People often ask "why bother knitting?" The more time someone puts into a craft, the more likely it is that someone somewhere will ask "how much time did you waste doing that?" The most common snark I hear is "you must have a lot of free time." Like everyone else is soooooo busy, they couldn't possibly take up a hobby.
Technically I should say "take up ANOTHER hobby." Because most people do have a hobby: watching television. And they pursue this hobby with gusto.
Mark Frauenfelder has a great article on the Huffington Post called "The Courage to Screw Up: Why DIY Is Good For You." Frauenfelder makes some great points, not least of which being the title thesis - that failure is built into learning a craft, and that failure is valuable.
I would add a meta level to Frauenfelder's article, which is that the #1 best thing about crafts is that people LEARN. I'm constantly surprised by how many people do not like to learn. They aren't good at it, either - witness the billions of stupid questions posted online which could have been answered by Google in less time than it took to post the question.
When you take up a craft, you have to learn. It sounds obvious when you think about it, but a lot of people don't. They pick up a book, thumb through it, and put it down. "I'll do that some day," they think. And they go back to their primary hobby, watching television.
Learning anything is good for you. The process of learning builds pathways in the brain which can be used to learn anything. In other words, learning is a skill which translates well. Learning is good for your brain, in a thousand different ways. Want to get smarter? Learn something. Anything. Learning keeps you sharp. Study after study shows that learning fends off Alzheimers and the "inevitable decline" in age.
I like people who do crafts. Someone who is engaged with a craft is engaged with life, with the possibilities of everyday materials, and with the beauty of the commonplace. Crafters turn boring stupid things into beautiful wonderful things, and by doing so, they are themselves transformed.
You can get into an interesting conversation about "stuff" with crafters. Why we buy stuff instead of making it, what goes into making stuff, what our stuff means to ourselves, our personal relationship to stuff as an external manifestation of who we are. Not to mention the up side and the down side of receiving a 50% off coupon at Joann's every month.
Taking the time and effort to make something by hand shows a depth of interest and engagement in the world that watching television (say) does not. If you are a parent, one of the best things you can do is share craft time with your children. Take a class together, pick out supplies together, bemoan the difficulty of working with a stencil together.
Crafts matter. And if anyone ever accuses you of having too much time on your hands, feel free to ask them what they do with THEIR free time. I'm pretty sure we both already know the answer.
Creative Commons-licensed image courtesy of Flickr user mass distraction