Weaving the Web of Life

Here’s a topic I find fascinating: The relationship between women and wool crafts.

In many, many civilisations, women have been knitting, spinning, weaving, felting… Or any other forms of wool/fiber related crafts.

Of course there is the necessity factor, in pre-industrial times, when women were knitting to cloth their families. When you are a knitter and you see all the work and time involved in knitting a sweater, you can’t help but feeling impressed by the amount of socks, sweaters, gloves and hats women used to produce for their families and to get extra money coming in.

But I always felt that there is something more to knitting than just the fulfilling aspect of producing items of clothing. To me knitting is also a form of meditation, a way to relax… The repetitiveness of the act of knitting is indeed very soothing. The quiet nature of this craft makes for a quieter mind, and as the mind relaxes into the process of knitting, the body aligns itself with that rhythm. Then we can connect with our own rhythm. Our own pace. The pace of our soul, the pace of our breath.

In her book, Knitting For Good!, Betsy Greer (who coined the term Craftivism) explains how knitting helped her immensely for meditation : “When I was finally comfortable enough with knitting that I no longer had to concentrate on every movement my fingers made, I discovered that after completing a few rows, the chatter in my mind dulled to a whisper. As I was used to a mind filled with lengthy to-do lists and things to remember, this newfound respite took some getting used to. While I had been a fledgling practitioner of yoga and meditation for years, I was gob-smacked by the way knitting -even more than meditation -connected me to that inner rhythm I had been trying so hard to find. There was something about the way they both allowed me to bring myself into the present, to just hang out and get comfortable (instead of trying to relive the past or jump ahead to the future) that was absolutely brilliant. Not surprisingly, soon after knitting helped me get acquainted with an inner stillness, I found myself better able to practice meditation, and once I found that rhythm, I was golden.”

Knitting also helps through difficult times. As we knit, we also step out from the constant flow of thoughts and out of the situation we are in. We are not caught up in reacting, we are not rushed into anything. We can just take some golden time out, and while we are knitting, we calm down. We have stepped out and we will be able to make better decisions. Yes. Knitting makes you wiser.

What interests me is the link between spirituality and knitting in old traditions.

My son Thom has been very passionate about shipwrecks, pirates and boats this year, so as we got to spend a month in Cornwall in May/June, I took him to the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth.

We parked the car and got on a boat to get there (I think it’s called “Park and Float”!) :)

Thom on a boat

We saw a lot of beautiful boats hanging from the ceiling,

sailing boat

Here is the Gweneve, which is Thom’s favourite. He couldn’t take his eyes off it and had to draw it on the spot, He photographed his drawing himself:

image

An art gallery and a painting of THE Joseph Mallord William Turner hanging nonchalantly on the wall (is it truly a real one?Hanging? Just like that??).

Turner

A lovely cafe, with a very good menu (lentil and coconut cream soup??? My favourite!)

A Beautiful mural on the wall of the staircase:

Heron

You may have noticed, painting birds is a passion of mine… and I was in awe of this heron, humbly painted on the wall of a dark stair case that takes you down to the basement, as part of a mural. You go down these stairs, and you get to meet these guys:

Fishes

… The basement has glass walls that enable you to witness the tide going up and down in Falmouth harbour and say “Hello! How do you do?” to the fish swimming, who are as curious towards us as we are towards them (“Fish are friends, not food!”)

Thom&fish

It’s not everyday you get a chance to get your picture taken with a living fish without bothering him, do you?

My heart sung when I entered the Flotsam Weaving exhibition, Curated By The Waves, by Jo Atherton:

Weaving1

Jo is such a modern craft hero!

Weaving2

Weaving6

Jo scouts the beaches of Cornwall and Norfolk to gather broken fish nets and other bits and pieces the tides bring in to turn them into beautifully coloured tapestries… a modern Craftivist woman, doing beautiful weaving work here!

Weaving 3

On a personal, self-reminiscing note, I used to collect objects from the beach back when I used to live by the sea, in the south west of France. I had a collection of all sorts of bits and bobs found on the beach and I find the randomness of these objects strange and fascinating… More of Jo’s tapestries:

Weaving4

No need to say… I’m now a big fan of Jo’s work :)

I find this tapestry mesmerising:

 Weaving5

Curated by the waves

Jo’s exhibition at Falmouth Maritime Museum finished in July, but watch THIS SPACE to keep an eye on what she’s got coming up next.

 Viking Voyagers is still on though, with its viking galleon. Don’t go combing the whole museum looking for it : it’s on the ground floor.

Viking galleon

Ok you ask, and what?

And that:

Foroyar

That’s exactly what I had been looking for: This connection between knitting and spirituality! Somehow I feel that women hold the key to a secret tradition of wisdom. You can call it the wise woman tradition… In which they follow their instinct and their wisdom, and through crafts, such as weaving and knitting, they spin their web. The web of their inner wisdom.

Women and wool

Women and Wool2Viking ThomThom dressed up in Viking fashion, standing on the galleon…

Betsy Greer has been collecting old pictures of women knitting, weaving, spinning… to honour this lineage of crafts women worldwide, who through happy times and hard times, have kept afloat through their crafts.

“Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn’t hurt the untroubled spirit either.”
― Elizabeth Zimmermann

8 thoughts on “Weaving the Web of Life

  1. Yep, I get to the same place sewing. C likes to sit next to me when I sew, and feels his own stillness then too.
    The crochet is too new yet to do the same, but I’m sure it’ll get there at some point.
    Knitting would drive me mental, haha!xxx

  2. And a big thanks from me too! Thanks so much for mentioning my recent exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth. I found your post very interesting in terms of inner peace and a meditative approach to what is, at times, a repetitive task. I’ve not been so good recently after some sad news, but have found myself retreating into my weaving as a place of comfort and your post has provided me with some clarity within my own practice, so thank very much.

  3. Thanks to you ladies for being such inspirations and talented craftswomen! I’m very flattered to know that you liked this post as you were both my inspiration :) Jo, you may enjoy Betsy’s books, such as Knitting For Good! which I mentioned in this post and you may also like The Knitting Sutra: Craft As A Spiritual Practice from Susan Gordon Lydon :) Thank you for stopping by!

  4. This is so true! Now that I think about it, my life has become a better, happier place since I took up knitting again about 8 years ago 😀 Thanks for sharing your photos from your day out, too… Jo’s woven pieces are awesome!

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