Published on August 22nd, 2013 | by Serena


The health benefits of knitting

We’ll be blogging soon about the benefits of a knitting group in schools and other institutions, but in fact knitting groups can benefit all ages. Perhaps you can encourage knitting at work in your lunch hour, or during book club, or in the pub!

The very action of knitting is well known to have both a calming and uplifting impact. With its repetitive nature, has often been likened to meditation; Perri Lewis compares it to yoga; this image was created by Alanna Cavanagh! Studies have shown knitting can reduce symptoms of depression and the feeling of pain in patients with chronic illness.

According to the website Stitchlinks: “Knitting is known to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, aid in dealing with life-altering illnesses and those living with the devastating effects of cancer”. It lowers the heart rate as well as blood pressure, and offers benefits for those suffering from Arthritis, Alzheimer’s, or Dementia.

Knitting also teaches important life skills: patience, perseverance, and communication. The knitter learns that making a mistake is not a catastrophe, and that goals can be reached despite a few detours along the way. Indeed, the end product may be considerably ‘richer’ with a bit of exploration en route!

For some, such as Julie Williams, knitting offers vital moments of calm and respite from demanding lives as carers. Julie describes how knitting has helped her cope with the demands of caring for her autistic son Toby in her blog Little Cotton Rabbits.better

Stichlinks also has some interesting research on the bilateral movements in knitting:

“Many others have also told us that knitting has improved their memory. It’s known that multi-sensorial events are remembered more readily, so perhaps this is an explanation. Others believe that being a bilateral exercise, knitting could be enhancing the connectivity between the right and left cerebral hemispheres, which may lead to an improvement in memory.

The bilateral movements required in knitting could also be an explanation as to why those with dyslexia and dyspraxia have found improvement in their conditions since taking up knitting. In addition they have found that knitting also helps them to organise their thought processes and have found this skill to be transferrable to other areas of life.”

Of course, knitting together also provides a wonderful safe place for learning, conversation, and making new friends!

How has knitting improved your life? Let us know, we would love to hear your story.

About the Author

Serena loves sunshine, strawberries and Great Danes. She has gone from non-knitter to yarn obsessive in under two years, and is determined to drag the rest of the world along with her.

Last updated: November 3rd, 2015.

26 Responses to The health benefits of knitting

  1. Spinning too, is very relaxing…


  2. irene thomas says:

    Many years ago I decided to stop smoking. I found holding the knitting needles ( even if i wasnt actually knitting) gave me a substitute for holding a cigarette. Then of course i was hooked on knitting. Never smoked a cigarette since.

  3. philippa bird says:

    where do i start? I have bipolar disorder, and knitting definitely helps. The rhythm and counting is so de-stressing (complicated patterns for times of being able to concentrate, and just regular garter stitching in 10s when i can’t)

    What follows is a joke: when called in to see a GP who was patronising about my knitting while i waited I said:”Yes, I love the repetitive stabbing motion”. It’s ok I’m not dangerous … but she’ll be careful who she patronises in future! Or she might take it up herself ……

  4. Rachel S. Henry says:

    I come from a family of sewers and knitters and such. I had been taught as a child, but didn’t really take to it. 10 years ago, at age 30, I had a stroke. A friend of mine made the most cozy and beyoootiful afghans. I asked her to teach me how.She told me that “crocheting the Granny Square, retrained the brain. ” She had seen research on the repetitive pattern reconnecting synapses or something. I just thought the blankets were pretty. But I am addicted. I can sit and crochet or knit, listen to others, ride in the car and relax. I am creating beauty and comfort. for others. I am passing the time. My hands and brain work better, I think. I can share treaures of knitting with others. Recently, I began speaking at Stroke Survivor and Caregiver Conferences. I bring my crochet with me. People notice and comment and talk about trying it to. It is something I CAN DO. And something taht attracts ipeople, ending some of the horrible stroke isolation. Crochet and Knit rock! My friend was right! Thanks Donna!

  5. Cath Bottomley says:

    I started knitting in January of this year in a bid to help me stop smoking and I’m proud to say I have been successful. Not only have I stopped smoking, I don’t snack any more and my Husband says I am a more relaxed happier person than I’ve been for many years

  6. Jules says:

    My mother taught me to knit (and sew and crotchet and embroider) when I was a child. I started knitting again in earnest a couple of years ago when I developed problems with anxiety, depression and more recently emotional instability.

    I find knitting (and sewing) gives me a break from negative thought patterns, a massive sense of achievement, hours of (guilt-free) relaxation, hours of quiet fun and valuable moments of real joy.

