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Knitting and Mental Health

This is Mental Awareness Week; a time when focus is turned on the well being of us ordinary folk!


I’ve often heard it bandied about that knitting is good for mental health and so started researching what actual studies have been conducted to not only assert such a thing, but to prove it too.  Well there are many and various across the globe.  From an online survey of 3,500 frequent knitters, The British Journal of Occupational Therapy showed the more people knitted the more calmer and happier they felt. I looked at The University of British Columbia and The Journal of Neuropsychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences, but found this comprehensive survey from the Craft Yarn Council in the US a reason to feel good about being a member of such a global community.


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The primary reasons why knitting is good for you are:

1.  Controls mental anguish such as anxiety, fear, depression

How?  The craft’s two-handed, repetitive movements paired with its tactile, visual and emotional stimulation are among the aspects that make it especially effective. Knitting also offers a rare sense of control, in part because knitters can easily undo any mistakes and use that same yarn to try again.  The sense of accomplishment achieved after hand-crafting something special has also been shown to reward pleasure pathways in the brain.  The fact that it’s mobile and social is just a bonus!

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2.  Controls physical pain

The Pain Clinic at the Royal United Hospital in Bath, runs a weekly knitting group and has done so since 2006.  Dr Mike Osborn, the clinical psychologist is quoted as saying “Knitting can help patients where nothing else does.  The gentle meditative repetitive action is ultimately soothing for patients whose bodies are often grossly distorted by pain.”

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3.  Helps us age gracefully!

By preventing the onset of dementia and Alzheimers and who doesn’t need help with that!  (Apparently it’s the maths).

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So why does the press often report knitting stories in a derogatory fashion?  I’ve read the website: stitchlinks.com which is owned and run by Betsan Corkhill, a former physiotherapist who has pioneered therapeutic knitting for the NHS.  She has often run up against prejudice and preconceptions when talking about knitting for therapy and she has changed her language.  She calls it “a bilateral, rhythmic, psychosocial intervention which has the power to transform people’s lives.”

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(Some of these images are found on pinterest and I’ve tried to credit them all, but if I’ve missed someone, please come back to me – Tracy).





Leave a comment


  1. Linda Ayala: May 12, 2017 6:22 am

    I am 67 years old and took up knitting 2 years ago. I have health issues which keep me home with plenty of time on my hands. And while I have made one shawl, several neckscarves, and a few baby hats I have yet to make the handknit sweater that got me started in the first place! These last 2 years have been spent learning how to knit with the help of the miraculous internet ( I could never have done this without The many video tutorials on YouTube. I have taught my self everything from sturdy, complicated buttonholes to short rows ( I like German best) to lace and the many ways to do increases and decreases and now I’m learning Fair Isle, inspired by Kate Davies. I am having so much fun LEARNING! Most importantly, having to pay attention to constantly changing rows as in Fair Isle and changing stitches in lace where every row is different has been a major challenge that I am sure is helping keep my mind sharp. I have to admit that I do plenty of ripping back because my mind tends to wander…and, of course, I dont’ notice my mistakes until many rows later so ripping back is standard procedure around my house. The best thing about knitting is that It is a great vehicle for creativity. My first Fair Isle attempt was a Totoro patch for my daughter’s denim jacket. My son, in his mid-forties, just took up knitting so he could make a Totoro for his 3 year old son. He now loves knitting! We have lively discussions about tension and gauge and yarn, something I could not have imagined ever happening. My granddaughter now wants me to teach her how to knit too! Knitting is becoming a family affair and I love the impact knitting has had on my family. I am finally knitting a sweater…for my grandson. 🙂

  2. tracy.birch: May 15, 2017 3:54 pm

    Hi Linda, thank you for sharing your wonderful story with us and I think it is marvellous how knitting has created such a bond within your family.

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