This month I’ll be featuring Knitting for Peace in my charity knitting column. Below you’ll find a review of Knitting for Peace: Make the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time by Betty Christiansen and Practicing Peace in Times of War by Pema Chödrön. Betty’s written some great articles about charity knitting that I’ve read and I couldn’t wait to get a copy of her book. I was not disappointed when it arrived. When I started writing about charity knitting online, I was thinking that at some time I would convert my stuff into a book. But with Betty’s book out there and selling well, I may leave that project on the back burner for the foreseeable future, but I’ll continue to work on this blog (with some new features and a new focus next year).
But back to Knitting for Peace. At first I was thinking about knitting to promote peace politically and I still am interested in that. But this past week, I’ve been overloaded with work and I got a cold. While crunching on editing jobs, waking up in the middle of the night worrying about knitting deadlines, and just feeling overwhelmed by everything on my calendar for this fall, I let myself get over extended and my immune system couldn’t keep up. Last night, instead of knitting on a Kitty Knits project or reading a crochet manuscript I have to edit, I gave in to my own need for peace and stared a new lace shawl. Since I’ve learned to knit lace, I’ve discovered that it is the most peaceful and relaxing form of knitting to me. Whether it’s simple dropped-stich openwork or more complicated lace patterning, the rhythm of the stitches and texture of yarn and finished piece gives me more rest than any other knitting I’ve ever done. It’s weird, because lace knitting is “supposed” to be hard, and to require intense concentration. Maybe the concentration forces me to forget about the other things on my mind. I don’t know, but for whatever reason, I find it peaceful.
I was attracted to Practicing Peace in Times of War by the title as it was sitting and calling out to me on the new books table at my local bookstore. I looked at the back flap and recognized the author from an interview she did with Bill Moyers on his recent Faith and Reason series. This little book contains six essays edited from speeches the author gave. Each one contains grains of truth that can help us stop reacting in fear and anger to situations around us and instead to embrace patience and refrain from acting (or reacting) rashly, thus stopping the chain reaction of violence that seems to be swallowing our world. Although I am not a Christian (and Chödrön is a Buddhist, as a commentor pointed out), this book seems to reflect the core teachings of Jesus when he advised his disciples to “turn the other cheek,” “go the extra mile,” and when he encouraged them to realize that the person who needs the most help is our neighbor, not the person we feel most akin to.
Although I strongly believe that anger can be a positive force for change, it must be channeled through a more rational and peaceful place in our hearts, or we will be part of the problem instead of part of the solution. We should never lash out in anger without counting to ten, as our parents taught us. It sounds childish, but it truly gives us power over the rashness of raw emotions. Like the Vulcans (yes, I’m a sci-fi junkie), we must learn to control our emtions instead of letting them control us. That does not mean that we supress or ignore our emotional side, but rather that we refuse to be led around by feelings that change depending on what we eat, what color paint is on the walls, the type of music on the radio, the hormonal cycles in our bodies, the weather, or what’s on TV or in the papers. There is a popular bumper sticker that says, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” I think there is some truth to this expression, but we must sit back and look calmly at what makes us angry, so we can figure out what we can do to change the situation that makes us angry–to stop the poison at it’s source, rather than to induce vomiting after the poison has already been swallowed.
This little book has the potential to change your life (and mine) if we simply read the text and allow its messages to sink into our hearts.
And while we are practicing patience, we can use our knitting to channel those emotions into concreate projects that can visibly help those in need. This is the core of Betty Chrstiansen’s book, Knitting for Peace . Because I want to get this post finished, and because I can’t really say it any better than this, I am going to quote a review by armchairinterviews.com from Amazon:
For as long as people have been knitting, they have been knitting for other people. Often called “charity knitting,” “community knitting” or “knitting for others,” knitters have been bonded by a desire to make the world a better place, “through handmade gifts of love and peace.”
In Knitting for Peace: Make the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time, Betty Christiansen has interviewed knitters across America to find out how knitting was helping people around the world. She sets out to find the stories behind the movements and to collect them into this unique volume, sharing how “we can, stitch by stitch, inch the world in a more positive direction.”
In each of the first four section–Peace and War; Peace on Earth; Peace at Home; and Peace for Kids–Christiansen delves into the organizations making a difference through knitting. She explores their history, how they are being part of the change they wish to see in the world and how knitters can assist their efforts.
Some are organizations such as Lantern Moon and Peace Fleece, companies making a difference by providing employment, income and self-reliance for producers. Others are aid organizations such as Afghans for Afghans, an organization providing warmth to families in Afghanistan. Scattered throughout are patterns appropriate for knitters to make and donate to the featured organizations.
The final section, “Knit for Peace,” provides helpful hints for finding projects not covered by the author, for individuals and for groups. Knitting for Peace has projects sure to appeal to everyone and is the perfect gift for the compassionate knitter on your gift list. Since a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Knitting for Peace will be donated to charity, this is the gift that gives twice.