As devotees of a quiet and contemplative pastime, they would be the last to make a fuss about it. But quilters, it seems, have every right to celebrate their craft after researchers found that it is ‘uniquely’ good for you. A study found quilting improved well-being in ways that physical and outdoor activities could not, and offered a creativity that had been ‘stifled’ in the modern world.
The University of Glasgow team concluded that all hobbies – ‘from reading to train spotting’ – should be looked at for their mental and physical benefits. They interviewed quilters and found the activity helped their cognitive, creative and emotional well-being, particularly among older people. The use of bright colours was ‘uplifting’, the activity distracted from the stress of work, and quilting offered challenges such as maths and geometry. It also increased confidence and had an important social side.
Professor Jacqueline Atkinson, co-author of the study and a quilter herself for five decades, said: ‘Doing something that engages you and that you enjoy is key. As adults, we don’t often do enough that includes fun and play. ‘We put a lot into studying the use of green spaces and that’s useful to individuals and communities. 'But maybe we need to say there are other things too.’
Graduate student Emily Burt interviewed 29 members of the group and the transcripts were analysed for the study, published in the Journal of Public Health last week. It concluded that: 'Whether it is growing vegetables, knitting a jumper or discovering a new scientific formula creativity may be fundamental for wellbeing and has received little attention so far within public health. 'Exploring creativity and what people do in their everyday lives, which they deem creative, may be an important avenue for wellbeing promoters. 'Additionally, more consideration needs to be given to all hobbies, from reading to train spotting, and their potential for enhancing wellbeing.'
Craft Scotland said interest in quilting amongst younger Scots was increasing but there was no measure for how many people take up the hobby individually or in clubs. Emma Walker, chief executive of Craft Scotland, said the research backs up what they are seeing on the ground. She said: 'We’ve definitely seen an increase in groups doing quilting socially but also individuals. 'There’s an emotive connection as well as financial need to recycle. 'Historically older groups of women did quilting but women in their early 20s are getting together and children's groups are also taking it up. 'People are investing in quality pieces of quilting, but also looking to make items themselves and re-use materials they have in their homes. 'I can only see the popularity increasing.'
The craft industry contributes around £3 billion a year to the UK economy.