Published on May 12th, 2014 | by Elizabeth Bagwell


Knitting’s health benefits are in the news

Here at Loveknitting we know that knitting is good for you!  but the rest of the world is just beginning to catch on!  (or should we say cast on?) Elizabeth Bagwell has been checking the knitting headlines this week!

Knitting is in the news on both sides of the Atlantic. In the US, the Washington Post and SF Gate both published articles about the health benefits of knitting, while in the UK The Guardian focused on the social aspects of the craft.

The two American articles focus on news from various research groups. You can click through for the details, but the short version is that studies show that knitting may help:

  • stave off cognitive diseases, like Alzheimers
  • reduce the effects of stress and depression
  • help improve motor function
  • assist recovery from anorexia and other psychiatric illnesses

As a knitter, I find that knitting engages the brain in a way that no other activity does, and keeps my hands moving at the same time. Knitting can be very simple, leaving me able to chat, walk whilst knitting or watch a movie. It can be fiendishly complicated, capturing my attention and taking me longer to unravel than any sudoku or logic puzzle. It can be meditative, particularly when I’m knitting something complex but repetitive, and I’m just focussing on the stitches. It can be creative or a chance to switch off and follow a pattern. And sometimes it can be all of these things in a single project.

Stitchlinks, which I’ve mentioned before on this blog, is an organisation dedicated to finding out more about how knitting and craft affect us, and providing a safe meeting space for people who do use knitting and other crafts to assist with a physical or mental illness.

I’ve met many people who’ve use crafts as physiotherapy or to help them cope with physical or mental illness. Closest to home, my Nan took up knitting in her 90s, to help with the arthritis in her hands. She hadn’t knitted since my dad was born 60 years earlier, and said it helped a lot. I think that knitting hand warmers for the homeless and dishcloths for friends also made her feel useful.

Social history of knitting
In the UK, The Guardian asks: is knitting a relaxing hobby or a seditious activity? It’s a light piece, arguing that perhaps knitting should be given more respect than it currently gets. Similar articles come round quite a lot (I’ve probably written a couple, and I’ve certainly made that argument at a party or three!) This one is interesting, as the author is a self-confessed knitter (or at least yarn-collector) who can link ’60s fashion, celebrity knitters and Gandhi. Yet she also says:

“Knitting not as necessity, but art – for women who have just too much time on their hands.
Needlecraft, it seems, is just not relevant to the reality of modern women’s lives.”

It feels like she’s dismissing the craft. Who has too much time on their hands, really? We all get 24 hours per day, every day, and for most of us there are a thousand things we could be doing, from working towards world peace to cleaning the grouting in the bathroom. If we choose to knit, then knitting is relevant to the reality of our lives!

About the Author

Elizabeth is a keen knitter, occasional designer, enthusiastic traveler and a professional freelance writer. She spent three years working for British knitting magazine, Simply Knitting, and has also written for The Knitter and other craft titles. She blogs at:

Last updated: May 14th, 2014.

6 Responses to Knitting’s health benefits are in the news

  1. Zina Pepper says:

    Knitting for me is a way of relaxing after a usually busy day, it’s what makes me sit down in the evening. The benefits are beautiful knits for the grandchildren and blankets and jumpers for African hospitals and orphanages. I can hold a conversation, listen to music or watch the television so it’s a sociable hobby as well.

  2. kathy cooke says:

    knitted since I was 4,years now 65 for many years have knitted for charities i.e. breasts for training nurses and young mothers, cribs for very small still borns, hats for the homeless balaclavas for foreign national seafarers and hundreds of baby clothes for here and abroad just done 26 teddies for orphanage in Uganda, 10 jumpers for children from Chenobyl sent over here for holiday I don’t usually see the recipients but the feedback is wonderful it ticks all boxes I am making someone happy and warm fulfilling a hobby feeling useful meeting some fabulous people Dr Phil Hammond says doing all these things is well being for yourself and the recipients whoever the woman said it was a waste of time rubbish! I also have a long term illness and this is one thing I can do to make a difference ;belong to a knit and natter the items are so much appreciated but for my personal benefit lost my mother at 11 and my maternal grandmother and I spent hours knitting memories I will never forget she was a wonderful lady and even when dementia set in we had some amusing hours trying to keep her knitting on the straight and narrow!!

  3. Margaret says:

    I look forward to my evening’s knitting, particularly in the winter, in front of a good TV programme!

  4. Geraldine says:

    I have a compulsive nature so I tend to avoilld hobbies which require my full attention. Knitting suits me perfectly, I can chat and watch tv, enjoy being with my family whilst still doing something creative which will actually be appreciated. Best hobby I have ever pursued.:-D

  5. Ellen Goodman says:

    I am a master level Reiki practitioner and I use my energy while I knit infusing the yarn with the energy I am sending with the intent to heal. The people who have worn the shawls I have knit for them this way have felt a feeling of wellness when wearing said shawl. In knitting in this fashion, it becomes a meditative experience, as my mind is focusing in on the knitting and my heart is focused on moving the energy into the yarn as I handle it.

  6. I agree and find the same effect from crochet. Its the meditative aspect that I like and the fact that I make something useful in the process is a major bonus. Creativity is an important part of life, no matter how polished the final results. I’ve got back into crochet and cross stitch and got into new crafts this last year and its really helping me come to terms with losing my mum. It won’t bring her back and I will still miss her but the soothing impact of creative therapy can’t be underestimated.

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