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The Knitting Sutra Reader’s Guide

By Susan Gordon Lydon

The Knitting Sutra by Susan Gordon Lydon


The Knitting Sutra is a groundbreaking work, the first book to acknowledge that the kind of spiritual connection that we seek in yoga, tai chi, or meditation can be found in the handcrafts that women have pursued for generations. With their own lore, rituals, and traditions, knitting, and other crafts can resemble the familiar spiritual practices that have been providing meaning for many cultures.

Knitting and reading have a lot in common – both are self-sufficient, endlessly entertaining, sometimes all-consuming. Both can also be solitary endeavors, but knitters and readers have known for years that by sharing their thoughts and their time with others who pursue the same activity, they find more pleasure and enrichment. Enjoy the reading, crafting, and sharing journey that Susan Gordon Lydon invites you to join in The Knitting Sutra.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Do you feel a personal connection between craft and spirituality?

2. What connection does your craft have to your family, cultural heritage, or history? What traditions are passed down in your family? Do you have clothes, blankets, or doilies that were made by a family member, either someone close like your mother or father, or several generations back, or even someone close enough to be family? What connection do you feel with the objects they have made?

3. Discuss the idea of "practice," in its secular and spiritual meanings, as it relates to knitting.

4. Does your craft bring you into a community? Are there people you sit around a project with, like a knitting circle or quilting bee? Is there a group that has sprung up around a craft store? Do you like being part of an on-line knitting community?

5. If you lost the use of one of your arms, what would you miss most?

6. Do you have any passion or desire, outside life’s basic necessities, so strong that you would literally sell your clothes to fund it?

7. Is there a connection between work and play that comes into your craft? Is it as satisfying to craft without making something useful? Do you think you would enjoy making your livelihood as a professional crafter?

8. Is there a connection between the physical aspect of your craft and its importance to you? Do you like to "get out of your head" by spending time with your knitting needles, or keep your fingers flexible, or enjoy the texture of the materials?

9. Do you make or contribute to the production of anything else of practical use in your life? Do you grow herbs, bake, work in manufacturing?

10. Which is more important to you – the process of making something, or the finished product? How do you feel when something is finished?

11. What do you think someone could learn about you from observing your hobby?

12. How willing are you to accept mistakes in your projects?

13. Many religions use beads, knots, or other objects as complements to prayer. Do you ever feel that your handwork has a religious component, whether formal or not? Have you ever made a prayer shawl, or a yarmulke, or a christening gown?

14. Who is the intended user of your finished projects? Do you knit mostly for yourself or for others? Is it more enjoyable to give a knitted item to someone you’ve been thinking about while you make it, or to imagine using it yourself, or to give it to someone you may never meet?

About this Author

Susan Gordon Lydon is the author of the acclaimed Take the Long Way Home: Memoirs of a Survivor. She writes regularly for Interweave and is a contributor to Knitlit. She has written for numerous publications, including the New York Times Magazine, the Village Voice, and Ms. Her column, "Cityscape," appears in the Oakland Tribune. She conducts knitting workshops at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she is at work on a new book about knitting.
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