Archive for January, 2014

Knit Picking your Way to Happiness

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

I came across this cartoon recently that has an interesting perspective on our present culture. The young person is quite determined to teach her grandmother the proper technique to eat pasta. The grandmother on the other hand has never considered consuming food as being an art form. It is more natural for her to engage in an activity that has been an artistic pursuit, a therapy and most probably, a necessity.

In my own personal hand-on activities there is usually not a lot of repetitive motion. Knitting has always intrigued me as to what physiological benefits there are. Nineteenth-century physicians recommended that working on a simple piece of knitting counteracts restlessness and discontent. Anxiety-ridden women were told that the quick manual movements and the subtle clicks of the needles had a soothing effect. According to THE LADIES’ WORK-TABLE BOOK of 1844;

Useful and Ornamental Needlework, Knitting, and Netting, occupy a distinguished place, and are capable of being made, not only sources of personal gratification, but of high moral benefit, and the means of developing in surpassing loveliness and grace, some of the highest and noblest feelings of the soul.

Kelly Lambert, Ph.D., the author of Lifting Depression makes a strong case that complex use of hands, such as with knitting, releases the neurotransmitter serotonin and engages the effort-driven rewards circuit as the efforts made produce a sweater or scarf.

I also came across an interesting post from MAKE that combines the long tradition of  the “needle arts” with the newer aspects of Maker culture. Agnes the Knit Bot is a humanoid robot that knits on a circular loom. Agnes debuted at the 2013 Maker Faire U.K. Seeing knitting brought together with robot technology is quite delightful. It makes me think of the grandmother in the cartoon. When she was a young woman, knitting away, I am sure she was quite aware of industrial sewing machines but personal robots were not yet possible. And while she may have shown off her handy work at a county fair, I wonder if these events had any resemblance to the present day Maker Faires. Making was already an integral part of daily life and not a pursuit followed by a minority.

In The New York Times in March, 2005 there was an opinion piece written by Carol E. Lee who noticed that knitting was suddenly in vogue. It is worth the read as it stitches together a portrait of knitting and the perceptions of it through time.

My use of the words “needle arts” is not totally accurate as needles are not the only way of getting yarn together in organized fashion. Arms apparently can do the job as well. Audra, a self-proclaimed craft addict demonstrates this in her blog.

If you have anything to share about your own experiences with these types of pursuits, feel free to spin us a yarn in the comment section.