Tight Knit

Canterbury Methodist Church. Mountain Brook, Alabama. I was running late. I jogged through the parking lot. On the way to the door, I was greeted by a woman carrying a plate of sugar cookies. Her mane was white. She wore tennis shoes.

I tugged the door open for her.

“We’re so glad you’re joining us today,” she said.

“Proud to be here, ma’am.”

I was led through the bowels of the church. Past the framed pictures of blond Jesus. I entered a multi-use room where a gaggle of mature belles were gathered.

They were all knitting.

“Welcome!” said Miss Gerri.

She walked toward me with arms outstretched. Her hair was blazing white, tinged with the faintest traces of a bygone redhead. Her skin was freckled. Her smile was enormous. She gave me a hug.

Miss Gerri smelled good. Why do older women always smell so good? What sort of perfume do older women wear? Chanel? Estée Lauder? Lady Stetson? Opium? It’s like they all got together one day and agreed on the perfect smell.

It is a smell that reminds you of someone who loves you. Someone who cherishes you. Someone who cares. A grandmother maybe. Or a favorite aunt. It is a smell deeper than mere perfume. I wish I could bottle this smell.

“We are the Knit Wits,” said one woman. Her eyes never left her needles. “We’re a knitting club. We make prayer shawls, but we also make clothes and hats for the homeless people.”

“Knitting is fun,” said another.

“It’s very therapeutic,” someone added.

“Rosie Greer used to do needlepoint.”

“Robin Williams used to knit.”

“Russell Crowe knits, too.”

“I would drink Russell Crowe’s bathwater,” said another.

They passed around a plate of sugar cookies. A woman named Anne was sitting beside me. She removed her latest knitting creation, a prayer shawl she has been working on for the past several months.

These prayer shawls are special. They are thoroughly prayed over throughout every stitch. Each shawl bears the loving mark of a woman who was praying for you the moment she first crafted it. And each shawl has that wonderful perfume smell.

Anne’s shawl was woven with fine weight yarn. The garment had arm holes and intricate scrollwork. The craftsmanship was stunning. Or should I say “the craftswomanship.”

“I have always loved to knit,” she said.

“It’s very therapeutic,” said another woman.

“Frank Sinatra was a knitter.”

“So was Arethra Franklin.”

“George Washington Carver crocheted.”

“Did Arethra Franklin sing the song ‘You Can Eat Crackers in my Bed Anytime’?”

“No. Barbara Mandrell.”

“That was a good song.”

“Madonna knits.”

“Bless her.”

These lovely saints in tennis shoes meet each Tuesday in the back room of the Methodist church. They hang out. They laugh. And they knit. It’s as simple as that.

With their handmade wares, they clothe the homeless and the orphans. They do it because they want to. They do it so that people on skid row will know that someone out there cares. These women could be doing anything else with their talent, but they choose to give it away.

They knit prayer shawls for people going through difficult times. For cancer patients, for grieving persons, sick people, or anyone struggling to stay sane.

“At first,” said Gerri, “we were gonna call our club the Happy Hookers. But we didn’t think our preacher would like it.”

Light laughter circulated throughout the group. Nobody took their eyes off their strands of yarn.

“So we called ourselves the Knit Wits.”

The sound of clicking needles filled the room.

“Tom Hanks knits.”

“So did Cary Grant.”

“Vanna White crochets.”

“I love Vanna White.”

“Me, too. She looks like my cousin Charlotte.”

“Charlotte? The one who ran off with the Elvis impersonator?”

“No. Other Charlotte.”

I have written about prayer shawls four times in my career. But nobody has ever offered me one. Today, Miss Gerri changed all that.

During the meeting, she presented me with two shawls. One shawl for me, the other for my wife. She removed the garment from a giftbag. My shawl was knitted with University-of-Alabama Crimson, representing God’s favorite football team.

“I prayed throughout every stitch of this,” said Miss Gerri. “I prayed for you. Because I want you to know that you’re loved.”

And now, thanks to these wonderful women, I have that blessed smell whenever I need it.

