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Published on October 20th, 2015 | by Merion

12 comments

Knitting your way out of the agony: World Mental Health Day

Knitting and crochet are well known therapies for the agony caused by mental health problems.  We shared a story from one of our LoveKnitting team members in our Facebook group, and you answered in your hundreds: here, we share some wise words and top tips to help you knit for wellness.

Hands knitting on the LoveKnitting blog

We can’t say that knitting cures all, but we DO know that it can help you feel a whole lot better.  Earlier this year, we talked about the benefits of talking, and how knitting and crochet help to deal with anxiety and depression, from joining knitting groups to focusing on colour – this year’s World Mental Health Day sought to raise awareness of the “Fundamental Facts” of mental health, in the hope that people with mental health problems can live with dignity and not stigma.

Read our LoveKnitting story:

“My experience of university was very different to most. Although it wasn’t until my final year that my depression and eating disorder were diagnosed, the problems had been there for many years before. My boyfriend (now husband) and my best friend were amazing and tried their hardest to offer support but, for me, human interaction was almost impossible. I felt too tired to talk but I also desperately wanted to protect them. As my insomnia and other symptoms got worse though, I found a new love for knitting. 

I had taught myself to knit a year or so before arriving at uni – I wanted a new hobby and had been intrigued by knitting for a while. But, this time it was more than just a hobby. It was almost a kind of therapy for me. In the repetitive motion, the softness of the yarn and the act of creating, there was some solace from my otherwise fairly unpredictable and destructive life. A lot of what I made was nothing special and has since been frogged or even binned. Some of the projects were made with our wedding in mind though and were great for keeping me focused on the future. In reality, who are what the items were for was almost unimportant.

Nowadays, I’m a bit more fussy about what I make! Thankfully, my mental health is also much improved. But I still knit or crochet at least a little each day. After all, it’s beneficial to my health! And that is the best reason of all for me to keep expanding my yarn stash!”

Knitting heals from within…

“Knitting helps me cope from feeling isolated. From being alone all the time. From depression. From anxiety. From dark thoughts.”

Knitting provides a way to divert the mind and keep positive when dark thoughts threaten to pull you down.  Stitchlinks is the home of “therapeutic knitting” and operates in three different ways: collecting stories and information to share amongst crafters in need of help, actively researching the health benefits of knitting and thirdly, providing information for groups, teachers and clinicians who are providing a service to offer therapeutic benefits of knitting.

“In the span of four months, I lost my mother in law and sister. Knitting helped me pour my grief into something tangible, something lovely.”

The Stitchlinks site is packed with helpful information – I particularly loved the 25 ways that knitting and stitching can help depression.   Amongst the 25 ways listed, I was delighted to see “Teach forgotten skills” followed by “Teach forgotten emotions such as excitement and anticipation” and these are both immensely important.  Sharing our knitting skills brings so much happiness, sharing the magical process of knitting – but to teach forgotten emotions? It actually made me stop in my tracks.  As knitters, we are all excited by yarn – by colour, by texture, by pattern, by the huge pride we feel at the end of a project – and there is nothing quite like the excitement we feel at the thought of new yarn – to introduce that excitement to somebody is a gift indeed.

Another meaningful point I loved, is that working on a project brings a future – a need to get up tomorrow to knit some more.   It might be the soothing repetitive stitches, the feel of the yarn, or the great feeling of achievement to have knitted a couple of rows, but it’s something to focus on, and control.  These gentle achievements may seem small to someone who is not suffering from mental health problems, but to someone in pain they are a lifeline.

Read some of our inspirational Facebook comments…

“Having fibromyalgia, doing something repetitive but meditative forces me to sit down and help my body relax. It focuses my mind and also stops my hands from hurting!”

“When chemotherapy caused sleepless nights, I found knitting, with its repetitiveness, easy concentration on pattern stitches, the orderliness, the quiet and almost monotony, tremendously calming, even pain-forgetting. I am positive that knitting made tolerating the necessary body rigors of chemo required to get successfully through this lengthy period in my life.”

“A couple of years ago I mentioned that I knit to my lovely neighbour and she invited me along to her craft club. I only went with her for a semester, but I did keep on knitting and came to realise that it was helping me to manage my disabling anxiety and depression.”

“Thanku for sharing! I work in mental health and we have a knitting group whereby at least 10 ladies (and a man) attend our Knitterbugs group weekly! We knit little squares that are sewn together and then donated to the hospital for babies or to an animal charity! The clients who attend, do so to catch up socially with their friends and it is so good for their mental health to be able to do this!”

“I have MS and have suffered from severe mental illness over the past few years. After being hospitalized for several months I took up knitting again and it has been my savior. Keeps my brain active, allows me to take time out to rest without feeling guilty and gives me a sense of achievement when I finish a project. Add to that the joys of learning and giving a gift of love… “

If you would like to share your story with us, we’d love to hear more in the comments section below –  your inspirational words will help fellow knitters!

For more inspirational posts, don’t forget to …

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About the Author

Merion admits that her stash is wildly out of control, but has many projects in dream-form! She loves knitting, crochet, Shire horses, cake and garden swing-seats.


