The Benefits of Knitting as a Pastime

I’ve been a knitter for more than three years, and I’ve loved every minute of it. I find that other knitters like myself are even trying to recruit more people to the hobby because we know how positively it has changed our lives, and naturally, we want to spread the positivity. Knitting has helped me in particular to become a well-rounded individual in many aspects. Despite the stress of learning how, knitting as a pastime is beneficial to the user because of the increase in geographical engagement, positive effect on health, and it accelerates child development.

Geographical engagement through knitting is just like joining a book club. Knitting circles are becoming far more common with the increase in those who are knitting, according to a survey by the National Endowment for the Arts. Their survey was conducted through the United States Census Bureau, and it reported that across the country 13.2 percent of adults participated in weaving, crocheting, quilting, needlepoint, knitting, or sewing in the year 2012. This was an increase of two million people from the year 2008, leading to an estimate of around 31.5 million adults. A survey conducted by Wool and the Gang, a company that made their mark selling knitting, embroidery, and crochet supplies, projected that in the year 2015 there were 53 million knitters across the United States.

This pastime reaches so many people that it has become common to conduct festivals around the art of fiber, like the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in Scotland, or the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, or possibly even the local Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival. There are countless amounts of festivals, all of which are dedicated to the craft because of the rise in the amount of those who do it. Men and women who enjoy knitting do it for the personal benefits, but also for the benefits associated with a sense of community. It is because of the local festivals and knitting stores that facilitate knitting groups. They are made to make a knitter feel welcome in their environment.

Laura Price, from the journal Geography Compass pointed out in her article “Knitting and the City” that knitting doesn’t just benefit the knitters in a community, but rather the entire community itself. She argues that phenomena like “yarnbombing,” or knitted graffiti, in a community makes the social atmosphere more geared toward creating and crafting. She also points out that the community will transform into one that speaks to love and attachment rather than a value for money and fashion by seeing more and more handmade garments worn by those in the community. She also states that yarnbombing sparks conversation, whether it be with a friend or stranger. She points this out to emphasize the feeling of closeness in the community—close enough to interact with a stranger. Knitting brings people together in the geography of the city, which is a place of hard concrete surfaces that don’t spark creativity. Knitted graffiti creates different textures and colors to see and it makes the city a brighter place for everyone.

There is a great positive effect on health that knitting has—both mental and physical. Not only do older people with arthritis engage in knitting to help their hands, but many knit to help their minds as well. According to the survey previously mentioned, conducted by Wool and the Gang, 40 percent of their customers reported that knitting helped them to fight depression, and 88 percent of them also said they feel less stressed when they knit. The fact of the matter is, this survey was only conducted by 4,000 knitters. If there was a way to survey all 53 million knitters in the United States, there is no doubt that the trend would repeat itself among the larger population.

Knitting is a skill that helps those with depression manage their symptoms. Kathryn Duffy, of the Journal of Groups in Addiction & Recovery, conducted research among many women in a rehabilitation facility for drugs and alcohol. Duffy introduced the patients to knitting in the hopes that it would benefit their mental health, and it did. This journal article titled Knitting through Recovery One Stitch at a Time: Knitting as an Experiential Teaching Method for Affect Management in Group Therapy, found that:

 As a communal practice in the context of a residential treatment center that is moderated by a therapist, the knitting program provides group therapy to clients, strengthening group cohesion, and fostering positive interactions among women. As a technique that results in the creation of beautiful objects, knitting fosters creativity, and expands the imagination.

The women who participated in this study at the rehabilitation facility learned a lifelong skill that will help them whenever they are in need. They learned a coping skill that will benefit them whenever they feel the need to turn back to drugs and alcohol. She also pointed out in her research how similar knitting is to yoga. The repetition has meditative qualities that soothe those who are knitting and provide a sense of peace.

This peace helps combat addiction and depression, and also it has a positive effect on those with major diseases, like Alzheimer’s. A case report from the journal of Neuropsychological Rehabilitation suggests that knitting can benefit those with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s and also their caregivers. Their experiment followed a woman by the age of 70 who suffered from Alzheimer’s. She used to knit, however she had forgone the activity at the time. It was reported that she was frequently in a depressive mood and her apathy worried the caregiver. They found that through knitting, her apathy was reduced, and this tremendously eased the caregiver’s burden, which ultimately helps her quality of life. This article entitled, The Cognitive Management of Daily Life Activities in Patients with Mild to Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease in a Day Care Centre: A Case Report, found that:

The restoring of a leisure activity (knitting), by proposing several adaptations designed to minimise the impact of cognitive deficits on this activity, decreased AM’s negative mood symptoms and thus eased the caregiver burden which also has important implications in the field of AD patients’ rehabilitation. In particular, this confirms that in some cases, negative mood symptoms could reflect a psychological reaction of subjects to the awareness of their autonomy loss in everyday activities. This also suggests that decreasing the impact of functional deficits may have a positive effect on the mood state.

