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KNITTING AS THERAPY

We've all heard recently that Knitting is the New Yoga. Many of us have returned or are new to knitting, seeking out this pastime as the antidote to our stressful workaholic lives. The technology of today although responsible for all this, is also our means to a knitting detoxification.

We invite you to write in and share your thoughts on and experiences of the beneficial effects of knitting, just click on the 'contact us' link in the menu above


2014


Much has been said recently about the health benefits of knitting and Carole Turner has given her experience of how knitting has helped her:

" About two years ago I was signed off work for a month with extremely high blood pressure. So high the doctor couldn't get a reading. It was a very scary time, it affected my sight and I feared I might suffer a stroke.

I've knitted since my infant school teacher taught me but I hadn't done any in years. I mainly embroidered. But I had the urge to knit, so ordered a couple of balls to make mittens and found it really calmed me.

It's hard to explain but I really do feel less stressed as long as I have knitting within reach. I take it to work and knit in all breaks. I knit for everybody, it's a bit of an obsession."


Country Living Magazine: "Why Crafting Is Good For You" (17.11.14)

Click here for article and mention of this website


Warrington Guardian: "Knitting Is The Best Therapy, Says Clinician" (23.10.14)

Click here to read more about the benefits of knitting


"Crochet Is The New Stress Reducing Activity" (12.08.14)

Click here to read findings from survey conducted by Toft


Lifestyle Home's blog from Australia explains the benefits of knitting and gives a beginner's guide to help you get started

Click here for article (06.-8.14)


Lion Brand blog: "10 Most Important Health Benefits of Yarncrafting" (20.05.14)

Click here for article


Scope: "Knitting as ritual – with potential health benefits?" (22.04.14)

Click here to read article


The Washington Post has recently published:"Might crafts such as knitting offer long-term health benefits?" (21.04.14)

Click here to read article


Libby Ogden has also experienced the benefits of immersing herself in knitting when things aren't going well:

"I lost my house in November last year went back to knitting as I was homeless with my family...I'm self employed and the recession has hit hard but having knitted and crocheted since a child I went back to it in a big way... I packed the knitting needles etc and yarn and never stopped. It did help me to stay focused and not to worry. I have a husband with mental health issues. So for me it was a time to think and quietly switch off. Hope my post helps someone out there see a light at the end of a tunnel. I am now in a lovely 5 bed house with a Housing Association".


Joanne Clements has found that knitting has helps her tackle some of her Parkinson's symptoms by improving manual dexterity and keeping her mind alert:

"...after parkinson's tries to stiffen my fingers and physio exercises aren't really helping with fine dexterity I hit upon the idea of knitting - it has to be something small enough and light enough that my arms can cope with (lifting anything makes muscles scream and ligaments protest!) and so... sock knitting begins, along with the occasional crochet project or knitted dog jumper."


The Guardian Liberty Voice has published evidence to suggest that Knitting can delay Dementia and fight PTSD

Click here for article (26.03.14)


The Daily Mail announces the health benefits of knitting: "Studies Show That KNITTING Can Cure Depression"

Click here for article (25.03.14)


We all know how knitting can help us to recover from major trauma. Here's another example:

Click here for article (25.03.14)


Article from New York online magazine Refinery 29: "Why Knitting Is The New Therapy"

Click here for article (25.03.14)


Knitting as Therapy is receiving more and more interest from the media, so it's great to hear from you and share your experiences; Eilish Schopp has been in touch:

"I was diagnosed with Severe Post Traumatic Stress and was in hospital for several weeks. Whilst I was there I started knitting, and I have to say, it was my saving grace and has been throughout my recovery.

It helped me to come away from any problems and focus entirely on the pattern on which I was working on. It was a total distraction, and to see the final product, when your self esteem is low anyway, it makes you realise that you are not completely hopeless and that you are capable of producing beautiful pieces. Just looking at the finished work made me feel that I had achieved something great, when everything around me was falling apart. It helped me gain back some control of my life, when I felt it had gone completely. I would absolutely recommend it as Therapy."


Treehugger might be an American website, but they have a lovely article this month about how knitting keeps you healthy...

Click here for article (05.02.14)


Since posting details of the Wellbeing Project below, we've heard from Becca Tansley of Shropshire who contacted us with details of a similar project. If you are involved in using knitting as a means to help people recover from mental illness, please do get in touch:

"As a mental health nurse I am very aware of the benefits of distraction and respite from distress that knitting can offer, and the way it can positively affect self-esteem and confidence. I have encouraged many of my clients to knit, or to take up some other form of creative hobby for these, and other, reasons. I attended a study day with Stitchlinks which confirmed my thoughts in this area.

Last year I secured some social funding through UnLtd. I will be using this to pay room hire fees so that I can set up a couple of Knitting is Therapeutic groups in the Gobowen/St Martins/Weston Rhyn area, and these will be aimed at those people struggling with anxiety and depression. In this way I can combine my huge enthusiasm for knitting with the skills I have acquired during my years of nursing.

With some knitting in your hand you have a ready-made conversation so you don’t have to struggle to find something to say. You have a reason not to maintain eye contact if you find that difficult, but without being rude. You have an opportunity to practice asking for help, something many people struggle with, and a chance to offer it as well. And if you join a group such as this you have a chance to build up a network of friends that understand where you’re coming from."


A knitting project has been set up in Exeter by Debbie Judd aimed at improving people's wellbeing

Click here for article (20.01.14)

Postscript from Betsan Corkhill of Stitchlinks:

"I helped Debbie Judd get the funding for this and it was wonderful when she was successful. There seems to be a real hub of therapeutic knitting in Exeter which is great because that's also where our phd student is doing her research based at Exeter Medical School. Hopefully it will help to raise awareness."


2013


"Looking For Calm In Your Busy Day? Try Knitting" (07.11.13)

Click here for American writer Brian Gresko's article


A break-up in a long standing relationship can cause a huge amount of stress, so it's good to hear that knitting has restorative qualities that can bring calm to this kind of situation:

"I have recently broken away from an abusive relationship and although I feel relief, there are times when I feel very lonely and isolated too. I also tend to feel very anxious and stressed when I need to have any dealings with my ex-partner, which is quite often as we have children together. I picked up knitting after having a 20 year break and now that I have, I can’t seem to put it down. It’s a great way to focus my attention when I’m feeling low or if something has happened to upset me. Belief in my Lord has made me realise I can channel my feelings into something positive and that there is good in every situation. Although I am guilty of starting projects that I sometimes don’t finish, I do eventually finish them and when I do, the sense of achievement is so nice. I like the way there is a beginning and an end to any knitting project and the part in between is where I work through my feelings, with every stitch and loop."


Perri Lewis, avid knitter and journalist writes about the relationship between knitting and yoga.(16.05.13)

Click here for article


Betsan Corkhill of Stitchlinks has recently published a paper on the benefits of Knitting to relieve stress and the benefits of being a member of a knitting group, here is an extract:

"The main reasons for knitting commonly related to it’s rhythmic, repetitive nature and its ability to relieve stress, induce relaxation and manage emotions, particularly for unwinding after work. It also helped people who had anxiety disorders. Some occasionally found knitting stressful, but this related to trying to tackle a project which was beyond their means or having a tight deadline to reach. It was felt that knitting had meditative and ‘zen-like’ qualities – it was described as ‘soothing’ ‘restful’ or ‘spiritual’. 72% of respondents knitted more than three times a week and there was a significant relationship between the frequency of knitting and feeling calm, happy and confident.
Of those respondents who suffered from depression, 81.5% stated that they felt happier after knitting with 54% of those saying they felt happy or very happy after knitting. Compare this with comments made about antidepressants – “Knitting makes me feel happy – antidepressants just numb all my senses”– and you get an idea as to just how powerful and effective knitting can be as a tool for wellness. Colour and texture also impacted on mood with texture having more of an affect – 24% indicated the colour of the yarn affected mood and 46% stating texture did. Touching something good makes you feel good.
Those suffering from depression who also attended a knitting group were more likely to feel happier and better about themselves than those who were depressed and who knitted alone, so the message for those of you feeling low is to join a group. Just over half of all the respondents attended a knitting group and 86% of these felt a sense of belonging as a result. 90% said they had made several friends through knitting. The social connections and supportive friendships made were an important part for many. These had a positive impact on mood as well as helping them to become more confident in social circumstances in general.
There was also a strong relationship between attending a group and learning new skills. It also led to learning other skills unrelated to knitting and transferable skills such as patience, planning, goal setting, coping with mistakes and being more confident at taking risks in general. In addition, participants felt that knitting had improved their mathematical, organising and designing skills".

Taken from: Riley J, Corkhill B, Morris C (2013) The Benefits of Knitting for Personal and Social Wellbeing in Adulthood: Findings from an International Survey. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 76(2), 50-57.