65 comments

  1. Steve McCaleb - August 4, 2022 6:57 am

    Speaking of bottling……I wish it was possible to bottle the spirit, attitude and heart to help others that these wonderful ladies possess. I’d give every man, woman and child in the U.S. a big bottle. Except myself…..I need at least a 6-pack. God bless these ladies and the thousands like them from coast to coast.

    Reply
  2. Mary - August 4, 2022 7:24 am

    That smells those ladies have is Jergens lotion and yes it is a beautiful scent. Be kind to yourself…

    Reply
    • CherylW - August 4, 2022 12:54 pm

      Jergens and talcum powder from the can. My late mama’s comforting formula that never failed. I remember as a child when having a sick day at home and mama was not able to sit with me all day, all I wanted was to cuddle up to mama’s robe that she always put on after her shower and annointing herself with the magic formula.

      Reply
  3. Bill - August 4, 2022 7:33 am

    I hope your listening, your loved, your Daddy loved you. He just had issues you, may never know. You know he loved you, he may just not have known the full implications of passing it along.

    Reply
  4. Nell thomas - August 4, 2022 7:43 am

    Loved the story. “It was therapeutic”.

    Reply
  5. Harriet White - August 4, 2022 8:03 am

    Comforting story for me. I need to slow down, it’s going to be ok.

    Reply
  6. Laura - August 4, 2022 9:05 am

    Reading their conversation was like watching the dinner table scene in While You Were Sleeping, made me giggle. How wonderful you were blessed to receive one of their special creations.

    Reply
  7. 🇿🇦🇿🇦 Norma Den - August 4, 2022 9:12 am

    I’m a knitter (knit wit) & a crocheter (happy hooker). There is indeed nothing so calming & soothing than creating something for someone else, be it family or strangers. The idea of prayer shawls is getting me thinking, I have a few friends in particular going through hard times with chronically sick husbands (as I am too) so next project lined up. Busy right now with blankets for a poverty stricken Khoi-San settlement. Known as the Forgotten People, who incidentally were the first people to inhabit South Africa, yet now not allowed to own land, few if any benefits too.

    Reply
  8. 🇿🇦🇿🇦Norma Den - August 4, 2022 9:17 am

    To Harriet White, in the words of Saint JulIan of Norwich c.a.1342-1416, “All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well…….for there is a Force of love moving through the universe That holds us fast and will never let us go”

    Reply
    • Harriet White - August 4, 2022 11:58 pm

      Thank you Norma Den. ❤️❤️

      Reply
  9. Ann Thompson - August 4, 2022 10:19 am

    Here’s hoping your new shawls bring you comfort when it’s chilly, and when just draped over a chair- knowing you are loved and cared about.
    The knitting group is an important social network. Friends. Purpose. Sharing. Caring.

    Reply
  10. susie gilley - August 4, 2022 10:26 am

    I am a pastor of a small rural Methodist church in Rossville GA. Our ladies sewing group call themselves the Sewing n Sews. You are welcome to visit us and we serve their favorites – Little Debbies.😊 Susie Gilley
    Pastor

    Reply
    • Priscilla Rodgers - August 4, 2022 12:49 pm

      I was lucky enough to receive a prayer shawl from the knitting group in my church in North Little Rock many years ago right before surgery. I still treasure it.

      Reply
  11. kristi D - August 4, 2022 10:38 am

    Knitting soothes the soul. When you hang with the knitters, you’re with good people. Prayer shawls are precious garments. Two way blessing – the knitter and the receiver

    Reply
  12. Paul Saneholtz - August 4, 2022 10:40 am

    You had me until God’s favorite football team part, you know he made the sky blue and white for a reason, right?

    Reply
  13. kristi d - August 4, 2022 10:42 am

    Love this story. Knitters are precious people that are blessed when their work gets to the receiver – whether they know them or not – they are prayed over. I love that our prayers are spoken of in scripture as a sweet fragrance too. Just like these ladies

    Reply
  14. Paul McCutchen - August 4, 2022 11:22 am

    A lady I know knitted everyone in the office a scarf for the winter time. I had to hide mine because my wife will steal it, wear it, then hide it. Maybe I need to take up knitting.

