Susan Gordon Lydon wrote two books ostensibly about knitting: Knitting Sutra ( pub 1997) and Knitting Heaven and Earth ( Pub 2004).
I initially came to these books through research into repetitive action and its importance to various artists . SGL made no claims to being an artist. She regarded herself as a craft knitter and was clearly interested in producing knitted clothing. Her obsession with the repetitive movements in knitting made her thoughts interesting.
Two excellent obituaries give some clue as to how her fascination with knitting was part of her life.
SGL comes over as some one who becomes obsessively involved in everything she does, that she takes all her interests to the extreme. She documented her drug addiction and recovery in Take the Long Way Home ( pub 1993). Julie Birchall ,in her obituary of SGL, comments on what can only be seen as her complete degradation during her drug taking period.
This obsessive involvement in any activity is shown in the Knitting Sutra. Here SGL knits so continuously that she develops repetitive strain injury . While knitting she becomes convinced of the meditative value of concentrating on the action of knitting. However knitting is not her only source of inner calm. In the course of the Knitting Sutra she visits, and clearly works with A Native American teacher, A Sufi teacher , and the Arica School .
SGL describes her experience of knitting thus:
I sit still. I take time for quiet reflection . I center myself and direct my attention to what’s in front of me . (p151, The Knitting Sutra)
Many experienced knitters would agree with the sitting still part, but not the centring. Experienced knitters are able to knit almost automatically: while watching TV, reading , maintaining conversations. Somehow one part of their brain keeps track of the progress of the knitting underneath the apparently more engaged activity that is taking place.
This book wanders around diving lightly into various spiritual paths, part autobiography and part philosophy and part self-improvement. While I do not subscribe to SGL’s ‘knitting as mental health saviour’ premise, the book was interesting as an introduction to the psychological basis of repetitive crafts.