Tucked behind room 304 in the Dave Ward Education Building is a small den where chairs line the wall and natural light seeps through the two windows overlooking the Gay Street Bridge.
Once unlocked, the beige cabinet in the room flows with yarn of different lengths and colors. It complements the stacked tubs of finished products, and the room’s purpose is made clear; this is where the knitting happens.
“Knots of Love," or First Baptist’s knitting club, meets in this room monthly, updating one another on the progress of scarves and blankets while the group’s leader Carolyn White briefs the team on upcoming deadlines and knitting objectives.
Women cross needles and walks of life during the meeting. The group’s eldest members recall knitting for soldiers during World War II, while college age students are learning to knit for the first time.
Founded an unmarked number of years ago, Knots of Love started as an organization to make hats for First Baptist’s Christmas luncheon.
However, Knots of Love is a ministry, not a club for nostalgia. There’s baby blankets to be made.
Every so often at First Baptist, a baby is dedicated in an act of community and trust amongst the congregation. During the dedications, the speaking minister that day will say words of encouragement and affirmation for the family while Susan Tatum – First Baptist’s Minister with Children and Families – presents the child with a hand-knitted blanket, swaddling them in Knots of Love’s handiwork.
“What the minister or Susan usually says is ‘the blanket wraps the baby in our care,'” Carolyn said. “Just as we hope the church community will wrap the family in its care as the child grows.”
Stitching every knit and purl is a labor of love, but not a burden. Many members of the group find it therapeutic to shed the worries of the day while they spend hours – often dozens of hours – piecing together a gift for someone in need.
Some gifts are well known by the community, such as the reveal accompanied with a new baby blanket, but others are subtly given.
For example, Knots of Love created lap-blankets for the local nursing home, then donated them to those in assisted living or hospice care.
However, the weightiest assignment faced by the knitting club is assembling 75 hats and scarves for First Baptist’s Toy Store, a Christmas-time ministry.
“It’s been kind of challenging this year,” said Betty Vawter. “When Susan Tatum first came to see us, she told us last January it would be 50 children [to provide for]. It quickly went up because they decided they could serve 75 children, which is wonderful, but we didn’t increase our knitters by 50 percent even though our goal increased by 50 percent.”
Through the afternoon, the conversation shifts to grandchildren even though the club’s youngest member is college student Sarah Layne. Sarah is being tutored on the finer points of a reverse-knit and purl, and she appreciates the aid; she had never knitted before she joined Knots of Love.
The injection of youth brings radiance to the group, and Carolyn’s steady leadership molds Sarah to a contributor instead a pedestrian.
“We increase our skills by being together in the group,” Betty Vawter said. “Sharing patterns, teaching, and Carolyn is very good at that. Knitters come in at an experience level, whether they’re new or experienced, and if they’re new she teaches them, so they increase their knitting skill or learn to knit.”
It’s one thing to have a workshop to increase your knitting prowess, it’s another thing entirely to have a community where individuals can come together amidst their schedules and find comfort.
Knots of Love is about the community the knitters find with one another. A conference of knitters sitting around hundreds of feet of yarn does not only increase skill, it increases bonding. Coupled with decades of cumulated mentorship, lending ears, and servant hearts, Knots of Love wants more knitters in the fold.
“Now I know these ladies outside of church, and I like that,” Jennifer Mabe, one of the newest members of the club, said. “It’s intergenerational, it goes from college, to middle, to a little bit older.”
At the words “a little bit older,” several white-haired members of Knots of Love lifted their eyes, erupted to laughter, then resumed weaving a stockinette pattern; smiles curling along their faces as love, community, and discipleship mingled between every thoughtful stitch.