    Reply
  15. Joy Jacobs - August 4, 2022 11:34 am

    I crochet blankets for couples getting married and newborn babies in our church. I getting ready to knit one for my upcoming new grandbaby. It’s definitely a labor of love. ❤️

    Reply
  16. Sheila Ahler - August 4, 2022 11:39 am

    I am a pastor at Apex UMC in NC. My
    Dad was Methodist pastor in N Alabama. My church has a Wrapped in Love prayer shawl ministry. I am privileged to bless the shawls before being deployed to do their work in the community. Thank you for this post and recognizing the wonderful – mostly unseen – work of those beautiful hands.
    And for the record – I’m very envious – you received the Perfect shawl!!!

    Reply
  17. Neill DeLaney - August 4, 2022 11:45 am

    I think “George Washington Carver crocheted. “ is my favorite line that you have ever written.

    Reply
  18. Trent - August 4, 2022 11:49 am

    “Church Ladies” throughout the world seem to be the Holy Spirit’s emissaries…

    Reply
  19. Al - August 4, 2022 11:53 am

    Our church has Hugs group. My wife received a small blanket after bypass surgery. She has been gone for 8 years. I still use her blanket when it’s too cool while watching TV. I know where it came from, the love that went into knitting it and it still warms my heart.

    Reply
  20. Beth Wannamaker - August 4, 2022 11:57 am

    Absolutely beautiful blog this morning!

    Reply
  21. Jim Duncan - August 4, 2022 11:57 am

    Sean, your column today featuring the “knit wits” provided warm visual images of things that are right in this world. Thank you, well done.

    Reply
  22. Linda Lewis - August 4, 2022 12:11 pm

    I loved this story. It was sweet, loving and informative. Thank you for making my day so wonderful.

    Reply
  23. Dale Ann Watford - August 4, 2022 12:14 pm

    You made me laugh… then you made me cry.

    Reply
  24. Susan Wood - August 4, 2022 12:23 pm

    That’s us!! So fun to have such a delightful young man with all of us
    The sugar cookie white maned lady. Ha

    Reply
  25. Lin - August 4, 2022 12:25 pm

    One of your Best. Thank You.

    Reply
  26. Pingback: Sean of the South: Tight Knit | The Trussville Tribune

  27. B Dale Saufley - August 4, 2022 12:49 pm

    My mother could crochet and sew better than any other woman I knew. Basic pants and a top to dance or cheerleaders outfits to tailored wool/ silk suit jackets (Dior pattern with silk lining). Mom is in a memory care unit now and cannot remember teaching me to sew basic items. So I sew a little for myself and keep things she crafted although the are no longer fashionable nor do the fit.
    Thank you for your column!

    Reply
    • B Dale Saufley - August 4, 2022 12:51 pm

      Spell check changed two “they”s into “the”.
      Apologies for the errors.

      Reply
  28. Pamela Davis - August 4, 2022 12:53 pm

    Sean, You are loved! Your writing brings back memories of my life. When I read Will the Circle be unbroken, I laughed on one page and cried on the next page. Thank you for sharing your world with us.

    Reply
  29. Shirlea - August 4, 2022 1:08 pm

    The prayer shawl given to my husband from the special ladies at Mayberry Presbyterian in Meadows of Dan, VA, was the first thing I grabbed when I salvaged my things after Hurricane Michael destroyed Panama City. It continues to bring me comfort every day. Your tribute to these special ladies today has started my day with a song in my heart and a smile on my face. You are truly gifted. And very loved.

    Reply
  30. Jayne Holland - August 4, 2022 1:17 pm

    This brought me back to Alabama. I grew up there, and left with my husband who was transferred from a Birmingham Bread Bakery to one in The Bahamas. We used to go every other Month back to see my parents and cousins and Aunts and uncles…But in 2021 I lost my Sister, Her husband, and my State Trooper Brother. Now I have 4 man cousins and NO female cousins at all. I have found my crochet needles and lots of yarn. So far I have a pot holder. I’ll keep in touch!

    Reply
    • 🇿🇦🇿🇦Norma Den - August 4, 2022 4:26 pm

      It’s a start. Keep going. Look on Pinterest for ideas & tutorials. Everyone has to begin somehow. God bless your sweet memories as your needles click.

