The Health Benefits of Knitting

knitting health benefitsAsk anyone who knits, and they’ll tell you that knitting makes them feel better. It turns out that there’s science to back up that feeling.

Writing on the New York Times’ Well blog last month, Jane E. Brody discussed some of the health benefits of knitting.

For example, there was the Craft Yarn Council’s “Stitch Away Stress” campaign, which argued that the repetitive action associated with needlework can lead to the sort of relaxed state you’d find in someone meditating or doing yoga.

“Once you get beyond the initial learning curve, knitting and crocheting can lower heart rate and blood pressure and reduce harmful blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol,” Brody writes. “But unlike meditation, craft activities result in tangible and often useful products that can enhance self-esteem. I keep photos of my singular accomplishments on my cellphone to boost my spirits when needed.”

Brody also discusses other ways knitting makes people feel better:

  • A survey by British wellness coach Betsan Corkhill found that 54 percent of respondents who were clinically depressed said they felt happy when knitting. (Brody doesn’t say this, but other reporting we’ve seen on the link between knitting and alleviating depression notes that it may have to do with the fact that the repetitive act of knitting releases serotonin, a natural anti-depressing.)
  • Another study by Corkhill looked at the effects of knitting on chronic pain on 60 knitters who reported the act allowed them to redirect their focus, making them less aware of their pain.
  • Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that knitting may help to reduce decline in brain function later in life. The study, which involved 1,321 people between 70 and 89, found that those who enjoyed crafts like knitting or crocheting had less of a chance of developing mild cognitive impairment and memory loss.
  • Karen Zila Hayes, a life coach in Toronto, uses knitting as a therapy to help people give up smoking, (“Knit to Quit”) and to help people cope with health crises (“Knit to Heal”), such as a cancer diagnosis or a family member’s illness.
  • Knitting has been shown to help people with the eating disorder anorexia. A study at the University of British Columbia in 2009 found that nearly three quarters of the 38 women surveyed said knitting lessened their fears and kept them from dwelling on the disorder.

After reading Brody’s NY Times piece, we got curious about other health benefits associated with knitting. It turns out there’s been a number of studies on the topic:

  • In a study sponsored by the American Home Sewing & Craft Association, Dr. Robert Reiner of the New York University Medical Center’s psychiatry department found that sewing helped his subjects relax.
  • Knitting doesn’t just help improve memory function in old age. A 2011 study in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences showed that knitting – and cutting back on TV viewing — during middle age decreased the odds of developing cognitive impairment and memory loss later in life by 30 to 50 percent.
  • Knitting keeps us connected and improves our self-esteem. Completing a project makes us feel better. Making something that we can give to other people makes us feel better. Anytime we’re involved in a creative process, we want to bond with others who do what we do, which reduces loneliness and isolation. And getting positive feedback from those people makes us feel better.
  • Knitting strengthens our coordination and dexterity. These are skills we pick up early on, but the act of manipulating needles around yarn keeps them sharp.
  • Knitting can help us sleep. A study by Professor Herbert Benson of the Mind/Body Medical Institute found that 100 percent of insomnia patients found their sleep improved after knitting. Ninety percent were able to give up their medication.

Knitting is fun, it’s relaxing, and it brings people together. If you’re looking to be part of a knitting community in Bucks County, look no further than Knitting to Know Ewe. In addition to selling yarn, needles and other supplies, we hold a variety of classes to help you feel like a knitting all-star.

The Value Of Trying Things That Scare You (Err, Knitting-Wise, Anyway)

knitting projects

photo by Purl Bee

With every project I start, I try to choose a pattern that involves a skill I’ve never tried before. A weird new increase, an exotic cast on—something like that.

I don’t always get it right immediately, and sometimes I rip it out a bunch of times and have to step away and have a cup of tea or glass of wine before gathering the emotional strength to cast on and try again. When it finally does click in my brain and I persevere, I feel so much prouder of myself than if I had just done another project in my comfort zone.

