What motivates you to knit (or sew, crochet, bake, etc.)? I’ve usually heard crafters divided into two broad categories: process crafters, for whom the crafting itself is the goal, and product crafters, for whom the finished object is the goal. And of course, many makers are probably some combination of the two; people who value both the act of creating and the creation itself. So overall, some of us like having handmade things, but as Emma Mitchell points out in her Guardian article, some of us feel a need to use our hands to make things, because that's how we begin to feel calm and feel whole. She says that when she went through a difficult period in her life, and also when she was likely suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD):
[m]aking was conferring a sense of achievement on dark, difficult days – but more than that, there is evidence that it confers a mental state similar to that induced by yoga or meditation, and can lift mood.
She cites a couple of studies that show that the act of making can actually change the levels of hormones that mediate mood, and I would agree with those results, based on anecdotal experience.
Making and crafting can definitely be stressful, when you are under a deadline (self-imposed or not), but overall I find it soothing and necessary for my day. I just don't feel right at the end of the day when I haven't made the time to use my hands for creative ends.
Reading Emma Mitchell’s thoughts (and those of knitters like Clara Parkes and Rachel Herron, who have written extensively about what motivates them to knit), I’ve come to recognize that I use crafting as a way to alleviate sadness and maybe even depression, and I use crafting or making as a way to keep myself busy during a long, cold winter. It’s partly a social activity for me too, in that I like knitting groups and I like knitting and chatting with my sister over Skype, but knitting (and making in general) is who I am when I’m at my most relaxed.
If you’re interested in Emma Mitchell’s ideas, she has written a book expanding on what she talks about in that article. Making Winter started as a blog project and grew to become a book that was published last October. It has a variety of crafting/making projects, and while I didn't see any knitting ones, there are a few nice crocheted projects. The book doesn't include any basic crochet instructions, but she does have some available on her website. She's also got some cozy-looking recipes (plum, orange, and ginger blondies, anyone?) and projects that involve collecting natural paraphernalia (leaves and twigs and so on) for use in projects. It's such a nice cross-section of different creative endeavours, combined with a naturalist bent, and all illustrated with clear, inspiring photography. It really makes me want to stay inside and start creating!
Top image mine; middle and two bottom images by Michael O'Mara Books