Sunday, 13 March 2016

All That and a Bag of Yarn

What is it about a big bag of new yarn that makes me feel so good?  As you can see by the photo above, I was at my local Michael’s store last week and they were having an awesome sale on my favourite yarn.  I simply couldn’t resist and picked up a huge bag’s worth.  It took every shred of willpower I had not to take two skeins of each colour on the shelves  – and who knows, the sale is on for a few more days, so I still might.  I don’t have any specific plans for the yarn yet except that I know I’m going to loom knit many projects.  Although I enjoy larger projects, my favourite thing is making items that can be finished within a few hours.  There’s something so satisfying about seeing a big stack of completed toques, scarves, slippers, headbands, purses, and what have you after a short period of time. 

While gazing at the rainbow assortment of lovely colours, I thought about all the benefits, mental, emotional, and physical that I experience from knitting.  A recent article in the New York Times had some excellent thoughts and information about just this very thing.

According to the Craft Yarn Council, a third of women ages 25 to 35 now knit or crotchet, and more and more men and schoolchildren are joining the group too.  Why are more and more people doing it, and why do we love it so much and keep doing it?  Well according to Dr. Herbert Benson (a mind/body medicine professional and author), needlework like knitting and crotchet can induce a relaxed state similar to that of meditation and yoga.  It can actually lower your heart rate and blood pressure and reduce harmful levels of cortisol (the stress hormone).  The only time I feel stressed when I’m knitting is when I run out of yarn.

Knitting can even improve a person’s self-esteem.  Think about it.  Knitters and other crafters have their wonderful finished products they can see and use – tangible evidence of their work.  And that feeling of accomplishment and pride can be multiplied whenever they see someone wearing or using what they’ve made.  One of the reasons I like to take photos of my work is so I can go back and relive the feelings of pride and happiness I experienced with each piece.

Knitting helps to give people a sense of purpose – I know a lot of people, myself included, who just find it difficult to sit with “nothing” to do.  I know that knitting while watching TV makes me feel like I’m not wasting any of my time.  And we all know someone in our lives who has that knitting purse with them that they open up any time they have more than a minute to spare.  They knit on the bus, in the Doctor’s office, during bingo, at church (okay, maybe not at church, but I bet they wish they could!).

Some studies have shown that knitting can actually help people to quit smoking or manage eating disorders.  It keeps their hands and minds occupied, taking the focus off the cravings.  Handiwork can also help arthritic hands and fingers stay a little more limber and less painful. 

I was especially happy to find out that crafts like knitting might help keep my brain function from declining.  In a 2011 Mayo Clinic study they found that although crafts won’t reverse cognitive impairment that already exists, people who engaged in things like knitting had a reduced chance of developing mild impairment and memory loss - which is awesome, because I’m always losing my knitting hook. 

So I am definitely not alone in my obsession.  I buy the yarn because I really just love how knitting makes me feel.  It’s all very Pavolvian – at least I don’t drool (publicly) when I see the rows and rows of gorgeous yarn in the store.  Well now that I know I’m doing it for my health, maybe a second trip to the store is in order!