Click here to contact Betsan to request full article


Here's an article from America where the interviewee explains how she relieves her stresses through knitting.

Susie Kliewer believes in the power of therapeutic knitting.“It’s the repetitive motion, the clicking of the needles; it all brings you into a meditative place,” she said.Kliewer really got into the needlecraft in 2008, when the family practice medical clinic closed in Hillsboro and her future was in jeopardy. She said she didn’t know what to do, or where to turn. That’s when she discovered the power of knitting. It allowed to focus on something other than her own troubles – and led her to a place of meditation, where she could be at peace with the world. “It wasn’t easy at first,” she said. “You can have a lot of frustration and do a lot of crying on your first project.” After she got the basics down, Kliewer decided to join a knitting circle in Wichita where they taught her advanced techniques. But, Kliewer said, they were also a good support group; they helped her get through the tough times during her unemployment and celebrated her success when she signed on with the St. Luke Hospital clinic in Marion. “I don’t know if I could have gotten by without those ladies,” she said. Now, Kliewer offers the same support for the people in Marion. Kliewer said she goes to a small yarn group at Parkside Homes, Hillsboro. They don’t always knit or crochet, but they gather together to talk about yarn — and issues in each of their lives. She said she also discusses different yarns with her patients. Some bring her their current project to look at. “It’ a way for us to connect,” she said. Kliewer said she never leaves home without her knitting. It’s sitting right in her handbag, just in case she gets bored. St. Luke CEO Jeremy Armstrong said he was sure that she didn’t have time to do it while at the clinic, saying the staff keeps pretty busy. But, Kliewer knows that sometimes unexpected circumstances arise when there is nothing to do. “I know this woman who was stuck in an elevator for an hour,” she said. “That’s when you can really use some needles and yarn — and get a lot of work done — all while keeping yourself calm and relaxed.” Looking forward, Kliewer said she plans to knit through a prayer shawl ministry instruction book. She has already knitted a couple of shawls for some ill friends, but can’t wait to do more. Kliewer said the project has transformed knitting into a true spiritual experience for her. As she knits, she prays for the individual she is making the shawl for. “It’s brought me into a deeper relationship with God,” she said. “It’s easy to meditate with this project; it’s so repetitive. My only rule is that I knit without the TV on. That really helps me to focus on the project’s true meaning.” Kliewer said anyone can pick up a pair of needles and start to knit. “So many people start to kint because of the old adage, ‘I knit so I don’t kill people,’” she said. “That’s why people knit, it’s good therapy.” Kliewer said therapeutic knitting has been helpful for people suffering with Alzheimer’s, dementia, arthritis, and even high blood pressure. But, for Kliewer, it is just a relaxing pastime. She looks forward to picking up her needles every day — so she can make baby items for her new granddaughter.


Jen Best feels she could not have survived a period of bad health without her knitting to keep her going and now runs her own yarn shop.

"I spent years with ulcerative colitis, a horrible debilitating bowel disease, which left me depressed, run down and very ill. I had several bouts of surgery, starting with my stoma operation in 2006. Through all the years of hell one thing kept me sane. I could pick up my needles and make something. It didn't matter if I had no energy to walk, or if I couldn't leave the house for fear of needing the loo. I could do something constructive. The repetitive motion of knitting helped to distract me from the pain I was often in. When I was stuck in hospital I had something to distract me from the awfulness and sheer boredom of being stuck in hospital. My last stay was after a total hysterectomy in 2010. They told me they were going in for an explore because they had no idea why I was in so much pain so long after my stoma op. I had so much scar tissue over my womb and ovaries that I had to have everything out. The next day I was sitting cross legged at the end of the bed, knitting. The nurses all told me I would be in for days because of the hysterectomy (a prospect that filled me with horror). My surgeon (who I adore and who is brilliant) told me to go home that day. His reasoning was that if I could be sat cross legged, knitting at the end of the bed I was fine. And I was fine. From that day on I've been relativity pain free, I've started my own fibre craft shop, I have a rescue horse called Archie, and my family have me back as me, rather than ill me. I am knitting more than ever and extolling the benefits of knitting to everyone I meet."


At the start of this new year we have a personal account from America of how knitting can help with our daily stress-filled lives

Click here for article


2012


Kristine Connolly from Virginia, America found that knitting helped with her eating disorder and wanted to 'give something back,' so has set up 'Project Heartstrings' to "encourage knitters to donate hand-made scarves to spread joy and hope to patients spending the holidays at treatment centers, and to raise awareness of eating disorders".

Click here for article


People living in Louth, Lincolnshire will have the opportunity to join a therapeutic knitting class at the beginning of next year. (27 11 12)

Click here for further information


We talk alot on this page about the therapeutic effects of knitting giving less mention to crochet. To even this up we have recently had contact with Kathryn Vercillo who has just had a book published all about 'The Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Crochet' with reference to the UK Hand Knitting Assocoation's 'Knitting For Quitting' page

Click here to find out more


Gwen Falla has a rare progressive illness and suffers a great deal of pain, but has greatly benefited from continuing to knit:

"There is no doubt that for me knitting is the ultimate therapy. Knitting helps me to distance myself from the physical pain just by the repetitive rhythm of movement and the feel of the yarn. It allows me to enter into an almost meditative state and stay in control. Ten days ago I had some major surgery and I knitted right up to the time of the op and afterwards. I have to say my work was awful and required undoing but the very process of knitting was calming and helped me achieve greater pain control. Hospital staff were very interested when I explained how it helps me."


The World's First Conference on Therapeutic Knitting; 'Knitting to Facilitate Change was held at Bath’s Royal Scientific and Literary Institution on June 15th 2012. The event hosted by Professor Paul Dieppe of Exeter University and organised by Betsan Corkhill of Stitchlinks attracted a large amount of interest from across the UK and as far afield as Chile, USA, South Africa and Australia.

Click here to read full report


Being positive and doing something creative like knitting can help you recover from an illness quicker.

Click here for articles in the Daily Express


Betsan Corkhill runs a website which promotes the benefits of knitting and stitching for anyone with a health problem. In her latest newsletter, she writes specifically about knitting:

"I am continuing to develop a different approach to knitting which I’m calling Therapeutic Knitting. Therapeutic Knitting enhances the benefits of knitting and uses them to deliberately improve general wellbeing and the self-management of long-term medical conditions. Having spent six years identifying the benefits of knitting, and the ways they can be applied to various medical conditions, I’m now working on ways they can be developed further to enable us to use Therapeutic Knitting as a tool to treat a range of medical conditions; a motivational and creative aid to self-management; a tool to teach life skills, and a means of creating safe, social spaces to enhance communication, social interaction and strengthen local and global communities. As part of this, I’ve created a Therapeutic Knitting group on Ravelry to widen the discussion further."

Click here for Stitchlinks website

Click here for group on Ravelry


Julia has clinical depression and finds knitting to be of enormous help during periods of depression:

"I learned to knit when I was 5, and seriously started knitting about 11 years ago. Knitting has helped me enormously through this last past bout of deep depression. It has given me something positive to focus on. It helps calm the swirly thoughts in my head. It gives me something to do when sleep evades me. I have something beautiful created when I have finished. I have made blankets for my children that not only keep them warm now, but will hopefully be a reminder to them when they grow older of the love that I put in to making these things for them. It reminds me that I have skills when I doubt myself the most. I find peace and comfort in knitting."


Lonna Cunningham is an author, spinner, knitter and smallholder from Alberta in Canada. She has just finished writing a book about her experiences in life and the vital part knitting has played in helping her cope:

"You asked people to write in and tell you about knitting as therapy … well, I just finished writing a book on the subject, more or less.

It’s titled Just Keep Knitting: a journey of healing through forgiveness, faith, and fibre. Here’s a bit of the description from the website:

I wouldn't blame you for looking at that title and thinking to yourself, "hey, one of these things is not like the others!"

Each chapter of the book tells part of my story: the death of my infant daughter, the challenges my husband and I faced as we wrestled with the personality changes wrought by the unseen brain tumor , his diagnosis, illness and death, and then the unbelievable chaos that followed his passing.

With each chapter, I reflect on the ways in which I have found forgiveness both for myself and for others, on the faith that has seen me through the journey, and, yes, on the fibre that has helped with my healing.

Knitting is a very grounding and comforting craft, as the many people who pick up their needles in times of stress will attest. I have designed projects to accompany each part of the story: projects that are easy to customize, so they can serve as an inspiration to your own healing work. Even if you don't knit, I hope that the projects in the book will inspire you to use your own creative outlet to help work your way out of the difficult places in life.

It is my deepest hope that my story can be of help and encouragement to someone."

