By Sandra Rasson
As the air becomes crisp and the days grow darker, learn a new hobby this autumn that will keep you warm and busy through winter.
Yarn crafting has grown in popularity in recent years, and according to the Craft Yarn Council (C.Y.C.), which represents leaders of the yarn industry, knitters and crocheters are about 38 million strong.
It's mostly creativity that attracts people, but desires to keep their hands busy, make gifts and relieve stress also were named as reasons for knitting and crocheting.
Beyond serving as therapeutic and calming, knitting and crocheting also can improve your social life. Many needle-crafters make new social connections through their craft, whether it is on line or at a group in their community. 87 percent of knitters and crocheters surveyed have taught someone else to knit or crochet, and 49 percent of respondents spend time making charitable items.
Knitting and crocheting are no longer just your grandmother's idea of a good time. Fashion is what interests younger people in learning to craft with yarn, noting that scarves have been the item to draw them in.
Scarves continue to be the favorite project of most knitters and crocheters, but hats, baby blankets and afghans also are popular.
In 2013, one of the biggest trends are in home decor, and in particular, beautiful hand knit blankets and throws. Whether it's a cute baby blanket in bright colours or an elegant throw for a chair or sofa, nothing adds warmth to a home like a hand crafted item.
It's no longer hard to find all the materials you need to create fabulous, modern projects. So, if you've already made your share of chunky scarves and baby booties for all your pregnant friends, here are some of the latest trends to expand your knitting horizons.
Join the club - With the Internet, all of a sudden anyone can learn to cast on and off, purchase rare wools and join communities of like-minded knitters in forums and on message boards - all from the comfort of home.
Knitting communities have also started to make their way back offline, meeting in cafes to knit one, purl two over tea, or at the local library to discuss hot new novels. One interesting rising trend is the number of knitters who have taught other people to knit. This is not a solitary pursuit anymore.
Knit for a good cause -Whether you're helping someone at home or a community abroad, picking up your needles for charity is a popular - and fulfilling - pastime. Close to home, the Needlework Guild of Canada is an organization that has provided new handmade clothes for the needy for the last 116 years. Local hospitals are always looking for people to knit preemie caps.
If you are new to the craft, or picking up the needles after a long absence, be sure to start small. A scarf is a great place to start. You can purchase or download a pattern, but it isn't necessarily a requirement. Find a stitch you find appealing and a size that works for you... and before you know it, you have your first project completed. This may just inspire you to make more... handmade Christmas gifts are always warmly received.
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