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The Health Benefits of Crafting

Research could open the door to better health for consumers, better sales for the industry.

by Betsan Corkhill (January 5, 2009)

(Note: Betsan is giving a seminar, "The Health Benefits of Crafting: An Important Message for Your Customers!" at 12:00 - 1:00 pm on Sun., Jan. 25, at the CHA Winter Show. The seminar number is S111. For more show information, visit www.chashow.org.)

Many of you will be aware of the large amount of anecdotal evidence there is about the benefits of crafting, but no one has as yet asked, "Why?" or "How?"' or "What is truly happening here?".

My professional training lies in physiotherapy; I specialised in "care of the elderly" and "neurology," but whilst working in the community I became very frustrated because many of the patients I saw lacked the motivation to carry out the advice I left. Indeed, it's difficult enough for those of us who are healthy and pain-free to motivate ourselves to exercise alone at home, so trying to persuade those who are already depressed or in pain to do so is difficult. It's a huge challenge that healthcare professionals around the world face, particularly with people who have long-term health problems.

I recall having many conversations with doctors saying, "What these patients REALLY need is social contact, to develop an interest in something that will give them a reason to get out of their armchairs!" To cut a long story short, I left physiotherapy, and following a year as a full-time student, I became a freelance production editor for Future Publishing. Little did I know that this move away from the health service would provide me with a possible answer to this problem which consumes so much healthcare time and money.

Whilst working with CrossStitcher and Simply Knitting magazines I was made aware of the large volume of anecdotal evidence from all around the world about the therapeutic benefits of cross stitching and knitting. My "physio head" was immediately switched back on and I decided to investigate further. My feeling was that here could be the answer: projects which could be deliverable to the arm chair, which could possibly motivate people and stimulate interest in the wider world.

I have spent the last three years looking at the anecdotal reports and reading scientific literature to find plausible explanations for the claims made about cross stitching and knitting in particular, and crafting in general. I asked questions: "Why are they saying this? What could be happening in their brains to make them feel this way?" Knowing the "Why?" and "How?" will enable us to utilise the mechanisms at work to develop crafts as therapeutic tools, potentially opening up a large hereto untapped market of craft users and one which will be free from fashion-led trends.

What I've discovered so far is potentially very exciting for everyone patients, healthcare workers, those struggling to manage stressful lives, and the craft industry. The benefits go much deeper than merely occupying people. I also believe these benefits can expand beyond healthcare into education and business development.

I have gathered a team of high profile experts from five major UK universities and we are currently searching for funding to enable us to launch a large research project. Funding permitting, what we discover along the way will have major implications for the craft industry. It could even result in some crafts being integrated into mainstream healthcare, in some cases as an alternative to drug therapy!

My seminar at the CHA's winter show in Anaheim will give you a brief overview of my work thus far and give you the opportunity to ask questions and voice your thoughts on this research. I look forward to meeting you there.

Some Random Thoughts (Mike Hartnett).

Anyone who has been in the industry for any length of time has heard anecdotal stories about the benefits of crafting not just psychological well being but physical health, as well. If scientific research could confirm what we already know, this could be a tremendous economic and public relations boon to the industry.

Imagine the benefits if doctors prescribed crafting: consumers would have yet another reason to craft besides saving money, personal satisfaction, and creative outlet.

The health benefits are not limited to cross stitch and knitting. Scrapbooks can help Alzheimer patients remember. Years ago the now defunct Home Sewing Assn. sponsored a medical study that showed sewing can reduce blood pressure. Bob Ferguson's Ben Franklin store in Redmond, WA advertises its knitting classes as "Yarn Yoga."

If you have any information, anecdotal or otherwise, about the health benefits of crafting or any possible leads for funding such research email them to CLN at mike@clnonline.com. The information will be forwarded to Betsan.



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