Click here for further information


2011


Kim Trode writes all the way from Ontario, Canada with some useful thoughts on how knitting is an essential way of keeping a balance on a busy life:

"My life is so busy and I could be described as a workaholic. And I am also a knitaholic. The therapy I get from knitting is invaluable. My busy fast paced life contrasted with sitting so quietly knitting is very meditative for me. I have time to sit with my thoughts and process where I am in ‘the now'. I knit slowly, as content to unknit as to knit, one perfect stitch at a time. This has taught me in my busy life, that I can do one thing well done at a time, slowly, and undo what I have done so it brings a satisfactory result. Had I never picked up knitting needles, I would not have come to this profound but simple conclusion about life on life's terms. I am also fascinated with colour. I get to knit all my favourite comfortable things in my favourite colours, matching them to other things I have knit. It is portable (great to knit and travel), it is satisfying, it is fabulous therapy."


Sue has written to tell us of an event to help raise funds for The Heart Rhythm Charity (John Lewis Solihull, 10.09.11):

"I am a member of this charity because I have one of the cardiac irregularities myself - Atrial Fibrillation - and I also find knitting-for-theraputic purposes extremely useful with managing my own condition and wish to encourage and support both KNITTING and also any venture to benefit from raising its profile as well as support the charity with its fundraising/awareness. Rowan yarns has designed an exclusive pattern for a felted heart corsage which the Charity hopes knitters will use to create hearts that the Charity can sell to help raise funds and awareness."

Click here to request pattern


Helen has written to us about how knitting helped her cope with the trauma of bereavement:

"I can certainly confirm the school of thought that knitting is therapeutic and a de-stressor.  I am self taught and only been knitting three years. In 2010 I lost my husband to cancer and was devastated but for the knitting I would have lost my marbles I'm sure. During his illness my blood pressure went up what with all the stress of his illness and praying he would get better and my knitting calmed me down. I could actually feel the stress ebbing away as I began to knit and count the stitches in my mind – I got to rely on the knitting so much so that I was carrying it around to hospital appointments with him and sat knitting in many a waiting room while he had his awful treatments. Now that he has passed and I am still struggling with it all almost a year later the knitting is something I reach for daily – at the moment I need to do two or three rows before I go to work which gets my mind around it all and then in the evening I sit and knit for an hour or so and enjoy the calming, soothing effect it has on me. I crochet too now and these both keep me human. I don't understand how it works but believe me it does and coupled with the beneficial health effects I am also creating some beautiful accessories, some very special to me as I made them at his bedside. Perhaps it is something we should push in local hospitals to help others keep “calm”. I am sure many would find it useful."


Knitting has proved to be the antidote for so many 'ills'. It takes your mind off things just long enough for you to recover and gives you a sense of achievement that is so important when illness/depression strikes:

"Hi my name is Fiona and I learned to knit when I was four, from my very talented mother who was a great knitter, crocheter ,seamstress, cook ,everything really. I ditched knitting when I was 16 as my life at home became difficult. I didn't knit for years then I had a son at age 30 and picked up the pins again (an ebay bargain). I am so pleased that I refreshed my knitting skills whilst pregnant as I suffered awful post natal depression for 9 months. The knitting got me through it when doctors just kept saying I was only tired, not depressed. My second son arrived shortly after the first and I was knocked over with fatigue again, as you are with 2 small children to care for, but I continued knitting and am sure it is what helped me to plod on with motherhood. I am a much calmer mother than I would have been had I not found a way to relax in the evenings whilst the children sleep. My sons are now 2.5 and almost 4 and whenever I knit they ask if it is for them and when I tell them "yes" the first thing they ask in the morning is " Did you finish it mommy?" They love their home made knits and snuggle up in the chunky cardigans and hats I make for them. I moved from the netherlands 6 months ago, back to the uk after 10 years away and have set up a knitting circle now to try to meet people and meet people I have! I teach them to knit and one girl has almost given up smoking as she forgets about her habit when knitting at night! It's definitely something to consider as a relaxation technique. Long live the knitters!"


Diane has written to remind us of how important it is to be able to teach others to knit at any age:

"I learned to knit when I was six.  I had been very ill and in hospital for a long time and when I went back to school I was ostracised and way behind in my studies. I had a wonderful primary teacher who took me aside and taught me to knit. Within a week she had a little knitting group and I was her helper showing the other children how to knit and where they had possibly gone wrong. This small initiative gave me a bit of confidence and meant the other children respected me as a helper and were more friendly again. A little thought but it went a long way.  My mother helped me and amazingly my grandfather who was a guard on the railways and had always knitted socks on the long journeys showed me how to knit on four needles.  I went on to knit my mother a cardigan in Bellmans “Moostone” (strange how you remember things like that!) and have been an avid knitter all my life. At times of stress or worry, it is an ENORMOUS stress buster and I love producing items that are stylish and admired. Although nearing retirement age now, I like to find ultra modern colours, styles and designs which are rich and beautiful. Knitting is a fantastic skill and pastime. I can be transported away whilst involved in a project and then the excitement of starting another item – what colour, what design, what style?  I do hope you manage to find information to help you and that you put a programme together. I cannot advocate the therapeutic value of knitting highly enough."


To be diagnosed with a serious illness will often involve changes in livestyle. How lovely to read that knitting is helping Angela to remain positive:

"My name is Angela and I have been diagnosed with Parkinsons disease. I used to knit years ago and someone suggested I give it a go. I did not think I would be able to do it as I had a tremor. But I gave it a go and found that it helped to control my symptoms. It is good exercise for my hands and arms. I have now started to make things and sell them to people I know and I give 10% of everything I make back to Parkinson’s uk."


2010


North Wales Weekly News: "Llandudno Knitting Group Helps Third World children" (21.10.10)


The Guardian: " Dr Luisa Dillner's Guide To . . . Improving Memory" (11.05.10)

Click here to read how knitting can help improve your memory


Bridport News: "West Dorset: How Knitting Helped Stroke Victim Rebuild Life" (06.05.10)


When knitting has always been part of your life, it's difficult to accept that there comes a point when following a simple pattern may become too much. Anthea, whose mother is 96, and who she has looked after for many years, takes solace in the calming affect knitting has on her in this situation:

"My mother is very elderly - 96 at the moment. Life has become very difficult with and for her in the past 4 years or so, as she's got into her 90s. She is a strong, very independent personality with definite views, standards, etc and is like many of her generation - very determined. As her memory began to get worse and her ability to run her own life began to fail her, she became more and more of a challenge for me, her only child, to cope with. She was always an avid knitter and taught me to knit when I was 5 years old using a pair of suitably prepared hair (or hat) pins. We began to knit together a bit but she slowly lost her ability to follow a pattern and also, seemed over a long period to lose the enthusiasm to knit at all. Now she just shares a joke with me about how I am knitting the jumper that she asked me to organise for her to knit for me. She has been in a care home for about 18 months, which she hates and consequently, life has been difficult for her and by extension, for me as well. I learned some time ago that knitting keeps me calm when I am with her and helps me deal with here and her situations with the care and patience she deserves."


USA: "Hand Knit Therapy" (06.04.10)

Click here to read how someone who had a a stroke managed to regain use of her right hand through knitting


Divorce Diva: "How To Divorce And Survive With Knitting" (25.02.10)

Click here to read an American study on the benefits of knitting helping to cope with stress


Daily Mail: "Knitting Helped Me Survive The Agony Of Divorce" (24.02.10)

Click here to read about the therapeutic aspect of knitting


2009


Craft Gossip: Tunisian Crochet (22.12 09)

Click here to read how Tunisian Crochet could be a welcome alternative for those with Carpel Tunnel Syndrome


Peterborough Examiner: "Tight-Knit New Group Swaps Yarns At Library" (08.12.09)

Click here to find out how Kate Siena knits to ease her chronic pain.


Returning to knitting at any stage very often feels like 'coming home' - the joy of relearning the knitting skills is a rewarding experience even if the reason is not so good. Stephanie Fletcher has taken up knitting again through becoming disabled, but hopes make the most of the situation by starting up a new knitting group:

"I have been knitting since my mum and grandma showed me many years ago, which seems to be the way most of us learn. Recently I became disabled and took up the pins again when I lost my full-time job. I knit for all the family and it is terrific therapy. I can't advocate enough how it brings people together and how beneficial it is,  if like me when your illness means you get depressesd or in so much pain, it helps you to focus and feel productive and needed. There is no group in my area of Burton-on-Trent but we do have 3 wool/craft shops, so I will be approaching them with a view "


Every knitter has an anecdote about the benefits of knitting, so it was really nice of Leila to take the time to write in and tell us hers:

"I have been knitting on and off for years. When I was little, I wanted to learn to knit and I basically taught myself. I used to knit scarves for my dad, with dropped stitches and uneven ends but I loved doing it and even at aged six I recognised the calming effect it had on me and my dad would actually wear the scarves! The repetition and the satisfaction of creating something with your hands creates a calm, happy feeling. I am not and never will be a great knitter and I admire the amazing items some people can create but I benefit 100 per cent from the therapeutics of knitting."


