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”!) :)
We saw a lot of beautiful boats hanging from the ceiling,
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:
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??).
A lovely cafe, with a very good menu (lentil and coconut cream soup??? My favourite!)
A Beautiful mural on the wall of the staircase:
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:
… 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!”)
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:
Jo is such a modern craft hero!
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!
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:
No need to say… I’m now a big fan of Jo’s work :)
I find this tapestry mesmerising:
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.
Ok you ask, and what?
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.
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