“Its my therapy.”
“Crochet is my addiction.”
“Things I cannot run out of: coffee, yarn, cat food, and toilet paper. If I have those I’m good.”
Okay, so that last quote might be me. But I’m sure we have all said things just like this. On Thursdays I usually write about something I like and think you will like too. But today I feel like rambling about some we all already like: making things from yarn. Obvious I know, but why? Why do we like it so much?
If you poke around on this topic you’ll find plenty of fluffy, feel-good articles from CNN or LifeHack or PBS that want you to know knitting and crochet can make you feel better. Its the “new yoga” and it “reduces stress” and can be a great way to make a “social connection”. You know what I have noticed? Most of them don’t have any data* to back it up. They have anecdotal evidence, which is personal experience, which is just stories. They don’t really understand (or maybe they aren’t interested in) why knitting and crochet and making things from yarn makes people feel better. They just know that it does.
* There are only two sources, two ladies, that I know of who have made a serious study of why playing with yarn makes you feel better. If any of the fluffy feel-good articles do reference a source, it usually leads back to Betsan Corkhill and/or one of her colleagues at sticthlinks.com or Kathryn Vercillo who blogs at crochetconcupiscence.com. So if you’re interested in the topic, I’d start there.
It certainly does. Making a hat from yarn is fun and its relaxing and its just what you need to be doing after a tough day. But why? Why is a hat (or a shawl or a blanket or a 57th dishcloth) made from yarn the thing that makes us all feel better?
Well, I have a theory. Like all the other fluffy, feel-good articles on this topic, its based only on my personal experience but I think I’m totally, 100% right. We like making things from yarn for more than just one reason. If there was only one good thing about this craft, we probably would have lost interest and moved on. So in order of increasing benefit (to me) here is:
Why I think you should go on knitting and crocheting
1) The repetitive act of making stitch after stitch burns off the fidgets. If you are stressed or anxious you need something to do with all that energy. Stitching away with yarn is like taking a walk… only far more convenient. Unlike taking a walk, you can do it a night when the weather is bad. Knitting and crochet is something to do, something to occupy your hands and a little bit of your brain. Meanwhile the rest of your brain is free to zone out or watch a little TV or even, if you want to, think about what is making you anxious.
2) Its a whole brain activity that requires some hand-eye coordination. You have to move both hands in concert to make stitches. Whole brain activities are usually enjoyable once they have been mastered. Take driving a car, for example. Or riding a bike. Once we are good at something like that, we want to keep doing it.
3) Mastering a new pattern, or a new technique feels awesome. Before that mastery happens, when you are floundering and ripping back, you may not be having much fun. You may be hating your yarn. You may be saying a few dirty words. We have all been there. But we kept at it until we could make a freaking bobble that wasn’t lopsided, right? Right. Why? Because we knew we’d figure it out eventually and when we did it would be very satisfying. That’s endorphins. When the brain figures something out, something that has been troublesome, we get a little shot of endorphin, the body’s natural narcotic. Yep, we all have a little drug-dealer in our brain that gives us a fix when we overcome and learn something new. Its a natural system, and a healthy one, that keeps us learning our whole lives. (But if you cheat and just go smoke something to feel good, you’re not learning. You’ve got no motivation to learn new stuff and probably won’t. That’s the reason behind the cliché “drugs make you stupid”. They really do. You’re better off picking up some yarn and trying to figure out how to make cables.)
4) Living in an all machine-made world is bad for us mentally and we have to create things by hand to stay sane. Playing a game on your phone or computer may be fun. It may give you all the benefits I’ve listed here so far but its not healthy to play computer games for long periods. All uniform, all the same, all artificial shapes and all manufactured visuals and textures and clothes and rooms are unnatural. They get you down. They stifle. They do make life easier and they have elevated the standard of living in our modern lives. We can’t give up manufacturing because it keeps our over-populated societies functioning. But… but we can’t have only manufactured stuff in our environment because our environment has a profound affect on our moral lives. That’s the simplified (maybe over simplified, lol) basis of Rudolf Steiner‘s philosophy, spiritualism, and pedagogy. Steiner founded the original Waldorf Schools and there is a reason those schools have kindergarteners playing with clay and wool and third-graders learning to knit and crochet. Handmade things are beautiful because of their irregularity, because of their individuality, and in our modern life we need to have that. We need the inspiration of imperfect, naturally made things. We need to see them and touch them. (You know how sometimes you need to hear music performed live? Its like that.) If you are a knitter and/or crocheter you are a part of making the hand-made things that our society really, really needs. In my opinion we need more of it than we have.
So keep playing with yarn. Keep stitching. Those stitches are what hold you and maybe even your friends and family together.
And if that is the justification you need to buy more yarn and notions and patterns, then you are very welcome.