BY BECKY SHEASBY
Knitting has become the heart-beat of hobbies, the clickity clack of dancing needles now a necessity for more and more people. It’s no longer just little old ladies knitting in rocking chairs, pumping out hat after hat, no, knitting has weaved its way into the lives of young men and women alike.
Even Conestoga College has felt the soft touch of yarn. Students such as Lindsey Holderness, who’s a first-year student in the office administration program, bring their knitting with them to school. “I find knitting to be therapeutic, it makes me focus on one thing at a time so I stop worrying and/or stressing about school and work,” Holderness said.
With so many men’s and women’s knitting interest piqued, sales of yarn have risen significantly over the last number of years. Sales at Rowan, an international hand-knit yarn company, were up 57 per cent worldwide last year. In an article written for the Guardian, Peter Fitzgerald, a retail director at Google UK, says that online searches for knitting-related terms have been growing steadily since 2004, with an increase of 150 per cent in 2011 alone, while people searching the term “knitting for beginners” increased by 250 per cent.
But what has caused this rebirth of knitting and caused so many people to love and depend on it?
The answer lies in needlework’s ability to induce our body’s relaxation response. When the body is stressed its heart rate is elevated and blood pressure spikes. Stress has been found to cause or aggravate up to 90 per cent of medical conditions and contribute to depression. Knitting relieves stress like a massage relieves tight muscles. Medical practitioners generally agree that finding a way to lower stress is immensely beneficial to a person’s health and the longevity of their life.
Using knitting to lower stress and induce the relaxation response will better the immune system, lower pain, cause better sleep, create more energy, boost brain functions and give a general increase to productivity. In a press release from Lion Brand Yarn, researchers from Harvard Medical School’s Mind/Body Institute found that knitters can actually lower their heart rate to about 11 beats per minute while knitting.
The action of knitting essentially changes the brain chemistry of the knitter; the repetitive movement of doing stitch after stitch activates the same part of the brain that meditation and yoga activate, both of which have been shown to help prevent pain, depression and anxiety. That repetition can even help with asthma, panic attacks and help children with ADHD.
“Knitting is a great therapy for a lot of different reasons,” said expert knitter and Kitchener resident Catheline Pataky. “For me, its calms me and it focuses me. Then there are the times when a group of knitters get together and you begin to talk about things outside of knitting. Those kind of get-togethers turn into therapy just as much as the actual knitting. It brings a sense of community.”
Another reason knitting is becoming so popular is because it is so convenient. It’s a hobby that can be taken anywhere, on the subway, the bus or even a school lecture. It has also never been easier to learn how to knit. The Internet provides the perfect sea of convenient knowledge. Sites such as YouTube, Ravelry.com and even Facebook feature countless video tutorials, patterns and knitting communities.
With knitting now being so accessible, people are finding it to be their favourite hobby for giving them a sense of productivity and accomplishment. Being involved in a craft is something we have begun to lack as a society because the spirit of manufacturing has become lost. So many people work away from creation and instead in service, management or digital industries that it is becoming increasingly rare for people to actually “make” things. Knitting is a hands-on hobby that gives people the satisfaction of physically creating something. By intertwining knitting into the many hours you sit blasting through an entire season of your favourite show, you can end up countering the sense of guilt that would normally be felt from wasting time.
That feeling of creation is part of what gives knitting a mild addictiveness. Many knitters find it takes the place of other, more harmful addictions. Some knitters claim to lose weight because the knitting prevents them from stuffing food into their mouths. Others say it has helped them stop smoking, overcome alcohol cravings and even prevent things like self harm or the repetitive rituals from OCD. Knitting can help replace destructive additions with a beneficial one.