Opinion: “Stick to your knitting”, a recent article about local councils cried. That’s management consulting speak for focusing on what you are good at.
Throughout history, it has also been used unkindly as advice to women to get back into the kitchen.
Knitting, however, was traditionally a masculine pursuit and was all about making fishing nets and commerce. With changing gender roles, particularly the knitting of socks for troops in the world wars, men knitting became strangely taboo. I can’t imagine any bloke knitting in public without comment.
I am a knitter. I frequently thrust hand-made items onto unsuspecting friends and family. I have been doing so since I was a teenager, when I crafted cotton crop tops for myself as high fashion (or so I thought).
‘Shell-shocked’ soldiers were treated with knitting in the first world war. There is growing evidence that was a smart move: automatic movements such as knitting may cut down incidents of flashbacks and aid access to the subconscious, supporting other therapies
Something happens when I pick up the needles. The click clack rhythm calms me. That I can turn a standard night on the couch into something to wear brings joy. It’s about doing something tangible, even when my day has been anything but.
The science is with me.
Loretta Napoleoni, the author of The Power of Knitting: Stitching Together Our Lives in a Fractured World, writes about the emerging neuroscience around knitting. Scientists have isolated the areas of the brain stimulated by knitting: the frontal lobe (which controls our ability to pay attention); the parietal lobe (sensory and visual information); our occipital lobe (memory); and, cerebellum (that drives the co-ordination of precision movements).
Knitting is basically a brain workout on steroids.
A large-scale study also found that those who knitted more than three times a week reported feeling calmer and happier, including those with depression.
Repetitive movements in animals have shown to release serotonin – a mood enhancer. This seems to be the same with us and knitting; the rhythm of the needles creates a meditative state that might help manage pain and anxiety.
It’s so good that therapeutic knitting is proposed. The psychological benefits of knitting as a distraction have been identified because people can be ‘successful’ from their armchair, which increases motivation, particularly for those with long-term conditions.
It’s not a new concept. ‘Shell-shocked’ soldiers were treated with knitting in the first world war. There is growing evidence that was a smart move: automatic movements such as knitting may cut down incidents of flashbacks and aid access to the subconscious, supporting other therapies.
Knitting, according to researchers, promotes purpose, creativity, success, reward, and enjoyment. It is easily portable (a ball of wool and two needles) and as one usually follows a structured pattern, needs no innate artistic ability, making reward attainable by all. Learning involves no extra cost (if you muck up, you just unpick and start again).
So why aren’t more of us knitting? Why is knitting so stereotypically uncool, something only ‘for grannies’? Why don’t more men knit?
And what could be considered local government’s knitting? Should they stick to that?
As I cast on my next project, I will ponder these questions.
Nah, actually I won’t because I’ll be in my little zen bubble happily click clacking away.