I have a shawl that I have been working on for several years. I’m knitting it in a long since discontinued Regia 4ply called Hand Dyed Effect, striping two colours together. It’s a very simple crescent shape worked in stocking stitch, and it takes virtually no thinking about with just a few increases every other row. It’s the perfect thing to knit when I want to properly concentrate on something else, because it takes no thought. My fingers can just automatically form stitches over and over again.
One of the places I take it to regularly is our Sunday morning family church service. I would go so far as to say that my Listening Shawl is an essential companion during the sermons on Sunday morning. Don’t misunderstand me here though – we have exceptional speakers at our church. They are very knowledgeable, insightful and actually pretty entertaining too! It’s not that I find the sermons boring, quite the reverse. I want to listen to them properly and engage with what is being said on a deep level. And I need my knitting in order to be able to do that.
Here’s why. Occupying part of my subconscious brain with the repetitive act of knitting allows the rest of my brain to focus on what’s being said. It prevents mundane distractions surfacing about things like, what food I need to buy at the supermarket for the week ahead, an email I’ve forgotten to send, plans for a bank holiday weekend, and so on. I don’t know how it works, but it does. I feel I am fully engaged and actively listening in a way that would not be possible without my knitting.
Sometimes I take it to other places too. I took it to last year’s Wool Tribe Christmas Party here in Edinburgh, put on by Jo and Mica who organise the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. Taking some knitting was essential and whatever I took needed to be simple as I really wanted to be able to chat with people properly, really hear what they were saying and engage in good conversation. My Listening Shawl was the perfect companion.
I also knit it from time to time at home when I want to listen to something meaningful. A couple of times a week, I like to spend an hour or so filling my head with life affirming notions and ideas, sometimes it’s a YouTube clip from an exceptional life coach, or a sermon I missed at Church. or a knitting related podcast.
And so my shawl grows. It now has about a million stitches (too many to count accurately). I’m going to knit it until I run out of yarn, so it will be quite big by the time I finish it. It has become very precious to me and I will treasure it for ever. Every stitch made represents time spent listening to something important, the stitches are embedded with thoughts, ponderings, and revelations.
If you would like to knit a Listening Shawl of your own, here is a simple crescent shape pattern worked in stocking stitch. The only part that really takes concentration is the beginning, so do that bit at a moment when you aren’t listening to anything else. After that, you increase 2 stitches at both ends of every right side row (4 stitches in total). Easy!
You will need:
At least 100g 4ply yarn. Something that changes colour as you knit is good as it will keep you interested!)
4mm single point needles, or circular needles with an interchangeable cable. (This means that as your shawl gets bigger, you can swap in longer cables).
Abbreviations: kfb: Increase stitches by knitting one stitch into the front and back
Cast on 3 sts.
Knit 7 rows.
At the end of the last row do not turn, rotate work 90 degrees clockwise, pick up and knit 3 stitches along the row you have just knitted, rotate work 90 degrees clockwise again, pick up and knit 3 stitches along cast-on edge. 9 stitches.
Row 1 (RS): k4, kfb twice, k to last 4 sts, kfb twice, k4. [4 sts increased]
Row 2 (WS): k4, p to last 4 sts, k4.
You may find it helpful to use stitch markers to remind you when to work your increases at either end.
Repeat rows 1 and 2 until you have reached the desired size. Cast off using a stretchy cast off.