Book Review: The Knitting Sutra / Knitting Heaven and Earth by Susan Gordon Lydon

The Knitting Sutra: Craft as a Spiritual PracticeThe Knitting Sutra: Craft as a Spiritual Practice by Susan Gordon Lydon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

To tell you the truth, I found the Knitting Sutra to be a mixed experience. On one hand, I am not that familiar with most of the spiritual paths that the author discusses or references. And there are times when the tone of those discussions gets to be a bit much, like a sort of spiritual name-dropping which got a bit annoying at times.

Having said that, there were some jewels scattered through the book that made it a fascinating read. Sometimes, those bright moments were spelled out in the book and sometimes they were just thought-provoking little sparks that sent my mind out on its own line of thinking but I came away from the book with a lot to ponder, like:

– The concept of knitting (or craft in general) as a sort of meditation or prayer… teaching you to be still, aware, and to take each moment as it comes. There was a comparison between the stitch by stitch motion of knitting and praying with rosary beads which I just loved.

– The fact that while there is value to learning from many different sources, that ultimately, you need to tailor and adapt what you know and what you do to your own situation and needs.

– Permission to make mistakes and embrace the imperfect in yourself and in the things you do

– The theory that in order to make a garment for yourself, you must really be accurately aware of your body, with all its individuality and imperfections. As someone who has struggled with body image and awareness, I find the idea that knitting for yourself as a path to self-awareness fascinating. I also love the idea that once you have that accurate view of yourself, you choose to spend time, effort and money to make something beautiful for yourself. It seems like it could be therapy and self-validation all wrapped up in one.

– The belief that “If we are indeed made in the image of our Creator, it stands to reason that we are most like that Creator when we are creating something ourselves.”

While, I may not have connected to the authors own philosophical knitting journey on a personal level, I was glad to have read the Knitting Sutra for its contribution to my own.

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Knitting Heaven and Earth: Healing the Heart with CraftKnitting Heaven and Earth: Healing the Heart with Craft by Susan Gordon Lydon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Knitting Heaven and Earth is an exploration of crafting as a healing force as told by Susan Gordon Lydon, the author of The Knitting Sutra. In it, Lydon discusses crafting (but most specifically, knitting) as an activity strongly associated with life’s transitions. She wrote about knitting for birth and knitting for illness, heartbreak and death.

In one section of the book, the sweater she knitted as gift for a dear friend struggling with mental illness and depression became a comfort to those left behind when the friend committed suicide. In another, lace shawls chronicled the author’s attempt to open herself up to love and her pain as the dysfunctional relationship cycled through numerous breakups, betrayals and reconciliations. Lydon knitted as she sat by her father’s deathbed. As his death was considered eminent for years before he actually passed, Lydon has the opportunity to create the relationship with her father that she had lacked throughout her early life, crafting memories and connection with him. The sweaters that she made during this time, recorded her experience, helped her process her grief and acted as a tangible remnant of her last few months with her father and the relationship they had forged together. Lastly, Lydon wrote about her battle with breast cancer, which came after an earlier bout of cancer. While she turned more to needlepoint during her treatments than knitting, she wrote movingly of crafting, of creativity and its ability to sustain, comfort and rejuvenate us. At the closing of the book, having been told that the cancer had metastasized to her liver, she wrote both of the comfort of crafting to see her through whatever was to come and the legacy that it would leave if she should not survive. The book leaves her story there but a search on the internet revealed that she passed away shortly after the book was published. This added an even stronger emotional punch to a book that had reduced me to tears at several points.

As in The Knitting Sutra, there were moments in the book that will serve as food for thought and inspiration for me. Two such highlights are:

“I no longer ask myself why it is so absolutely soothing to me to ply a needle through fabric, in the same repetitive motion. The Mexican mural painter, Diego Rivera said he painted because that was what he did. He was like a tree that bears a certain type of fruit; in his case the fruit was paintings.

I am a tree that bears needlework and writing. It’s just what I do. “

And

“I knit and I wonder. Is God a knitter, a craftsperson, a seamstress? Did (S)He create the vast oceans with a sweep of the hand of patiently construct them one drop at a time?”

Knitting Heaven and Earth is a very personal story. It is frank and unblinking as the story of one crafter’s life and experience, a more intimate and accessible book than The Knitting Sutra. On a personal note, it really brought some of my emotional issues and history and its connection to my own knitting and crafting to the surface and will stay with me for some time.

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About Ciarrai

Hi. My name is Kerry but here online I tend to go by the Gaelic version of my name, Ciarrai. I am a woman in my mid-30's who lives on Long Island, NY, with my husband, Rob, several guitars, a Nikon D40, more yarn, beads and books than I care to admit to and a cat who has a million nicknames and quite a few theme songs. I have a B.A. in Psychology and have recently returned to college to pursue a teaching degree so that I can eventually get a job as a High School English teacher. In addition to my major obsessions (Reading, Beading, Knitting, Music and Photography), I also enjoy playing Board Games, going to Renaissance Faires, Museums and Broadway Musicals.
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