    I also smoke and snack less when I’m knitting.

    So, knitting soothes my mind, body and soul!

  7. Wendy says:

    I learned to knit when I was 8, taught by my grandmother. After being a teacher for a number of years, I finally had a baby. When my daughter was 4, I went back to work, and I was very sad to leave her. My mother was caring for my daughter when I worked, and after work one afternoon she suggested that I knit to relieve stress. I began knitting then, and haven’t put down my needles since. It is incredibly relaxing, and I’ve made beautiful keepsakes and family heirlooms!

  8. Linda Nagle says:

    I find that knitting keeps me calm. I have a partner who is not in the best of health, an elderly mother who can be quite cranky and an elderly aunt with dementia. I keep knitting needles at both my aunt and my mum’s houses so that when they get to me, I can pick up my knitting and destress. I originally left the needles and yarn at auntie’s house to see if she would pick it up again but she ‘wasn’t in the mood’ so it keeps me sane while I am waiting for official visits with her.

  9. Judith Sharrock says:

    I have an unstable disc, which causes me a lot of sciatic pain. I find knitting helps with my pain and certainly gives me something to focus on. It has helped me through depression caused by chronic pain and the loss of my career.

  10. Rebecca Tedstone says:

    I originally learned to knit and cross stitch as an attempt to distract myself from self harming thoughts and to help with my chronic depression. This worked well along with other things. I then took it up more intensely when I was crippled with spd and sciatica during my last pregnancy. I have since made some beautiful items and am still self harm free.

  11. Liz W says:

    I am a martial artist (I do traditional Goju Ryu karate, which is very much a mind-body-spirit style) as well as a keen knitter. And just the other day I was sitting knitting before my karate class, and reflecting on how there were similarities between the two activities!

    For a start, the focus that is required is very similar, especially when doing complex patterns.. Then you have the coordination between mind and body – your mind tells your body what to do (and I felt this must have a left-right brain engagement). And the relaxation aspect – I find I achieve a sense of calm through knitting, and through karate.

    And I like that you mention patience. This has been a skill I have learnt through both karate and through knitting. In karate, you can only get really good at it by repetition. Thousands of punches and kicks will help you get good at punches and kicks. And in knitting, only thousands of stitches will give you the skills you need to knit something complex.

    Thanks for a great article! Now I’m wondering how I work towards my black belt in knitting…

  12. Cynthia says:

    Knitting has helped me during a recent period of ill health and unemployment.

    There’s nothing like choosing a beautifully colourful yarn to sit and knit nothing in particular – just the rhythm of the needles, the soothing clicking sound as you knit.

    For me, slowing down and creating something in a world that demands everything instantaneously, has helped me to relax during this time.

    I begin a job next week and look forward to being a commuter knitter!

  13. Cheryl C Hockhan says:

    In February 2012, I was signed off work with acute anxiety and clinical depression. I found this very hard to deal with as I had always been strong in all situations. I won’t go into the details of what caused it suffice to say I took early retirement and could not be happier. When I was at my worst I didn’t want to do anything except sit in the corner, my house suffered, mu hubbie was fantastic and I found that knitting was the one thing I could settle to do. Every member of the family (30 in total) had a jumper or a cardigan for Christmas. I hadn’t knitted in years as my job was so time consuming. Now i am still knitting and have taught myself to crochet (about to tackle a ripple blanket) I even won a first and a third prize with two of my knitted items at a village agricultural show. I do jobs in the morning so I can knit in the afternoon, some early evening sees me teaching piano and singing before returning to my needles before bedtime. I ca honestly say I sleep really well and am now very happy.

  14. heather drawwater says:

    it can also help with losing weight, as chocolate mixed with white wool is not good. On the funny side it can also damage your health as when i was a bit younger,in my teens, i used to shove my knitting by the side of the seat, which ended up one day with me sitting on my needles, i have never seen so much blood,after my dad pulled the needle out of my thigh.

  15. Sally Budd says:

    I think knitting is a great thing to do when you are upsat and stressed as the rhythmic movement of the needles and the concentration you give calms you down

  16. Katy says:

    By using my stash of wool I’ve shifted a potential health and safety hazard that I kept climbing over in my bedroom and just as soon as I donate the blankets I have made from the stash I’ll feel better that new born Malawi babies are being kept warm by them. Yes knitting is good for your well being.

  17. Jane Turner says:

    Liz W. – I hope that will be a KNITTED black belt!

