Knitting Heaven and Earth: Healing the Heart with Craft

By Susan Gordon Lydon.

I loved Lydon’s The Knitting Sutra. She has a beautiful writing style. But this book just doesn’t do it for me (others, of course will find it just what they need).

Here’s an example of the very best of the writing in the book:

It has occurred to me that I am helping to knit my father out of this world. During the previous weeks, when my father knew he was dying but before he lay insensate in this hospice room, I knitted a black wool men’s sweater with thick cables that I will probably never wear. But it doesn’t seem to matter what I knit, how useless it is or inappropriate for the climate, so long as I just keep knitting.

The quiet motions of my swishing needles and slipping yarn help me sit still and attend this momentous event. It feels as though the thread connects my inner self to the reality now unfolding, which after all is as spiritual as it gets. There is no bigger mystery than life and death. I watch my father metamorphose from his powerful earthly presence to the embryonic being lying silent in the bed. I never knew before how much like birth death is. My father’s skin becomes smooth. His thoughts, his feelings, his fears and concerns are as hidden to us as a baby’s, his energy focused on the coming transformation.

I was quite disappointed at the very low knitting (or needlepoint, the
other craft she practices) content. And I’m not sure about how much
healing there is, either, except for healing her relationship with her
father–only one of three major life events she focuses on. There were
just too many differences in life experience that are reflected in her
writing: addiction, intimacy issues with men, breast cancer. I’ve read
books by women writing about their experience as women that have drawn
me in, but in this one it became more of a barrier.

As I read, I thought over and over, I should really be thinking about writing on the spirituality of handwork for a male audience. Over and over I pick up one of the currently in vogue books about knitting and spirituality and find myself set very firmly on the outside of the intended audience. Lydon never acknowledges the role of men in the history of knitting (unless you count mentioning Kaffe Fassett), prefering instead the kind of new-agey feminine mystical connection that some of the worst neo-pagan writing uses to create a connection between current practice and prehistory: “Groups of women have probably gathered to do needlework together since the dawn of time.”

I suppose I shouldn’t blame her for the absence of men in her writing, since it’s clear from early in the book that she has one, maybe two healthy close relationships with men–one her godson, only ten, and her gay brother. So after spending a long paragraph listing all the women who helped her through the horrors of breast cancer, she writes, “Not to shortchange my male friends, either, because they showed up to help in solid numbers.” But of course, she has just shortchanged her male friends.

I do hope this book reaches the audience who will be receptive to it, which I am sure exists. I just wish there was a book in this genre for which I am the audience.


2 Replies to “Knitting Heaven and Earth: Healing the Heart with Craft”

  1. Write that book! The connection between knitting and spirituality is not the sole domain of women. I have had a hard time finishing her book. It could be because my own father is ill and that part hits a little close to home. I also felt uncomfortable with the strong “anti-man” undertone (or is it overt?).

  2. am looking for a scarf, knitted by Susan. The scarf was left in Oakland to be repaired. My mama wears it in the cold winters. Can anyone help me ? Shuna, perhaps you maY know the knitter who was going to repair it. A woman who spoke so elogquently on knitting. Any help I would apprediate.



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