Mend your mind, make a hat

In our chaotic world, the stresses of life can be overwhelming.  Modern society is rife with depression and anxiety, and highly stressed, secretly lonely individuals trying to fill the void with Facebook. I would like to propose an alternative solution.

I am a huge advocate of needle-art, as I like to call it, which includes knitting and my personal favourite, crochet (more conventionally grouped as needlework or textile handcrafts, but these sound deceptively boring). This may seem an unlikely solution, but as a hobby it has the potential to calm, balance and provide perspective on our lives. Don’t believe me? I can prove it.

Crochet is cool

A lot of people associate needlework with a rather domesticated, somewhat older lady with plenty of free time on her hands, i.e. your granny.

Yarn bombing in the city. Photo by Bonito Club http://www.flickr.com/photos/bonitoclub/

Yarn bombing in the city. Photo by Bonito Club http://www.flickr.com/photos/bonitoclub/

It has indeed been said that modern Western women rejected textile handcrafting as it aligned with stereotypic feminine constructs entwined with domesticity and oppression1, that it is old fashioned and unattractive.2

This is certainly the stereotype but it just doesn’t hold up in my experience. Most of the crochet/knitters I’ve encountered have been vibrant, young, busy professionals, for whom a little down time with yarn can be incredibly therapeutic and provide a great sense of well-being.

There seems to have been a sort of craft revolution, spurred on by a rejection of consumer culture3, perhaps a search for community, and certainly aided by the internet which is full of knitters blogs and explanatory youtube videos. Crochet is cool. If you don’t believe me check out urban knitting/yarn bombing.

The Evidence (somebody does actually study this stuff)

But it’s more than just damn cool; research suggests that it can help us cope with stress, grief and depression, whilst promoting joy, confidence and social connectivity.

Studies indicate both cognitive and emotional benefits. In one study, patients with anorexia nervosa said that knitting helped reduce anxiety, had a calming effect and provided a sense of pride and accomplishment.4 Others have shown benefits in lowering levels of dementia5, or at least reducing the depression that can accompany it.6 Women have been found to use textile handcrafts in general to change their mood and cope with life, and those that do so report more success, rejuvenation and engagement than those who do not.2

Why is knitting so good for you?

Rosemary Kingston, a psychology PhD student and crochet enthusiast, points to the link between needlework and mindfulness meditation.7 Mindfulness is a state of paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment. It is underpinned by Buddhist values and has been found to have a positive influence on our minds.8

Crochet Blanket

A blanket I made for my friend and co-blogger Elena.

This state of mind has several things in common with knitting; it requires light attention to the environment, allows the mind to rest, and has a ‘natural object of focus that contributes a rhythmic quality to the experience’.9 So the positive feelings and relaxation associated with mindfulness meditation may also be gained from needlework. And you might get a nice blanket out of it too.

This makes ‘winding bits of wool together to make interesting things’ an excellent activity for anyone with a stressful, challenging lifestyle, professional or otherwise.

The act of simply creating, and producing, is also good for us.10 So is giving, if we choose to give away our produce. Then there is the social side of things; there are plenty of needlework groups and online interactions to be found. Crochet spread through my friends and colleagues like wildfire, providing a positive environment for sharing and bonding over our common, creative interest. It’s surprising how fun and therapeutic it is to share in the creations of others, develop ideas, and work through the trials and tribulations of making a hat.

So why not give it a go?

It takes a little time and perseverance to start off with but it really is an uplifting and therapeutic hobby. A couple of years ago, a simply splendid human being taught me how to crochet and for this I will be forever grateful, because I don’t know where I’d be without it.

You might have a lot on, but pick up a bit of needlework and you might just find yourself dealing with it better, with a greater sense of well-being.

We would be really interested to hear about your experiences and comments, please share below!

Click here to see the references for this article.

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4 responses to “Mend your mind, make a hat

  1. Well argued. I’m with you on this subject and I love the gloves you made your Mum.

  2. Well, how couldn’t I agree? I think that knitting is a great way to relax 🙂 And thanks for my beautiful blanket, Rachel!

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