      Reply
  31. Cynthia Russell - August 4, 2022 1:23 pm

    SO VERY MUCH REALLY LOVED THIS.. THANK YOU & AS ALWAYS “ROLL TIDE”!!!
    Just an Alabama Girl livin’ in a Louisiana world..

    Reply
  32. Brenda of Georgia - August 4, 2022 1:28 pm

    Thank you for sharing your talent with everyone! I am hooked on your column because you chose to see the best in people and our world; your writing is one of the few things I can read and enjoy what I am reading. My psychiatrist has put a end to me reading the “news” as it only increases my stress and anxiety. Again, thank you for being you and writing about the good. May God continue to bless you and your wife.

    Reply
  33. David Britnell - August 4, 2022 1:51 pm

    Another beautiful story!!

    Reply
  34. Barbara McKinley - August 4, 2022 2:11 pm

    Dear Sean, I haven’t heard any mention of your wife lately. Is she OK? Are you OK? Are the two of you OK? Just wondering and caring.

    Reply
  35. Carol J Pilmer - August 4, 2022 2:48 pm

    Do you suppose one of the Knit Wits would share their pattern for a prayer shawl? So glad you finally have your own prayer shawl! Bless You Always!

    Reply
    • Gerrie Hansford - August 4, 2022 9:36 pm

      We don’t use a specific pattern. We encourage everyone to do them roughly 20” x 55”, but use any pattern they enjoy. Some knit every row, one lady does beautiful cables and some of us change patterns as a mental challenge.

      Reply
  36. Joe - August 4, 2022 3:04 pm

    Congratulations on the precious prayer shawls

    Reply
  37. Patricia Gibson - August 4, 2022 3:10 pm

    I have two prayer quilts from when I was very ill and they are special to me. I am glad you and your wife have one. God’s blessings 🙏

    Reply
  38. Jack - August 4, 2022 3:18 pm

    You made one mistake. God loves Penn State, that is why he made the sky BLUE!!

    Reply
  39. Peggy M. Windham - August 4, 2022 3:37 pm

    Now that you have your new prayer shawl, Sean, you can pray for another SEC and National Championship!
    Roll Tide!❤️🐘

    Reply
    • Melanie - August 4, 2022 9:30 pm

      @MsPeggy 👏🏻👍🏻😄🏈🏆

      Reply
  40. Sheila - August 4, 2022 3:40 pm

    I adore this post! I gave been cousin/friends with Dr Bill, Gerrie’s husband for many years. Both are wonderful people.

    Reply
  41. Maria Ritchey - August 4, 2022 3:48 pm

    Sean, your articles and the comments make my day. Who normally reads comments? These are always so good because they add even more to your wonderful stories. My newborn baby girl was wrapped in a handmade blanket and hat that I’m sure were made in love by a prayer group of “Knit Wits”. My husband and I greeted this precious girl within one day of her birth as she was an emergency/last minute adoption in PA. Sadly I don’t remember what I was told about these articles and who made them. But I’ve always treasured them, and I treasure them even more now after reading this article. Thank you to the people who provide such unselfish love to people they may never meet. It means the world to the recipients and I promise, my now 10 year old will appreciate them even more as well!

    Reply
  42. Joan Busby - August 4, 2022 5:00 pm

    I’m a knitter too. Thanks for sharing the goodness of these ladies.

    Reply
  43. Dr. Martha Eger Martens - August 4, 2022 5:33 pm

    My sister from Birmingham, Alabama sent me your story. I am the oldest of three sisters, born and raised in Guntersville,Alabama. I have lived in Europe, here and there, for the past 42 years. I am now retired in Basel, Switzerland and belong to the “Knit and Natter” club at the Anglican church of Basel. We knit and eat cake, and natter and are from all over the British Commonwealth. Maybe you know the Anglicans; they were the original Episcopalians. I guess they put up with me because I’m from the former colonies. I’d like to think that, but I suspect that it’s because of the Hummingbird Cake with Cream Cheese Icing I bring when it’s my time to bake. Once a Belle, always a Belle.

    Reply
  44. Anglican church knit and natter - August 4, 2022 5:58 pm

    Dear Shawn,
    I truly hope you are moderating the comments you get. I commented but was much to newsy and even used my real name. Heavens! I would appreciate it if you would anonymize things before you add it to your comments. Little old Southern ladies forget how dangerous the internet can be.

