When I first learned to knit, at age 10 or so, knitting was for old ladies; my Girl Scout troop tittered when I mentioned knitting as one of my hobbies. Today, people cast approving looks my way when I pull out my knitting, exclaim that they’ve always wanted to learn, or share their own love of handcrafts.

Knitting, like embroidery, beading, and quilting, are, in their very nature, repetitive tasks. You take up your materials and fall into a routine, a rhythm. Many people, me included, find these activities deeply soothing, even meditative.

While we as humans enjoy the ping of each new text and email, novelty can leave us feeling strung out and distracted, and the steady, simple rhythms of crafting offer us a different mindset. They stir our longing for cycles and routine.

Survey a group of women, and you’re bound to find crafting devotees ready to profess the benefits of their hobbies. Among the Her.meneutics writers, several of us retreat from the work of words craft and create with our hands.

Ruth Moon, a graduate student, said her quilting is “soothing and centering because it allows my mind to manage different sorts of tasks” than the world of academia. Gina Dalfonzo, who beads and cross-stitches, said crafting relaxes her mind. And Michelle Van Loon, a serious quilter who has recently taken up knitting, considers her stitching a form of non-verbal expression, a welcome oasis of silence in her life.

Each of these women articulated something about crafting that various scientific studies have suggested: knitting, crocheting, embroidering, and even coloring eases stress, reduces pain, and makes people happier. Barry Jones, a researcher at Princeton University, has noted that these repetitive movements enhance the release of serotonin, which helps people feel calm and content.

Knitting—the craft I most often practice—has been called the “new yoga.” In one study of 3,500 British knitters, researchers discovered that fewer than 1 percent of knitters felt sad after a relatively brief session of knitting, though 23 percent said they felt sad beforehand.

Carrie and Alton Brown, both medical doctors, who together wrote The Creativity Cure: Building Happiness With Your Own Two Hands, say that crafting engages the brain and absorbs the mind in a healthy way.

“There’s something so gratifying about taking strings and pieces and making them whole,” Carrie said of knitting. “The fragments of the mind also come together in that process.” It is a beautiful description, suggestive of the kind of wholeness that our spiritual striving reaches for.

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During this season of Lent—like crafting, experiencing its own kind of resurgence in popularity—we recognize the desire for traditions to shape the rhythms of our lives, to mark the time in some way.

In a world of endless innovation and stimulation, we long for something besides Pumpkin Spice lattes and Shamrock Shakes to hold onto, to connect us to the rhythm of the church year and the natural order. We long for tradition and peace, for communion with God and one another.

The author of Ecclesiates, who seems more than a little depressed, found no comfort in the cyclical, repetitive nature of life; to him it was wearying and sad, like a man endlessly hitting the “refresh” button on the browser: nothing new, nothing new. Even the rhythms of nature—described in chapter 1—spoke to him only of futility and vain repetition.

Far from being the source of depression and ennui, routine and repetition may in fact ease such woes. Repetition, patterns, and traditions—like the loops and stitches and rows of knitting—are reassuring, grounding, and soothing to us.

Consider the joyful tone of Psalm 19 in contrast to Ecclesiates 1: in the Psalm, the repetition of the movements of days and seasons are not boring and tiresome; they are reminders of God’s faithfulness to his word.

Perhaps the repetition and rhythm of crafting can contribute to our spiritual health as well as our psychological and physical health. Many times, when my soul has been troubled and uneasy, I have reached for my needles and yarn. As my mind and hands work together, following a pattern or improvising, I find my spirit soothed, my anxious thoughts subsided, my mind free to think and even to pray. The soothing and relaxed nature of knitting has come with time and practice—not unlike most disciplines. And I have ripped out thousands of stitches and started over countless times, a reminder that the work of creating beautiful things is not foiled when things go awry—restoration is possible.

Similarly, in an interview with USA Today, Lauren Winner said that a book called Praying in Color helped her to pray again after the spiritual dry spell she narrated in her memoir Still. One can imagine that Winner, as a writer and an academic, occasionally feels word-weary and in need of an alternate form of expression.

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Coloring designs can, like crafting, be deeply meditative. Sybil MacBeth, the author of Praying in Color, started the practice when, deeply distressed, she found it difficult to pray in words, but wanted to bring her heavy heart before God.

In finding solace, joy, and even connection with God and others in practices like knitting—and observing Lent—we are, I suspect, merely rediscovering what people have intuited for a long time: we are created to participate in the joyful order, the glorious repetitiveness, the holy monotony of the created order.

As G. K. Chesterton wrote in his classic book, Orthodoxy,

Children have abounding vitality… they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.

But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon.

It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

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