Special to The Journal
Knitting was once as necessity as cooking and sewing, but these days it’s been rediscovered as a hobby – with unexpected health benefits.
The upswing in interest is due in part to social media, says Jeanne Feenstra, the owner of Country Yarns.
Facebook, Pinterest and Ravelry are loaded with projects that cater to today’s knitters. And the list of rich and famous who have embraced the craft include Hollywood stars like Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher, as well as Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.
These days, knitting is being referred to as a cognitive exercise, a form of meditation, and even as the ‘new yoga.’
That’s because knitting is known to produce what’s called the “relaxation response,” in which repetitive muscular activity results in a reduced heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension.
Feenstra recalls years ago after teaching a customer how to knit that the woman’s doctor recorded a drop in her blood pressure.
She believes knitting is as much a mental exercise as a physical one.
“My niece, who is now a doctor, was told in university to take up a hobby like knitting to help improve fine motor and cognitive skills necessary for surgical procedures,” she said.
Research conducted at the Mayo Clinic found middle-aged people who play games and engage in crafts, including knitting, had a 40% lower risk of memory impairment.
Feenstra said people with arthritis who take up knitting have reported a reduction in pain and swelling, and an increase in flexibility. Although, she cautions, aluminum knitting needles can irritate arthritis, but bamboo and plastic needles do not.
Knitting was once a necessary life skill. Feenstra’s mother, as a girl, “was required to knit every day after school since most people could not afford any premade clothing,” she said.
These days, she added, most knitters are under 30 or over 50.
Knitting lessons are available at a number of local craft stores, including Country Yarns, at 2776 LaSalle Line, Heaven is Handmade, 250 Christina St. and Michael’s craft store, 1470 Quinn Dr.
Local knitting groups that meet regularly include: Sacred Heart Knitting Group, on Mondays 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., and the Strangway Community Centre, Tuesdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.