Friday, July 09, 2010

The Craft Of Craft

In The Knitting Sutra: Craft as a Spiritual Practice, feminist author Susan G. Lydon writes that:

Knitting grounds me in the realness of the physical world. The feel of the yarn in my fingers, the steady growth of the fabric, the soothing click of the needles, the attention required to stay on course all help to hold me close to terra firma. Though mind and spirit travel in the cosmos, beyond the moon and stars, my body stays rooted in comforting solidity. I've come to appreciate solidity in these last few years, to value strength, an unshakable core.

Some days, I luxuriate in solitude like a cat basking in the sun. I've fallen in love with the whole of creation, the redwood trees, the fingers of fog, raptors tracing circles in the sky. I'm living a life I always imagined but never knew how to find.

I've been thinking a bit lately (often while knitting -- a beloved friend is having a baby, I'm finishing up an Autumn-colored sweater for G/Son, I'm starting to think about holiday knitting (last year, I made hats for the men in my family and scarves for the women; this year, I'm thinking of cowls for the men and hats for the women)) about the relationship between craft (which, in my case is knitting, but in yours might be beading or basket weaving or crafting amazing cocktails or macrame -- does anyone still do macrame?) and my spirituality. And, of course, Wicca is sometimes known as the Craft of the Wise.

I like the way that knitting weaves me into a many-thousand-year-old circle of women, women who, even when they could sit down and "relax," kept their hands busy making things to keep their family warm. Knitting is generally passed literally and physically from woman to woman: mother to daughter, aunt to niece, teacher to student.* I suppose it's theoretically possible to learn to knit by reading a book or watching a video, but I don't know anyone who learned it that way.

I learned to knit, when I was in my early teens, from an old woman in our church named Mrs. Williams. She was an amazing knitter! When Son was born, she made him a cardigan and beret that I passed on to G/Son. I don't know who taught her to knit, but I like to send my gratitude back through that line, from me to Mrs. Williams, to whoever taught her, to whoever taught her . . . whenever I pick up my projects. If women had been taught to value their own skills, maybe knitters would be required to recite their lineage when they learned their craft, honoring the names of productive craftswomen long gone. My grandma crocheted, and I treasure an afghan she made for me. Her craft links me back to her and reminds me of her love every time I snuggle under her handiwork.

In Sacred Circles: A Guide to Creating Your Own Women's Spirituality Group, Robin Deen Carnes and Sally Craig note that women's spirituality:

is rooted in the daily experience of being a woman, whether we are cultivating herbs or cooking with them, diapering a baby, giving a presentation, or dressing for a formal dance.

I think that's right, or, at least, that women's spirituality should be rooted in our daily experiences. Knitting is part of my (almost) daily experience and so it makes sense for it to play a role in my spirituality.

I also practice a simple form of protection spell whenever I knit something. I weave my intention for safety and warmth (for whoever will wear my knitting) directly into the ribbing, the knitting and purling, the twisting cables, the oh-so-time-consuming seed stitches. I cast on repeating the spell I've made and focus on a visual picture of my intention each time I turn a row (or hit the marker on circular needles).

What's your craft? Who taught it to you? What role does it play in your spiritual life?

*I do know that some men knit and that's great. But it is, still, a craft practiced overwhelmingly by women.


Kathy said...

I'm a knitter as well, mostly self-taught from books until the past several years when knitting shows came into being and my skills improved drastically. I have felt a connection to past generations through the craft and a kinship with the women who went before me.

When I was a Christian I knitted prayer shawls for women in my former church. Now that I am a Pagan I don't have a community to knit for so I knit mostly for myself and my family, things for comfort, for ritual usage and for fun. I haven't as yet begun using spells but I do tend to visualize my intentions into my knitting.

I love the connection you make with spirituality and crafting. It's one of the reasons I'm on the Pagan path I'm on.

CrowsFoxes said...

I crochet -- I make stuffed animals for friend's little ones, afghans for babies and shawls for myself and others. I love the feel of thread in my hands and to see what was nothing but a skein of thread become a thing of beauty and usefulness. I whisper blessings over it each time I pick a project up and then once again when it is finished, before gifting it.