This stunning Mariner's Compass quilt was lovingly sewn by Isobel King in her 90th year. She handpieced the compass blocks, machine stitched the borders and I machine quilted it. This was donatied as a fundraiser to The Guelph Black Heritage foundation. Isobel sold many of the tickets for them as well, she passed away shortly before the winner was announced.
Active aging comes in many forms including regular physical activity, pursuing hobbies, meditation, and helping others. Hobbies that allow for the opportunity to gain experience, to express yourself creatively and to share the finished project lend themselves well to enhancing your mood and re-energizing your brain.
According to research published in the Journal of Public Health quilting not only helps your cognitive health, but also your emotional and well-being, particularly among older adults, especially when combined with charity work. Numerous studies have also found that older volunteers were 44 percent less likely to die over a five-year period than their non-volunteering peers. On average they had lower blood pressure, and had less stress, which is known to be associated with a multitude of health problems. Therefore, sewing a quilt or knitting a prayer shawl and donating it to charity is a win win!
George and Gloria Magee, shown here with one of their own masterpieces are proof that quilting keeps you happy and healthy. photo courtesy of Tuscon Local Media
While you’re fully engaged in doing something you love, your brain is flooded with the feel-good chemicals, the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. When you give away the finished project, your brain secretes oxytocin for compassion and bonding, and serotonin that helps to balance our mood.
There’s always something new to learn
Neuroscientists are now realizing the similarities between cognitive activities such as sudoku or crossword puzzles and designing or completing complex quilting patterns. Even if you’ve been quilting for years there is always something new to explore if you want! Sometimes it’s an easier way to sew curves or flying geese, or a totally new challenge like foundation paper piecing. With all the virtual classes and on demand courses, it’s easier than ever, but attending an in-person class can be a great way to absorb those happy chemicals from fellow sewing enthusiasts. Psychologists believe that quilting utilizes the entire brain as it involves creativity, logic, spatial awareness, colour analysis, fine motor skill activation and of course quilt math!
Intense concentration and focusing on your craft keeps your brain active while distracting you from everyday pressures, thus reducing stress.
Researchers measured stress indicators in subjects while they performed typical stress-reducing activities, including reading, painting, playing cards, playing video games, and sewing. Their results found the most relaxing activity to be sewing. According to Robert Reiner, PHD, the study’s author, "The act of performing a craft is incompatible with worry, anger, obsession and anxiety.”