Mindfulness in knitting, is it possible, what can it look like and what good will it do you? Rachael Matthews gives you the answer and will inspire you to be more mindful in your knitting practise along the way.
From the origins of society’s natural evolution, two ancient cultures have emerged, guiding the way for our heads, hearts and hands. One of these cultures is knitting, or to be more descriptive, the addictive habit of forming a soft textile with your hands. The other culture is mindfulness, or, as I like to think of it, a childlike love of hooking up with your inner being, listening to the pattern of your breathing and exploring the flow of intimate thoughts. p.7
That’s how Matthews introduces her book on knitting and mindfulness, or rather The Mindfulness in Knitting. It perked my interest and the rest of the book didn’t disappoint.
To say that this is the book that has single-handedly had the greatest impact on my knitting life EVER isn’t an overstatement.
The Mindfulness in Knitting
By Rachael Matthews
Meditations on Craft and Calm
Mindfulness in Knitting By Rachael Matthews – A Review
Matthews book stirred so many thoughts in me and contained so many interesting points, I decided to structure the review with notes on each chapter. This is not a long book at 144 pages from cover to cover but it is so profound it deserves an in-depth review. You will soon come to see how many questions it stirred in my mind.
In our overstimulated society, Matthews argue that,
[…] the truthful heart of humanity whispers to us, ‘Hush! Make something happen yourself! There is plenty of time to sort your head out!’ p. 8
I think that’s something most knitters can relate to. We feel called to keep our hands busy with something other than constant scrolling on our phones.
Matthews goes as far as positioning knitting as a rare cure for boredom. If we give our minds the opportunity to slow down with the rhythmic movement of our hands, we are forced to face why we were bored in the first place.
I found this to be true in my own knitting since reading the book.
Knitting, a Lifelong Structure for Learning
In the first chapter, Matthews presents three points: Turn on, tune in, drop out.
She then moved on to explain what they mean:
Turn on – simply pick up your knitting and get to work.
Tune in – becoming anchored in the present and taking note of what comes up in our minds.
Drop out – by turning on and tuning in, we drop out of societal pressures.
This becomes the backbone of her mindfulness in knitting practise and especially the final part, drop out, stirred me because is it really that simple? Are we really able to drop out of the societal pressures?
I really enjoyed the history bits, both from her personal life and wider history. It made me think of my own family history of knitting. How my almost blind grandmother could feel a mistake in my knitting faster than I could spot it using my eyes and would then force me to fix it.
The “enlightened reflections” at the end of the chapter is a series of questions that ask you to go deep. One example is “What are the most difficult parts of your life?”
I’ve thought most of them before but found that after adding another child to our family some of the answers to the questions had changed.
So even if you’ve answered these questions before I would urge you to do it again and see if anything has shifted and then ask yourself why.
Finding our Place Through Yarn
Our taste is structured around cherished memories and perceptions of how colours and textures make us feel. p.38
If you aren’t ready to be challenged on your yarn choices, maybe skip this chapter. Matthews made me think a lot deeper of the yarns I choose and why I gravitate towards them.
There’s a yarn my mum and I disagree on, I think it’s wonderful while she finds it too slippery. Why is it that this same yarn gives us such different experiences?
Why does the sunshine bright yellow my oldest child picked out for his most recent vest hurt my eyes while it brings him so much joy?
This chapter taught me that I need to go deeper, to discover more about the yarns I use and the colours I choose. What they say about me and about the world they were made in.
It’s not just about “ethical shopping”, it’s about digging into the depths of your soul and exploring what textures and colours do to you and why.
Knitting Sacred Spaces
Can you knit a sacred space? If you’ve ever felt your mood improve while knitting you have knitted a sacred space.
I’m proud that I can knit without looking. The muscle memory has served me well, as I have taken in the landscape on my commutes or watched a show with my husband at night.
But what if the fact that my hands work like a well-oiled machine works against me at times?
What if it makes it more difficult to enter the sacred knitting space inside me?
Matthews offers a gentle guide to enter that space where we can transform our mood and our mind.
Woes will start to evaporate into your knitting rather than reside in your body. P 63
Matthews encourages us to take responsibility not only for our minds but for our bodies and knitting problems as well.
Your knitting project belongs to you, it was started by you and it will be concluded by you. Let it happen. p. 73
No more TOADs, but instead we’ll mindfully work our way through the issues and resolve them.
My only objection is that, if you are hoping to create a wearable item, then letting your woes evaporate into the knitting may not be a good idea.
I have had a cardigan I couldn’t wear for years after finishing it because it was filled with woes and wearing it felt like dressing myself in them all over again.
Knitting circles and craftivism
This chapter was honestly my least favourite. It’s obviously something that’s near and dear to the author’s heart and with good reason. I’ve been a member of various knitting circles over the years. I find that Matthews hit the head on the needle with the following statements:
Our knitting gives us the peace to concentrate on and allow for other people’s opinions while fine-tuning our own. p.85
Craft has the power to take down walls we may have spent generations building. p.85
Nonetheless, whenever a knitting circle would start talking of craftivism or charity knitting, I gently withdrew. You can call me selfish but my knitting is not for charity or activism. It’s for me and my loved ones to enjoy.
It’s empowering to know that our craft can change the world and lives of strangers but it’s also okay if the life you are focusing on changing is your own.
As someone who rarely knits for others, as I just revealed above, I found this chapter incredible intriguing because Matthews managed to put into words what I never could before. She managed to explain the gift of knitting as I have experienced it:
I see ‘the gift’ of knitting as a fluid concept, ever maturing and inviting us to mindfully contemplate our ever deepening reasons for being, doing and accepting. p.100
Matthews distinguishes between work and labour. Encouraging knitters to
[…] mindfully focus on all our hidden profits, magically created through our labour. p.101
She arms you for the unescapable commissions and requests you will come across as a knitter in a, not surprisingly, mindful and caring way.
Matthews also explores when a gift isn’t a gift. She points out:
A perfectly acceptable, well-made gift can in fact be riddled with political preferences, class war and gender inclinations, as well as traditional or regional tastes. p. 108
She then moves on to the topic of thrift and how mindfulness as such is a thrifty endeavour.
Matthews makes the point, that when we knit, time is no longer counted as money. This resonated deeply with me as it’s a general conviction I hold to be true.
Knitting and Self-Discovery
The final chapter in the book is on how to connect meditation with knitting.
Matthews explains how to make a knitted mandala, which may appeal to some as a form of knitting meditation. I didn’t feel enticing to me and I’m sure I can do a lot of self-discovery as I continue, in the spirit of Matthews book, to ponder why.
What spoke to me was her way of describing the numbers one through ten. Some of her points in this section will stay with me forever as I knit with those numbers.
Matthews is knitting together words of inspiration and joy. It’s a pleasure to see her weave the worlds of knitting and mindfulness into a well-balanced piece of cloth that forms the fabric of her book. If you found anything I mentioned above intriguing then I urge you to get the book.
But be forewarned, it may change the way you knit and think about your knitting forever as you embrace The Mindfulness in Knitting.
PIN FOR LATER
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE