Posted by: jinniver | January 29, 2009

Everyone needs a “What was I thinking?” project

I knew Ravelry forums were dangerous.  Yet there I was, reading the thread about the projects with the cutest notes.  That’s when I saw Elizabeth’s First Communion Veil.

I have a friend who is Catholic, and 2 things occurred to me simultaneously:

  1. Her oldest daughter is close to the age for her First Communion.
  2. I had to knit her a veil.

I’m not sure why this was such a primal need, but there it is.  Maybe it’s because my husband and I were there when our friends brought their oldest daughter (who is adopted) home, which means I’ve literally known her for all of her life with my friends.  So I immediately decided I was knitting her a veil.

What on earth was I thinking?

The thing is…I was pretty sure her First Communion was this year…and I’m almost a complete lace virgin.  Fortunately, my friend assured me I would have a year from this spring–plenty of time even for me!  And my friend was so excited about the idea that I knew it was the right one.

So far I’ve picked out my yarn of choice, Baruffa Cashwool, and reviewed lace patterns.  I want ones that are not only pretty but which have meaning.  I started with the first book I bought for potential patterns, Barbara Walker’s First Treasury of Knitting Patterns, and found a virtual goldmine:

  • Candle Flames (pg 160) – candles and flames have so much meaning in the Catholic religion that I definitely wanted them represented; this pattern is perfect.
  • Crown of Glory (pg 173) – the look reminds me of a crown of thorns; both are references to Jesus.
  • Marriage Lines (pg 198 ) – these have a double meaning: the first is a wish for a happy marriage in her future; the second is that the simple geometric shape is reflective of African design, a nod both to my friend’s daughter’s heritage and the birthplace of St. Josephine Bakhita, after whom my friend’s daughter is named.
  • Crest of the Wave (pg 205) – the Bible is full of references to the sea; my favorite is the story of Jesus calming the waves while in the boat with his disciples. It’s also a reference to my friends’ Naval service; my friends were both classmates of mine and my husband’s at the Naval Academy.

I knew I wanted more patterns to choose from to find the perfect ones.  I want all the best meanings–both ones that will be meaningful to me and ones that will be meaningful to my friend and her daughter.  The Marriage Lines pattern got me thinking that I’d also like to find some patterns that make reference to the life of St. Josephine Bakhita.

When the other three knitting treasurers by Barbara Walker showed up, I went through them as well and found more possibilites.

From the Second Treasury:

  • Candle of Glory (pg 256) – a combination of the candle/flame references and the crown of glory.
  • Fountain Lace (pg 272) – I think this would make a great pattern to frame the rest. According to a few sources I read, St. Josephine Bakhita often kissed the baptismal font when she passed, in memory of the place she found God; the “fountain” reminds me of “font” and the shape the lace forms is similar to the shape of a baptismal font.
  • Candlelight Pattern (pg 279) – same reasons as above.
  • Candlight #2 (pg 281) – also as above; additionally, the pattern looks like a person holding his arms above his head as if reaching up to Heaven.
  • Bell Lace (pg 291) – One of St. Josephine Bakhita’s tasks at the convent was to attend to the door if visitors came by. The “bell” part reminds me of a doorbell, and the shape of the lace reminds me of the bells used on the altar during Mass.  This find was exciting, because I really wanted to find something that made reference to St. Bakhita’s job as doorkeeper, since she seemed to love greeting people at the door.

From the Third Treasury:

  • Bleeding Hearts (pg 156) – a reference to Jesus.

The Fourth Treasury didn’t have anything I was looking for, but I had one more book on order: Heirloom Knitting by Sharon Miller.  At first glance I didn’t see much that fit what I wanted but a closer look found:

  • Cat’s Paw Pattern (p 55) – I honestly don’t see the cat’s paw here.  I have cats, and none of their paws are shaped like the motif in this lace. What it does look like to me is either a heart or an old fashioned door knocker.  The heart, symbolizing love, is a natural fit; but the door knocker also works as a reference to St. Bahkita’s duty to answer the door, making it doubly appropriate.
  • Candlelight Pattern (p 66) – I think I’ll probably use one of the candle themed patterns I found earlier, but I wanted to make sure I noted this one for comparison.
  • Ocean Wave Edging (p 78 ) – I hadn’t even thought about having an edging; I was going to leave the edges square.  But an edging would add a very nice touch, and this one also refers back to the ocean references I like. The only argument against this one is it’s a pretty wide border and could end up overwhelming the rest of the design.
  • Cyprus Edging (p 115) – No hidden meaning here, but it’s a pretty, simple, and thin edging that wouldn’t compete with the other patterns.
  • Wave or Wave Lace Edgings (both p 118 ) – Back to the ocean reference, without being as big or overwhelming.
  • Victorian Zigzag Insertion (p 125) – More geometric lines reminiscent of African design which I could then add up both sides of the veil instead of the more dramatic Marriage Lines…although I like the double meaning of the other pattern and this insertion could compete with the edging.

Now comes the hardest job–narrowing down the lace patterns.  They’ll need to work with each other, which means more than just having patterns that look nice together.  They also have to have stitch counts that will work when transitioning from one pattern to the next.

In the meantime, I have determined some aspects of the veil.  It will be rectangular and about the size/shape of a stole, big enough that Khita can wear it when she’s older.  I briefly considered knitting it from the bottom up, but that would mean rows several hundred stitches long, and there’s no way I wouldn’t get lost in the middle!  So instead I’m going to knit this in 3 sections. The first 2 will be identical, and once knit from bottom to top will be placed on their sides so the tops are now facing towards the center. The 3rd section will be knit as tall as the other 2 are wide, and oriented as it was knit.

Time to pull out the books again…and some graph paper.



  1. What an honor—to knit someone their First Communion veil? What a wonderful idea. It’d be an heirloom. I’m not Catholic myself, but that is awesome. I can’t wait to see what you do!

  2. wow! what an undertaking! I can’t wait to see.

  3. Wow, Jen, you’re insane! (and now, whenever the husband complains about my projects, I can direct him to your site and say, “Ok, I’m pretty bad, but did you read what Jen is knitting for our daughter?”) I can’t wait for the next update!


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