By Casey Smith, Naturalist
A good friend taught me to knit 15 years ago, and I then taught myself to crochet some time later. Over the last 15 years I’ve picked them both back up occasionally, made a few projects, then put them away again. I’ve never been an avid knitter or crocheter; I’ve made hats, scarves, blankets, one glove. I do know enough, however, to be able to teach beginners how to start knitting or crocheting, and working for the park district gives me the perfect opportunity to do so. We held a knitting class in late fall, and crochet class started this week! Deciding to teach knit and crochet to others has made me practice my skills more. Along with being a fun pastime, knitting or crocheting has surprising health benefits.
Both are known to reduce stress and anxiety. Allowing yourself time to be creative can take your mind off what’s stressing you. The repetitive motion of stitching and counting rows can also help calm your mind. Scientists believe that crafting can help us feel happier. When you do something you like, your brain releases dopamine which acts like a natural anti-depressant. Science has also shown that knitting and crocheting can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by 30-50 percent. Getting a little crafty stimulates your mind, helping to slow down or even prevent memory loss. Yarn crafting can be a group activity. Host a Knit Night or Crochet Crew with friends, join knit- or crochet-specific social media groups, or find a class to make new friends. Finishing a project can also boost your self-esteem. There’s nothing better than seeing a friend or family member wearing a piece you made especially for them.
I’ve decided that this is the year I challenge myself with more advanced knit and crochet projects. I’m going to attempt to knit and crochet socks and sweaters and learn new stitches. I also plan to use knit and crochet to give back. There are many organizations that accept donations of handmade hats, blankets, bears, and more for children’s hospitals, nursing homes, homeless shelters, and many other places. Click on the links below for charities to which you can donate your handmade items. The bag pictured above is made from 50 plastic Kroger bags cut into strips and tied together to make “plarn” or plastic yarn. These bags, along with mats made from “plarn,” are perfect for donating to homeless shelters because they don’t get dirty like fabric bags or blankets. It also keeps those single use plastic bags out of the landfill.
If you couldn’t register for the knit or crochet classes we’ve already held, keep an eye out for future classes. Now that I’ve gotten my “hooks” back into crocheting, I don’t plan on putting them back down.