Knitting self help books? Pt 1

Yes indeed! Once I discovered this genre existed, I went on a bit of a reading binge. As some of you may recall from a post or two a while back, the why of knitting is a big interest of mine. By the “why” of knitting, I mean what is is that compells so many of us to habitually reach for our needles.

My Grandmother's Knitting: Family Stories and Inspired Knits from Top DesignersMy Grandmother’s Knitting: Family Stories and Inspired Knits from Top Designers by Larissa Golden Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The stories are short reads, but very cute and inspiring. It was neat to get a glimpse into the lives and development of some big names in knitting design – I especially love the family photos. Most of the patterns are nothing out of the ordinary, but all are something I would make, and a few are even quite innovative.

The Knitting Way: A Guide to Spiritual Self-DiscoveryThe Knitting Way: A Guide to Spiritual Self-Discovery by Linda Skolnik
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The unique concept behind this book drew me in. While I was not as blown away by any profound revelations as I have been with similar works, there are moments that made me ponder and I think it’s worth a read. I found I actually quite enjoyed reading about the authors’ stories and experiences of discovering knitting’s importance in their spiritual lives. I found that the philosophical discussions, guided meditations and the like were a little overkill for my tastes. The patterns are nothing to write home about and are perhaps a little dated.

Zen and the Art of Knitting: Exploring the Links Between Knitting, Spirituality, and CreativityZen and the Art of Knitting: Exploring the Links Between Knitting, Spirituality, and Creativity by Bernadette Murphy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When it comes to inspirational or spiritual books I prefer those authors who illustrate their points by story and example rather than just waxing philosophic or religious ad nauseum. Hence, I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend Bernadette Murphy’s book to any knitter (or any crafter, for that matter) who enjoys a good story and is interested in delving into the ‘deeper’ reasons behind their yarn obsession.

All Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a SpinAll Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a Spin by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Yarn Harlot? Yes, I know I recently mentioned the Yarn Harlot’s latest endeavour and my thoughts on it here, but I had to include it in this list. And yes, it arguably doesn’t fit into the topic of “self help books,” but this is MY blog, so whatever. Really, it’s a comedy: a quick, light read that made my commutes fly by. At moments I actually had to laugh out loud, which probably made other subway passengers move clear of me… Yet what kept me reading were the little nuggets of wisdom and revelations about life and knitting’s place in it.

Mindful Knitting: Inviting Contemplative Practice to the CraftMindful Knitting: Inviting Contemplative Practice to the Craft by Tara Jon Manning
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I found this to be similar to The Knitting Way but more succinct, weighing in at only 136 pages. Tara Jon Manning explores how knitting can help one practice the buddhist meditative approach known as mindfulness. This makes perfect sense, considering the quiet, contemplative nature of the activity. This books sheds light on why so many knitters describe knitting as a soothing, comforting pastime. More discussion on how a state of mindfulness relates to creativity would be interesting.

Why do we knit?

I often wonder why I am so drawn to this hobby. Especially as someone who tends to fret over how wisely I spend my time and how enriching my pastimes are. But I love to knit. I have URGES to knit – my hands will actually itch. I browse Ravelry and Knitty in my breaks at work.

What is it about using sticks to loop string around and around itself in repetitive motions until you have something functional, something that took 100+ hours of your life to produce when you could have bought it pre-made for $30 (and quite possibly less than the cost of your wool)?

To be entirely honest, I don’t quite get it. I’m nearly as obsessed as they come, and I can’t come up with a solid answer.

Is knitting the new yoga? I’ve heard this oft-quoted mantra many a time, but I’m not quite buying it. And this is coming from a girl who quit yoga after 3 sessions.

Though, there may be something to the calming aspect of it. It forces one to slow down and contemplate. It’s almost meditative in a way.

I think that is a big part of the attraction, however I think there is more to it than that for me. On a recent trip to the Art Gallery of Ontario, I was struck by their new photography exhibit. Featured were stunning turn-of-the-century prints taken in rural parts of France. Now, I don’t want to romanticize what I’m sure was a tough existence, but part of me felt a connection to the images, especially those featuring women going about their daily lives, namely spinning yarn, knitting, and washing and mending clothes by hand. (For more on my love of handicrafts in the days of yore, see here).

Suddenly, something clicked. I was reminded of an essay I had recently read in Ann Budd‘s book Knitting Green and immediately re-read it when I got back home.

In Touching the Sun Through Fiber Carmen S. Hall writes, “I can feel my dear grandmothers watching over me when I knit, and the presence of other ancestors I never knew… I touch the souls of others when I knit. I also learn to better touch my own soul… Zen poet Thich Nhat Hanh tells a beautiful story about looking deeply into a piece of paper. He says that if you are still enough and look deeply enough, it is possible to touch the tree from which the paper was made, to feel the soil beneath its roots, the wind that blew through its branches, the shade of the cloud that passed overhead, the gentle rain that fell… if you look deep enough, it is possible to touch the sun… As I knit, I hope to pave the path for others as they tap into the mystery of craft and creation. I hope my children will remember me knitting though joys and through sorrows… I hope they too will learn to touch the sun.”

I could not have said it better myself.

Elizabeth Zimmerman may be able to say it more succinctly, however:

“Knit on, with confidence & hope, through all crises.”