Isn’t it funny, you do something for years, you really enjoy it, you know that it is good for you and eventually scientific research backs up your personal experience. I’m pleased to say that that is happening with crafting and in particular knitting at the moment. In a study of over 3,500 knitters, Jill Riley, Betsan Corkhill and Clare Morris found that knitting reduced stress, aided relaxation and increased happiness levels. Similarly Kate Adey found that knitters experienced the state of ‘flow.’ This is when they are absorbed in what they are doing and mind and body work together effortlessly.
As I lifelong knitter I have reaped its psychological benefits from a young age. Now I thought it would be insightful to unpick the variety of ways that knitting has a positive effect on well being.
Well one of the biggest benefits is that of relaxation. Knitting is a rhythmic task that has soothing qualities. When you set aside time to knit you are required to focus on the task at hand, this has the benefit of blocking out other intrusive thoughts. If I am worried about something, but cannot do anything about it at the time, knitting is a great distracter, preventing rumination because I actively need to focus my attention on the knitting. This gives time out from daily worries and an opportunity for restoration.
Knitting with others is fun and highly supportive. More and more groups are setting up across the country, creating a strong sense of social connection. My local town has a strong yarn bombing community and you can often see buildings, trees and railings adorned with knitting, using themes such as Alice in Wonderland and armistice poppies. I love the way that shoppers walking by, smile and laugh as they see some of the weird and wonderful knits poking out between branches or hanging down from windows. A wonderful ripple effect.
If you are knitting a jumper or bag for someone else this gives you the opportunity to focus on them, increasing savouring of that person’s qualities and preferences. What would they like? What would suit them? Shall I ask them? Shall I keep it a surprise? When you knit for them they are often in your mind’s eye, increasing a sense of closeness to them.
What about savouring? There is so much savouring in knitting including the planning and sense of anticipation. From carefully choosing your wool, touching, smelling the different yarns available, checking them for softness, texture and colour. Browsing through patterns, choosing the right one. Then those first rows when you see the pattern emerge, how satisfying. When you think your knitting is nearly long enough, it demands that you slow down, set it out on somewhere firm and smooth it out so that you can measure it. Again this is a great ways to savour what you have done. Eventually you have knitted all your pieces and sewed them up so of course there is the finished product to admire and share with other people.
I know there will be some of you out there who are thinking that’s easy for me to say. What about the times you’ve tried knitting and just got into a mess. I still do that. Sometimes I choose a pattern that requires more concentration than I have to give. This results in unravelling and starting again and this used to frustrate me. Now I focus on the process and not the outcome, so if a jumper takes me 3 years because I can only do it in small bursts, it doesn’t matter. Eventually I will complete a special piece of knitting and in the mean time I am learning from my mistakes, developing my growth mindset and resilience.
I would like you to give knitting a go. If you know someone who knits, ask them to teach you, it is a lovely way to spend time together. If you don’t know anyone who knits, try online tutorials or look in your locality to see if there is a group you can join.
Let me know how you get on.
Adey, K. L. (2018) Understanding Why Women Knit: Finding Creativity and “Flow”, TEXTILE, 16:1, 84-97, DOI: 10.1080/14759756.2017.1362748
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 https://doi.org/10.4276/030802213X13603244419077
About the author: To find out more about Bryony Shaw MAPP, please click here.