Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Book Review: The Knitting Goddess


The Knitting Goddess by Deborah Bergman Posted by Hello

This is in many ways, an excellent book. I wouldn’t recommend it as “the only knitting book you’ll ever need” or even as a good primer for new knitters. However, for knitters who already are familiar with the craft and who find in their creativity a spiritual outlet, this book is lovely.

Bergman has chosen several female figures from mythology and dubbed them “Knitting Goddesses.” Most of them were neither goddesses – like Ariadne and Arachne, nor knitting, but they do all have a strong connection to fiber-craft. Many of the women are spinners or weavers. Each chapter is devoted to one of these mythological figures, and as her story is told, lessons about knitting are taught. Each chapter also includes a project to make that goes along with the story. The lack of photographs is frustrating. Bergman’s website does include pictures of the projects, but it would have done better to include them in the book itself.

All in all the framework is quite lovely. Some of her retellings are a little too altered from the original to entirely suit me (blame my Classical Studies minor), but the overall affect is quite enjoyable.

There is one particular passage that held quite a bit of meaning for me. In her chapter on “Isis, Red Magic, and a Warm Stole With Wings” she talks about the need for a woman to knit with red yarn.

It became apparent that as I knitted yarn, I was also naturally knitting myself together and also nurturing myself with one of the most appropriate metaphors, and also physical realities, that I could have chosen for myself. I was not only knitting together a garment, but also the seen and the unseen, the solid and the evanescent, the conscious and the unconscious and the light and the dark in myself.

And by then I was knitting red. (Bergman 31)

Red thread or yarn—physical, literal, red yarn, and it has to be red—helps to retrieve souls, and memories and energy. (38)

Red thread or yarn is a tremendous ally for those women who are in transition, finding lost pieces, giving any kind of birth, or needing protection of any kind. Working with or wearing something made of red yarn, preferably hand spun or dyed, and, if at all possible, worked by one’s own hands, is a tremendous ally when moving from one level to the next. (39)

The concept and process of knitting as a spiritual exercise to help you grow, become more and other than you are, is extremely appealing to me. Whenever you participate in the act of creating something it is a kind of magic. Using that magic to create yourself, while simultaneously creating a knitted object as solid evidence of that change or creation strikes me as being an extremely powerful way to work magic. It appeals to me as a woman, a crafter and as a priestess.
Bergman, Deborah. The Knitting Goddess: Finding the Heart and Soul of Knitting Through Instruction. New York: Hyperion, 2000.
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