knitted whole that shares some of who I am that I can snuggle under when I need the warm embrace of God especially near.
When I started knitting it was little more than an excuse to sink into the magical world of Harry Potter. Now knitting is a bit of real-world magic as I craft a skein of yarn into a beautiful creation made with love.