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Published on February 4th, 2015 | by Merion

18 comments

Time to Talk Day: the health benefits of knitting

Mental health problems are very common – but nearly nine out of ten people who have them say they face stigma and discrimination, which makes life even more difficult. Tomorrow (5th February) is “Time to Talk Day“, run by the charity Time to Change, who are working hard to encourage us to talk about mental health, and share our stories.   At LoveKnitting we hear time and time again how knitting can help with mental health problems – read on to find out why….

Any knitter reading this post will not be surprised to learn that knitting is one of the most effective ways to help with anxiety, depression and pain management. Mental health news stories fill columns of magazines and newspapers every day with new treatments and new ways to manage anxiety, but knitters have long known the benefits of their gentle craft.

Studies by Stitchlinks, the brainchild of Betsan Corkill, have explored how knitting and other crafts can improve low self esteem, help with stress, fear, anxiety and worry and give people a rewarding, purposeful occupation – and a route out of social isolation and loneliness.  Stitchlinks encourages and promotes the use of therapeutic knitting and stitching through their research – working with clinicians and therapists to explore how craft can really make a difference to stress, anxiety, depression, dexterity and pain management.

Not only are there some truly inspirational personal stories and quotes on the Stitchlinks website but details too about the research that has been carried out to study the health benefits of knitting.   Read more about Stitchlinks’ research.

“I learned to knit 2.5 years ago after I had been diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety.  Medication did help me to reign in my runaway thoughts, but it wasn’t until I started knitting or crocheting everyday, that I really felt at peace.”   (Stitchlinks participant)

We know that the simple action of a rhythmic stitch, the joy of colour and texture, and the immense achievement of creating something brings great satisfaction.  Knitting refocuses the mind, slows the breathing and calms the senses.

“Our work indicates that creative ability is closely linked with wellbeing, psycholgical flexibility and the ability to self-manage and problem solve.”  Stitchlinks.

  • Starting off: ask someone to teach you if you don’t know how to knit.  Most knitters are only too happy to share their skills and bring others into the knitting community.  If you’d prefer to teach yourself, try our simple knitting guides.
  • Picking it up, putting it down:  to start with, choose something simple that you can pick up and put down – a simple garter stitch scarf in a beautiful yarn, or a plain calming colour.   Smaller projects like blanket squares or crochet granny squares can be worked individually and then methodically put together are brilliant because they are portable and each square is a project you can complete on its own.  Sky blankets are a very popular way of observing the day (and the progression of days) taking a knitted snapshot of the sky at midday every day for a year is a wonderful therapy to record mood and the passing of time.  We love this Sky Blanket from one of our favourite bloggers, Leanne, who has written our brilliant Learn with Leanne series.

“Knitting is not a tangled mess, it is a highly ordered series of stitches and processes that requires thought and mindful focus.

  • Lifting spirits with colour:  there are great swathes of words written about the benefits of colour and colour therapy but simply, we all know how much better we feel in bright sunlight, or how happy we are wearing our favourite colours!   The world of yarn is a world of colour!  There isn’t a blend or a shade that hasn’t been reproduced in this yarny kaleidoscope!  Knit with your favourite colours, with variegated blends or create stripes and patterns – colour has the power to enlighten, soothe and bring joy, all of which can be brought to life in your knitting!
  • Working with texture:  chunky, super soft fast knits or fine, intricate lace – whatever makes your heart sing! There are fashion yarns to try – like fur, eyelash, bouclé and chenille, yarns threaded through with sparkle or thick and thin textures to keep the senses delighted!
  • Bringing people together:  the simple act of knitting in a group for an hour, having a cup of tea and a piece of cake, chatting, learning a new stitch, or just comparing notes can enable many people to take an outing that they might not otherwise be brave enough to face.  Isolation and loneliness are sadly all too common in our bright new world, where once communities looked after each other more diligently – but joining a knitting group, or a crochet group to share some gentle time together can transform a life.   It sounds dramatic, but a knitting or crochet group can be a lifeline.
  • Working on a joint project:  crafting in a group and working together to create blankets for charity, or clothes for people who really need them can be hugely enjoyable and fulfilling.   There is always a need for knitted goods – there will always be someone in the world who needs to be warmer, more comfortable or just feel loved by the gift of a knitted hat or scarf!  Neo-natal units always need tiny baby clothes, animal shelters need blankets, and all over the world, there are families who will be enormously thankful for donations of clothes, blankets and yarn.  Knit for Peace is an international charity that is always looking for volunteer knitters and donations of knitting and yarn – they have groups to join, or you can create your own!

Links for more information:

The UK Hand Knitting Association has some interesting links on Knitting Therapy.

Stitchlinks – information on research and all of the health benefits of knitting and craft.

The Craft Yarn Council has a fabulous section on knitting and health.

LoveKnitting blog – how to cast on with links to knitting, purling and casting off.

