Our Correspondent @carriejwebb caught up with knitters at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival to ask them how knitting and mental wellbeing are connected. Here’s what they told her.
Karie Westermann @KarieBookish – Knitter, Designer and Writer
I cannot remember not being able to knit. I was taught by my great-grandmother when I was around four. I ‘made stuff’ until I started university and got too busy.
I got back into knitting when I fell seriously ill and could not do many of my usual activities. In order to occupy myself, I started knitting and discovered I had a bit of a knack for it. Today I work as a professional knitwear designer and a tutor throughout Great Britain – all as a result of me picking up the needles again on a whim.
Knitting is pretty much just “sticks and string” – you don’t need a lot of materials to get started and it is very portable. I like how you can find a pair of needles in a charity shop and pick up a ball of yarn from a relative – and you are off! Knitting does not require a lot of skills, either. If you can cast on + do a knit stitch + cast off, then you can make a scarf. So, it’s a craft that is really accessible but you can grow along with it and keep picking up skills. You can do super-complex things with knitting but the entry point is there for everybody.
And after you’ve spent an evening watching TV, you can look down and you’ve knitted the better part of a hat! It’s crafting with a practical purpose too.
I know that when I was very ill, knitting gave me a sense of accomplishment. My health was bad but I could knit beautiful things. This made me feel I could accomplish other things down the line.
I used to work for a yarn company and I’d meet a lot of lovely people who unfortunately had been signed off work with stress or depression. Their GPs would often tell them to start knitting – the rhythmic motions and the sense of achievement help them focus on something else. Focusing on a pattern and trying to work the stitches correctly can be almost meditative and help you quieten your mind.
Knitting also lets you be part of a community – I hear so many stories about people who are socially/geographically isolated or going through a very hard time and who find comfort in online knitting communities. I know that studies have been done on this – how talking about your knitting projects makes you open up to other people about your life generally and you find emotional support thanks to the shared interest in knitting. It seems less scary to open up when you know the other person is a knitter as well.
Karie teaches knitting and blogs at kariebookish.net