Recently I was having a mildly stressful day. You know, the usual – trying to accomplish too much in too short a space of time. Anyway, in the midst of it all my mind wandered to the knitting project waiting for me in the living room, and I felt a sudden delicious sense of anticipation and well-being. Just thinking about working on my project later was enough to bring a little oasis of calm into my day.
That got me thinking more about why I so love crocheting and knitting. What is it that I enjoy so much? And what does it bring into my life? Turns out it’s a great deal more than I realised, so I’d like to share the top ten reasons why I craft – and why you should too!
- It makes me happy
Crocheting or knitting brings with it a great feeling of contentment. It’s my own form of ‘me time’ and I try to make room for it every single day. Since setting up Blue Ammonite, it’s become a priority to design and make new things, but I still make sure I’m always working on other things that are just for me, because crafting is what keeps me steady in an increasingly confusing and complex world.
I’m not alone in finding fulfilment in a ball of yarn. According to researchers, knitting, crochet and other crafts stimulate the brain into releasing dopamine, a natural antidepressant. An online survey of several thousand knitters found that half reported that knitting left them feeling “very happy.” Many said that they knitted solely for the purposes of relaxation, stress relief and creativity. Frequent knitters – those of us who knit more than three times a week – report generally feeling calmer, less anxious, and more confident.
- It’s keeping me young
You probably already know that mentally stimulating activities like crosswords, sudoku and learning a foreign language help keep the brain sharp as the years pass, but it turns out that knitting and crochet have a similar effect. A 2011 study found that crafters had a decreased risk of memory loss and mild cognitive impairment, possible precursors to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
But why? Researchers believe that crafting promotes the development of neural pathways in the brain that help to maintain cognitive health. Completing a complex pattern, for instance, involves many areas of the brain – it’s a workout for your memory, attention span, and problem-solving skills. Not to mention all that visuospatial processing! Crochet and knitting also improve fine motor skills, especially in the hand, which may stimulate cellular development in your brain.
- It’s a proven stress-buster
My husband sometimes glances over at whatever I’m making and shakes his head in disbelief, asking me how I can stand doing the same thing over and over again. ‘All those stitches,’ he grumbles. ‘Doesn’t it drive you mad?’
Nope. And now I can tell him all that repetition is actually doing me good. Apparently the rhythmic nature of crochet and knitting activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps quell feelings of anxiety and worry. It’s an active form of meditation and offers similar benefits – lowering heart rate and blood pressure, slowing breathing, and reducing stress hormones like cortisol.
- It boosts my confidence
Crafting produces tangible results, and there’s nothing like holding your finished object to induce feelings of pride and achievement. Even simple patterns require perseverance, and every project you finish proves to yourself that you can successfully see something through to completion.
Every project seems to have its challenges – whether I’m designing my own or following someone else’s pattern, there’s always a few obstacles to overcome on the way. Learning a new stitch perhaps, or a fresh technique. Recently I discovered how to form German short rows in knitting, and make a bean stitch in crochet.
The satisfaction you feel in your lovely finished item gives us doesn’t just stop there – psychologists believe that the confidence you gain spills over into how we feel about performing other tasks, and helps shape the way we face new challenges or overcome disappointments in life. So that big blanket you just finished might actually be setting you up for passing your driving test successfully, or asking your boss for a raise.
- It provides a sense of community
Ever since I joined Ravelry some ten years ago, and more recently became active on Instagram, I’ve found myself welcomed into a wonderful virtual community of other crocheters and crafters, granting me 24-hour access to a constant source of inspiration, advice and support. And that community is growing by the day: it’s estimated in the US that a third of women aged 25 to 35 now knit or crochet. A third! And to think I once worried that these were dying crafts!
If you are lucky enough to have an active real life crafting group in your area, you’ll going to benefit even more. The online survey I mentioned earlier found that people who knitted as part of a group were even happier than solo knitters. So go find yourself a local knit-and-natter group – you’ll reap the benefits.
- It’s a link to my past
My grandmother was a knitter, and my mother too. I remember trips out with my mum to stock up with yarn at a local outlet, both of us spending many happy hours rummaging around the sale bins. As many of us were taught to knit or crochet by older relatives, these skills provide a sense of continuity in our lives, a grateful connection to all those other crafters who came before us.
- It’s a feast for the senses
What’s the first thing you do when you walk into a wool yarn shop or get a new package in the post? You reach out and touch that yarny goodness. Part of the pleasure of knitting and crochet is that it’s essentially tactile – you’re constantly in contact with the yarn, experiencing the variations in texture, ply and softness. With many of us increasingly spending more time online, crafting anchors us back into the real world where you can actually feel and touch things.
Then there’s the colours. I’ve always been a bit obsessed with colour, love collecting pens and pencils that span the full spectrum of the rainbow. I find almost every shade imaginable interesting in its own way. Somehow looking at colourful things and playing with colour when designing my own projects is endlessly soothing and absorbing.
- It relieves boredom
Nowadays I rarely leave the house without taking some crocheting or knitting with me, just in case I find myself with an opportunity to get stuck in. What better way to kill a bit of time than to work up a few rows on a project? Crafting is also one of the best ways to make a long journey more bearable. One of my abiding memories is knitting a top-down jumper during a very hair-raising ferry trip from Denmark back to the UK when the boat was hit by a storm. While my husband fretted about the boat capsizing – at one point it tipped 45 degrees and we all slid off our beds! – I just knitted away serenely, trusting all would be well.
- It fulfils my need to be creative
I’m a writer with five novels under my belt – not to mention a growing file of poems – but somehow that doesn’t satisfy my urge to bring new things into the world. Hence all the crochet and knitting. I love everything about making a new project, from deciding on a pattern or design, to choosing the colours and the type of yarn I’ll use, then casting on the first stitch and finally the last. Plus, you get to give nice things away to people!
- It’s just plain fun.
Crochet and knitting are good fun (okay, let’s not dwell on those times when we have to frog something and start again). I believe any kind of crafting taps into a more childlike part of ourselves, harking back to a time when we were actively encouraged to play with objects and colours, to make and create things and get lost in the moment. As adults, it’s easy to lose touch with that playful, imaginative mindset, but as makers we rediscover that essential part of ourselves, and let our favourite crafts lead us back to what we always loved.
So there you are. Ten good reasons to stop whatever you’re doing and go off and do some crafting instead!