Hands to Work, Hearts to God

That’s an expression the Shakers used. They were very good at celibacy, animal husbandry and moments of high religious transport. I studied the Shakers for a while so that’s another subject I know about, not a whole lot, but a fair amount. Did you know that your clothes pins, most of your better strains of sheep and beets and the world’s most beautiful solid cherry free standing double spiral staircase comes from them? As well as that most perfect hymn, "Simple Gifts.87948
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Anyway, I like the spirit of this expression. It’s the half full version of "idle hands are the devil’s workshop."



There’s a beautiful book that a friend gave me, in an hour of need or for an occasion, I can’t remember which, titled, Knitting Heaven and Earth: Healing the Heart with Craft by Susan Lydon. Susan Lydon has since died of breast cancer. In this book she writes about "The swaddling of the baby. The shrouding of the corpse. The wearing of a prayer shawl to ease the pain of grief. All these times demanded a kind of bundling or wrapping that would somehow aid the body’s passage between the states of being and non-being."


Most of my knitting has more to do with the day-to-day routine of life: Dan doesn’t perform without one of my fine-gauge merino wool multi-colored knit caps on his head (I use a wonderful Japanese fiber called Kiogu Painter’s Palette). Rich and I wear heavy fall sweaters of Manos del Uruguay to explore our new cityscape. (This is a fair trade wool spun in rural South American communities.) When Abby spoke at my mother’s memorial service she wore a pale blue cotton and silk blend sweater that made her eyes appear more the color of the sky than the sea. Wait. I guess knitting for day-to-day includes knitting for those milestones of life and death and everything in between.

Still. When I knit it is a very ordinary sort of activity. It calms my body and my mind, it settles me down and it focuses my attention- usually not on what I am knitting but on what I am attending to otherwise. I used to knit when I saw people in my role as a psychotherapist. For years I worried that this appeared so unprofessional that it was off the wall. Later, since I knew that I listened better and focused more clearly when my hands were occupied, I didn’t care quite so much about appearances. I simply said to people that in spite of or because of my knitting, they had my full attention- and they did.Colors1

Color possesses me. I don’t have to pursue it. It will possess me
always, I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Color and I
are one. (Paul Klee)

This is the time of year, as the days get increasingly gray and short, that my fingers itch for new wool. One of the very best things about knitting is the yarn. I like to think that, in spite of my magpie predilection to large collections of shiny objects, I’m addiction free- but it’s possible that I am truly addicted to yarn. Fiber. The colors of yarn and fibers. The texture. The "hand" and the weight relative to warmth factor. Fortunately or unfortunately, like an alcoholic moving in next to the state liquor commission outlet, I’ve moved half a block from The Knitting Workshop. Lace


I’ve been working on a lace shawl of Noro Aurora, a wool, kid mohair and silk blend (shhhh, it might be for my sister, Betsy, if it’s finished before Christmas).
This is a simple lace pattern but it requires some counting and manuvering every 4th row so it’s hard to stuff in my pocket and do while walking about or while watching television. Today I sucumbed to this beautiful cashmere and merino wool so I could do a simple and quick sweater- in colors that will shock the hell out of winter.
(note stunned cat.)New1

  I could go on for days about the zen of knitting and fibers but there are so many others who do it better. Starting with Susan Lydon. You might really enjoy this book because it’s more about the meaning of life than the meaning of knitting.

Speaking of the meaning of life, I was searching hard and long for that Monty  Python skit on The Larch for Deb, at Sand Creek Almanac , because she wrote a nice bit about said tree. Am I the only one who remembers this ridiculous sketch with John Cleese and Terry Jones on "How to Recognise Different Types of Trees From Quite a Long Way Away"?  My, how I wish Monty Python would come back- I would be in heaven if I could watch that and knit away…

What are your hands busy at this time of year?

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24 responses to “Hands to Work, Hearts to God

  1. Monty Python comes on PBS heree on Friday night. I don’t remember that particular skit, but I’ll keep an eye out for it.

    My mom started a sweater for me last year but she’s been sidetracked and it isn’t done yet. Knitting is one craft I DON’T do. That and crocheting. Smocking and sewing, yes.

    McCloud looks like such a wonderful, laid back character. Nothing much bothers him does it!? I bet he is in heaven having all that yarn sitting right in front of him.

  2. Now I know why I prefer a shawl to a sweater or jacket, I like the bundling effect instead of putting arms into sleeves. That refernce by Susan Lydon is truly amazing, so beautiful. You have found a gorgeous and meaningful art. I love seeing the beautiful yarn you have. I love to knit also. It is so relaxing to me. Right now though my hands are busy making homemade greeting cards with fun and creative rubber stamping techniques. It’s an addicting hobby too. HAPPY AUTUMN!

  3. I love the look, and feel of knitted things, but don’t have the coordination to do it. Many people have tried to teach me over the years, but to no avail. I absolutely adore the Noro aurora wool. It is rich, and gorgeous!

  4. Your wall of wool is awe-inspiring for the color. I love the quote by Klee and I could say that too and mean it. I never learned to knit, but I used to weave, and I felt about yarns then as you do now. I amassed a large collection of various colors, and then gave up weaving (too time-consuming after I started the flower business). I sold the yarns at a garage sale, making some stunned women very happy.

  5. Alright, Roxanne- I’m going to search for MP here; I’m determined to see The Larch again. And yes,he’s as laid back as a 23 pound cat can be.