Has knitting helped you cope with mental health issues or stress?  We’d love to hear from you if you would like to share your stories.  Either tell us more in the comments, or email merion@loveknitting.com.

 


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: February 6th, 2015.

18 Responses to Time to Talk Day: the health benefits of knitting

  1. Thanks for this article.like my page on facebook and see handknitting pictures of how knitting help children concentration

  2. Dani W says:

    I have found knitting to be very therapeutic and took to it while studying occupational therapy to help with my own depression and anxiety. It helps me to calm and focus my mind on something. I’m not one for meditation, so I see knitting as a form of mindfulness, concentrating on the here and now, the next stitch or row.

  3. Elisabeth Schneider says:

    I learned how to knit in Kindergarten in Germany,and always found some time to make hand-knitted Items; i have volunteered in a Hospital craft group,producing baby outfits to be sold to benefit the community.
    Now all alone in my “Golden Years” I find time to make baby jackets and bonnets to give to mothers needing a little help.
    Happy to still be able to use my talent this way – to keep my mind busy and never be idle.
    Thank the sister who gave me the first instructions as a child. A good way to stay healthy also.

  4. Donna Skare says:

    I learned to knit in High School some 60 years ago. I’ve always loved it but haven’t realized what a wonderful therapy its been for me over the years. I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety most of my younger life. Fortunately, I’m now in a life place where I am quite relaxed, happy and peaceful, and I know knitting has helped to put me there. My best advice would be: Knit for fun, love of it and your Mental Health. Prayer helps, too…<3

  5. Deb Dodd says:

    I learned to knit when I was in 3rd grade, I did knit off and on for a while, even returning to my 3rd grade teacher so she could show me how to purl again, I love crafts all sorts, but knitting gives me a greater sense of self-being than any of the others. I really began knitting again after being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, with anxiety and depression thrown in to the mix, along with a bunch of other things that go along with Fibro. I found that I felt like I was a contributing member of society again. I found I could handle my different stresses if I had my knitting with me. I could be social better. I was told a couple of times that it was inappropriate to knit while with other people but after talking to my doctor, she helped me understand that I was using it to handle my anxiety when with other people. I love the knitting process, including rolling and even untangling the yarn when necessary( okay I admit to sometimes cutting the yarn when absolutely necessary, lol). I love giving things I make to people. Seeing their reactions to what I knit, goes along way to improving my self-esteem. Knitting makes life more bearable

  6. my mother taught me to knit when I was 6 years old but I only mastered it about 9 years ago. I suffered severe anxiety & depression for years & was hospitalised a few times after failed suicide attempts. Nothing soothed me & the black hole was getting deeper then one day I picked up the knitting needles to play & gradually a whole new world opened up for me. The stitches made sense, I could understand patterns & the joy & fulfilment when I completed an article was very uplifting. Since then I’ve knitted dozens & dozens of toys, blankets, cardigans & jumpers for family, friends & children with serious illnesses & my depression & anxiety is under control. Yes I still have bad days but I pick up my knitting needles & can see the light at the end of the tunnel. My family & friends are amazed at the change & we all thank God every day I have found the new live of my life that is knitting xx

  7. Carolyn says:

    I learnt from my beautiful mum some 42 odd years ago. I have lost count of the number of garments and toys produced. I knitted for my own babies and now my grandson. When I nursed my mum through her final stages of cancer knitting helped me to turn my head off . After she passed I fell into a deeper depression and was medicated for several years until I returned to the gym lots of walking and once again my knitting. Keeping my hands busy concentrating on patterns stitches counting rows does not allow my head to run away with itself . I now sell a little through a baby shop . Premie hats and blankets . As soon as I finish one item I can’t wait to start the next. The best thing is you can take ur craft on holidays . It’s fun to pick up new patterns and find new wools . Just pack a range of needles .

    • Maggie says:

      I wholeheartedly agree with everyone here. 6 years ago I was diagnosed with a small melanoma on my arm. Within a year it had spread to my lymph nodes. I had them removed and 6 weeks of radiation. I recently celebrated 5 years cancer free and my love of crochet and yarn helped me through what was the darkest point in my life. My husband suggested I start selling my creations. Whilst doing yesterday I discovered loveknitting and I was hooked. I’m about to turn 52 and my beautiful nan taught me to crochet when I was 12. I wish she was still alive so I could show her what she taught me to do has turned into a life long love.

  8. Dianne White says:

    I have knitted since I was about 6 or 7 – I have always found it to be very theraputic – one time when I was out of work for about a year, I knitted every day all day and it definitely helped me to stay grounded – I am now 68 and still enjoy my knitting so much – it gives me more than I could ever have hoped for.

  9. Anne says:

    I tolk up knitting again 10 years ago, when I had a MS attack that had a bad effect on my legs – knitted day and night for a week to prove to myself, that even though I was temporarily unable to use my legs my hands were still working – result a sweater that I still love wearing.
    now a days it is mental therapy to de-stress after work and keep mind sane and not thinking too much about the MS.

