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Study: Older Finns Tout the Benefits of Making Crafts

 

According to Statistics Finland, 67 per cent of Finns make crafts in their spare time.

In a new study, 60 female textile craft makers describe how making crafts adds zip and creativity to life. The participants ranged in age from 19 to 84 and came from both urban and rural areas.

The women's written narratives revealed that crafting:

  • helped them develop a sense of self
  • promoted cultural traditions, and
  • enhanced well-being.

The research by Sinikka Pöllänen from the University of Eastern Finland appeared online in the Journal of Leisure Research (Vol. 47, no.1, 2015).

Sense of self

Crafting allowed women to live more expansive lives, an existence that included devotion to creating beautiful artefacts.

To start, it provided individuals with opportunities to express their creativity. As one woman explained:

Doing crafts I often drift into a "flow" phenomenon where time seems to disappear. I do crafts alone, not in groups. I do not need teachers. I design myself and I have learned almost all my knowledge and skills by myself . . .

Women described how family and home responsibilities blurred a sense of personal identity and how they used crafting to develop a new appreciation of self.

A 46-year-old participant wrote: "The most important point in craft making is the fact that I can create something visible. Cooking, cleaning and nurturing, they can also be done with care – but nothing visible will remain."

One 62-year-old participant, touted her pleasure in the finished product: "It is wonderful to see and think, 'I did it'."

Many described the choice of raw materials as a source of pleasure and inspiration.

Essentially, participants carved out time and space for themselves through their leisure pursuit. Along the way, the women forged a new identity as craft makers.

Cultural traditions

Finland is known for its art galleries and stores offering locally fashioned hand-crafted wares.

Not surprisingly then, the participants described craft making as part of a strong cultural tradition that binds family, friends and communities. One grandmother wrote that in their family, grandmothers had always been providers of knitted objects.

For many, creating personalized, cost-effective and high-quality gifts for family and friends had special meaning. For instance, one woman described knitting socks for her husband when she first met him, he was so pleased that he did not have the heart to use them. So she knit him another similar pair.

Carefully fashioned handicrafts lend warmth and beauty to Finnish homes. Precious family heirlooms are passed from one generation to another.

As one 39-year-old craft maker wrote:

I'm aware of my own mortality; someday I will disappear from the face of the earth . . . but with luck, my handicrafts will stay in the world even longer than I will. They will remain in use among others or as decorative items in the homes of others.

Many of the craft makers were committed to sustainability and wanted to imbue this value in their children and grandchildren.

One mother wrote:

The most important idea in crafts is, among other things, ecology. This means that I use natural materials and that I and my family consider how to use purchased materials in a way that there will be as little waste as possible.

Well-being

With often hectic lives, the women described making crafts as relaxing – a way to put a brake on the fast tempo of everyday life.

A 44-year-old woman said crafting helped her cope with divorce:

When beginning a new work you should usually start on something small, but I decided to make it big and sew by hand. It was the tablecloth of my bad feelings and sorrow that became a beautiful field of flowers. As I was working on it, my marriage was already starting to fall apart and craft carried me from one day to the next. . . .

One participant found crafting a lifesaver when she lost her job. Another turned to making lace when she discovered she had breast cancer: "I got my mind off of cancer. It was more interesting," she wrote.

The calming effect of crafting came from working with the materials and the physical activity involved in banging the looms, crocheting lace or cutting up strips of carpet.

The study revealed that even when crafters could work no longer, they found viewing crafts and the memory of making crafts deeply pleasurable. As one 75-year-old woman with osteoarthritis in her hands put it: "Crafts are a friend, an entertainer and a comforter."