The Fiber Art Saints: Mary, Untier of Knots

The Fiber Art Saints is a series based in the history of the church and how the fiber arts were used by the Holy Spirit as a means to draw people closer to God. 

As a fiber artist, especially if you work with yarn or thread, you know about knots.

Believe me, there is probably not a knot configuration or gnarled up skein that you have not encountered. Am I right? Bring them on!

Mary, Untier of Knots,    Johan Georg  Schmidtner, c. 1700         Wikipedia

Maybe you are such a whiz with knots that you pride yourself on not using scissors to free your fiber. I can’t say that. Sometimes I do use scissors. However, they are a last resort because who wants to weave in more ends? For this reason, I’m pretty good at getting knots out without a lot of angst. Untying knots are just part of working with yarn.

One thing about untying knots in fiber is that the larger the knot the more fiber the knot involves. With a lot of knots you have to pick through the entire mess to find a good place to begin unraveling.

Like yarn, “knots” can take over aspects of our lives in our dealings with people. You’ve seen how it works – you have probably experienced it yourself.  An ill-timed remark triggers hidden anger; an innocent joke causes someone to hold a grudge; a lifetime of competition between siblings can erupt into bitterness; a parent-child relationship is strained over the past hurts. A marriage turns sour as a result of a betrayal or built-up hurts.  As humans, our feelings are not immune to the faults, sins and foibles of others.

In fact, it was a soured marriage on the verge of divorce that caused a priest to ask the Virgin Mary to untie the tangled knots of the relationship. When the relationship was healed, someone commissioned the painting by Johan Georg Schmidtner shown at right.

Now, as a Protestant, I do not pray to saints, but our Catholic brothers and sisters have a long tradition of venerating the saints. I do not believe, as many Protestants do, that Catholic doctrine encourages the worship of saints, as in idol worship. This may be done on an individual level or in certain congregations, but as a whole Catholics do not idolize saints. “Veneration” simply means to deeply respect or honor. Praying to a saint is like asking for help where ever you can get it. The saints are with God, so why not ask them to pray to God in person on your behalf? Perhaps scriptural backing could be, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20).

The concept of Mary untying knots is derived from a work by St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus haereses (Against Heresies). In Book III, Chapter 22, he presents a parallel between Eve and Mary, describing how “the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.”*

The knots of our lives take divine assistance to overcome. Christians have known this for centuries. Like Jesus used everyday examples to illustrate his points, the Church Universal has also done this. As an untier of knots, I can relate to the knots in fiber representing the tangled mess of relationships. Perhaps, next time I have to untie a knot I might ask the Lord to untangle the messes that I know about, whether they are in my relationships or in someone else’s.  Maybe God will use our prayer to unravel the knots in people’s lives to set them free.


Let’s be grateful


Last weekend, my youngest son starred in the play “Heaven Help the Po’taters” at his high school. The students did a tremendous job with the melodrama. The audience roared with laughter at several parts. Here is the cast after a job well done. 15129594_10207530425835211_2019505732714372854_o

During the intermission, the students didn’t get a break. They entertained us with jokes and we sang songs from the time period of the melodrama, such as “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” and “Shine on Harvest Moon.” These are songs that nowadays everyone seems to know the tune but not the lyrics. Because of this, my son said, his fellow actors sang softly.

Then their demeanor changed as they started singing:

Gloom, despair and agony on me; Deep dark depression, unending misery. If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all. Gloom, despair and agony on me.

As they sang, the students were louder and there were broad grins. They enjoyed singing the old “Hee Haw” tune and added their own exaggerated miseries to it. I remember this song from my childhood, as I sat in front of the television watching the old comedy hour. It always made me laugh and it still does.

While I think the intention of this song is to get us to think that we don’t have it so bad, a lot of people seem to enjoy concentrating on every little thing that ails them. In fact, they concentrate on it so much that they actually become miserable.  Even for people who don’t concentrate solely on their own problems,  it can actually take a lot of effort to tear our thoughts away from what we may think is our gloom and despair.

In church recently, our pastor said that the barometer to our spiritual life is whether or not we are grateful. This statement really stayed with me, especially as the Thanksgiving holidays approach. In the U.S.A, we have just reached the end of a heated election. I think we focused so much on what makes us angry that we have lost sight of why we should be grateful. I don’t usually get political on this blog, but the lack of gratefulness in my country when we have so much is really apparent this year. People are even willing to go so far as to break relationships and spread news that isn’t true just to get what they think they need. It’s rather distressing. As we draw near to Thanksgiving Day it seems more acute.  According to the press, some people have said that they are not meeting with their families due to the political divide.

