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Knitting: Hobby, Obsession or Intervention?

getting to know me neuroscience Sep 25, 2023


With the weather getting cooler and my daughter back at school, I’ve been spending even more time knitting than usual (is that possible?). I knit because I love it and it reminds me of my grandmother. She taught me so very long ago. I know she’s proud every time I pick up my needles. I’m the only grandchild she taught to knit. I love that her legacy lives on in every piece I make.

I’ve often wondered, “Is there more to it? Why am I so obsessed with needles and yarn and textures and colors?”


YES, There is More to IT


Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, called knitting a “cosmic thing.”  He incorporated knitting into the education of young children to improve attention. Hannaford  (2005) suggests people think better while they are engaged in a repetitive, low concentration physical task. For me, I get bored if the pattern is too easy. There is a balance among concentration, attention and enjoyment. Some authors talk about flow state (Csikszentmihalyi)  – which is a balance between challenge and ability. Anytime you are engaged, stimulated AND relaxed, you are in flow. Flow is stress free BECAUSE you are engaged yet relaxed.  I know when I have the combination of a challenging and interesting pattern, beautiful wooden needles and yarn I carefully chose – flow comes easy. There was a time when I would only knit during re-runs (thank you Peacock for bringing back Charmed). However, I’ve noticed that, as I look for more ways to reduce stress in my life, I gravitate towards harder patterns and no TV. This combination, for me, seems to create the best flow.


Benefits that I have noticed include feeling more relaxed, feeling calm, and feeling creative. I love to keep my hands busy; I think it’s one of my favorite stress relief tools.

Turns out, I’m not the only one who finds knitting relaxing. 😊


Benefits of Knitting

Corkhill (2014) refers to knitting as a type of meditation and discusses the benefits of knitting as it relates to well-being. Turney (2009) describes how the rhythmic nature of knitting creates a calming effect.  Adey (2017) states that knitting helps distract us from worries. Anecdotal evidence from bloggers and websites also suggest that knitting provides a sense of autonomy, a social outlet if you knit in groups and helps knitters find their creativity. Rusinol-Rodriguez (2020) showed that knitting with and for others has benefits such as increased perception of personal autonomy, motivation to continue crafting and a sense of social interaction.

So, everyone needs to learn to knit? Currently the American Council for Crafts estimates there are 100,000 million knitters in the United States. That’s almost 1/3 of the total population!! I’m thinking their numbers might be off, but, hey, the more the merrier.




Hobbies and Brain Health

But no, not everyone needs to knit. BUT everyone needs a creative outlet for their brain. Creativity engages the right hemisphere of the brain. This is good news, as many of us spend our day doing logical, desk-type left brain tasks. To manage stress in your life, one technique is to engage the whole brain. Going from right to left brain during the same task is especially helpful. What do you know? Knitting uses both hands!


Here’s what I have to offer you today…look at your hobbies as a necessity for your mental health and well-being, not something you “earn” after the work is done. I’ve been teased for knitting, “That’s what grandmothers do when they retire.”  What’s your point? One key to longevity and healthy aging is to keep your brain stimulated. I know some grandmothers (and one great-grandmother) who knit the most gorgeous pieces.


What is your hobby? Ask yourself:

  • Does it make me happy?
  • Do I get to be unplugged, away from electronics and interruptions?
  • Am I focused while doing it?
  • Am I calm and relaxed yet also stimulated? (This question is a key for achieving flow)

Hobbies are a side effect of modern living. We have more time for hobbies because we don’t have to grow or hunt our food. Make the most of your hobby. Let your brain relax and enjoy it! Haters will get no hand knits for Christmas 😉



“She works willingly with her hands.” Proverbs 31:13


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