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Knitting

I have been knitting for over 6 years now, and it is definitely one of my favourite pastimes. As I’ve learned more about it, and slowly learned new projects and new methods, my appreciation of it has only deepened. I’ve learned that there are so many benefits to knitting, beyond being able to produce clothes on my own. They include:

Community

Knitting (and other hobbies) are a wonderful way to meet others and connect over a common activity, share ideas/patterns and participate in mentoring/learning relationships. There are even digital knitting communities, like the hugely popular knitting social networking site, Ravelry.

Relaxation

In her always sold out talks, knitting blogger The Yarn Harlot (aka Stephanie Pearl-McPhee) has explored the neuroscience of knitting, and its short and long-term impact on the human brain. Long time knitters have the same overdeveloped areas of the brain as people who meditate constantly, like Buddhist monks. Its meditative qualities both allow it to be an activity that is entertaining when done alone, or done unconsciously while the brain engages in other activity. Knitting has been shown to possibly reduce the pain of diseases like Crohn’s and fibromyalgia. Knitting has been shown to potentially reduce trauma and post-traumatic stress when “used” in emergency situations. If we all carried emergency knitting, we could reduce the impact of bad days, bad news, and stressful or frightening situations. Some students with ADHD use knitting as part of their learning plan, allowing part of their brain to focus on the repetitive motion of knitting, and increasing focus and engagement on their lesson or reading. None of these effects happen overnight though, a small amount of practice on the basic stitches is necessary first.

Appreciation of history

Knitting has helped me develop a greater appreciation for history and tradition, connecting with an occupation that people having been doing for over 1000 years. And as a male knitter, I’m often teased for doing something so “delicate” and “feminine”. Beyond disagreeing to such constrictive gender identifications, I’m fascinated to learn more about how much male tradition there is in knitting (it was originally a male-only occupation). This includes events like the world wars, where often men were sent knitting needles and wool instead of completed clothing, because they were to produce their own in times of rest. Beyond utility, this may have been a welcome distraction, as the repetition and focus knitting demands could have helped soldiers find some peace.

Charity

This is one of my favourite aspects of knitting, and connects so well with others. There are many community groups and organizations that knit together for common goals, both close to home and international. Currently I knit for a London group called Keeping Kids Warm, which collect hand-knitted and bought clothing for children in disadvantaged neighbourhoods in the city. To me, this is a wonderful way to give back to our city, meet other knitters and connect over a common hobby and passion. It is also a terrific way for many to continue to connect with their city, as many of the contributors are elderly and/or shut in, so though they cannot come out to events they can continue to participate.

These are only a few of the many benefits of knitting. There are many knitting groups across the city, and in most communities. I encourage everyone to give it a try, and am always glad to help others learn if they’re interested in starting!