Trying to get better from an illness is not always as easy as it sounds and can really knock your confidence. Julie has written here to support the growing evidence that knitting can help in the recovery of all illnesses by helping to alieviate stress and build self esteem:

" I have re started knitting the earlier part of this year. It has had a huge impact on my state of mind, it has helped me to de stress big time! I've been unwell for a long time now and as a result I was very frustrated most of the time. Since I started knitting again it basically stops my mind stressing all the time. I highly recommend anyone facing similar problems to knit!! It is definately the new yoga for me."


Knitting and Eating Disorders. This is the first time that I've seen any research into this complex type of illness, but if it helps, I want everyone visiting this page to benefit from reading the article. The research has been carried out in British Colombia in Canada. Please get in contact if you know of any similar research in the UK.

Click here to read "Knitting And EDs" written by Harriet Brown (03.06.09)


Tina Bragagalia has lost several members of her family to Cancer and started knitting to try and combat the effects of severe stress. This year, despite being disabled herself, she managed to complete the Race For Life in London on 6th May, spurred on by members of Stitch and Bitch London, many of whom knitted as they ran!

Click here to read how Tina came to take up knitting as a hobby

Click here to read about her success in completing The Race For Life event


If hypnotherapy and acupuncture haven't helped you to give up smoking, take a leaf out of Denise Pettitt's book and take up crocheting (11.05.09)

I just wanted to add my story about giving up smoking. I did it by crocheting!  I found it easier to crochet a few trebles when I would normally have had a cigarette and started a ‘granny’ blanket.  I had my last cigarette at 9pm Saturday 7th March 2009 as I was going into hospital to have an operation on my leg.  
 
At the beginning of 2008 I decided to take up some form of enjoyable exercise.  As I used to ice skate regularly when I was a teenager and enjoyed it I decided this would be the one.  5 years previously I had broken my wrist but decided that it was a freak accident and it would be unlikely to happen again.  I started skating and was doing fine – no major injuries just small lumps and bumps!  For my birthday in March I received skating lessons and was progressing well working towards my grade 3 Skate UK certificate.  After the lesson on week 4 I was practising the moves ready for the exam in 2 weeks time when I felt a bit wobbly.  I stopped what I was doing but while standing still, I dropped to the ice with my lower leg at 90 degrees to my upper leg!  I had somehow managed to shatter both the tibia and fibula of my right leg.  I had an operation to insert a 32cm ‘nail’ in the tibia and began the healing process.  By November, no bone had grown around the nail and the break remained.  It was decided that the nail would have to be removed and the bones plated together to try and get the healing process restarted.  There was no real explanation as to why the bones did not grow back, the only thing that may have contributed was the fact that I smoked 12 cigarettes a day.  When I broke my wrist I was smoking 20 a day and the break healed extremely well so I wasn’t convinced that this was the case with my leg.  Anyway, my husband hated me smoking, I had tried about 7 times already to quit, including hypnotherapy and acupuncture, without success.  The longest I had gone smoke free was 5-6 weeks.  I decided that I had to quit smoking to give my leg the best chance to heal following the surgery.  By picking up my crocheting each time I wanted a cigarette and doing a few trebles I have managed to be smoke free now for 9 weeks and the leg appears to be healing well.  It is too early to tell if there is new bone growth just yet so fingers crossed!!  
 
I learnt to crochet when I was about 12 years old but never really got on with it. I knitted when I was expecting my children and for my nieces and nephews but then stopped again.  Now I have a knitting project and a crochet project on the go at the same time and this definitely helped keep my hands busy and away from the cigarettes!


The Boston Globe has run an article on the benefit of knitting. Written by Irene Sege, there are some interesting thoughts on how knitting not only helps delay any kind of dementia, but also keeps your mind alert and receptive to new challenges well into old age.

Click here for article May 2009


A recent study in America has confirmed the benefits of knitting in helping to combat dementia

Click here for video of CBS news coverage (April 2009)

Click here for article (February 2009)


For more reading on the benefits of knitting, 'About knitting.com' recommends you dip into "Zen And The Art Of Knitting"

Click here for write up


Ann Hood has recently published her book "The Knitting Circle" which tells her journey of recovery, from loosing her young daughter, through the special therapy she experienced from joining a Knitting Group.

Click here for video of the author reading from her book


2008


We're not all academics, but some of us shine when it comes to making things with our hands. That's why knitting can be so important when helping us to realise our self worth, as Liz Goodacre has written to tell us:

"As a child (I am now 54!) I learned to knit with my mother and at school.  My mother was a very accomplished knitter and dressmaker; her two sisters were not good at crafts but were more academic. My mother said that when she was growing up her father referred to her as the 'daft' one for  not being interested in school etc. This was a label that hurt her - she often told me about it later in her life. But she did know that she was a brilliant knitter and dressmaker and as late as her 70s and 80s would say to me "they may have been clever, but they couldn't knit like I can!".  She was always dismayed by my lack of interest in knitting for myself but regularly produced masterpieces for me and my children.  When, after 53 years of marriage, my dad died we feared for her wellbeing; she was totally bereft.  Her failing eyesight had meant she had not knitted anything worthy of her talent for a few years.  However, a friend's daughter ran an interior design shop and was looking for people to knit interesting cushion covers. My mum was encouraged to pick up her needles again, and together we chose colours and designs.  She produced endless covers, beautifully knitted which sold like hotcakes. I truly believe that that knitting project was a life saver for her, not just by keeping her busy but because it proved to her she was needed and could still produce somethng that someone else wanted. Her love of all things knitting has obviously had more efect on me than I realised. After a particularly stressful year of family illness and mature student study, the minute my final peice of work was submitted, i was down to the wool shop for the pleasure of choosing wool and pattern. My spirits lifted when I knew that at the end of a working day I could pick up my knitting rather than my text books. It's not sophisitcated stuff I am making, but is a sheer delight and makes me feel relaxed and happy. How much is that worth?"


It's interesting that so many fibromyalgia suffers are visiting the website - we hope that we have inspired you to continue with knitting as a means of coping with this condition. We have also heard from Connie Bowes in Ontario, Canada

"I have fibromyalgia and CFIDS and cannot work anymore. I do sit and watch a lot of tv. To feel more productive when I am too tired or sore to move I knit. At the end of the day I have something that I can look at and see that I have accomplished. It makes me feel productive again even though I can't do as much as I would like."


Fibromyalgia Awareness Week: 8th - 15th September 2008

Janice Hanna, from Northern Ireland also has fibromyalgia and has written to share her experiences of how knitting can help with this debilitating condition:
 
"I too am in constant pain with this illness, although I am fortunate enough to still be able to work reduced hours. I started to knit when my sister was expecting her first baby twenty years ago, but it is only since I developed FMS thirteen years ago that it has become a lifeline to me. I have also learned to crochet and enjoy it equally well.
 
All my knitting and crochet is for charities - I do blankets, baby clothes and teddy bears – and I go to a ‘stitching’ club in Banbridge on Wednesday evenings with a number of other equally enthusiastic women. I also make bits and pieces for sale at local craft fairs.
 
Unfortunately wool shops in Northern Ireland are steadily losing the battle to stay open, due to the crippling carriage prices applied by the manufacturers on the mainland. It is already almost impossible to buy yarn in Belfast city centre!
 
I would recommend that anyone with a debilitating illness gets the needles out and takes up this wonderful hobby. The satisfaction of time well spent and the knowledge that items produced will benefit someone even worse off than oneself can go a long way to alleviating the pain and depression when all seems hopeless!"


Margie Wilson is an inspiration to fellow fibromyalgia sufferers, as she knits to take her mind off the pain:

"Hi fellow knitters, I have always loved crafts, particularly knitting and needle-point. When my children stopped wanting hand knits I went on to do needle-point. I am fortunate enough to have had a clever grandmother to teach me also embroidery and crochet. I suffer from fibromyalgia syndrome now and as I feel ill and in pain constantly I have taken up knitting again. This takes my mind off the pain. It also helps to keep my fingers from seizing up. I can't do needlepoint now as I am unable to bend my neck over the project. Fortunately there are some lovely trendy knitting patterns now and my family are once again pleased to be wearing hand knit garments. I now have two grandsons and they are benefitting from the hand knits too. I also love to knit dolls clothes and toys which I donate to the local primary school for their fetes. "


Maureen Fylan sees knitting as a much needed distraction from the problems we all face in everyday life:

"Knitting is a thread of continuity It is something that must be done so therefore it takes ones mind off ones troubles so that one need never even mention them, least said - soonest mended. Therefore the time that one would or should have spent talking about ones troubles can be put into knitting time. Making oneself find time for knitting makes one spend less time on cooking eg which might be a good point now that gas prices might be going to rise once more."