  18. Tammy L says:

    As it so happens, I do have a story to post. After I lost my son, the hours crept by and my pain was so thick you could see it. Such was my grief I could not focus on anything for very long, not books, not the computer or television. I was truly alone with my thoughts and they were excruciating. It was then that I thought of my Grandma Eileen, and how when I would have a problem, she’d sit me down and crochet with me. This repeated simple exercise helped get me through many days, one stitch at a time. It helped to keep me focused on something besides my pain. Grandma gave me a gift when she taught me to crochet.

  19. Elaine says:

    I think knitting is therapeutic. I find it restful and relaxing, which is always a good thing..

  20. Louise McKay says:

    Buying yarn is better than going to the bar I’ve been known to say. Feeling the natural fibers in my hands, knitting and wearing it is a meditation for me. I too take my knitting to meetings and to class and find it helps me focus more on whats being said. My daughter was in a special needs learning class when she was younger. I had learned that in some schools they were teacheing the specal needs kids to knit to keep their hands busy while they were in a lecture. I went in to my daughters class and taught them (7 -8 years) they enjoyed learning the skill, helping each other out and felt it calming (Once they got the hang of it! 🙂 )

  21. Amanda Hudson says:

    I have been a keen knitter for a few years. Last year my Dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I decided to pack away the needles, yarn and unfinished projects as thought I would be unable to concentrate. However as time passed and Dad’s conditioned worsened I became increasingly restless and exhausted. I was unable to sit down and watch tv, read or even sleep as my mind would wander, I could not switch off. One day a friend brought me some new scarf yarn because she thought I would like it, not wanting to disappoint her I knitted the scarf. To my surprise I enjoyed knitting again, it was a relief to sit for a couple of hours, and even if I was only thinking knit one purl one it took mind off the present. I have even found myself knitting at bedtime, I find it relaxing and it saved me from insomnia. Knitting has filled many dark hours for me this past year, for me it has been therapy. Not sure what all my friends and family think, they have all received knitted Christmas and birthday presents!

  22. eve taylor says:

    my story starts about a month ago , my partner had just got the good news that he was in remission from chronic lymphatic cancer , he had a persistent cough and thought he would see the doctor about some antibiotics , the doctor also put him in for an endoscopy and we couldn’t believe the result , he has cancer of the gullet and they gave him a year if he didn’t have an operation , consequently I had a breakdown and the only thing that kept me sane was knitting ,I started knitting toys to sell for uk-gsr , that I am a volunteer for , it just seemed to calm me and I have got through it and hopefully he will be coming home tomorrow and I am still enjoying my knitting.

  23. Cindy says:

    I have been knitting for thirty five years with a brief interruption when my daughter was young. As soon as she was old enough I taught her to knit. as a dyslexic student I think it helped her. Now I knit for the relaxation, the physical therapy to keep the RA from taking over my hands and also for charity. My scarves are knit with love and prayers. The money goes to the food.pantry at my church.

  24. Jan says:

    I am an avid knitter as well as a a part-time ski instructor at our local slope. Recently, while helping a young skier I caught my thumb in the dendix, a rough matting which covers the slope. I had a classic, dry ski slope skiers injury, painful swelling of the middle joint in the thumb. This injury can take months to heal. I was determined to continue knitting as I had a jumper to finish for my granddaughter so I persevered with the knitting. After a few days my thumb joint became less painful and the swelling reduced. Several jumpers later and my thumb is almost back to normal much faster than if the thumb had remained immobile. So knitting is also good physical therapy!

  25. Pam Lane says:

    My 4th grade teacher taught the girls to knit/crochet during the winter months when we couldn’t go outside to play at recess. Little did I know that one day knitting/crocheting would help me thru some of my darkest days. When I was diagnosed with cancer and told that I would have stay in the hospital for one week a month for four months, I decided to find my needles and get to work. I laugh and tell everyone that my needles and yarn take the place of anti-depressants. My family has grown over the last 10 years so many wedding gifts and baby gifts have been made with love and given away. Thank goodies for my 4th grade teacher (she celebrated her 100th birthday this year), my needles, and the huge stash of yarn I have acquired…they have kept me out of the psychiatrist office.

  26. Elaine Beet says:

    I have really bad Epilepsy and prone to numerous seizues one after the other. The severity of them made me lose my job after 33 years. However my niece had her first baby 18 months ago and being a syle and label iconI never thought she would like knitted garments for the baby. Before the birth she burst into tears and said “no-one has knitted anything for my baby”
    Not having knotted for over 20 years I picked up the pins to have a go and I have not stopped since. It calms ans relaxes me my seizues have reduced in number and are not so severe and my great niece ad niece have some great knitted stuff.
    I’m doing toys now for charities.
    Can’t stop click click click

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