Half of getting through the pandemic seems to entail keeping busy.
Since the arrival of the virus that shall not be named, I’ve periodically “rediscovered” old interests. I gorged myself on crime novels, joined a weekly “Seinfeld” watching group, spent a month on the coast of Massachusetts, tried to find the best lobster roll, took up boxing, ran to the point of tendonitis, turned my kitchen into a jungle of potted plants, and brushed up on my limited Arabic skills.
I almost adopted an elderly dog named Cuddles.
It’s a dizzying list, filled with half-hearted attempts at self-improvement and distraction. Few of these stuck, save for knitting.
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About a year ago, equipped with a Michael’s bag full of bamboo needles and skeins, I plopped myself in front of my laptop and enlisted YouTube account Sheep & Stitch as my teacher.
Eventually, I had half a dozen scarves.
Yvonne Weiss, owner of Knit One Quilt Too, a knitting, sewing, quilting and weaving shop in Barrington, knows this phenomenon well.
She knits at her kids’ sports practices and orthodontist appointments, in the dentist chair and at traffic lights.
Last week, I visited Weiss’ shop, curious about what gets people like us hooked. She theorizes that it’s the feeling of fiber and the release of mood-modifying chemicals in the brain.
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Research on the topic remains limited, but poking around online turns up a few studies, one published by the British Journal of Occupational Therapy. In a survey of more than 3,500 knitters around the globe, UK researchers found a “significant relationship between knitting frequency and feeling calm and happy.”
That’s not all. Another study from the University of British Columbia found that knitting was therapeutic for women handling eating disorders, easing their anxieties and fixations. A third study led by a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist linked knitting with lower odds of cognitive impairment in old age. A fourth found that knitting may help distract from chronic pain.
Perhaps among the most common reasons to knit are those you love.
“Most people, when they knit or when they quilt, they’re doing it for people they care about,” Weiss said, explaining that when there’s turmoil, she has “turned to make something for the person who has a crisis, and somehow it helps you get through.”
I know what she means. Over the last year, dad, mom, sister and boyfriend have each been the recipients of giant, wooly scarves, woven in quiet moments. While I’ve never been one to easily tolerate a meditation class, fending off what seems like 100 thoughts a minute, clicking my needles together has been meditative in its own right.
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Katie Mills, one of the shop’s band of close-knit employees, said it best: “This is therapy. It forces you to slow down, and just make something.”
Providence Journal staff writer Amy Russo moved from New York City in March, and she’s eager to experience her adopted state. If you have suggestions for this column, email her at [email protected]