Cherrie Carnaghi writes from America about her involvement in knitting and crochet as art forms and the role they play today in personal self esteem:

"Knitting and crocheting are art forms.  I teach grown ups as well as young adults to crochet and will be starting freelance classes soon in knitting.  This is not only my love but my passion. Although there are some who fear this form of expression may lose interest soon, I say it is up to us to re-educate the world on the importance of this art of expression.
 
There are so many health benefits associated with knitting and crocheting. And as with any art form there is a point of losing oneself in the science of eye and hand expression.  
 
This area of art (for I know knitting and crocheting is not only an industry for survival in some countries but it is indeed an art form) is one of the few where groups become communities.  It also creates a sense of accomplishment but more than that, what other source of self experession can be so healing?"


Joan from Essex is concerned that knitting is a dying art, (although we are sure this is not the case) and puts forward a strong case for teaching knitting in schools:

"My grandmother taught me to knit when I was 5 years old. Only sqaures at first. She used to knit blankets for the British Legion to send abroad.  That was almost 53 years ago. I have knitted ever since. My Daughter has just given birth to a beautiful baby boy. When she was pregnant she said she would like to knit a cardigan for the baby. I found her some wool, a pattern and some needles and she started. I am extremely proud of her as she knitted two cardigans, the second one she started on her own. This was made all the harder as she is left handed and I am right handed. I love hand knitted things, they wash better and always look better on. I wish knitting was still taught in schools. I am the only one in my family that knits. My daughter and her cousin were both preganant at around the same time, so I had double of everything to knit. This is going to be a dying art form if we are not careful. I hope the younger generation see how relaxing and therapeutic it can be. I forget all my cares when I am knitting, and then things don't seem so bad."


Ann obviously loves knitting and gets great satisfaction from knowing she is helping others:

"I have been knitting for the babies in African coun tries for save the children which Paul O'Grady asked for people to do and got the knitting pattern off the web page. I have sent off 54 hats so far for 'Save The Children' and have sent another ten off to Great Ormond Street baby premature unit, have started again just love knowing that I am helping someone in need."


Bev writes not only of the satisfaction of passing on a skill to the next generation, but also the thrill of taking a strand of yarn and creating something useful:

" I think knitting is such a great craft. A lot of people today just pop to the shop and buy a jumper or cardigan. Why not, it's so cheap, but the work that goes in to a hand made anything, only a knitter could understand. Many years ago I taught my daughter to knit. Just the basics and now she has reached 19 years and wanting to knit a baby outfit for her boyfriends sister-in-law. The pleasure I’m getting from guiding her from one row to the other is unreal. I feel this is a knowledge I learned from a fantastic aunty of mine and now I can pass this on to my daughter and I’m hoping one day she will pass it on to a loved one."


2008


Lyn has written from Brisbane in Australia to tell us how knitting with a friend has helped her begin her recovery after a series of accidents and how this gave her the confidence to join a charity knitting group and can now help others:

"I suffered an injury to my neck, upper back and shoulder about 2 and a half years ago which was then exacerbated by a car accident almost 2 years ago. My doctor told me that knitting would be good therapy for the type of injuries I sustained - which would have been great if I were able to knit. A friend then suffered a like injury a bit over a year ago and I told her of my doctor's advice. Between us we worked out how to cast on knit til we ran out of yarn cast off and call it a scarf. I still do not understand knitting patterns but have always been a keen dressmaker so have been able to work out a few items by shaping to a pattern - hardly scientific but it works.
It has not cured my injuries but it has been a lot of fun and more so since I recently joined a charity knitting group which now gives me an outlet for what I knit - the family has enough scarves and beanies to last the rest of their lives!
Through the charity knitting group I am also learning to crochet and recently crocheted a blanket of which I am quite proud - I have attached a pic - it looks somewhat distorted as it is draped across the sofa and ottoman but it is in fact one blue row short of square - ran out of yarn but I am sure that one of Brisbane's needy will enjoy its warmth next winter.
It was actually through one of the charity group members that I came to visit your website.
I had originally thought my doctor was joking when she suggested knititng but if that is the case there seems to be a lot of funny doctors out there"


Vicki Edwards didn't think anything of running four miles a day until an injury to her back made her almost completely housebound. Fortunately knitting has helped Vicki to view life positively:

"I'm a 43 year-old registered nurse, and I have been disabled with a severe back injury for the past year and a half.  Previously, I was very active (ran 4 miles per day), but now, due to my injury, I can't even walk to the mall without pain.  I've been knitting since I was 8 years-old, but it went to the wayside with working full-time as a labor & delivery nurse and raising 3 teenagers!  However, since my injury, I've been unable to keep up with any of my usual activities, so  I've  happily started knitting again!..  That's been the one positive thing about my injury.  Because of all the time I have available now, I've been able to take my knitting to a whole new level, & learn so much more about yarns and garments.  Additionally, it's the only thing that's kept me out of severe depression.  

I do have an interesting personal little story regarding the calming effects of knitting.  Since I'm scheduled for a back fusion in the fall, my anxiety level is at an all time high, therefore, my blood pressure is usually through the roof when I have a doctor's appointment.  I always take my knitting, however.  After getting a high blood pressure reading say 158/112 (was the latest), the office staff will let me knit for awhile then retake my blood pressure.  After knitting for approximately 40 minutes, my blood pressure read 120/70!!  Who need blood pressure meds...just knit!

I'm a true believer in knitting as therapy.  Not only did it help me physically, it makes me feel better emotionally.  I'll NEVER stop knitting...I LOVE IT!!"


Depression can hit anyone at any time, coupled with a debilitating illness makes life even more hard to bare. 'Enter' the magic of knitting, it can take us out of ourselves and give us back a sense of self worth as Ruth Fryman found:

"I took up knitting again when I was recovering from severe depression. I had knitted in the late 80's but stopped when I had a young family. I was worried I wouldnt be able to follow a pattern with poor concentration , but I was immediately hooked and now it is my passion! Finishing objects has given me greater self esteem and when someone admires your work and asks you to knit them one it really boosts your confidence. I now have Fibromyalgia and have limited mobitlity and am in constant pain. Knitting when I am sat alot of the day stops me from just sitting staring at the telly , sliding into depression and gives me a sense of purpose. I suffer from poor concentration and poor memory so tackling lace has boosted my self esteemm and confidence no end. I have made friends on Forums world wide. Knitting helps me forget my pain for a while and I am so stuborn I work through the pain in my hands!!.
Summing up I would recommend knitting as the best form of hobby therapy (if there is such a term) in the world.


It's always a difficult time trying to cope with the bereavement of a parent. Anne Kenlon has written of her experience of how knitting the simplest thing helped her through this difficult time:

When I was about six years old, my older cousin taught me know to knit - it was fun, but I was never really interested in it after I grew up. In February of 2001, my mother died. I was in the process of moving from Texas to New York at the time, and was living in temporary housing until my husband could join me and look for a house. After Mother's funeral, I returned to my new job in New York and was facing many lonely winter nights in a rather dismal corporate apartment. I couldn't concentrate on reading and was in no mood to watch TV. But I needed something to do!

I stopped by a craft store after work one evening and bought some knitting needles, a ball of cotton yarn and a book on knitting dishcloths. I re-taught myself how to knit and started churning out dishcloths -- stacks and stacks of them. The simple, repetitive task gave me something to focus on while I reflected quietly not only on my mother's death, but on her wonderful and inspirational life. Within a few weeks, I began knitting lap afghans for senior citizens in my new community. Both my parents had always been active community volunteers, and as I worked on these small, pretty afghans, I began to feel very close to both of them again. It was a tremendously comforting realization to know that, even if my folks were both gone, I could help
bring a little comfort to other people in the way they had always done.

I have continued to knit and sew for service projects and consider it a very special privilege to do this in my parents' memory.

Click here to visit Anne's blog


As with any major health problem, one of the best roads to recovery is the sense of achievement gained from being able to do 'normal' things again. Jane Wheeler tells us how important a part knitting has played in her recovery:

"I have just started knitting again, three years after suffering from a stroke. Prior to this time I was undertaking an embroidery course which had to fall by the wayside, as I can no longer hold a needle for any long period of time.  Not so with the knitting needles.  I initially started at Christmas, just to keep my hands from the sweetie tin.  It worked, not only can I knit (I am on my fourth item), but it has kept me sane and I have managed to loose a stone.  Not bad, considering it is March now.   I am glad to say that I am really well after the stroke (and a long period of rehabilitation), but knitting certainly helps."
 