Recently, I tried two-color brioche for a hat pattern. I had done brioche stitch, but not with two different colors. I decided this was something that had to be in my arsenal of knitting knowledge.

I failed miserably the first few times I tried it, because it is a bit of a pain to get started if everything isn’t set up just right. But I was not dissuaded! I ripped it out and started it as many times as it took. The feelings of accomplishment I felt when I finally got it to look like it was supposed to were worth the feelings of frustration and annoyance that came before it. It looked so cool! I was proud of myself for not giving up.

If you’re one of those knitters who thinks they can only handle making stockinette stitch rectangles after knitting for something like five or 20 years, I suggest you wander a bit out of your comfort zone and try a project that teaches you a new skill.

It might be challenging at first, but it’ll be good for your brain and your self-esteem, and we’re always here to give you tech support and emotional support if you don’t get it right away. I promise you it will be worth the effort and the angst when you’re done!

On the Aesthetics of Luxury Yarn

luxury yarn

Jade Sapphire 8-ply Mongolian Cashmere

I wanted to keep this simple. I have written many times about using luxury yarn in projects in a number of my blogs posts. But this time, I wanted to talk simply about the aesthetic experience.

Yarn itself is a wondrous thing. It comes always from a source of life. Whether it be animal or plant or both, it once was part of a living thing. Sheared, cut and spun, it is transformed into another form of itself. A form that is pliable enough to manipulate into so many different forms that are unique, useful and wonderful. From garments or blankets to soothe and keep you warm, to rugs, bags, and even wall hangings.

When I hold a skein of Jade Sapphire Mongolian Cashmere in my hand, the beauty of it is unmistakable. It is so soft and vibrant. I always think about the animal in Mongolia that was sheared, and what his world looks like. Has he been pampered and fed only the best of food to create his beautiful coat? How far has that coat traveled (and to where?) to be cleaned and spun into a wondrous skein of yarn? What did it look like and feel like before color was added to it?

I am currently making a scarf from Jade Sapphire, and I have enjoyed the project from the minute I casted on my first stitch. Although I use and enjoy circular needles (Addi Turbos being my favorite), there is nothing more satisfying to me than using a pair of gorgeous Lantern Moon Needles to work with wonderful yarn. In my opinion, they were meant for each other. The needle, being handmade out of palm wood, rosewood or ebony (my favorite) feels as luxurious as the yarn with which I am working. They remind me of a violin. The wood polished and smooth, and just slippery enough. Together with my cashmere, they complete the experience.

Continue Reading On the Aesthetics of Luxury Yarn

Knitted Holiday Gifts You’ll Actually Finish in Time

knitted holiday gifts

Let’s be real here. You may have grand plans for all your holiday gifts: sweaters, blankets, etc. You might finish one of those things sometime in February, if you’re very disciplined.

Instead of living with the all-too-familiar shame of owing people knitted gifts long past the holiday season, why not make everyone on your list a more manageable project you can make many, many of?

Take these Audrey mitts, for example (upper-left). They use only one skein of Jade Sapphire 8-ply cashmere. They take about an afternoon to whip up. You have plenty of time to make a whole bunch of them.

Continue Reading Knitted Holiday Gifts You’ll Actually Finish in Time

Needle Felting for Fall

Fall is upon us! It’s time to start working on the big, cozy sweaters and blankets that will help you get through the winter. In the meantime, though, you need some small projects to keep things fresh. Have you tried needle felting? It’s super fun. You take a big chunk of wool roving, and you stab it repeatedly with a very sharp needle. Doesn’t that sound incredibly satisfying? Considering that it’s fall, now would be the perfect time to make wee little pumpkins and witches and ghosties and decorate your house with them!

Knitting Yarn
You can even get a head start on holiday presents with our new Artfelt kits, which include stunning scarves, coffee cozies, and iPad covers. If you’d like to learn how to make any of these things, give us a call or send us an email and book a personalized lesson! You’ll be ready for fall in no time!

