Donna's Writings


Repeating patterns

In Stories In Stitches 4, my designs feature repeating geometric patterns inspired by Islamic art. I find the repetition in knitting these motifs to be meditative and relaxing. Here are some thoughts in repeating patterns from my journal:

Is something a pattern if it doesn’t repeat?

There are so many kinds of repeating patterns:
Patterns in our lives
Patterns in history
Visual patterns
Auditory patterns
Patterns of growth
Patterns in knitting

Repeating patterns are interesting to me because I am not sure if they exist or if we only perceive them. How does this idea relate to each of the types of patterns I’ve listed above? Does history repeat itself? Do variations on a theme constitute patterns? Do we keep making the same mistakes over and over again in our lives (or in our knitting)?

Sometimes the repeating is the mistake, sometimes not repeating identically is the mistake. In knitting, when we have a pattern repeat, we want to knit it exactly the same time every time, so our pattern is consistent, neat, and beautiful. But in life, we generally want to make changes every time we do something, so as we learn and grow, we improve.

Gardening is a great example of this, and it’s a slow way to repeat a pattern. We only get to plant and grow and harvest a garden once a year. It takes a whole year to repeat and perform the pattern and we don’t get to tweak what we did until the following year. We can’t rip it out and start over either. We just have to move forward and see what we can do differently — or the same — next time. Even if we want to do everything the same every year, it won’t work because the weather will be different; different pests will visit our garden; and even the seeds and seedlings we buy will be different.

With knitting, when we do want repeatable results, the same issues come up. Maybe we want to make the same project again. But if we choose a different yarn, or make a different size, or sometimes even use a different color of the same yarn, we will get different results. Changing the material of our neeldes will also make our stitches come out different. So repeating a pattern is probably impossible on any large scale. In fact, that’s why so many cultures have a story about making mistakes on purpose. We can’t help it! We are human.

Repeating patterns brings me back to the Event Horizon pi shawl from Stories In Stitches 2 and my life going in circles, in cycles. The year is a repeating pattern with 4 seasons. Are there longer cycles in nature? Of course. We are not always aware of them because they are not so close to our lives.

Islamic art is all about repeating patterns. Moving the motif up and to the right or down and to the left and repeating it. Tesselating the plane. Using geometry to fill a solid, smooth shape with intricate patterning that creates beauty that not only appeals to the eye, but that also speaks to the soul.


Something about repetition is spiritual. The liturgy repeats year after year. The rosary repeats bead after bead. Life’s cycles: birth, christening/bris, confirmation/bar mitzvah, marriage, aging, death, all of it happens again and again. Tevye sang about it in Fiddler On the Roof, or his wife Golde did. Sunrise, sunset, swiftly pass the years. It all happens over and over and over again.

What makes the past and the future different if this is true? There are details that change. These details are important. They break the pattern. They provide individuality. They give us a sense of being ourselves. Is this good or bad? Some cultures say good, some say bad. I don’t know. I suppose having a sense of cycles and a sense of moving forward is good, to have two perspectives to look at the world in two different ways.


I like black and white answers, but they aren’t real. The real world is not even shades of grey. It is all the colors of the rainbow, and more colors that aren’t in the rainbow. It is the invisible spectrums of ultraviolet and infrared, as well as radio waves, micro waves, x-rays, and more. There is so much in the real world, we can’t possibly understand it. And yet we take what little we can perceive and create patterns out of it with our puny minds. And we think that makes us smart.



To learn more about my book series Stories In Stitches™ and to read more stories like this, visit The first 4 books are available now. They feature knitting stories from “Around the World” and book 4 is all about “Knitting and Spirit” with stories about the spirituality of knitting from the perspective of many different faiths and traditions.

Knitting, Old Blogs, Writing
  1. Thanks for the note, Mary Lou! I love the slow pace of gardening. But my husband does the hard work. I pick and do canning and make jam!

  2. I love the parallel with gardening!

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