All Posts for April 2010

Knitting Heaven and Earth by Susan Gordon Lydon

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Despite the title, there are no knitting patterns in this wonderful book. Rather, it deals with “Healing the Heart with Craft,” which is the book’s subtitle. The author writes about the breakup of her boyfriend, the pain of the loss of her father, and her own breast cancer. The book is a powerful piece of writing, with author Susan Gordon Lydon using knitting as her refuge.

This quote early in the book carries throughout Susan’s journey into acceptance:

“Impermanence is a permanent condition of our humanity.  We can choose to embrace it and live with groundlessness, or we can frantically grasp for solid ground every time the bottom falls out.” (p. 72)

While there are no patterns in the book, the author uses knitting as a metaphor for dealing with life’s ups and downs, of which the author has many. For example, Lydon notes that when she knits she can withstand restlessness, boredom, inactivity, and conversations that would normally make her squirm. “It is though I have a little portable world of my own wherever I go, a haven of refuge and sanity.” (p. 94)

When someone is going through a difficult time in her life, and Susan discusses many of these difficult times, having a hobby or craft that grounds you is very handy. And unless you are knitting an afghan, the knitting project is portable, as the author emphasizes above. Lydon also discusses the love connection she feels when she creates an item as a gift.

When discussing her breast cancer, she says something that I wrote once in a poem, that is, living moment to moment. Or as she aptly writes: “Forget one day at a time. One day at a time is too large an increment in which to measure the changes.” (p. 175)

I can’t say enough about Knitting Heaven and Earth— part journal/part memoir/part meditation. When Susan Gordon Lydon shares her innermost feelings, both good and bad, and links them to her knitting, we can feel how what she makes with her two hands, a ball of yarn, and “two sticks” can do to heal the heart.

The book ends with a powerful message, but actually it’s more like a meditation:

“Do whatever it is you’re doing. Let your mind roam free.

Now slowly, gently, bring yourself back to the present moment.

Sink down deeply into where you are right now, into the eternal present.

The moment is all there is. And it’s enough.”

This book was a birthday gift from my step-daughter and I plan to share it with others, because of its profound simplicity and the way Susan Gordon Lydon writes from her heart.

You can order this book from Amazon. Just click on the icon below and it will take you right to their online bookstore.

Cotton Dishcloths – Green Living

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

I have been posting ideas for Earth Day all month on, but I realize that even those of you who are single or about to be single might be interested in a nice way to be green by knitting cotton dishcloths. When I first moved to Central PA, I found that women knitted their own washcloths.  The pattern was easy, so I started to make them and use them around the house and also give them as house gifts. Below is an article I wrote many years ago, before Earth Day was so big, but now the message seems to be very apropos. If you’ve never knitted, this is an easy pattern for beginners.  Just have someone show you how to knit and also how to increase and decrease this way. Happy green knitting!



Do you remember when dishes were washed by hand? Sure you do! If not in your mother’s time, then al least in your grandmother’s era.  My mother always used dishcloths. Not until I was married did manufactured sponges appear in my sink.

For awhile, sponges and cloth-like dish rags were “in.” They were small enough or convenient enough to use and then throw away. They fit in with the American way of planned obsolescence. But somewhere in the early 70s I became aware of recycling and the whole movement of back to basics. (I attended the first Earth Day in 1970, so maybe that was the impetus.) Then sponges were “out,” at least in my kitchen.  I purchased the same kind my mother had used, because that was all I knew.

Then I made a marvelous find. I purchased a hand-knit  cotton dishcloth at a school fair where my youngest daughter was a student in Williamsport, PA. This wonderful little dish cloth—too pretty to be called a dish rag!—was soft, colorful, and marvelous to work with…not at all like the stringy ones for sale in the supermarket.

What’s so great about cotton dishcloths? First, you never have to worry if they are still clean, because you can soak them overnight in warm, soapy water or throw them in the laundry after one or two days. They won’t rot, smell or mildew and will soften after each wash. And they will last and last!

One of the parents at the school gave me simple instructions (below). I rummaged around in my attic for my knitting needles, ran off to a local store for some 100% cotton yarn, and I was ready to knit. (Maybe my love of knitting returned with this project.) I make them for myself as well as for friends and even used a variation to make squares for an afghan. (See photo below)

This is not made from cotton, but leftover yarns that are a blend that won’t shrink when washed.



If an afghan is too ambitious, you can sew about 9 squares together for a pillow, make half a square and crochet ties for a bandana, or make a smaller afghan and use it as a baby gift. The possibilities are numerous.

By now I hope you are hooked on this project as something to keep your hands busy so your heart doesn’t ache so much.  A hobby is a great healer. (I will review a book called Knitting Heaven & Earth next and you will see what I mean.) Below are the directions. Make sure you buy 100% cotton yarn or the washcloths won’t absorb water.

What you will need:

one 4 oz. ball of cotton yarn (Ex. Sugar & Spice)

One size 8 needles (Short, not double pointed)

Crochet hook in case you drop a stitch


Cast on 4 stitches and knit them. (All rows are knit, no purling.)

Then, Knit 2, pull the yarn over the needle (YO) and knit to the end of the row. This increases the rows one stitch at a time.

Do the YO at the beginning of each row, until you have increased to 44 stitches. (For a baby’s washcloth, 30 sts. are enough and for a larger one, 50 st. will be good.)

When you reach 44 stitches, you will start to decrease.

Next row: K1, K2 tog., YO, K2 tog.,  K to the end of the row. (Knitting two together just means putting your needle through 2 sts. and then knitting them together.) Again, the decrease is done only at the beginning of each row.

Continue decreasing until you are back to 4 stitches. Then cast off these 4 by knitting the first 2 and pulling the farthest one over the nearest, continuing until only 1 stitch remains. Cut the yarn, leaving a small tail (2 “) and remove the needle so you can pull the 2 inch tail through the last stitch. Anchor it by using the crochet hook to loop it in and out of the washcloth.

If you want a loop to hang the washcloth, leave a 10 inch tail and crochet a chain, and then anchor that to the tip.

Note: For a headscarf, increase until the piece has 75 sts., then decrease and crochet two long chains that you can sew to each end. Great for bad hair days!

P.S. Some people think that these make good pot holders, but they are too thin for that purpose, so please don’t use them for that purpose or you will get burned.

I made this pillow like a giant washcloth, using leftover yarn. However, I did not use yarn over, because I wanted  no design, so I just increased by knitting twice in the same stitch. No squares to sew together!