Dee Sinclair has been going through a very stressful time of late and has found therapy in rediscovering the joys of knitting which has provided her with a calm oasis in her life:

"I was off work for six months before leaving and am now in the process of taking my former employer to an Employment Tribunal. As you can imagine this has all been very stressful and I have felt very 'down' as a result. I rediscovered knitting, mainly because my son and his wife are expecting a baby and they wanted me to knit a shawl. After finishing the shawl I then went on to knit a cardigan, a couple of jumpers and I have also knitted a blanket and also crocheted a blanket.

This has raised my spirits so much and I am now looking for some further patterns as I have found myself to be much happier and much more calm when I have a 'knit' on the go. I thought that young people wouldn't want hand knitted things but my son and his wife are so pleased with what I've knitted. Knitting has really perked me up and has kept me busy and lifted my spirits so much."


Julie Williams has found her own creative way of coping with an autistic child. All the negative aspects, like being kept awake and being on call 24 hours a day have been approached in a very positive way:

"I've always enjoyed knitting having learnt from my Mum and Granny at an early age. Three years ago our son (aged 2 then) was diagnosed as severely autistic. Life with autism in the family is very hard and I truly think that without my knitting I'd have crumbled years ago! My son started at a severe learning difficulty school last september and I decided to try and make a small amount of money from my beloved hobby. I started a blog which is now visited by over 300 people daily and am now selling my own designed knitted toys and novelties to both individuals and several shops.

Knitting has kept me going through the rough spots. It gives me something of mine in my life - I don't go out or have other hobbies. I can knit anywhere and any time - my son regularly wakes in the night for 2-3 hours and this is made bearable by knitting and a cuppa while he runs around and lets off steam. I knit while he's in the bath, at the park or bouncing for hours on the trampoline in the garden. On my blog I say that I knit to stay sane and it's the truth!"

Click here to visit Julie's blog


2007


Gwyneth Lewis and Betsan Corkhill recently took part in a broadcast on BBC Radio 4 entitled 'How to Knit a Poem'. Gwyneth, who is a poet, looked at the links between knitting, poetry and the wider world.

Click here to listen to a repeat of the programme (15 minutes)


Now for a slightly different email. We've all heard of Stephen Fry and how his struggle with depression saw him quit the play he was in and how Spike Milligan used his depression to fuel his comic genius. Lesser known, but still famous in her own sphere, is Gwyneth Lewis who was the first Welsh Poet Laureate. Here Gwyneth tells of her own experince of depression and the benefits of knitting:

"I met Betsan Corkhill of Stitchlinks (see bottom of this page) as I was making four programmes about knitting for BBC Radio 4. I'm a poet, and the series is called 'How to Knit a Poem'. They'll be going out on Radio 4 from 11-14th of December 2006 each day at 3 45 pm. The second programme in the series (the one being broadcast on 12th December) deals with knitting and depression. I suffer from depression myself, and have published a book called 'Sunbathing in the Rain': A Cheerful Book on Depression, which has just been reissued by Harper Perennial. Our family have a history of depression and it struck me suddenly that it was no coincidence that both my mother and grandmother are excellent knitters. I'm not very good, but I find just the action of knitting hugely soothing, especially when I'm feeling low. I have included one of my poems from the radio programme. (Please credit BBC Radio 4)."

Hypnosis Knitting

A day of wordless misery,
thorns in the heart
that refuse to budge.

No matter, I'm keeping company
with myself, though hurting,
redeeming time that was torturing me.

My grandmother's craftwork,
I suddenly see,
was self-medication,

her fanciest knitwear
anti-depressant hosiery:
a stance against her melancholy.

This pattern wants only rhythm from me:
no judging, no knowing,
just moving on

into a future. I'm working three
axels. First a new personality
made from my patience.

Second, a scarf
composed in calm,
a respite from my usual self-harm.

The third is my finest.
Look! I've unpicked
myself from my worry, a delicate stitch

into the present. No one can see
this last. Mindfulness charges the air,
arrays me in intricate gossamer.

Gwyneth Lewis


Bev Cattell had major surgery and suffered a debilitating stroke, but found that knitting has been of great help on her road to recovery:

"Three years ago I had to have an aortic heart valve replacement and during my operation I suffered a stroke - I was 49 at the time. While I was recovering, my mum got very sick and died. As you can imagine - I was devastated and went into a deep depression. I struggled on with my speech and physiotherapies and after two years managed to get back to work and to driving. I had to relearn the alphabet and get my left hand and arm working again. I've been left with no feeling in my left hand and my concentration was a problem. My boss at work is having a baby in February and I thought it would be nice to knit her some baby clothes. I learned to knit when I was 8 years old - taught by my mum's two sisters. Mum knitted left-handed and didn't have the patience to teach me. My very first complete project was a GONK in about 1963, made with oddments of wool. - I wonder what happened to him. I had him years.
I didn't know if I could still knit after my stroke. I can't seem to remember how to do my bobbin lacemaking. Anyway - I thought I'd try a baby cadigan in basket weave pattern and mint green DK, just something not too difficult.. Well, that went brilliantly and I've since made a DK lacy matinee coat, a DK crossover bobble cadigan and a 4ply lacy polo shirt - all for the new baby. I'm even sewing a cot quilt on my sewing machine.
I have been so relaxed while knitting, I've always knitted very loosely and use smaller needles : 11 and 9 for DK and 13 and 11 for 4ply and am amazed that the young girls at work have no idea how to knit. I have a son and I taught him to knit and sew when he was very young, he's 32 now and not interested in crafts. Oh, to have had a daughter."


It's always good to hear from someone who has returned to knitting after a long break and has realised how much knitting has helped in their recovery from an illness. Mandy tells us:

"I took up knitting again after 11 years 'rest' in the summer. I was suffering with acute anxiety. My daughter started learning how to knit at Girls Brigade and I thought, I used to do that. I bought a scarf kit and knitted it in an evening. I then made a cardigan and have now got into it big time again. I found it very therapeutic. The rhythmic effect and the calming nature helps plus creating something was good. My friend said to find something constructive and creative and relaxing and I did. I'm so pleased that I found knitting again."


Knitting as Therapy has often been talked about, but not quite proved. This next email from Casey, (originally from Chicago and now studying at York University), consolidates what we have long thought about the benefits of knitting and shows how important this page has been to her:

"I wanted to say thanks, It was nice to know and really feel like I wasn’t the only knitter out there, that has used knitting to heal wounds and make things in their lives easier.  I love knitting, I have since high school. It helped me then deal with depression, and has been with me through a long series of abusive relationships. And now, free of said relationships continue to knit. After all the physical, mental, and emotional abuse, knitting has been such a solace. A connection for me to something soft and warm. I feel safe, and always feel productive. It has given me the chance to build back myself esteem, which was missing for so long. Of all the things I have done, and places I have been, knitting has been one of my best therapies, and I have had a lot of them. Not that they didn’t help, they did. But I believe knitting was a nice accent to it. I am not alone as a knitter, but it has always made me feel special. And it has helped me as well with panic attacks in particular of all the post traumatic stress and depression issues. It has always made my life better."


Sometimes conditions we develop can be very much improved by simply diverting our attention. Giuls Driver took her doctor's advice and is now on the road to recovery though knitting:

I took up knitting shortly after being diagnosed with bulimia. My GP wanted me to try something that would distract me during the evenings so I would be less inclined to make myself vomit. I’ve always been a keen sewer and cross-stitcher but fancied trying something new so I could see if it boosted my confidence. I also wanted to try something portable that I could keep on me in case I had a panic attack when I was out.
 
I went to my local haberdashery one Saturday where a lovely lady called Beryl very patiently taught me how to knit and sold me an old Patons knitting book that had simple patterns that I could learn. I then became hooked.
 
Knitting has helped me because it keeps my hands and mind occupied, and I get something nice at the end of it. It’s slowly becoming more trendy so a twenty-something like me doesn’t often get laughed at whilst walking down the street clacking away at a project. If I do it on a bus or train, people often chat to me about it, which is a nice way of snapping me out of negative thinking. Knitting calms me down when I have a panic attack because it is repetitive and I have to keep counting, which slows my breathing down. Finally finishing a project always helps to boost my self-esteem, it’s something quantifiable as an achievement. And people are always impressed when they realise that you made the scarf you are wearing!
 
It’s great, it’s helped, and I rarely leave the house without my needles!"

Coping with depression and physical pain is never easy, but as a sufferer, Jenny Kendall sums up the benefits she receives from knitting:

"I suffer with bouts of depression, fibromyalgia and headaches, yet I find knitting a great source of relaxation. When you have completed something well and the person you knitted for loves it, you feel a great sense of personal achievement. I often make doll and teddy bear outfits and my own design scarves and shrugs. During the year I send them off to folk as presents. It keeps me in touch with my family and makes a light talking point. I find the vibrant textures and colours of the wools uplifting and love designing my own items.  I am a very fidgety person and would bite and chew my nails a lot more if it wasn't for knitting!. I enjoy listening to music or a drama whilst making things as it helps me settle down and chill. I prefer my own company when Im knitting but like the idea that lots of other people around the country feel much the same way as I do. However, my little Papillon dog gets very jealous and when Im in the middle of a row of knitting he often comes over and jumps up next to me and places his paw on my left arm . Its as if he is saying  ' hey put that down and give me a cuddle', or - 'lets go out for a walk.'  Its as if he thinks I should have a break!!"


