Depression and Knitting

Hi everyone. I feel like I’m always asking for something on this forum, but here goes anyway!

It has come to my attention that the daughter of a close family friend has had to move home due to what sounds like depression. I was considering teaching her how to knit as a way to deal with her moods (in conjuction,of course, with appropriate medical and psychological assistance!), and was wondering if there have been any studies on knitting and psychology. In particular, knitting and depression.

As for myself, knitting has helped me immensely since Elizabeth was killed in Iraq. I’ve taken it to a bit of an excessive and obsessive level, though I’ve noticed that many of her friends have taken up hobbies at a level of enthusiasm slightly above normal. You do what you have to when you’re confronted with sudden death and grief. Hey, it’s cheaper than drugs (sometimes) and more tolerable than, say, a massive nervous breakdown. My ultimate point is that knitting is cathartic and beautiful in its ability to confer a bit of sanity.

So, any scholarly types out there who are familiar with studies on this area? I’ve tried Googling it with very mixed results. Thanks all.


I had been very into counted crosstitch when my daughter died almost 8 years ago. I lost interest in almost everything, but she had a 7 year-old who needed care. He sort of just consumed most of my time after school and in the summers. After his dad started dating again, it was strange. His girlfriend wanted to stay there, of course, and I felt like I was in some strangers house, even though my daughter had lived there for 8 years!! By the way, 6 months after my daughter passed away, my son-in-law had a terrible wreck and was in the hospital for 5 or 6 wks. My dh and I moved in with my grandson so as not to upset his routine, and such. When his dad finally recovered–the girlfriend comes and wants to take over !! We had just gotten that sweet little one into a good routine for school, bedtime, the works

But we couldn’t all stay there–there was not enough room, and we weren’t asked to stay either! My grandson was so afraid to be away from his dad because he was scared of losing him too for a long time.
I really REALLY got away from the topic here, KD, and I’m sorry!!

Anyway–I picked up some knitting needles that I’d had in a drawer for years about 3 and a half years ago, and started knitting one of those awful fuzzy scarves everyone was doing then!! I’m SO addicted to it now, I hardly go anywhere but church without it!!

Now–getting to the real question–is it good for depression?? I’m sure it could be–IF you don’t let it keep you INSIDE too much!! I have a tendency to stay inside a lot, and that’s not always good. Except for when we go out to play somewhere, my dh and I are very much homebodies–we don’t get tired of just sitting and watching tv, or listening to music, together, etc–and I’m knitting all the while we do!!

I am satisfied with staying home and love to see my knitting things come out well–still, I know it has taken the place of some of my friendships–and I don’t think that’s good!!

I don’t have any scholarly links, but there have been a few articles in Knitty that deal with the topic (anecdotal and otherwise):

Ellen and Alison, I’m so sorry to hear about your losses. It’s awful.

As for depression, I’ve suffered from depression on and off for 7 years now since a car accident left me with severe chronic neck/upper back pain. I’m currently on anti-depressants but they werent’ helping a lot. I’ve noticed an improvement recently (last few month) and it may just be a coincidence but I’ve been knitting a lot more during this period too. A bit too much at times. Knitting does aggrevate my neck/back but the satisfaction I get from finishing stuff etc makes it worth the extra pain. I’m in pain all the time and on a lot of painkillers anyway. :wink: Not scientific but my view. Didn’t even think there may be a link until I read Alison’s post. Knitting is a very rhytmic thing to do and I think it has a sort of calming effect.

Ellen and Alison, I’m so sorry you have both lost a child. Both of your losses are still so new… There really aren’t words for such a loss.

Alison, how kind of you to want to help. I have to think that anything that brings a sense of accomplishment and keeps the mind and hands busy during a difficult time would be worthwhile and helpful.

I know that increasing omega 3 oils (flax and cod oil both are high in that) and Red Raspberry Leaf tea (the leaves, not flavored like raspberries) have helped many.