Knitting Yarn

Happy Knitting (and felting)!
Christin and Diane

Step Out Of The Box!

At the store, I hear the same thing a lot of the time. “I am a new knitter. I only know how to make simple things like scarves.” On more than one occasion, I have been told that only socks have been made. This one baffles me. If a knitter can make a sock, he or she is basically good to go to make anything else I can think of. Just because it is small, doesn’t mean it doesn’t require skill and technique to make a good sock. To me, socks are like cookies. Some cookies require more baking skills and technique than a full course meal. Learning to work with double pointed needles or the magic loop is a lot to learn and master. Socks can be a truly gratifying project to make. In my mind, nothing beats a pair of handmade socks for a gift. They are little works of art. And, if the person receiving them has a brain in their head, they have to appreciate the work, skill, and sincerity that was put into them. I am working on a future blog just about socks. There is a lot more to say about them. I am also almost finished designing a bag for the sock maker—the Sox Box. It is another version of the cone bag designed for Habu cones. Below you will find two different versions of the cone bag.

Continue Reading Step Out Of The Box!

Why You Should Start Your Projects For Winter Right Now (Yes, Right Now)

While it has started to become just a tad warm out there, and you probably don’t feel like knitting with wool, hear me out.  You normally don’t start your sweaters, coats, and blankets until it starts to get a bit cooler, right?  Well, those are pretty big projects.  They take a lot of time, especially if you like working with small gauge. My thinking is, why not start those puppies now so you have them by the time it cools down again? How awesome would it be when October rolled around, and you had a toasty cardigan made of, say, baby alpaca, merino wool, or cashmere all blocked and ready to go? Pretty darn awesome, that’s how much. Continue Reading Why You Should Start Your Projects For Winter Right Now (Yes, Right Now)

Ouch! Summer Fiber Gauges

Knitting Yarn: Habu Textiles Bamboo Lace

Just in: Habu Textiles 100% bamboo lace weight for all your summery project needs!

After so many years at the store, I sort of cringe when the summer projects start. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of the them. There is nothing like linen, organic cotton, and bamboo to make a project feel fresh and light. Nothing drapes like these natural fibers either. The tough part is sometimes getting the correct gauge for the project. As a scarfaholic, of course, this issue does not come into play as much. If the gauge is a little off one way or the other, it is easy to adjust by adding or subtracting stitches to make the desired width and length. The same applies to blankets or afghans. But, when making a garment, it can get tricky. Sometimes, you can try to get gauge changing the needle size up or down. Nothing changes the gauge. On some fortunate occasions, a drastic change in needle size can do the trick. But most of the time the gauge doesn’t seem to want to move in either direction. There have been countless occasions, where a knitter will sit in our store, changing needles, and getting the exact same stitch count. If we are lucky, we can make an adjustment in the size of the garment to accommodate the gauge. But, a lot of times, we just can’t make it work.

I believe the reason for this is due to the nature of the fibers themselves. Cotton, bamboo, and some linens do not have a great deal of structure. They are more open and softer. In other words, they are what they are. Unlike merino or alpaca for example, they do not possess the springy ability to accommodate a larger or smaller needle. This is an issue with a finished garment as well. A knitter should take into account how the garment will drape when using something like bamboo or cotton. It can grow as you wear it or if left on a hanger.

Having said all of the above, there are some wonderful projects that can be made from these summer fibers. I am partial to the Habu yarn line, because the Cotton Gima, Linen, Linen Paper, and Nerimaki Cotton Slub, are easier with which to obtain a gauge. They are slightly more structured, and we have had great success with all of them. Also, there is the added benefit in this line of working with two or more of these fibers run together. I would like to add that the best combination of a great deal of Habu fibers is to run them with stainless steel or copper. This automatically can allow a knitter to obtain the needed gauge for a project. The yarn is immediately fortified with enough structure and definition that any desired gauge is readily achieved. Habu Stainless Steel or Copper can be added to basically any fiber from Madeline Tosh to Appalachian Cotton to give it the proper structure so that a gauge can be gotten. It also allows you to manipulate the size of the finished garment both lengthwise and width-wise.

