Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Knitting the Threads of Time
Casting Back to the Heart of Our Craft
By Nora Murphy
© 2009 New World Library
Knitting the Threads of Time is a memoir infused with history. Murphy tells the story of knitting a sweater for her son, which becomes a metaphor and life lesson for her as she becomes discouraged, learns new skills, and ultimately rises to the challenge. Along the way, she examines the history and mythology of textile production from ancient cultures to modern sweatshops, embracing simultaneously a pagan-feminist sensibility, a scholar’s interest in accuracy, and a deep respect for many differing spiritual traditions.
As long as there have been humans, there has been a need for clothing. Often the production of textiles has been women’s work and often, too, the resulting objects have risen above merely meeting utilitarian needs. Clothing has denoted power and status within a community since before recorded history. Textile production—once a rare skill infused with sacred power; later, an economic bedrock of empires; at times, a revolutionary act of rebellion, and, eventually relegated to the most oppressed workers as unskilled disposable labor—is a calling that modern fiber-lovers pursue out of love and reverence for that past.
For every knitter who was ever asked, “Why bother knitting when you can buy it at Walmart for $5,” Murphy gives an answer. There is a deep spiritual connection to our past, made physical through our ordinary activities. Yes, I could buy a sweater at Walmart. But I couldn’t buy this sweater. In our industrialized age, with its abundance of throw-away consumer goods, Murphy compels us to consider the importance of one garment: to the knitter, to the recipient, indeed, to our entire unsustainable global economy.