Last updated: October 20th, 2015.

12 Responses to Knitting your way out of the agony: World Mental Health Day

  1. jacqualine davies says:

    I have knit on and off for many years. In more recent years when dealing with ageing parents and the traumas of dementia/stroke/major surgery, I once again found that knitting was a fantastic way to relax and give the brain time to sort out the various problems.
    My daughter has fybromyalgia and also suffers from a depressive disorder, she finds that cross stitch and embroidery have been a lifeline for her.
    I now love sitting with my granddaughter teaching her to knit and seeing the joy she has when she accomplishes a small project.

  2. Merion says:

    Hi Jacqualine, isn’t it fantastic how craft helps us with such difficult situations? I would love to do cross stitch and embroidery but my hands are not quite up to it – I’m so glad your daughter finds such solace in such a gorgeous craft. What a fabulous grandma you are to patiently teach your granddaughter to knit – not only is it treasured time, but she’ll have those skills for life from you. Thank you so much for sharing your stories with us!
    Kindest
    Merion and the LoveKnitting team

  3. The_L says:

    I have ADHD and anxiety, and knitting definitely both helps me focus and keeps me calm. My supervisor calls me “Madame Defarge” because I knit during meetings to help me remember what was said. (And yes, I refer to the knitting I do for this purpose as Defarging.)

    Also, I would love to have a knitted brain like the one in the photo for this article. It looks really cool, and is anatomical without being gross.

    • Merion says:

      Hi The-L, that’s hilarious! Defarging! (For those of you who might not know, Madame Defarge is a character in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, famous for her knitting). I’m so glad to her that knitting helps with your anxiety – it’s a lovely way to feel calmer and produce something beautiful at the same time!

      Kindest,
      Merion and the LoveKnitting team

  4. Kim says:

    When my husband of 27 years left me for reasons only known to him I went into complete shock. Since I was unable to function on many levels I took to knitting which allowed me to think life through while calming my fears. Since money was tight I took to selling what I was making during the times I could not function at a higher level. I got through the tough times and now enjoy making for my family and friends. Knitting helped both financially and emotionally and still continues to do so

    • Merion says:

      Hello Kim,

      We are full of admiration – well done you for turning your life around and making knitting your business as well as your craft! We love the fact that knitting, and knitting skills are so valued even in our modern world – it sounds as if your family and friends are very lucky to have you knitting for them too!
      Thank you for sharing your story,
      Kindest,
      Merion and the LoveKnitting team

  5. Leanne says:

    I suffer with bipolar disorder, mainly low depressions though. I have been suffering most of my life and I’m only 24! One day I ordered some yarn and crochet hooks and they sat in a cupboard for months! One day when I was feeling very low I picked them up and started learning from tutorials on YouTube…mainly Bella Coco’s tutorials and I fell in love with crochet.
    I’m not saying its a fix it for mental health problems but I find that doing a bit of crochet every day helps me stabalise my mood and I can get through my day doing all the chores and other boring housewife stuff without breaking down. My problems are still there and they always will be but instead of succumbing to it, I’ve learned to accept that its the way I am through crochet.
    It gives me something to focus on other than my emotions. Its my meditation.

  6. Anna says:

    I find crocheting the best way to relax and to put my thoughts and plans in order.
    I’m going through a stressful time at the moment and crochet is my ‘haven’ and quite possibly is preventing the onset of depression, anxiety.
    Also it’s the only craft I’m good at and I enjoy making things for my kids and my friends… Out of love! 🙂

  7. Chris Webb says:

    I have been bullied by my manager and have been off sick with mental health issues that this has caused. I find my knitting has really helped with my anxiety & depression.

    I learnt to knit when I was 5 (baby mittens) & have been knitting ever since.

  8. Fiona Price says:

    I learned to knit and crochet as a child, but really took it up as a daily activity in 2007 when I finally quit smoking after many failed attempts. I think the need to keep the yarn away from cigarette smoke, keeping my handsy busy and having something soothing to concentrate on really made the difference and has helped to keep me from relapsing. If you are ever feeling lonely, try knitting or crocheting in the park and you will soon have someone stopping to strike up a conversation with you.

  9. Dianne Mulligan says:

    You wouldn’t believe my surprise at reading this blog. It is so true! I have so often said after a couple stressful days that I’ve got to take time to knit – it calms me. I hadn’t actually thought about the real relief one gets from spending some quiet time knitting. Thanks for verifying what I thought was only my feelings.

  10. Mashair says:

    I was diagnosed with general anxiety syndrome and major drepression about 1 year ago, thankfully I had a moment of clarity mid suicide preparations and got the help I needed instead of ending my life. I have been knitting for about 7 years and I often found that was the only time I felt ok. Since learning what was wrong with me and starting therapy, I have been making sure I knit at least a little every day. It makes such a difference to create something, and the feel of the yarn slipping through my fingers is so soothing. I’ve also taken up spinning, I find that is as amazing as knitting for making me feel calm and happy. The only down side is between the fibre and the spun yarns my stash is taking over the spare room!! Gosh…..such a shame that…guess I’ll just have to knit and spin more! 😉

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