As with any project, but especially one where the gauge is so tricky, I recommend that you check that gauge throughout the project. A lot of knitters do not realize that their knitting can vary as they knit the project. We all knit differently at different times. We can knit tighter or looser, depending on our frame of mind. It frequently happens where a knitter starts out with the proper gauge and ends up looser or tighter later in the project. Obviously, this can dramatically change the finished project. We hate to see a garment that is too tight or too loose after the project is finished. It is a really good idea to take a moment every few inches and check your gauge. It is a lot easier to make a correction at that point. It might make the difference as to being able to wear the garment and being happy, or having to rip it out or give it away. So sad.

Okay, I have tried to present a realistic view of working with summer fibers. I will say again that I love them. But, I will also say this: If everything under the moon is tried and fails, my advice to all knitters is TO PICK ANOTHER PROJECT OR PICK A DIFFERENT YARN. Unless you are more than okay with the idea that, if the garment does not end up fitting you, you have someone else to give it to, don’t continue. This is an obstacle that cannot be overcome. We would rather you not buy the project than be unhappy with the result.

In the meantime, I hope that you try your hand at something light and airy for the season. And, whatever you choose to make, I hope you have great success and enjoyment from it!

Scarfaholic – The Summer Scarf – Part Two

(For part one of “The Summer Scarf” click here )

I must mention the Habu Kusha Kusha Scarf if I am doing a blog on summer scarves, for this light weight and amazing scarf has traveled with me to various climates and worked well in all. I am frequently stopped and asked about this scarf wherever I travel.  Knitting To Know Ewe is getting all new supplies of the stainless and merino within the next week.  Here are the images and the pattern for this wonderful scarf that is frequently worn layered with another.  An amazing look: Continue Reading Scarfaholic – The Summer Scarf – Part Two

Scarfaholic – The Summer Scarf – Part One

I am not a warm weather person and losing the ability to wear my winter clothing makes it even harder to endure, because I love sweaters, boots, layered clothing, and, of course, scarves.  When traveling to Europe, everyone (especially in France) continues to wear scarves in the warmer weather.  I decided to adopt this trend, so I have knitted and purchased a ton of summer scarves over the years. I will share some of my findings and thoughts over two separate blog posts.

Online Knitting SuppliesDon’t be quick to discount the summer scarf.  Like its winter counterpart, it finishes off and “ties together” an outfit.  I really like the way a tank top looks with a light summer scarf.  Obviously, the materials one would choose to make a summer scarf will differ greatly from the thick and soft luxury fibers chosen to make a winter scarf.  This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice all luxury fibers in making a lighter weight scarf, just that you will have to choose fibers smarter.

I am currently working on a few summer scarves, hoping to have them finished and ready to wear in the next month.  One is made of Shibui Linen, and is a free pattern on their website.  It is designed by Antonia Shankland, who always seems to design scarves that I would choose to make.  They are easy and gorgeous.  I am making this particular scarf with the colors brick, apple, sidewalk, and tar in the Shibui Linen.  All these colors can be ordered on our website.

Online Knitting SuppliesI am also working on a scarf using Habu linen.  So far, I am still experimenting with this pattern, trying to combine two yarns throughout the scarf and haven’t been happy with the results.  I will put this finished scarf in a future blog when I get it right.  Having said that, I am more than happy with the Habu Linen itself.  Here is what I have knitted so far.  This just might be an all linen scarf.  You cannot tell from the picture how light and beautiful this linen feels knitted up. Continue Reading Scarfaholic – The Summer Scarf – Part One