A lot has been written about the many benefits of quilting, but it is only in the last couple of years that scientists and scholars really started to study this claim. A long time ago, quilting was done for a very practical reason –to keep the family warm especially during the cold winter months. This is not really required as much anymore because of advances in technology and with women working more outside the home, there has been less time. Surprisingly and thankfully however, this did not cause the demise of quilting which is still alive and popular as a form of hobby and expression of creativity.
A few months ago we did an article about How Sewing Fights Depression. If you missed it, please check it out. We were delighted that this article was widely shared and reprinted by several major sewing associations. Based on that interest, we thought we would do a little more research on the many benefits of quilting specifically and it turns out they are indeed amazing! Today, quilt makers do their craft for many different reasons. And here’s what some scientists and scholars have found out.
Quilting Relieves Stress
According to occupational therapist Victoria Schindler, we are living in a constant state of stress. This is because our brain cells haven't actually evolved to tell the difference between an upcoming appointment with a prospective client or an impending attack from a tiger. The good news is that the repetitive motion of crafts like quilting activates our parasympathetic nervous system. This, in turn, calms our body’s instinct to fight or flight.
In a paper entitled The Neurological Basis of Occupation,” Schindler and her co-author Sharon Gutman argue that repetitive activities such as quilt making or painting elicit a flow that regulates stress and other strong emotions. As such, quilt making is a very effective remedy for all of us facing constant stress in the conduct of our daily lives.
Quilting Is Better for Your Health than Physical Exercise
Exercise is good for your health, but a study made by a team of researchers from the University of Glasgow has found out that quilting has some amazing health benefits beyond what could be achieved with physical and outdoor activities.
In a paper published in the peer reviewed Journal of Public Health written by graduate student Emily Burt, quilting is said to help the cognitive, creative and emotional well-being of people especially among the elderly. This is because quilting offers problem solving challenges like math and geometry while building self-confidence. In addition, being around all the bright colors uplifts the spirit and the activity, as we already know, relieves stress. You can see some terrific examples of both the geometric shapes and the bright colors in our recent article Contemporary Quilt Makers Who Paint with Fabric.
The research was conducted by using qualitative research and was done by interviewing twenty nine members of a local quilting group. And the paper concludes that quilt making possess properties that improves your well-being in such a way that cannot be done by physical exercise. This finding is certainly great for those who cannot do physical exercise anymore.
Quilting Makes Happy People
Doing something that results in meaningful work makes people happy. This can be said about quilt makers who have something beautiful and tangible to show for their efforts as well as something to share with their friends and families. A study found out that when quilt makers view their finished product, their brains get saturated with the happy chemicals called dopamine and serotonin. This is according to Dr Kelly Lambert, who is a member of the neuroscience department at Randolph-Macon College. This sense of accomplishment also decreases the stress and anxiety chemicals in the brain. In short, more often than not, quilting makes people happy, contented and accomplished.
Quilting Keeps the Doctor Away
Quilting decreases stress levels and causes the feeling of a sense of accomplishment as it increases the reward chemicals in our brains. As a result, it also lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke. An entry in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows evidence that quilt making decreases the blood pressure, respiration and heart rate. Harvard neurologist Dr Marie Pasinskis also points out that quilt making calms the brain and results in a sense of wellbeing. It certainly is a great way to keep the doctors away!
Quilting Builds Community
Humans are social animals. Friendships and community are essential for keeping us connected and healthy. This has become increasingly challenging with today's sprawling suburbs which tend to distance us from each other and make casual get togethers rare. The problem is further exacerbated by the isolating effects of modern technology that can keep people in their own little digital worlds or at best only connected electronically to acquaintances who remain unseen and unmet in person.
While there are certainly plenty of online groups you can join and follow about quilting, one of the most amazing benefits of quilting is that almost everywhere you go there are groups and associations who meet regularly and in person to pursue and practice their love of quilting. I was recently in a small town in rural Australia where I visited an amazing event called Quitarama and which I'll write more about shortly. The sense of community and connection was amazing and a shout out to the Country Women's Association of New South Wales for putting on such a wonderful show.
Some would say much of the strength of early American pioneer community came from the countless quilting bees that brought frontier women together and created strong bonds of friendship and a shared sense of reliance and responsibility. My sense is that our communities could certainly use more of this today.
There has never been any doubt that quilting has many benefits. Being surrounded by bright colors and a strong group of friends, especially during the bleak winter months, can elevate our moods. The repetitive motions involved in quilting help us get into a flow that is both relaxing and allows us to forget about our problems and worries. However, because quilting needs our problem solving skills, it also constantly provides us with new challenges and makes our lives more interesting and fulfilling. Lastly, quilting has a built-in reward mechanism because a finished quilt brings satisfaction and a sense of achievement to the quilt maker as well as to friends and family.
I'm sure experienced quilt makers are aware of the many amazing benefits of quilting, but it is a bit more satisfying to know that scholars and researchers have confirmed what quilt makers have known all along! If you're interested in getting started with quilting, we have a tremendous amount of quilting-related materials on So-Sew-Easy.com to get you started. Just use the search box at the top for the right-hand column and search “quilt” or just click HERE to scroll through everything we have on quilting.