Even in this difficult atmosphere, I am thankful for my country. I am thankful for many things – God, family, a sturdy house, food on the table, a warm bed, Fall weather. There are so many things that I can’t name them all.

I like this quote:

O Infinite Father, I’m grateful to Thee
For the moon and the stars and deep rolling sea;
For beauties of nature, where e’er they may be…
For the handclasp of friends, so firm and so true;
For sunrise and sunset and glistening dew;
The fleecy white clouds and the Heavens, so blue;
For these wonderful gifts, dear Lord, I thank you!

~Gertrude T. Buckingham, “My Song of Thanksgiving”

And, this one …

Wouldn’t it be an exhilarating tonic for the soul to take a moment to appreciate the simple, good things in life which are so bountiful…? ~Author unknown, c.1949

Thanking God for simple, ordinary, even dull things enables us to remain grateful during difficulty. For, as Jean Baptiste Massieu said, “gratitude is the memory of the heart.”

I also like what Frank A. Clark said, “If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.”

Indeed. It’s hard to be around ungrateful people, isn’t it?  They tend to suck the joy right out of you.

Speaking of joy, I recently came across this quote from mystic David Steindl-Rast: “The root of joy is gratefulness.”

No matter where you live, no matter what is happening, if we are grateful we will have joy.

Have a joyful Thanksgiving!


The Fruit of Generosity in crafting

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Galatians 5: 22, 23  

The fruit of generosity, or goodness, is next on our list of Fruits of the Spirit. Like the fruit of kindness this one sounds obvious in relation to crafting as well.

Andreas F. Borchert **

According to Dr. George Lyons*, “generosity”, or “goodness”,  is essentially the same thing as kindness. It “describes loving actions that contribute to the well-being, building-up and salvation of others,” he writes. And like the other fruits, generosity/goodness can only be given by God. “Jesus claims that goodness fully applies only to God (Matt 19:17; Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19),” Lyons says; therefore, God is the only one who can enable us to be good.

God’s goodness expresses divine love and when we act in goodness – when we build others up, promote their well-being and contribute to their salvation – we are enacting the goodness of God.  Can a non-believer also act in goodness? I believe so. There are plenty of people who do good things but, as James says, everything that is good comes from the Father (James 1:17). God can act through anyone; we just need to remember that our acts of goodness, or generosity, are not what saves us (Ephesians 2: 8, 9).

How does crafting fit into all of this? We can certainly be generous with what we make. It is said, in fact, that crafters are some of the most generous people out there. I believe that where the fruit of goodness, or generosity, fits in is when we are in tune with the Spirit through prayer. The simple question, “What shall I make, Lord Jesus?” and obedience can lead to the perfect item for the person you want to bless.

I came across a story in Acts 9 that demonstrates this. Tabitha, or Dorcas, was very generous with her sewing skills. The targets of her generosity were the widows that she knew. In those days, widows had it very difficult because they lived in a society where they were largely uneducated and, therefore, completely dependent on the men in their lives. In that society, widows did not have their basic needs met unless someone helped them. Dorcas, who the Bible says was “devoted to good works and acts of charity” met a great need by hand sewing clothing (can you imagine?) for these women. Unfortunately, Dorcas became ill and died. The women were so distraught that the church sent for the Apostle Peter right away.

Upon his arrival, the women showed Peter everything that Dorcas had made for them. Peter then sent them from the room where Dorcas’ body was, prayed, and then told the dead woman to get up. And she did! God had showed his goodness and love to these widows through Peter and had restored Dorcas to them. We assume that Dorcas carried out her mission of sewing until the next time she died.

As crafters and artists, we too can bless others with what we make or do for as long as we live. We can show God’s love and mercy through the skills with which God has blessed us whether it’s through some kind of craft or art, through cooking and baking, by playing a musical instrument or writing encouraging notes. The best way to accomplish this is to ask God what to do and then do it.

*The New Beacon Bible Commentary on Galatians, page 352.

