Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Book Review

Nanda gave me a book for Christmas that was a fun little read, especially since I received it a week early and I got to procrastinate during the hustle and bustle, instead indulging in a day of laying around reading. It’s called Zen and the Art of Knitting, and it’s by Bernadette Murphy. As it says on the cover, it explores “the links between knitting, spirituality, and creativity.”

The author begins by discussing how she learned to knit and what knitting has meant to her personally, and then tells the stories and anecdotes of several knitters that she met during research for the book. Sometimes I feel like this obsession with knitting is a little bit…odd. Non-knitters sometimes have a terrible image of the craft: that of an old grandma, sitting in a rocking chair, and knitting in silence for hours at a time. Boring! With that kind of image, no wonder people are often surprised to learn that I knit. They often say, “I don’t have the patience for it,” or even, “Don’t you get bored sitting still for so long?”

This book explores why people love to knit. How do they stand to sit still knitting for so long? I completely relate to the answers the author discovers. It is relaxing. It is impossible for me to stay angry, uptight, or worried while I am knitting. The simple act of moving my fingers along the needles removes tense thoughts from my mind and I can think of so many other things. Sometimes, I don’t seem to think about anything at all. The author and many of the people she interviews consider knitting to be a form of meditation. They discuss that in today’s climate, we are so busy, that it can be difficult to meditate even if you have the time to try. It is hard to concentrate on meditating when you feel guilty for not spending your time on something more productive. But when knitting, you are producing something and the repetitive motions of the knitting become one’s mantra. After a while, you don’t have to think about the stitches anymore: it’s as if they are knitting themselves. Your mind is freed to either think or to not think, which is a very liberating experience. And I’m so glad to find out that other knitters feel the same way!

Also, knitting is a way to be creative. Again, we live in such a busy society that often there are not a lot of opportunities to fulfill the need to create. But there are an unlimited amount of items that can be knitted. A simple scarf can be made in hundreds of ways and with hundreds of different colors (possibly within the same scarf)! A knitter can take a pattern and make it his or her own. And it is such a portable hobby that it can be taken almost anywhere, so that the knitter can get that fix more often.

Besides this, knitters seem to enjoy showing their love and appreciation of their loved ones by knitting for them. They enjoy learning new knitting skills. They love to experiment with colors and fibers. Some embrace the feeling of connection to their mothers and grandmothers that comes from sharing the same craft.

I can relate to all of these feelings, and it was so nice to read about other knitters and why they knit. It is truly an incredible craft and one that I feel blessed to have learned. Instead of feeling like a crotchety old grandma knitting in her rocking chair, I crave my knitting as a way to relax, to turn inward, and to tap into that creative reserve that I don’t indulge in as often as I’d like. Though I have never considered myself a highly creative person, I think that everyone has a need to create. That’s one reason why I loved working in factories before I went and received an education! I loved seeing the end products of a day’s hard work, knowing that I made the objects from beginning to end and tested them to confirm their functionality. Sometimes I fixed broken products that had been returned from customers. It was immensely satisfying to say, “I did that”. That is a real reward of knitting, and of crafting in general.

Thanks again, Nanda, for my Christmas present! What fun to combine two of my favorite hobbies: knitting and reading! And I look forward to reading Rick’s book when he’s done....

You are most welcome! Thanks for having an obsession I can be supportive of, especially during the holidays. If you enjoyed, oh, say, flinging dung, I don't think I'd be all about that.

Merry Christmas,
"It was immensely satisfying to say, “I did that”.

I can relate! That is exactly what drives me in my creative projects. Nice review!
I think I looked at this very book today at the bookstore. I'll have to re-look at it, I guess. I've rediscovered knitting in the past year, and I think I've made enough scarves that they could go from east to west coast and back! Thanks for the review!
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