Sarena Harrison suffers with Crohn's Disease and finds that having taken up knitting again, it helps to distract her through difficult periods. It has also strengthened her ties with her mother, now that she lives in Switzerland:

"Though my mother I have knitted off and on, I am currently at an 'on' phase, which I expect to last this time!  I fell ill with Crohn’s disease 4 years ago and found that knitting was an excellent way of keeping my mind occupied and distracted me from the pain that I suffer so often.  I think knitting, among other crafts, should be promoted to those with medical conditions that leave you unable to do much or those in pain as it really does help.  I also find that knitting when I am ill and able to do little else gives me a sense of achievement when I am feeling useless in all other ways.

I now live in Switzerland, away from my family, apart from my husband, and my knitting keeps me close to my mother as it gives us something else to chat about every day."


Nursing someone through any illness is a selfless task, so its heartening to hear of someone who has gained something through the true therapeutic benefits of knitting. Allie Dobbs writes of her experience:

"I have just started knitting again last year. Knitting helped me keep sane while nursing my dad during his last days of terminal cancer.  
My older sister was sat knitting which inspired me to borrow some of my mums needles, buy some fancy wool and started my first scarf. I have advanced since, to handbags and even dolls for my neice.
The house now has wool in nearly every corner!
I am a qualified nurse and have a degree in Art & Design. It would be fantastic to combine the two; using knitting to help in all aspects of health issues.
I continue to use knitting to relax me and to give me a positive outlook. Even though I have lots of projects on the go at one time (which my partner finds very difficult to understand!) they are all in progress! Many finished ones have found their way as grateful presents."


Many of us know the fun and companionship of belonging to a knitting group. June Jones has written of her excitement of being asked to set up a knitting group, but also her fears of dispelling the outdated image of knitting. If you have found yourself in a similar situation, please write in and give us your tips for running a successful group.

"I live in Kingston upon Hull and I have been ‘volunteered' by a staff member of the women's centre I belong to, to help her set up a knitting group. My first reaction was of course, “Try and stop me.” From personal experience I understand the physical and mental therapeutic value of knitting, (if addiction can be avoided!) but would value any advice you could give us on the best way to get things started. There seems to be an attitude problem regarding knitting, as if it should only be done in private by little old ladies. I would love to instil in others the joy that can be derived from knitting, the visual delight of colour and texture, the sensual pleasure of handling yarn and the sense of achievement from a completed project. Or, I would be very happy to sit, knit and chat with other women."


Erssie Major had major surgery to her arms which meant that she had to give up knitting for several years. Determination to return to her favourite hobby has played a key role in helping on the road to recovery.

"I have a disease called Behcets disease  which is similar to Lupus and Crohns disease and I have badly damaged  arms as a result of surgery going badly wrong.  It left me feeling  utterly useless, especially as I was a qualified Sign language  communicator.  I always knitted but due to the disability in my  arms had to give up for 5 yrs.  
  
 With the right sort of pain relief and recognition from my Pain  Consultant that knitting was not a luxury for me, it was a way of life  I have found it possible to do things again to quite a high standard  BUT it takes me ages to do.  As I can't knit/crochet very fast and can't produce a volume of work I wanted to be useful so I started  writing patterns for  a charity to use instead of knitting for them and  then had some patterns included in on line magazines.  I've also  been working on a crochet book with Castoff and contributed designs for  the book, and now I've been asked to work on other crochet books.  Crochet is becoming the 'new thing'. I think that people like to try to  learn a skill that not many other people know how to do and as knitting  is becoming more universal they are turning to other fibre arts like crochet, spinning and weaving to get that freshness and sense of achievement in producing original work.
  
Knitting isn't a silly hobby for my doctors to giggle over, its not a  luxury, the skills I have trained my hands to do help me in all sorts  of other ways when just over a year ago I couldn't brush my hair or tie my shoelaces! "


Carol Cox broke her wrist last summer and was amazed that knitting was much more effective in helping her to regain full use of her hand than physiotherapy.

"I broke my right wrist in August last year,very painful. After 4 weeks off came the plaster, that's when my problems really started. It was even more painful. I went for physio and for the first 3 weeks there was very little improvement. I suddenly hit on the idea of knitting, when I returned for my weekly session of physio my wrist had so much more movement and much less painful, my physio asked whatever have you been doing, to which I replied, knitting. I don't need anything for myself or family so I knit for charity. Whenever my wrist is aching or stiffens up out comes my knitting. I am now hooked. I am a very young 64,very fit, I swim and cycle, and hadn't knitted for years, I take it with me in the car and even on holiday."


Pauline Mountain is interested in setting up a support group for carers of people with Heart Failure. She aims to provide a support group, increase awareness and raise money for charity through this project.The group will be called: 'Hearts of Positive Energy' (H.O.P.E.)

"The Heart Cell Foundation, a charity set up to raise £6 million needed to allow trials to begin into heart cell therapy at Bart's in London, has received the support of a Lincolnshire woman.  Pauline Mountain, whose husband Gordon is suffering with congestive heart failure, has pledged to get the good people of Lincolnshire to raise £1 million of that £6 million alone.  “My vision is two fold,” Pauline told us “firstly, I want a heart failure clinic of excellence in Lincolnshire.  Secondly, I'm setting up a support group to enable families and sufferers alike, to gain from a positive focus!”"    

Click here to contact Pauline. Pauline lives in the Lincoln area, but would like to hear from anyone who would benefit from a group like this


Stitchlinks will have a stand at the Stitch & Craft Show at Olympia from 23rd - 26th March and will be sharing a stand at the Vitality Show at Olympia from 30th March - 2nd April. Cardiff University Psychology department have designed a few research projects specifically for these shows and we need your help to take part. The main project will take 15-25 minutes and involve a questionnaire and some simple knitting. You can bring your own small project with you or we can supply you with needles and yarn. It will also be a great opportunity to meet those involved with Stitchlinks and Jeni Brown, psychology researcher, who will be carrying out the research.

Click here to contact Betsan Corkhill for further information ( scroll down page to read more information from Betsan)


Jo Young suffers from severe pain caused by fibromyagia and ostoearthritis. But for others like her she writes to recommend the benefits of knitting.

"I have been in severe pain for many years and suffer extreme exhaustion. I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and early onset osteoarthritis in my hand feet and spine. I try to hold on to some semblance of normality and do volunteer work but find I can only do this part-time. I also became a grandmother rather earlier than expected, so I took up knitting again after many years one to make some little bit for my grandchild and two I was advised it may help with the arthritis pain.  I find it does help and I now can't seem to stop, I feel lost if I don't have at least one project on the go with at least another waiting to start.  Even when I feel at my worst and can only manage one or two lines at least I now feel I have achieved something during the day."


Su Douglas from Hayes in Middlesex writes to remind us of the simple joys of knitting to take our mind off the serious issues affecting our lives.

"I am in remission from Renal Cancer and have discovered that life can be all too short.  I found myself re-evaluating everything and saying yes to new experiences far more than no.
 
One of my "yes" moments was when my neighbour asked me over for a coffee and my new hobby was born.  She is an experienced spinner, weaver and dyer and of course knits beautifully as well. Whilst admiring her work she was saying there is nothing you can't achieve if you put your mind to it! So with that in my head I went to the shop and looked for something to knit! I brought Simply Knitting some needles and wool and away I went. I have just signed up for a 6 week knitting course and my friends and I are thinking about setting up a knitting circle in a local café.

Cancer robs you of a lot of things, peace of mind, and the ability to look forward.  As a sufferer you spend hours battling with "what if" in your head.  Knitting settles a lot of that clatter because counting stitches, reading patterns and just feeling the wool run through your fingers is the most soothing experience that I can find.
 
It is quite simply the best therapy I have found because once more I am able to look forward because my knitting has a start middle and finish."


Nicky Luke, from Redruth in Cornwall, has found that comments made to her about her knitting creations have done wonders to boost her self-confidence.

"I have found that knitting is such a relaxing sedative hobby.  I love to start a new project and see it completed.  I also like creating my own patterns.  The sense of pride and achievement you have when you were something that you have made which people comment on is incredible.
   
I recently knitted a very unusual floral scarf which is made up on loads of corsages on a spiral base.  Every time I wear it, I will have people ask me if I made it, or where I got it from.  It's a fantastic in road to social interaction with all sorts of people, not to mention the compliments which boost self esteem.  It also keeps you focussed, determined and busy.  You feel that you are achieving something instead of just watching tele.  It is also lovely to make things for other people.  I g  et an  enormous boost to see my daughter wearing something I have made and one of my friends regularly asks me to make things for her daughter, too.
    
