Friends General Conference

Together we nurture the spiritual vitality of Friends

Handwork as Spiritual Practice: Ministry, Magic and Prayer

Workshop Number: 
Katherine Spinner, Stasa Morgan-Appel
Who may register?: 
Intergenerational (50% high school and young adults, 50% older)
Experiential Activities: 
half gathering attenders welcome
First half (Monday-Wednesday)

This workshop is full for participants over age 35

New and experienced crafters, we’ll practice handwork together, with queries about gifts, ministry, making, and spiritual practices of magic and prayer.  We’ll make small pieces to assemble into a gift for the Healing Center, and each begin a gift for ourselves.  Leaders prepared to teach beginning knitting and crochet.

Workshop Description

A workshop for people who find worship and spiritual conversations enriched when their hands are “busy”. 

This workshop is open to experienced handworkers and those who want to learn a craft. We expect to all be teaching each other, though Stasa and Katherine will be prepared to teach beginning crochet and knitting.  We welcome Friends of all genders, sexual orientations, and class and racial backgrounds, acknowledging our whiteness.  We look forward to discovering what language workshop participants use to describe their spiritual experiences – for example, “prayer” is Katherine’s language; “magic” is Stasa’s.  We have experience accommodating neurodivergence and a range of abilities and disabilities. Katherine will bring a couple of knitting looms, which can be easier to manage than needles if hand mobility is limited.


Please bring:

  • 50-100 g of yarn that appeals to you, weight category 3 or 4 (DK, worsted, afghan, aran) – or something completely different – to contribute to a blanket or hanging for the Healing Center. 
    • For novices, look for yarns with these numbers or words on the labels (weight category 3, weight category 4, DK, worsted, afghan, aran), or ask in a shop for help finding something in this category.  See note below about materials.   
  • materials to start a project for yourself
  • tools and materials for your craft.  We will also have crochet hooks, knitting needles, and some yarn on hand for people to use.
    • For novices: We will have a limited number of crochet hooks and knitting needles for people to borrow during the workshop.  You may wish to bring a hook or set of needles of the appropriate size for the yarn you bring.  There will be guidance on the label, but we ourselves usually have more success talking with a shop assistant than determining good needle/hook size on our own.
  • a spiritual journal or notebook
  • anything you need to be comfortable – water bottle, snacks, cushion, blanket, stuffed animal, etc.
  • some music (recorded or to perform) and/or a reading (poetry, scripture, story, other literature, by you or by someone else) to share with the group as we work together on individual projects. This will create the opportunity for sharing across generational cultures (as well as across different experiences of spirituality).

There is no materials fee for this workshop. 

We will check in about materials on the first day.

Buying materials locally at Gathering: There are places near campus to get materials if you have access to a car (the nearest is app. a 25 minute drive; others are about an hour drive).  See below for more information.


Expected daily schedule

  • 9:00-9:15         Opening worship
  • 9:15-9:30         Check-ins / worship-sharing
  • 9:30-11:20      
    • Today's topic
    • Break
    • Today's topic continued
  • 11:20-11:30     Check-ins
  • 11:30-11:45     Closing worship / worship-sharing


  • Opening activities, orientation, etc., including supply check-in
  • Group project
    • Weaving together our hopes, fears, and wishes for the week
    • Start Healing Center project
      • Start squares; teach basic knitted and crocheted squares
      • Worship-sharing with reading/music and “busy hands”


  • Improvisation
  • Collaboration
  • (Possibly, Making for ourselves vs making for others)
  • (Possibly, Activism and discernment)
  • Continue work on Healing Center project
  • Worship-sharing with reading/music and “busy hands”


  • Handwork and healing, prayer, magic, ministry
  • Making for ourselves vs making for others
  • Starting the present for ourselves
  • Continue work on Healing Center project
  • Worship-sharing about our presents for ourselves
  • Worship-sharing with reading/music and “busy hands”


  • Activism and discernment
  • Difference and diversity, power and oppression vs solidarity, when making for other people
  • Gendered notions of handwork
  • Worship-sharing with reading/music and “busy hands”


  • Assemble the present for the Healing Center
  • Worship-sharing with reading/music and “busy hands”
  • What conversations haven’t we finished?  What do we want to talk more about?
  • Are there any other activities we’d like to do?
  • Good-byes and good-bye worship-sharing


Places to buy yarn and crafting supplies near Grinnell College

For people with access to a car, especially on their way to Gathering:

