Not one single soul has told me in my two years of knitting, making dances and practicing yoga about the book The Knitting Sutra: Craft as a Spiritual Practice by Susan Gordon Lydon. Not one.
I don't know why I am surprised by this. I suppose if I'd run into myself two years ago, knowing what I know now, I would have mentioned it to me. (Isn't that true of a lot of things, though?) For the way it aligns ideas about craft with ideas about meditation and the search for a spiritual practice are very much in line with the journey I've been on over the last few years.
The book was originally published in 1997. At that time in my life I was primarily concerned with the mini-drama of high school, and more involved in dancing than anything else. The minute I read the first page of The Knitting Sutra a few days ago, as I sat in my sunny kitchen enjoying a home cooked lunch, I was transfixed. I wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon reading her words, her sentences resonated with me and my journey as a woman and an artist so much.
Now that I've finished the book, I see how her tale reflects back to me some version of my female self I know to be true. The way Lydon talks about the significance of weaving and knitting reminds me of why I have come to this craft later on in my life - it's an integration practice, a deepening down into the well of ones spirit.
Lydon traces the traditions of knitting back through the ages, telling of how the women of the British Isles knitted a sweater a week to make enough money to feed their families, how the mothers would knit the body of a sweater and the daughters the arms, and how she feels a kinship with this way of life.
She writes, "Women experience so many pressures to give up being who they truly are in order to take care of everyone around them," and goes on to talk about how she has had to learn how to protect her time and create solitude for herself, a quiet space where "prayer, meditation, and inspiration flourish.... And I have found knitting to be an aid in all those things."
And she speaks of the need to follow the thread of your calling to establish your own traditions, in art, spirituality and life. She details a time in her life when she went through rigorous spiritual studies and journeyed to distant spots scattered about the American West to find salvation, truths, some kind of healing. It was when someone told her she hadn't yet found what she was looking for because she hadn't yet found her tradition that she realized she had to create her own way towards enlightenment and healing (not simply prescribe to someone else's), just as she might sit and knit a sweater.
I love this book because, as a reader, I felt I was on the journey with Lydon as she discovered these truths about knitting, craft, the spiritual life and being a woman. I'm reading Knitting Heaven and Earth: Healing the Heart With Craft now by Lydon, and while I like it it is not the same as The Knitting Sutra. I feel as though she is looking back on her life and how knitting saved her in Knitting Heaven and Earth, published in 2005.
It's in The Knitting Sutra where she is unraveling the threads of her life right along with you, both forward and back. I could feel the mystery of all these things in conversation with each other as I read, finding their ways in and through me, leaving me with a stronger sense of awe and continued purpose. What purpose? As Lydon writes, "The purpose of craft is not so much to make beautiful things as to become beautiful inside while you are making those things."