Friday, February 7, 2014

Knitting Is Good For You

Queen Composter shares her love of knitting.

Make things you can wear!
My grandmother taught me how to knit when I was young, although not as young as she was when she learned. In England at the time they taught all girls how to knit when they were five years old, and it was a lifetime passion for her. I like how knitting (among other crafts) links me to my mother and my grandmother, and other women through the ages. Over the years my love affair with knitting has waxed and waned, depending on the ages of my kids and the time I could devote to it, but I always end up coming back to it. I am by no means an expert; I would call myself an advanced beginner as I have never made myself a substantial piece of clothing like a sweater.

Over the past decade knitting has gone through a bit of a surge in popularity, with young people, including men, and even celebrities openly engaging in the fibre arts. It goes along with the resurgence of homespun pursuits of do-it-yourselfers and hipsters. Everything old is new again.

Knitting isn't just for girls anymore.
As my grandmother did with me, I am attempting to pass along my love of knitting to the next generation. I gave my daughters yarn and needles for presents two Christmases ago, and every so often they will sit down with me and knit a few rows. I am also sponsoring a knitting club at my school, teaching interested grade five, six and seven students how to knit basic projects like scarves and soft toys. I am pleased that there are even a handful of boys in the club.

So why bother teaching people how to knit when cheap clothing is everywhere? Yarn is expensive and knitting is time consuming. It is easier, and less expensive to just go and buy something machine made.

I believe that knitting is healthy for people, the community and the environment for the following reasons:

It teaches people the value of things. We do not know the true cost of clothing, as with most things in our global consumer culture, and by taking the time to knit, people come to appreciate what it takes to produce what we use. My students are learning this and are surprised how much work goes into even a simple scarf.

Similarly, by knitting, people are learning to slow down and appreciate the act of something, in a mindful way. The slow movement teach us to enjoy the moment in an almost meditative way. There is something about the repetitive clicking of the needles that is soothing and enjoyable. Even though sometimes I would describe knitting as anything but relaxing, like when I’m following a challenging pattern or having to unpick several rows back to find a dropped stitch, knitting can be very relaxing.

It supports the local economy when people buy yarn from craft and yarn stores. I realize that many people buy cheap synthetic yarn from big box craft stores, but as an appreciation for knitting grows, the desire for handspun yarn from locally produced wool grows.

Like my knitting club, it can connect people in a shared activity. We have both silly and great conversations over lunch hour knitting and I feel more connected with the students. When I seek help from other knitters we do more than just knit together, we talk about our lives, our children, issues that matter to us. Connecting with a community is good for our mental health.

It is a low tech activity in a high tech world, and it gives my hands something to do besides play on my smart phone or computer in the evening when I am tired and want to sit and relax. However, ironically, it has given me more reasons to go high tech. I like to follow other knitters on Instagram (including some spinners and hipster yarn bombers) and Pinterest (holy black hole for knitters), and recently I’ve created a Ravelry account to connect with other knitters and seek inspiration.

Knitting for babies is so satisfying.
It is a way to make meaningful handmade gifts that have a lighter environmental footprint. Who doesn’t like to receive something homemade? And the giver feels good about giving something of themselves.

In the end, people aren’t going to take up knitting for any of the above reasons, they’re going to do it because it is fun and they get to use things they have made themselves. That is satisfaction in itself.

Who else enjoys knitting, sewing, crocheting quilting or anything else handmade? Do you have other reasons why it is good for you?


EMMA said...

Yes! yes! to everything you have said here - especially spot on that we don't know the 'true' cost of the cheap clothing we can buy these days.
I read recently that stroke patients are being treated with knitting as part of their therapy to get both sides of the brain and both hands working together again. Also can be of help to dyslexic children to help with concentration and they get the added satisfaction of producing something unique.
I come from a family of knitters, my mother taught me when I was small but then I forgot all about it for years. 'YouTube' is my teacher now as my mother passed away many years ago and my family live in a different county! I'm on ravelry too, my user name is tinashelia if you want to come by and say hi!

Marie said...

I agree! In the Waldorf Community knitting and other hand-work is taught to children in the very early years. Here are a couple of links discussing the benefits and reasoning ... and

I was taught to knit when I was about 7, along with all of my brothers and sisters. We were taught hand sewing and cooking as well. My mother believed that they were all important skills for both boys and girls to be self-reliant and creative. I can't imagine going a day without creating something with my hands and I'm beginning to teach (and model) the same for my young daughter.

Sarah said...

Oh my goodness, I love all those reasons you gave to knit! I think my favorite one was bringing more value to an item. All my knitted items - especially those that were gifted to me - are very beloved and treasured! Every time I put on an item I made I think about when I was making it, and love it all the more!

Something I also think is important is to learn our own skills to be able to provide for ourselves, not being totally dependent on society to provide everything for us. This includes basic sewing, mending, and creating your own. And that's just in clothing! This idea extends to everything from food to home to car to anything. Bottom line. Knitting rules.

Green Bean said...

You should just like me. I've been knitting since high school. I can find my way around a pattern but I still consider myself an advanced beginner, having never made sweaters or anything like that.

I love knitting for all the reasons you mention. Ever year, I make my kids and sometimes my nieces and nephews hand-knit items. I cannot remember the last time I bought yarn as that stuff seems to last forever. Either that, or I overdid it a few years ago. Anyway, I feel like the gifts I knit are unique, made with love, and with very little environmental impact.

Rizwana (a.k.a. chaigirl) said...

Christy, will you please teach me to knit? I'm hoping it'll curtail my Ipadding ways. I'll bring wine!

Green Bean said...

This reminded me of you post: Knitting Keeps You Healthy on TreeHugger:


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