  • West of the College:
    • Palo Alto, IA, about half an hour’s drive from the College, on the way to Des Moines:
      • Crazy Redhead Quilting
      • Jan’s Yarn Barn
  • Des Moines, West Des Moines:
    • JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts (Des Moines)
    • Michael’s (West Des Moines)
    • Yarn Junction (Bloomfield)
    • Knitting Next Door (Crocker)
  • East of the College:
    • Home Ec Workshop (Iowa City)
    • Village Needlework (Marion/Cedar Rapids)


Yet more detail: proposed activities and discussions


  • Group welcome project
  • Healing Center project
  • Improvisation activity
  • Working with written patterns vs charts vs improvisation – making a knitted or crocheted square:
    • From a written pattern
    • From a chart
    • From a verbal description (or picture?)
    • Improvised
  • Collaborative activity
    • Starting “squares” and passing them
    • “Squares” and circles, rectangles, and triangles
    • Knit vs crochet
    • What other crafts?
  • Starting a present for yourself
  • Worship with “busy hands”
  • Sharing poems, stories, or music; being read to, sung/played to, or listening to music with “busy hands”


  • Handwork as worship, ministry, prayer, and magic
    • What do we mean by each of those things?
    • How does worship allow us to access these? To deepen them?  (Does it?)
  • Accessibility, neurodiversity, disability, learning styles (charts, patterns, videos, improvising)
  • Race, class, and handwork
  • Gendered notions of handwork
  • Improvisation and spirituality
    • “Worship is more improvisational than not!”
    • Where else do we improvise?  (The kitchen?)
    • What allows us to improvise?
  • Making for ourselves vs making for others
  • Working solo and collaborating
  • Activism and discernment
    • Does something actually help?  Does it harm?  How do we determine this?  What questions do different activism opportunities raise about inclusion, power, and oppression?  What about questions of who “deserves” support (military families and service members, people who are homeless or poor, etc)?
    • Pussy hats
    • Wool Against Weapons
    • Woolies for the World
    • afghans for Afghans
    • Red Cross socks (“Knit your bit!”)
    • Bird sweaters
    • Newtown



Leader Experience

Katherine has been involved in planning many Quaker events, from Quarterly Meetings to the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference, a gathering which includes Friends from both the liberal and evangelical Yearly Meetings in the region. She has extensive experience planning and leading children’s programs at Quaker gatherings with co-teachers and enjoys the dance of trading the lead and support roles. As the coordinator of Family Place at the FGC gathering she has recruited activity leaders and shared projects with families and young teens.

She recently graduated from a college with a strong emphasis on interactive learning in student-led groups. At the end of one year-long program, she taught 50 college students of diverse ages and abilities to make simple kites, then led them outside for kite-flying.

Stasa has facilitated interactive, often physical, learning experiences since 1984. She has facilitated feminist spirituality workshops and events since 1991, and has led interest groups and other participatory events at Gathering since 2001.  She has facilitated workshops at Gathering since 2007. Some have had a more serious focus, and some have been more light-hearted, but they have always been about building community among and creating safe space for minority Friends, grounded in Quaker worship.

Since 2004, Stasa has been an avid-but-middling crocheter, and has had an active crochet ministry.  She has hosted events centered around handwork as worship, ministry, and magic for many years, and has incorporated this into some of the workshops she has facilitated at Gathering.  She has been thinking for a while about what she would need in order to propose an entire workshop centered on this at Gathering, and had been starting to think about next year when Katherine approached her.

Katherine has been an avid knitter since the 2006 FGC Gathering, where she learned to knit in a workshop. She incorporated knitting into her spiritual practice as part of coping with a challenging family situation that required a lot of waiting.  She also quickly developed a knitting ministry. She has had a number of conversations with other knitters at Gathering about the possibility of a workshop somewhat more focused than the one she originally was in. Last summer she had a leading to proceed with a proposal, and this leading felt confirmed when she learned that Stasa had been considering a proposal along the same lines.

Katherine and Stasa have had many conversations over the years since we met in 2006 at the Gathering in Tacoma, WA about our experiences of handwork and worship, ministry, magic, and prayer.  We’d talked about how nice it would be to attend a workshop at Gathering with this theme where we could explore this more deeply, and with other people with other experiences.  Then we talked about how one of us, both of us, or both of us with another friend, might propose one.  Our lives have been too full over the last few years with other things demanding our spiritual resources, time, and attention, for either of us to be able to develop a proposal.  We have both completed major projects recently, and as things have shifted for us both, it’s allowed this leading to emerge into the forefront for both of us again.  We’re both very excited and energized about this!