Knitting the Threads of Time – a review

Knitting the Threads of Time
by Nora Murphy
$14 US, p183
New World Library, 2009

For many modern knitters the process of knitting is either creative or process driven. For Nora Murphy, the author of Knitting the Threads of Time, it’s also about connections – historical, emotional and spiritual.

During the long dark months of a recent winter she embarked on a knitting journey and discovered deep within herself connections to ancient women who faced winters long past by knitting for their loved ones to keep them safe and warm for their survival. The author weaves together the history of knitting in cultures as diverse as the ancient Europeans, the Dakota Indians, the Hmong of Laos, and the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. With each historical tale she links our contemporary leisurely knitting with the stitches of faith and love executed centuries before. Myths and stories are shared that highlight the history of weaving and knitting deftly sharing the importance of our simple hobby in a historical context.

To begin knitting a sweater, especially for someone you love, is a momentous undertaking. As the author prepared to take the first step – purchasing the yarn – she visited a local yarn shop and encountered the owner, Abby, a woman so in tune with knitting that she plays a shamanic role in Ms Murphy’s quest. Time and again Abby guides the seeker as she tackles the tasks involved in knitting her first sweater as requested by her youngest son.

Her chapter on “Dropped Stitches” offers a great metaphor for the times when we modern women become so busy in our lives that we easily miss one tiny detail that can derail our best efforts, knitting or otherwise.

In the end, the sweater is finished – and cherished, not on the original timetable but at a fitting time. The author reaches back to her own ancestral Irish traditions and performs a simple but meaningful ritual of thanks and blessing.

As we knit the experiences in our lives are knitted into garments as we stitch, the good and the bad, the births and the deaths, the joy and the sadness. Ms Murphy shows every act of pulling yarn through a loop and replacing it on a needle contains the magic our lives.

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