  10. Cassy says:

    I’ve been knitting off and on since I was 8; I was diagnosed with severe depression when I was 19. I find it not only helps with my depression (I have taught it to people with depression and after accidents), but also with my dyslexia. With the depression, you can see the creativity, but it’s one of the only crafts you CAN rip apart and then start again if you need to. With the dyslexia, I’ve got real issues with sequencing, so you’d think I’d avoid lace and raised patterns like the plague. Hellz no! I’m like “bring it”. Still can’t get a hang of crochet though. Patterns might as well be Mandarin Chinese!

  11. Jude Mathews says:

    I often reflect on just what makes me run to knitting when I’m feeling unbalanced or otherwise anxious. To simplify, I would say that knitting has always given me a satisfying repetitive-motion activity (akin to tap-tap-tapping my fingers or heels) but with a productive outcome. It also consistently reinforces in me a sense that, yes, I really DO have control of something in my life, even when it seems that I have no control over events. And, as mentioned, the opportunity to literally play with color is always a boost. It’s no wonder that crafts are beneficial to the mentally ill and to those of us who are not quite so easily labelled!

  12. Hi! I’ve been writing a book about knitting and the therapeutic benefits – it will be published in June. It includes some patterns written in a very straightforward way that even beginner knitters will be able to follow and also some slightly more complicated ones. Most will revolve around a square – which most people can knit – but there are differences to the usual knitted square.

    Knitting has seen me through two fairly major operations, relationship and family issues and times of isolation. I have also set up knitting groups to gather people together – it’s a great things to do when you’re chatting!

  13. Ehlana says:

    About 4 years ago I went through a pretty nasty time dealing with Depression and Anxiety. Lots of things had gone wrong all at once including within 1 week I lost my job and was diagnosed as a young adult with T2 Diabetes which was heartbreaking. I started to feel a deep need to create something. I have no talent as a painter/artist but figured I could probably Knit. YouTube has been fantastic as a resource to learn stitches when I came across a new one in a pattern. It even has step by step tutorials on how to make whole items which I found invaluable to a newbie knitter. I had such a sense of accomplishment when I finished my first piece. It wasn’t perfect but I had actually succeeded in something, which in my depression I didn’t feel I could achieve anymore. I’ve moved onto Crochet now and I’m loving it! My friends and family are loving the things that I make especially for them and I am able spread joy and happiness! I honestly feel it was an integral part of my journey, along with support from family and friends and a good Councillor/Psychologist, that knitting and crochet got me through my depression to a place where I can deal with life again.

  14. Ethna says:

    I was rather pleased to see this article and took solace myself in learning to crochet (which awakened my interest in knitting) at the end of last year, since then I have gone from strength to creation of many projects. My health has declined over the last few years with not one but two autoimmune disorders and I suffer with depression and frustration at my physical lack of ability I once took for granted. Finding needlework, crochet, knitting and sewing, has given me new hobbies and interests and producing something has given me immense pleasure and a sense of achievement. There’s nothing like it. Thanks loveknitting too for being there to supply lots of lovely wool direct to my door.

  15. Angela (Wheelchair Nana) says:

    I have been knitting, crocheting and sewing for more than 40 years, I have frequent hospitalizations and my knitting always goes with me. I suffer from chronic pain, diabetes and asthma. I knit for my family and currently for my Grandchildren. Due to a back problem I can’t sit at the sewing machine for long but knit constantly with the odd crochet thrown in. I find it is my life line especially when in hospital, I have just had 3 weeks in and in that time knitted a shawl, 2 pairs of socks for myself and a cardigan for my Granddaughter I am know as the knitting lady by all the staff and they can’t wait to see what I am knitting. Knitting just doesn’t pass the time but keeps my sanity as well.

  16. Robyn says:

    My grandma taught me to knit from about 6 years old. I would sit next to her while she knitted, armed with the same size needle and the same wool as her, and she would teach me the stitch she was doing. I have knitted ever since these early days but in the past 6 years, since I moved to the country and joined a knitting group, I have discovered the great joys of belonging. I no longer knit in isolation and other people, who share my passion, are interested in my creations. I look forward to our meetings and try harder to achieve my goals as I know that this group of knitters will be happy and supportive of my achievements. Now, if I am unsure of a pattern, or need some advice, I don’t have to sit alone and wonder if I’m doing it right or if there is another way.

    If I’m worried about anything or feeling anxious, I know that knitting will take me into a world where my arthritis doesn’t exist and my thoughts become calm and all my worries just don’t seem important any more.

  17. Heather Ordover says:

    Great summup!
    And knitting does even more than the above! All the science is compiled on the knitting site CognitiveAnchoring dot com.
    Lovely site you’ve got here!

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