13,176,000 Stitches: The United Congregational Church’s Prayer Shawl Ministry

Submitted by:  Kathleen Jackson

To:  Renee Hobbs

Date:  May 10, 2019

Subject:  EDC534

A Reflection on the Stages of Production for “13,176,000 Stitches,” the Story of the United Congregational Church in Middletown, RI’s Prayer Shawl Ministry

Pre-Production:  Planning, Scripting and Storyboarding

Almost as soon as I decided to do a story for my final project, I decided that I wanted to tell the story of the knitters who comprise the Prayer Shawl Ministry at the United Congregational Church in Middletown, RI.  I spoke with one of the women who is a knitter and asked her if she would run the idea by the group.  She got back to me right after their Thursday meeting and told me they would be happy to help me with my project, but that they did not want their faces captured.  They only wanted their hands and the shawls to be a part of the story.

I knew the room they knitted in.  It is a beautiful sunny space.  I knew it would be a beautiful backdrop to photograph and record them knitting.

As I had limited time to meet with them (I had to take vacation time each Thursday morning), the lines between Pre-Production and the Actual Production became a little blurred.  Knowing many of the knitters, I assumed the group was organized and maintained a tight schedule.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  The first week I went in, introduced myself, told them about the class and my project, and played a little of my Leap 3 project so they could get an idea of what I had in mind.  I started the explanation, started it again about 15 minutes later, when another group of knitters came in, and started the explanation a third time when some stragglers came in and hour into the Knitters time.  I explained that I knew they only wanted their hands and the prayer shawls photographed, and actually took a video and a number of photos that day. 

I told them that I would be recording their voices on my iPhone and explained how that would work.  I also mentioned that I would create some questions and get them to them before I came again the next week.

I thought long and hard about some open-ended questions that I could ask them, typed them up and emailed them out.  I knew one woman did not use email, so I drove a copy of the questions to her house.  I had a vision of how week two would go, as they knew I would be coming.  But alas, week two was a little chaotic two.  The knitters came in like the animals on Noah’s Ark, two by two and at 10 minute intervals.  I asked them if they had any questions about the questions I had sent. Most of them had not looked at their emails. I went down to the office and printed some copies for them. We reviewed the recording process. I explained that the microphone on the iPhone was not going to be able to filter out background conversation so they needed to treat the phone like a talking stick. If you have it, you’ve got the floor. The recording went smoothly after that. We worked our way through the questions. I explained the timeline and told them I would come back to share the video when it was completed.

I worked out the storyboard in my head, how I anticipated the photos, videos, and story would play out in iMovie.

The Goosebumps and the Challenges

Things had gone relatively smoothly until I hit the post production phase. Yes, I had not really anticipated the flow of the knitting group, and yes, I thought like me, they would check their emails daily. Still things were smooth until I tried to navigate iMovie. I watched every YouTube video know to man about how to edit and produce, and nothing seemed to work. I finally reached out to Kristen Anderson, a colleague from another job who also attended the Summer Institute last year. She graciously agreed to meet me and give me some pointers. She helped me with basics, like getting everything off the phone and saved to its correct locations in iMovie. I was jazzed because everything was in place. I realized that the next thing I needed to do was decide how I was going to tell the story. It was a layer of detail that had not been a part of pre-production, and honestly could not have, because I needed to be with them to hear them to devise how to start the story. I started thinking of numbers: the years, the knitters, the skeins of yarn, the rows, the stitches. I was so overwhelmed with their purpose and their legacy that I got the shivers and could not stop shaking. What a story! I went back to them and asked them to state the numbers with their own voices.

Now back to iMovie. No one seemed to use it. I couldn’t edit. I spent hours and hours trying to watch video, click away at the Mac and nothing worked. I was getting more and more frustrated until I realized that I work at a University with Marketing students. Two angels, Aaron and Ashley sat with me and taught me the editing process. In fact, both students experienced problems with the touchpad on my laptop and suggested that I get a mouse. It was the turning point. While it took a long time to edit, while it is longer than it is “supposed” to be, I edited my first iMovie movie. Woo hoo!

I learned a lot. Here are a few things. (1) Anticipate the unexpected. Even though I had planned and thought I knew the group, I really did not know how they would function until I sat with them a few times. (2) Think ahead to the editing before you begin a project. I am sure that there was a way to record that would have saved me the hours of editing that I went through. (3) I will always be surprised by what I learn. People are amazing, and their stories are so powerful that I will always be impacted. (4) The best thing was the gift that I gave the knitters. They had no idea of the impact they had made in the lives of our church and in their ministry. When they read the numbers they were humbled and awed. We all had tears in our eyes. (5) And, as I am writing this, I realize that another title for the movie would be Ripples. They had no idea how far their ministry had rippled into the world. (6) I am proud of the work I have done, and realize that there is so much more to learn. I am excited and up for that challenge. (7) I love everything about Adobe Spark except that I couldn’t get it to open in WordPress. If you know how, please teach me! (8) Finally, everything is a story. I can’t wait to begin the next one.