It is highly addictive, like a drug and easy to accommodate into life because it is so portable.  I always have a bag of wool and one or two projects to take with me when I go away.  I always have a plan for what I would like to make next, or which yarn I would like to use next at least before I start the current project.
   
For all these reasons, I am hopelessly and wonderfully addicted and it has definitely given me something positive which has lifted me out of some low times."

2006


Mae Gardine from New York, like many of us has taken up knitting again after a long gap. She has also found that knitting has helped her cope with bereavement.

"Many years ago when my children were little I use to knit all their sweaters and have gotten many compliments how beautiful their sweaters were.  I had stopped knitting as they got older.  Now, with several grandchildren I have taken up knitting and much to my surprise can still knit and follow instructions.  My husband past away and knitting has really helped me fill my void in life."


Betsan Corkhill of Stitchlinks is currently involved with the research taking place at Cardiff University. From the research so far, they have found that it may be even more effective to do both knitting and cross stitching, choosing projects according to how you feel at the time.

"I've spent the last year researching knitting and cross stitching as therapies and it's very clear that they are highly effective tools for dealing with the complexities of stress, pain, depression and long term illness (mental and physical) on every level simultaneously. They also deal with the isolation and anger that many experience as a result of their illness, and are ideal for those trying to stop smoking and lose weight

On a practical level, stitching cuts across culture, language and intellect, comfortably engrossing the highly intelligent and those with learning disabilities. It's even being used to calm disruptive teenagers. There's no stigma attached, it's very affordable and highly portable, enabling stitchers to cope with pain on long journeys, hospital visits and at night. It's also effective for dealing with anxiety, panic attacks and pain spasms. In effect, knitting and stitching are keys to leading a more fulfilling life. A universal tool."

Click here to contact Betsan if you would like to know more about Stitchlinks


Karen Vradelis from Hillsborough, North Carolina has only been diagnosed relativley recently with an Attention Difficiency Disorder. Throughout her life, she has managed to contain her disorder best through her passion for knitting.

"I've knitted since the age of 5 or 6 (I'm the ripe old age of 46 for the time being) and come from a family of knitters... both of my grandmothers always seemed to have something going - it's amongst my strongest memories of them.

As therapy... I never quite thought of it that way - but it really is that for me. I always blamed it on my 'daydreamy nature' - which didn't really have a name until about 7 or 8 years ago when I was 'diagnosed' as ADD-inattentive type. It sort of makes sense - I've always been struggling not to be off in my own little world... and having something to occupy those 'busy' parts of my brain that run in 100 directions at once... makes it easier for me to pay attention to the things that I 'should' be paying attention to... i.e. to behave like a 'normal' person.

Knitting serves very well in this capacity. Not sure why - but even the most boring lecture/television program/church sermon seems more bearable/interesting/whatever when I'm able to sneak my current knitting project in with me to work on... My husband and daughters act quite ashamed of me... that I don't 'care' enough to pay attention in order to honor the value of whatever is going on... but no matter how 'important' whatever is... I find myself drifting off and fidgeting. With knitting in hand... the fidgeting/drifting doesn't happen as easily. It's not distracting in the least."


Mel Corkill from St Helens Merseyside was diagnosed with ME five years ago

"Just thought I'd drop you a line to let you know how knitting has helped me. Despite severe pain and tiredness I decided to pick up my needles (bamboo) and try a few lines. It was very slow at first, but now I'm knitting socks and charity items on a regular basis. Knitting really helps me to 'switch off' and relax as well as reduces the pain and disfunction in my hands. When I wake up I can tell when I haven't knitted the previous day.....the pain can be really bad. Knitting can improve any person's life as a relaxation tool."



Betsan Corkhill of Stitchlinks has long studied the therapeutic effects of knitting. She is delighted that reasearch will now be carried out by a leading British University

"Cardiff University Psychology Department will be carrying out stage one of a research project into the effects of knitting and cross stitching on those suffering depression and chronic pain. The project will be overseen by Dr Ulrich von Hecker - an expert in depression - and carried out by Research Psychologist, Jeni Brown. I have been collecting anecdotal evidence for a number of months and would love to hear from anyone who finds knitting therapeutic."

Click here to tell Betsan of your own evidence of the benefits of knitting


Caroline has written to tell us how knitting has helped to find her self confidence again after a difficult time in her life

"Earlier this year I had a total breakdown and reactive depression following extreme stress at work. I saw an article in the Times newspaper in May about the benefical effects of knitting. The websites quoted rekindled my interest in knitting.

The article gave me the confidence to think about holding a very informal workshop during a youth camp in August. I succeeded in going and taught 50+ people to knit. I have continued knitting and tried new items such as Armwarmers, socks and more experimental knitting. I have just been helping at 'Relax n Knit' at Alexandra Palace.

Knitting has helped me regain my confidence by providing a focus and the postive comments that i have received has restored my self worth."




Mollie Tracy of Charleston, SC  USA writes about her thesis on Knitting in Art Therapy

" I graduated a year ago with a Master’s in Art Therapy. I interviewed knitters, art therapists and artist who were all knitters.  In my studies I found that knitting worked for a range of clients from anxiety disorders to dimentia.  Many occupational therapist have found that knitting uses both sides of the brain therefore it helped lessen the symptoms of dementia."

Click here if you would like to contact Mollie and ask questions or make comments about her thesis


Eve Franklin from Christchurch, New Zealand has written to tell us how knitting has improved a physical injury

"I am a self-employed gardener and find that I get very sore wrists, especially in winter when I do a lot of pruning by hand. My sister-in-law shamed me into knitting for my three new grandchildren who are due at the end of the year (she is always knitting for hers).I thought knitting would make my wrists worse but to my amazement, found that it definitely eases the pain. In the last couple of months, I have knitted six pairs of bootees, three jumpers, one cardigan and now am halfway through knitting another cardigan.
Apart from the pain therapy, I am getting a great deal of satisfaction from completing the garments. I'm also amazed that I remember all the techniques I learnt as a teenager."


Tonya Stewart writes from America and explains how knitting has helped her:

"My therapist last year said knitting is good for relieving stress and good for self confidence when knitting for the benefit of others...it is a great stress reliever for me and it gives me a sense of self confidence.
I learned when I was six but never really did more than knit scarves until my mid-twenties when I learned to make clothing...I haven't stopped since then and knit for charity.
I collect old english knitting patterns most of which are by beehive/paton yarns and sirdar they have classic patterns that are still popular today.
Emotionally, knitting is a release and also gives me a creative outlet as I often alter patterns to make them personalized to me."


Jo Middleton of Grimsby shares her thoughts with us:

"I've read in the Times recently (see 'Knitting Among US Teens'.. link below) that knitting is a stress-busting and cool activity for all age groups including young people with 'issues'.

I work with a community action group who are tackling problems in their neighbourhood by,among other things, getting young people involved in all sorts of activities.  they are putting on Junior Abba mania at our local Auditorium [financed by the local newspaper] at the end of the summer holidays, and will be creating the costumes during the hols.  

I love knitting and would love to see the craze spread, and if it does have a calming effect then this is just the target group we ought to try and reach."


Betsan Corkhill, writes of her experience:

"More and more people are discovering the therapeutic benefits of knitting and stitching and for those of us who regularly knit or stitch we just know it works, but is there any evidence?

As an ex-physiotherapist the use of knitting as a therapy is an issue that's aroused my interest. There ‘s the obvious hand exercise it provides, but the most exciting discovery was the number people who use knitting to deal with problems such as stress, depression and pain relief.

I have been interested in research carried out in 2004 which proves, with the use of MRI scans, that the brain's attention can be diverted away from interpreting pain. It's so effective that some burns units are now using virtual reality games as a means of diverting attention away from pain and do not need to use as much medication. It's now known that the intensity and unpleasantness of pain can be greatly affected by the amount of attention paid to it.

I believe that the concentration required to focus in on a knitting pattern is having a similar effect. It appears to be breaking the vicious cycle of pain, disability, depression and stress that it's so easy to fall into. It also motivates people to go out and order new knitting supplies and read specialist magazines, which improves contact with the outside world, stimulating more positive thoughts. There's less time to dwell on unpleasant thoughts and this in turn helps to lessen the secondary effects of pain, disability and stress. What's more, knitting has many other properties that enable it to be used as an extremely effective therapy providing a goal and a finished article that is a source of praise from others. All this contributes to the feel-good factor."

Betsan will soon setting up a support network called Stitchlinks. Its aim is to support all those who use any form of stitching as a therapy.

Click here to contact Betsan and find out more about Stitchlinks


 

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