    St. Pete- We have to stop meeting like this- we need to coordinate our schedules. Don’t you think St. Pete needs a good (seasonal) yarn shop?

    Margaret- That Noro is really beautiful, in all it’s varieties.

    Judy- A fellow weaver! Why am I not surprised? But I know that you love color, especially in your line of work. Wish I had been at your garage sale. That’s not my wall of yarn- that’s at the Knitting Workshop- but it’s a sensual joy to look at.

  6. Mmmmmm! Everything is luscious here. Sensual joy, indeed!

    My favorite posts (Wait a minute – every one of your posts is my favorite!) are the ones where you let us get a glimpse of what makes you tick, Vicki. Your view of the world from the depths of your artistic soul. Inside Out, if you will.

    Bruce’s and my hands will rest on Malcolm’s shoulders later this morning during the parents’ blessing at his Confirmation. Selah.

  7. A wall of yarn is such a beautiful thing. Arranged like art already. What warm rich colors. A wonderful thing for your hands to do.

    I’ve been out with the camera photographing woodpeckers, and anything else that catches my eye. The fall here is really gorgeous this year. Almost as colorful as your yarn. We put in a small winter garden. Plan to be eating beets and carrots straight out of the cold earth in January.

  8. I am going to try and visit St. Pete area sometime in the first 4 months of 2007 and I will definitely try to coordinate something with you then. The Monty Python espisode I thought was hilarious was the Holy Grail one where they did not have horses but to sound like they did they banged two halves of coconut shells together to make the clop clop sound!
    Yes, St. Pete could use a seasonal yarn and maybe fabric shop, humm…

  9. I don’t have any hobbies, other than video games, and that’s mainly a year-round thing. This year, as you know, I am also gestating, but I am finding that too intrusive and time consuming, so I am hoping to stop SOON… very soon, in fact, but Zoe is not cooperating.

  10. My hands are busy trying to keep off the back space and the “shift” when I mean to hit “z”. When you have a permanently dislocated finger, like I do, z is hard to hit without looking. So I don’t type a lot of words with sizzle in them…..

    Nicely knit column, babeez.

  11. *CLICK* The LARCH! The…LARCH! *CLICK*

  12. The shawl is quite beautiful.

  13. Such a beautiful post. I never did learn to knit or crochet. My mother tried to teach me to crochet, but she was right-handed and I left-handed, and the transfer wasn’t made.

    Living in Florida, there was not a need for sweaters, scarves, and such, so I guess that’s why I didn’t learn to knit.

    My hands were busy last month with my granddaughter. Now I’m back home, and my hands aren’t so busy, but now I have to get my brain busy and learn all my music for Sweet Adelines.

  14. I wish I could knit. My mother tried to teach me 2 years ago and I stumbled through a few very ugly and uneven scarf attempts. My mother and my Nana both can do it so I feel as though I should too. Hmmmmm.

    My hands are busy with a variety of things at the moment. My palms are dry from brushing the pool and the chemical madness they make you perform until the plaster cures. My fingers are chaffed from the reins of a beautiful horse named Churchill. He likes to hug as much as he likes to nip so I keep my pocket full of peppermints for him. My nails are finally growing after a summer of stressful biting. Maybe they’ll look nice enough to polish for Thanksgiving.

    Now my feet are a whole other story… 😉

  15. Beautiful, just beautiful. I love the CARDINAL RED yarn especially. ;~) The yarn you are knitting with looks so warm and sensual and caressing and ooohhhh.

    My son has that Monty Python skit on DVD. Spamalot will be playing in our little town soon!

  16. Just love the expression on that cat. It’s as if he’s saying, “Why don’t you go take a nap. I’m sure I can do something with this yarn.”

    Once Halloween is finished, I hope to be doing a lot of typing–that NaNoMo thing.

  17. Vicki, thanks for the visit and the birthday wishes. You weren’t late – today IS my birthday.

    I had to come back and see that beautiful photo of the yarns on the wall shelf!

  18. Hands are full of the appearance of favoritism, unfortunately. Time to knit is rare and precious, and I hate tucking in ends so much that by the time it was done, the sweater I made for Firstborn was too small and had to be given to Secondborn. I’m also working on a ferry boat sweater for Secondborn, per his request, which took so long to design and is taking so long to finish, that it may end up under Neighbor Child’s Christmas tree this year. Meanwhile, I still have to make a sweater for Firstborn. Oh dear.

  19. Vicki! I love the yarn blog. I can certainly relate… Did you receive a package from me?? ((See you SOON!!))

  20. YOUR WISH IS MY COMMAND!!!!!!
    I was working on it…. these great things, like pumpkins as I am finding out, take time!!!!

    What about the seals? What about the Lyric Opera?
    BTW, my brother is safely in New York and will be here Saturday!!!

  21. You and I both love deep, rich colr, I see.

    My grandmother taught me how to knit, but I never graduated beyond the scarf. I’ve been thinking lately how I’d love to take it up again.

    Lovely, Vicki.

    Some addictions are simply good. I think they are called passion.

  22. Oh, and my hands have been cooking and cleaning lately, snuggling with girls, fitting Halloween costumes, painting faces, typing an assignment for a preservation for a class, plalying piano, tuning violins

  23. a delight to catch up with you again! how sad (our tigers), how lovely and sweet(your birthdays past and present), how awesome (the first lion shot, complete with foggy breath!), and this lovely post full of eye candy and polished thought.
    my hands are painting mirror frames and birdhouses to give for christmas. thank you for your thoughtful presence here in cyberspace.

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