Insights on business -- and life.
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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The information will be forwarded to Betsan.