    Reply
  45. Jennifer Bain - August 4, 2022 6:03 pm

    What a wonderful thing to be a recipient of one of these prayer shawls. Some ladies at my church does the same activity. They gave one to me when my mother lived with me. She was suffering with dementia.. I treasure it. I think you will too.

    Reply
  46. Ruth Trail - August 4, 2022 7:02 pm

    Lovely! Knitting 🧶 is a wonderful hobby. Have knitted many blankets & scarves.

    Reply
  47. Ruth Ann Hines - August 4, 2022 8:03 pm

    Lovely, as usual. Also, by the way, I’m back to receiving your notes on my cell phone. Bless you and thank you so much ! ! !

    Reply
  48. Linda J - August 4, 2022 9:31 pm

    I really enjoyed the picture of you two hugging on your facebook page. Such great smiles. Now I have read, in the immortal words of Paul Harvey, “the rest of the story” I am mainly a quilter but I have knit some hats to help with a project a friend was doing for school children in her area. Bless these women for their ministry.

    Reply
  49. Linda Moon - August 5, 2022 12:19 am

    When I returned from two doctor visits today I used a crocheted coaster to set my cool drink on while I relaxed. My Angel Squad friend makes coaster and shawls, but it was too hot to drape a shawl while I prayed for you today, Sean…for your very hard year. May each day from this one forward be easier!

    Reply
  50. Slimpicker - August 5, 2022 2:21 am

    Sean, did you happen to notice if the picture of Jesus was signed?

    Reply
  51. Dennise Romine - August 5, 2022 3:49 am

    These sweet ladies are doing a great work to bring peace to many people ! A prayer shawl is something I’d love to have. Can theirs be purchased or do they have specific purposes and ministries they give them too?

    Reply
  52. Patricia - August 5, 2022 4:51 am

    What a precious gift! For someone to pray for you is so special! Thanks for sharing…

    Reply
  53. Peggy Johnson - August 5, 2022 12:52 pm

    Hi Sean,
    I discovered your blog several weeks ago and have enjoyed reading it everyday, but this one is my favorite. Maybe it is because I knit prayer shawls at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Dana Point, Ca. I’m going to share this with my fellow white hair knitter’s and we will have a laugh….all the while never taking our eyes off the stitches!
    Peggy Johnson

    Reply
  54. Ava Garmon - August 5, 2022 1:27 pm

    Dear Sean, Thank you for this lovely and lively story about the Knit Wits! It touched my heart because I too belong to a prayer shawl group at my church, Frazer Free Methodist Church, in Montgomery, Alabama. We started our group 12 years ago and I must say, through the years, by being a small blessing in someone’s life through giving Prayer shawls, throws, scarfs, hats, baby blankets, the most important part of this ministry has been prayer. It has enriched my life a hundred fold and my faith has grown tremendously. God is good all the time and all the time, God is good! May he bless your writing for years to come. It is uplifting, true to life, and gives good lessons for us to put into practice with our fellowman. God bless you and your family. By the way, welcome to Alabama!

    Reply
  55. Kathryn - August 5, 2022 7:13 pm

    Estee’ Lauder “Youth Dew.” Never fails, smells wonderful on everyone!

    Reply
  56. Robert Chiles - August 5, 2022 8:45 pm

    They ought to knit/crochet items for the people/soldiers of Ukraine

    Reply
  57. Emily - August 6, 2022 1:17 am

    So happy you got a prayer shawl…I’ve made quite a few. They mean alot even with the sometimes simplicity of them. I love when you write about the knitting/crocheting folk. It’s been in my life for decades and I truly believe everyone needs a craft to just chill out. I’ve taught friends to knit, buddies down range to knit and one old man that wanted to finish the blanket his wife wasn’t able to. In a world so crazy….yarncraft(heck any textile craft) is just a way to remind those we love that they will always have a hug when wrapped in something made by hand.

    Reply
  58. Debbie - August 6, 2022 4:18 pm

    Thank you for all your stories! I love them because they make me laugh and they make me cry. I read them everyday sometimes even before my devotion. Bless you and your sweet wife!

    Reply

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