UNC Asheville students struggling to focus on assignments and other tasks may discover a remedy in arts and crafts. Researchers link activities like knitting and quilting to a decrease in mild cognitive impairment later in life, according to a 2011 joint-study by the Mayo Clinic, Rice University and Wheaton University.
“I kinda knitted in fourth grade a little. I learned from a book and just learned a simple knit stitch. Then I was in college, and I had anxiety,” Caroline Kelly, a sophomore at UNCA, said. “So I thought of something to do, ‘cause I needed something to do with my hands, and I needed something to calm me down. I found knitting, and it was really nice.”
Kelly, who suffers from anxiety, said knitting helps alleviate the symptoms.
“I have an anxiety disorder and knitting really helps me do something with my hands and take my mind off of whatever is worrying me. It’s really nice to just have that extra thing to do with your hands, and it kind of takes you away a little bit,” Kelly said.
Riley Schatz, a freshman drama student at UNCA, said knitting has improved her motor skills, a problem she dealt with at a young age.
“I had motor-skills issues when I was little. I had to do occupational therapy for my hands. I had really weak hands and I couldn’t hold a pencil right,” Schatz said. “Then, when I learned how to knit in fourth grade, it really helped me strengthen my dexterity and motor skills.”
Schatz, along with Kelly, is a member of an unofficial student group, the UNCA Knitting Club, that meets in Argo Tea to knit and socialize. Schatz said the group formed after meeting fellow knitters in one of her classes.
“I ended up in a class with Katie and Sarah and another one of our friends. We all thought, we all like knitting, so we decided to meet up here in Argo one day,” Schatz said. “I kinda made a Facebook page, and we are like the unofficial leaders of the club.”
Group member Sarah Fleischer, a freshman biology student, said she uses knitting as a stress reliever during exams.
“During finals week last semester, my roommate and I went and just hung out and knitted and crocheted during our study breaks. That definitely helped a lot,” Fleischer said.
Although she is relatively new to knitting, fellow knitting club member and freshman drama student Casey Clennon, said she finds the activity relaxing.
“Riley and I were friends because we were in a show that was here on campus and one day she was like, ‘Hey, I have a club, and you should come to it, it’s a knitting club,’” Clennon said. “I was like, ‘but I don’t know how to knit,’ so she taught me, and now I’ve become obsessed with it because it really is relaxing.”
Schatz said the group eventually plans to become an official student organization.
“We just meet up here, and it’s kind of just relaxing. We’re not really official yet so we don’t really have much going on challenge-wise or charity-wise, but we’re gonna try to get there,” Schatz said. “We want to get involved with a shelter or a hospital so we can donate some of our products.”
UNCA alumna Rosemary Fischer, while not affiliated with the UNCA Knitting Club, said knitting helped her to focus during class and gave her a sense of accomplishment when her days were less than productive.
“If you ever get distracted in class or something and you just need something to do with your hands, or you’re just like, ‘Wow, I’m having a really useless sort of day, I haven’t done anything,’” Fischer said. “Then you’re knitting and all of a sudden you’re like, huh, look at that, I knitted 6 inches today.”
Fischer, who relocated to Burlington, North Carolina following graduation, said knitting is also a great way to meet new people.
“It’s a good way to make friends. I mean, a lot of people are like, ‘Hey, I’ve always wanted to know how to knit, can you teach me?’” Fischer said. “Or you give someone a scarf and they’re like, ‘Well, gee whiz, thank you.’”