To me there’s something a bit magic about knitting. You take a ball of wool, which is basically nothing much, it’s pretty useless on its own, and two needles, and it becomes cloth, with nothing more than loops. Most textile creation at least requires you to begin with lots of bits of wool – weaving needs at least two, warp and weft, and more for patterns; lace making many, loaded onto bobbins; embroidery begins with cloth and merely embellishes it. To be fair, there’s crochet, too, and knitting with multiple colours requires lots of bits of wool – but at the core, it takes very simple ingredients and makes something.
From time to time, we have a discussion about whether knitting in Meeting for Worship is acceptable or not. It’s rare in plain worship, but some people do knit in Meeting for Worship for Business or Learning; I suspect Young Friends are more tolerant, and some people find that a little repetitive action focuses the mind. It might as well be knitting, especially if you have a knitting ministry.
In my family, we sometimes observe that in order to make something from nothing, you need to begin with a large collection of nothing. Drawers of cloth, bags of balls of wool, shelves of computer parts, everything in the cupboard under the stairs – things which by themselves are mostly useless (one nail? six yards of yellow-and-brown check? a hard drive?) but which in the right circumstance are just the thing.
Sometimes I think that our meetings or our committees are a bit like that. You need a certain amount of stuff – people willing to offer service – and when a job comes up, you’ll be able to find something to do it. It might not be quite what you’d envisioned – you were looking for red wool and you’ve only got pink – but this is the serendipity of volunteer work and home collections. You could go on eBay and buy red wool, and you could go on monster.com and hire a secretary, but it’s often more efficient and more satisfying to make use of what you’ve got. Sometimes it requires some lateral thinking – the mosaic pieces of my last collage landed on the doorstep as an IKEA catalogue – but in order to do that, you have to begin with enough nothing.
By the time this post is published, I’ll be on my way to Britain Yearly Meeting. I’m not going to take my knitting, although I might slip some cross-stitch into my backpack. I will be taking some ‘nothing’ and some tools to add to the collection, though – a laptop, my previous experiences of worship and writing, paper, pens, poetry, and an open mind.