Published in the May/June 2003 issue of Crosswalk, a newsletter from the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina. That issue is no longer available on line so I have reproduced it here. Likewise, I can't show you her photo of a completed cincture so here is the one I have in progress:
I had a neighbor take some pictures of me crocheting stitch by stitch. Take a look and see if they help. One thing that confused me in Sue's instructions is that she describes the 'stitch in the ditch' as being horizontal. As I hold the piece to work on it, the stitch is actually vertical. If you aim the hook in the trough between two raised spirals you will be able to pick up the right stitch.
Click on this photo for a slide show in which I try to demonstrate how to hold it and which stitch to pick up:
Sue Sanders instructions:
During March, I attended the Quiet Day at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Columbia. My friend Cookie, who attends that church, told me that she had been going to a convent in New Jersey twice a year to attend a needlework workshop there. They make altar linens for the convent, and they learn how to repair old linen. One of the sisters taught participants how to make crocheted cinctures.
I was fascinated by the idea of crocheting a rope, so Cookie came to my house one afternoon and showed me how. One interesting thing that she did was cut off about four inches at the beginning of her “rope” so I could start mine. Cutting the cincture does not hurt it at all. It’s like a “friendship cake” that calls for sharing the “starter” with a friend to keep the receipt going. The “new” end piece will not unravel.
Cookie told me that all you have to do is look for the back hump of a single crochet – the one stitch that runs horizontally – or the “stitch in the ditch”, as the sister calls it, and then single crochet. She also told me that she was not taught how to start the cincture from scratch. Well, I’ve been crocheting many years, so I decided to play with it. I did, and found out that all you have to do is chain 6 and join with a single crochet in the beginning loop and single crochet around until you see the stitch in the ditch. I found it best to single crochet in the back of the stitch or the “hump”, which makes it easier to see the stitch in the ditch once you get going. I’ve had times that it was difficult to get the cincture started, but patience has always prevailed. You will see a tiny hole in the center of your work. This will let you know that you are doing it correctly.
After making five cinctures, I decided to go to the Internet and see what history there might be. One site in particular, www.newadvent.org gives a history of the cincture that goes back to the ninth century. Here are my instructions for making a cincture:
Start with one 300-yard ball of white Speed-Cro-Sheen which will make one cincture approximately 12 feet long and a size two or a size B needle. (Note: this product no longer seems to be available. I substituted DMC Senso crochet cotton.)
Chain 6, join with a single crochet in the back hump of the first chain. Do not crochet too loosely. Crochet around until you see the “stitch in the ditch”, or the one stitch that is horizontal to the rest of your work.
Crochet until the rope measures 12 feet or the desired length, depending on the size of the person you are making it for. (Most priests and chalice bearers can tell you how long the want their cinctures.)
Tie a monk’s knot in each end – not easy to do at first, unless you have the help of a seasoned sailor. From the end of the cincture, fold about a foot of the cincture up, and wind the short end around the main rope three times and bring the end back through the wound part and through the first twist, pulling it tightly and adjusting it so the very end piece doesn’t stick out too far. The monk’s know, too, gets easier with practice, in case you are not a sailor.
Sue very kindly sent me some crocheted starter pieces. I cannot start a rope from scratch. The starters make it very easy to get going. If you want one you can contact me at svhagen at verizon dot net.