This Ain’t Ya’ Granny’s Pastime

Lucas Van Oort, via Unsplash

There’s something that soothes the soul. It might not give you that dizzy, heady feeling after consuming too much of it, like a nice glass of wine would, but it’s intoxicating nonetheless.

Where It Began

When I was younger, I’d often visit my maternal grandparents. “Mimi,” as most everyone called her, was my grandmother. She was a tall, regal woman who could have given the Queen of England a run for her crown. Mimi could do most everything it seemed. My mother often lamented this fact around the holidays as she swears Mimi was a much better cook than her. She also, much to her displeasure, never quite took to knitting as her mother did either.

But I did.

I taught myself in fact. There was a bit of a learning curve involved, but it’s rather simple after that. It’s mind-boggling to me that I didn’t try it sooner. I suppose I thought it was ridiculously old-fashioned and difficult—you know, something Mimi did. What a pity because in the 7 months since I started knitting, I’ve discovered something else truly remarkable, unforeseen: health benefits.

Who’d have thunk it!

Not me.

Photo by Imani on Unsplash

On my first go at knitting (I was a bit gung ho, you see), originally, I made two blankets: one large, mostly okay and the other a hot, hot mess. But oh well. I didn’t care. It was fun to grab my yarn, needles, and tea and just relax. Sometimes I’d turn on Netflix’s The Repair Show and unwind after a long, stressful day in the classroom. I thought this was just my propensity for introversion (I’m an INFJ) shining through. However, after a bit of research, and a few knitting projects later, I learned that it’s not just me. There seems to be a resurgence of this seemingly lost craft art. This “makers movement,” if you will, is a rebirth of folks, well, makin’ stuff. This ‘stuff,’ interestingly enough, seems to be doing more than just giving you a nice hand workout, but also positively impacting your wellbeing.

Here’s what I found.

The Health Benefits of Knitting

Knitting isn’t just for making warm winter clothes as Mimi and the other generations before her most likely did. It’s not even about making something cute or about having a useful skill. That’s all good and well, but the side effects I found most intriguing were the mental ones.

Many turn to yoga or meditation when practicing mindfulness. Though these are popular paths used to combat negative thoughts, emotions, anxiety, and worry, knitting has been proven, at least by recent research by Knit for Peace, to do the same, and more. Read their research findings here.

Here are a few things they found from their study:

  • reduced loneliness and isolation
  • lowered depression and anxiety
  • lowered blood pressure
  • lowered noticing of chronic pain
  • slowed the onset of dementia
  • Better wellbeing
Knitting Behind Bars via YouTube

It seems that folks believe so much in the benefits of knitting that they have fought, hard, to bring it into the criminal justice system to help inmates. Besides the fact that these men are all Black/African-American, the video is quite interesting. The institutionalized racism that most likely aided in their imprisonment in the first place, however, is a post for a different day…

As I mentioned before, I’m introverted: I enjoy my space. Like, a lot. But during the 2020 lockdown due to the novel Coronavirus, I craved to talk to someone else besides my dog. Knitting actually encourages and works quite well with community (hello to you, Ravelry). Luckily, you don’t have to be in the same room (or country) to benefit from its social aspect. Checkmate for social distancing! This article talks a bit more about various benefits, too.

The really interesting part is that my no knitting skills Mama was eager to learn how to knit and stopped by so I could teach her the basics. I didn’t do a great job, but she did end up casting on and knitting, but not purling. It was fun to experience this with her. We even wrangled my “Aunt” Kitty into the fun! I suppose Mama can no longer say she ‘can’t knit’ now.

Zoe Schaffer, Unsplash

Knitting, in part, is what lead me to start this blog. I have battled depression and anxiety for many years, but thank God the Lord led me to knitting to help overcome it. He is good!† I believe knitting achieves this by making your brain cognitively focus on the task at hand. This forces you to be in the present moment. It is in my unscientific opinion that this focused concentration increases the gray matter in our brains, which could help thwart dementia.

I’m sure Mimi didn’t know much, nor care much about these benefits. Perhaps if she did, her onset of dementia would have been slower as well her feelings of isolation and loneliness at the end of her life. I like to think she’d still be here today had she kept knitting. But, that’s just wishful thinking.

What draws you to knitting?

6 Thoughts

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