**Fruit of the Holy Spirit, Stained glass window at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, depicting the Fruit of the Holy Spirit along with role models representing them, i.e. the Good Shepherd representing love, an angel holding a scroll ofGloria in excelsis Deo representing joy and Jesus Christ,Job representing longsuffering, Jonathan faith, Ruth gentleness and goodness, Moses meekness, and John the Baptist temperance. Executed byHardman & Co. in the 1870s.[1]

Gifts for fiber lovers

Are you wondering what kind of gift to buy for your favorite fiber enthusiast? Here are my picks of affordable gifts from Etsy.

This keychain from michellemach would be great for any yarn enthusiast – weaver, spinner, knitter, crocheter. It’s the gift that says it all.


This key chain from BeatificJewerly would prove useful for your favorite crocheter:


And what crocheter has not encountered someone who calls his or her work knitting?  Oh the shame of it!  Etsy’s TheSamAntics has the answer:



Here’s a great idea for knitters – personalized knitting needles from SmartParts


Nancy, over at BlingnPrint Street has a couple of rhinestone t-shirts for knitting and sewing. It looks like her crochet shirt sold* (yea!), but she does custom work so don’t be afraid to ask:

For Knitters


For Sewers

Neither knitters nor crocheters can ever have enough stitch markers. I used to have a lot. Now they are lost, or marking the works in progress I have hidden, whoops, no stored in my closet. Here are some cute stitch markers from Swinging Vines Farm:


Here’s a real handy set for those who constantly get interrupted while counting from JillsHandmadeStuff:


I don’t know many spinners who would turn fiber down, especially these luxury fibers from MielkesFiberArts. Don’t flip out if the spinner zones out for a while as he or she fondles the cushy goodness of luxurious fiber.


Or, if you really don’t want to see someone fondle fiber, your spinner may also enjoy some earrings from PincushionCrazy:


Here’s a very sweet bag for your favorite weaver from SarahHarste:


Or how about a heddle necklace from FolkTalesPl


Every fiber enthusiast loves sheep. These crocheted sheep from HundredSheeps are cute:


Oh! We can’t forget the cute little stockings that I am offering for crocheters over at the PenandHook:

This would be fun to find hanging on the tree Christmas morning. I am even including a name tag for gifting.

There are literally hundreds of options over on Etsy. Why don’t you pop on over there and give it a try? You’ll be purchasing from a small business and buying a unique, handmade gift well.

*Correction: Nancy’s crochet shirt did not sell. I just overlooked it in her store:


Tales of an alpaca sweater …

Do you remember my post about the sweater I was working on?  Well, it’s finally finished. It’s a sweater for my hubby. I crocheted it 100 percent alpaca in a dark grey.


Well, I finally finished it. He tried it on. It fit. I then hand-washed in homemade wool wash (a topic for another post) and laid it flat to dry.

Do you want to see it?


Mike’s sweater is huge! He likes them loose, but this is a bit much.

How did that happen? I crocheted the pattern correctly, my tension was good. I measured everything and counted my stitches.

If you know about alpaca fiber, you probably already guessed what happened. I obviously didn’t know.

After I finished the sweater,  when I was feeling good about my completed project, I read some articles to learn how to spin alpaca for Spinzilla.  While reading, my stomach suddenly dropped to my feet leaving me feeling nauseous. The article said:

One hundred percent alpaca must be blended with another fiber, like wool, in order to prevent stretching.

I repeat:

My sweater! I had botched another one! At the same time it dawned on me that the alpaca yarns that I have purchased in the past are mixed with other fibers. I had always wondered why. Now I knew.

My first impulse was to frog the sweater immediately but I calmed myself down. Maybe the stretch was gradual. Try washing it. If the stretch was slow, Mike could still wear it and we could wash it to bring the fibers back together.

No such luck. Do you think it would look better with leggings? Just kidding, dear.

The good thing is that I can use this alpaca in a weaving project. I found out recently from Sara Lamb, author of “Spin to Weave: A Weaver’s Guide to Making Yarn” that the structure of weaving is such that it supports alpaca fibers and keeps them from stretching.  I could also crochet it again with another fiber and make something bulky. Whew! All is not lost.

And now, I have a box of yarn on the way from Knit Picks. We’re not waiting decades to make another sweater. We’re doing wool this time.

P.S. If you’re wondering about the black stripe over Mike’s face, he’s not hiding from the government. He’s hiding from you. No pictures for this man. Thanks, Mike, for holding up the sweater!