Creating and participating in arts activities, like knitting, will positively influence mental health due to the sense of peace created in every stitch. As for physical health, the National Endowment for the Arts found that “In 2014, older adults who were not involved with any arts activities, or who were involved in only Creating Art, reported a 12.9 percent greater prevalence of hypertension than did older adults who participated in only Attending Art or in both Creating and Attending Art.” Arts participation is just as important as creating art, and knitting is a fantastic example of this. One must observe the fact that yarn and wool festivals are growing more popular, along with yarnbombing and knitting circles. This, in combination with the statistic from the NEA, shows that the older population who regularly create and participate in the arts with others will be healthier than those who only read the newspaper. Knitting and participating in the community is a fantastic way to accomplish a healthy lifestyle—mentally and physically.

Finally, it must be addressed that knitting promotes childhood development. A study from Europe’s Journal of Psychology followed the Arhuaco community located on the northern coast of Colombia. They were meaning to study how knitting bags, or mochilas, would promote development in the community’s children. The girls begin to knit mochilas at a young age, often times taught by their grandmother. The mochilas are made to represent thought, but in its material form. The Arhuaco community lives by a set of spiritual rules and guidelines, and their main economic activity consists of agriculture and knitting. The girls are taught valuable skills when they begin to learn how to knit, as shown by an excerpt from this journal article entitled Knitting Mochilas: A Sociocultural, Developmental Practice in Arhuaco Indigenous Communities:

They must coordinate visual schemas, but also should simultaneously integrate what is expected of them (to knit well) and observe some restrictions, e.g., paying attention not to sting themselves and not to make wrong stitches. Various studies explain how this series of activities are related to the frontal lobe, which is closely associated with executive functions such as cognitive flexibility, choice of objectives, planning, self-control, working memory and problem solving, among others.

These children are learning how to concentrate and focus. Similar to how they read, they knit from left to right. They also gain confidence from completing a mochila, and it also teaches the children valuable life skills like perseverance, creativity, and patience. This is why schools like the Waldorf of Chicago are including knitting and weaving into their K-12 curriculums, among many others.

Many people don’t believe they could knit because of the stress associated with starting from scratch. This phenomenon is greatly summarized by the phrase, “I could never do that.” Except everyone can knit with a small amount of patience. Knitting helps individuals in any age group, whether it be children, middle aged, or older. It helps children to develop cognitive functions and lifelong skills. It helps those who are middle aged battle depression and substance abuse, and also to just find peace. It also helps the older community make their declining health symptoms far more manageable. Knitting is beneficial to everyone regardless of race, religion, and even gender.

 

References

Adam, Stéphane, et al. “The Cognitive Management of Daily Life Activities in Patients with Mild to Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease in a Day Care Centre: A Case Report.” Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, vol. 10, no. 5, Oct. 2000, pp. 485-509. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/09602010050143568.

Duffy, Kathryn. “Knitting through Recovery One Stitch at a Time: Knitting as an Experiential Teaching Method for Affect Management in Group Therapy.” Journal of Groups in Addiction & Recovery, vol. 2, no. 1, Mar. 2007, pp. 67-83. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1300/J384v02n01_04.

“National Endowment for the Arts Presents Highlights from the 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts.” NEA, USA.gov, 12 Jan. 2017, http://www.arts.gov/news/2013/national-endowment-arts-presents-highlights-2012-survey-public-participation-arts.

Price, Laura. “Knitting and the City.” Geography Compass, vol. 9, no. 2, Feb. 2015, pp. 81-95. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/gec3.12181.

Rajan, Kumar B, and Rekha S Rajan. “Staying Engaged: Health Patterns of Older Americans Who Participate in the Arts.” National Endowment for the Arts, Sept. 2017, pp. 1–38., http://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/StayingEngaged_0917.pdf.

Rodríguez-Burgos, Lilian Patricia, et al. “Knitting Mochilas: A Sociocultural, Developmental Practice in Arhuaco Indigenous Communities.” Europe’s Journal of Psychology, vol. 12, no. 2, May 2016, pp. 242-259. EBSCOhost, doi:10.5964/ejop.v12i2.1039.

WATG. “Our Survey Results Are in!” WATG Blog, Wool and the Gang, 26 Feb. 2015, http://www.woolandthegang.com/blog/2015/02/our-survey-results-are-in.

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