This week I asked a fellow knitter and recent author, Nicole Allen, to share how knitting has impacted her life. I met Nicole when she had a knitting group in my area. She probably doesn’t remember, but she taught me how to make mittens for The Friends of Pine Ridge. Her strong faith and servant heart are an inspiration.
In 2007, I had been married for 16 years and had 9 kids. My life was completely full and truly blessed, and yet suddenly, I felt a real longing to do something meaningful. I had done volunteer work all my life but this urge was different. I wanted to do something that would not take me away from my big busy family, but instead include them all. Something that would help others. I not only wanted to fill my own desire to serve, but to also nurture what I knew was also there in my children.
My grandmother taught me to knit when I was seven years old, and I’ve been knitting ever since. Pretty much every project I have ever made has been given away as gifts for friends and family, or donated. When we lived in Ontario, our local pharmacy had a program called Guardian Angels. They had a box with a stack of free patterns to make layettes for preemies. I made dozens of them.
I had just finished making a blanket to use outside on my big front porch for those chilly fall mornings, while waiting with the kids for the school bus. I hadn’t even had the opportunity to put it out on the wicker love seat, when I heard about a charity collecting blankets for the homeless in Fort Worth. Like a jolt, I felt called to donate the blanket. I bundled it up and collected a few other items and brought it to the local donation spot. Something began stirring in my soul and I could not stop thinking about what this “something meaningful” could be. The nagging continued and I couldn’t concentrate on anything else. Several hours after dropping the blanket off, the idea for Knitterbugs was born.
A few days later, I met with the counselor at my kids’ school and told her my idea. Using the Warm Up America model, we would make blanket squares. Once we had enough, we would assemble them into blankets to donate to the homeless shelter. The twist was, I would teach the kids to knit for free; all they had to do was bring their own needles and yarn. The counsellor loved the idea and helped to advertise and promote it. The response was overwhelming. Parents, teachers, and students alike came out. We met in our family room and spread into the dining room. I must admit I was a little intimidated by the volume of eager students who had never held knitting needles before. It hadn’t occurred to me to limit the class. As we continued to meet on Saturdays and everyone got the hang of knitting, we had enough squares to make three blankets before Christmas.
One of the teachers who had joined our group, sent in an article and a picture to our local newspaper and word began to spread. Our group continued to grow with new members, and our outreach evolved into donating other items in addition to blankets. We made layettes and lap blankets for the county hospital, scarves for the special olympics, helmet liners for veterans, baby items for crisis pregnancy centers, and more than 450 mittens, scarves and hats for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Our family drove to South Dakota from Texas during the Thanksgiving break to deliver the items to the Indian School.
The more word spread about Knitterbugs, the more the offers to help poured in. The phone calls and emails came from people who said they really didn’t want to knit, but would like to donate yarn. In many cases the calls came from seniors who had huge yarn stashes they said they just knew they would never use. My husband and I loaded up our van with kids and drove all over the Dallas Fort Worth area, picking up yarn from people, and also blanket squares that had been donated to the Michaels’ stores for their Warm Up America Project.
Regularly, I arrived home to giant bags on my front porch, filled with hundreds of skeins of yarn. Once there were sixty sets of knitting needles. I pondered what I would ever do with so many sets of needles. I didn’t have to wait long. God already had a plan.
I was invited to teach knitting classes at the homeless shelter where we had been donating blankets. Teaching a class to homeless people was not something that I sought to do, and frankly, I was quite terrified at the time. When I met with a group of benefactors who were touring the shelter, I introduced myself to the director and volunteer coordinator, and handed each of them one of by brand new Knitterbugs business cards. They looked at the cards and exchanged glances, then said to me,
“Wow, we were just talking about starting up a knitting class for our clients.”
Taking that leap was one of the biggest blessings in my life.
When we prayerfully ponder in hearts what it is God is nudging us to do, and then obediently follow, he connects us with people, like links in a chain, to help our journey, and theirs, in multi-faceted ways. There were dozens of tiny miracles that occurred because of Knitterbugs and more than a few huge ones.
Shortly after starting Knitterbugs, I suffered multiple miscarriages, followed by the birth of our tenth child. Nine months after that my husband got laid off from his job. Throughout our challenges and suffering, I continued on with Knitterbugs. It was a soothing balm for my soul. Focusing on others helped me to heal and worry less about our situation. The ladies from our group covered us in prayer, and we developed a sort of prayer chain. Praying for each other and giving encouragement where we could. When I became pregnant again with our eleventh child and was given a very grim prognosis, again, the Knitterbugs ladies prayed continuously, reaching out to other prayer groups and their church prayer chains, some of them reaching across several states and other countries. Our baby boy was born, healthy and happy, and is now almost eight. When we were in danger of losing our home because of the prolonged unemployment, a Knitterbug connection provided us with housing for almost a year, rent free.
I could go on and on with the miracles, but this post would turn into a book that I have already written. If you would like to read the rest of my story, you can find my book, Mountains And A Mustard Seed, A Family’s Journey of Hope on Amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com .
Can you look at your own life and recall how specific people were placed in your path for a purpose. Were they a blessing? A lesson? An opportunity for you to reach out and be a blessing to them? It may not always be obvious to us, but God always has a reason. You could be the answer to someone else’s prayer. God has a creative way of using people if they are open and willing to be His hands and feet. ~Nicole
Help me to spread Your fragrance wherever I go. Flood my soul with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my being so utterly, that my life may only be a radiance of Yours. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus! Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be mine. It will be You, shining on others through me. Let me thus praise You the way You love best, by shining on those around me. Let me preach You without preaching, not by words but by my example, by the catching force of the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You. Amen. ~ Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman
I would like to thank Nicole for sharing her heart with us this week. I love to hear stories about how much of a blessing our knitting can be to those around us. I can’t help but tear up when I think of all the special connections that I have also made by being the part of a knitting community.
If you are looking for an inspirational book to read or a gift to give that person who has everything, why not purchase a copy of Mountains and a Mustard Seed, A Family’s Journey of Hope