Science Declares Your Knitting Obsession is Healthy; Unfinished Projects Justified

My Napramach bag is nearly finished. When I say this, I mean: the knitting is done. I still need to block the pieces (wet and stretch them to the right size and shape) and stitch the bag together. I should make a lining for it, too, to keep the yarn loops on the back of the pieces from catching on whatever I put in the bag, but I’m not sure I’ll get around to that.

The two pieces of the bag; the one on the right has already been blocked (I thought I was done knitting. Doh!)
The two pieces of the bag; the one on the left has already been blocked (I thought I was done knitting. Doh!)

I finished knitting over a month ago. So why isn’t the bag done? Because the part I love about knitting projects is the knitting. The finishing steps seem like too much work to me. I have the same problem when I make quilts. I love the design work and the piecing, but when it’s time to pin the layers together, I often set the quilt aside. Basting is a chore. I’d rather be playing with my sewing machine.

I am into the process (the knitting or the sewing) but not the product (the bag or quilt). Sometimes a manic desire to see the finished product will drive me through the less pleasant stages of assembly in a timely manner. But not always. I currently have at least eight quilt tops ready to be quilted, but they languish, waiting for me to baste them first.

Napramach Bag in Folk Bags
Napramach Bag in Folk Bags

Fortunately, there are loads of studies that explain why I love to knit (and sew). The answer is not as flip as it sounds. It makes me feel better. According to scientists, my feeling better is because of definite measurable health benefits. Repetitive activities like knitting are calming, decrease anxiety and depression, and improve brain health. In fact, knitting can provide substantial healing even for those suffering severely, like PTSD patients. And there can be additional benefits if you get together with friends to do your knitting, sewing, or other “crafting” projects, like scrapbooking.

Knitting is where the meditative action is. While I understand intellectually that meditation is great for us, I’m not so good at sitting still. But give me needles and yarn and I will sit and knit for hours. This can lead to marathon TV-watching — just one more episode, so I can knit a little more! — but at least I have something concrete to show for all that time on my tush.

My goal for my unfinished projects vacillates between two extremes. I either vow to finish everything, to do away with my stacks of unfinished projects, or I vow to feel no guilt and launch into as many new projects as I like. When I’m sane, I think there might be a path somewhere in the middle that will allow me to do some of both, but to be sane, I need to knit another pair of socks first.

How about you? Are you a process or product person? Do you have loads of unfinished projects lying around, or do you stick to one thing until it’s done? Do you find knitting and crocheting make you feel better?


Published by

Kit Dunsmore

Kit Dunsmore has believed in the magic underlying the muggle world since she was a child searching for the Shetland pony pooka she was sure was hiding in her back yard. She learned early on that books were magic doors into other worlds, and that she could revisit a beloved character or place by opening the right book. As she grew, she decided she wanted to make magic with words, too. Today Kit writes about things she loves: poodles and dragons, witches and artists, quirky underdogs and loyal friends. Whether her setting is 6th-century England, the imaginary Twelve Kingdoms, or an art-obsessed version of modern America, magic always finds its way into her story. She enjoys turning fairy tales inside out and watching characters sacrifice everything to reach their goal, but she also believes in happy endings. When she isn't writing, Kit experiences magic by making things with her hands. Over the years, she's made quilts, fabric sculptures, collages, sweaters, and blank books. Her newest interest is learning how to spin her own yarn, a skill guaranteed to strengthen one of her many delusions: that she is a self-sufficient pioneer woman. She also thinks she is a hobbit, a witch, an artist, and a good cook. Living in the foothills of Colorado, Kit enjoys the giant skies and prairie landscapes which suit her need for wide open spaces. In addition to hiking through glorious scenery with her husband or imagining herself living in the Middle Ages, Kit works as a pillow for her miniature poodle and polishes the next small piece of her handmade life.

4 thoughts on “Science Declares Your Knitting Obsession is Healthy; Unfinished Projects Justified”

  1. Definitely process! I am the queen of the UFO. I have so many unfinished quilts in my cupboard I occasionally find one that I have no memory of ever seeing before. Like you, I love the playing with fabric and colour, the creative part. Once the quilt top’s assembled I lose interest. The rest of it is just the boring bit you do to get a finished product.


    1. I’m always happy to hear I’m not alone with my piles of UFOs. I would have so many quilts if I just finished the d@mn things. 🙂


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