Annie, hoping you find some relief.

Mama Bear

St. Johns Wort is supposed to be good for helping with depression as well. I had tried it, but my depression was too serious and had to be treated with AD’s. Now that I’m off meds altogether, I am extremely reluctant to take anything, as I know the moodiness they cause in me. I have several books on co-dependency, and those helped me deal with my day-to-day a lot more than my meds did right after my nervous breakdown. Nowadays I have Flylady to nudge me in the direction I need to be to function when I’m doing poorly, since I find that having more order around me is good.

When I’m getting into “one of my moods” as DH calls it, I will often immerse myself in yarn therapy. I will look through catalogues for hours on end. I will knit or crochet until my hands are so cramped that I can’t move them. I will go shopping and come home with bags and bags of yarn for various WIMs. The comfort that it brings to me is amazing, and I often get out of my slump a lot faster than I used to when I was on meds.

I don’t know of any clinical studies on this, but I do know what works for me.

I have sort of a different story, but it might be helpful. I don’t know if I really got depressed when my mother died three years ago. I think it was more the opposite reaction. I was always a quiet, good kid, totally submissive, and then I really broke out of my shell (a bit too much). When I discovered knitting a year later, it sort of reeled me back in. It gave me some sanity and something to do with my constant need to be in motion. It calmed me down a LOT.

link on knitting and depression

its zen. i do think that it affects brain waves.

found another site which might be of interest

another link

its an interesting subject.

im so sorry for your losses, allison and ellen. :heart:

OK I guess then as everyone else is doing it I’ll come out and admit it here too =P

First, I’m very sorry for both your losses Allison & Elllen, I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it has been for both of you.

Now to the crunch for me. I am a manic depressive; I was diagnosed at age 28 [11 years ago] and there are several things that I believe contributed to that (not least of which a fiancee who lived to put me down, whom I eventually began to believe). I have taken Prozac and Paxil (known here as Seroxat). My personal belief is that Paxil is rather an evil substance and I wish I had never taken it. Prozac seemed to do a nice little thing to me - it made me stop feeling. I mean completely stop feeling anything. I became “invincible” and attacked every task I had to do with a massive vigour that had been missing in my life since I was around 14 years old.

Of course everything in life started to be rosy, so they took me off the drugs and BANG I crashed big style about 8 months later. On and off, over the years I have taken Prozac again for short periods. I tried St Johns Wort and frankly I felt it was useless.

In January of this year, I was under investigation with my GP (general Practitioner - doctor here) for severe stomach and digestive issues. I had balooned in weight, and I had this huge distended stomach. I was eating one meal a day but I still had this huge belly.

He referred me to hospital which has a long wait list. To this day I am still waiting for an appointment. At the end of January I went to an ayervedic / holistic / homepathic / quacktastic person. OK so he ISN’T a quack but it is instilled in me that a non qualified doc is a quack :wink:

He removed some things from my diet, including white bread. The bloating disappeared and I started to shed this massive amount of weight I had gained over the course of around about a year.

Anyway I know this is slight digression from the original, but one of the supplements he gave me was 5-HTP. I have to say, this stuff is excellent and another natural remedy. While Paxil et al are SSRI (seratonin reuptake inhibitors) to stop the reuptake of seratonin into the system so that it floats around longer and regulates your mood - this stuff produces seratonin. Similar concept but this IMO is better than stopping a part of the body functioning to fix an issue.

Anyway, one thing I did to help with depression was play MMOG’s (massive multiplayer games) and I lost myself deeply in them. To the point of hibernation. This was not a good thing, though I made many “friends” (who stopped staying in touch with me as soon as I stopped playing) it was too unreal and too strange an environment to live in permanently.

I quit playing games, and I recently began knitting again - couple of months ago at most - you can see exactly when by looking at when I joined KH. I would have to say that knitting has helped me focus greatly, has made me consider that knitting is a lonely thing to do but with the aid of sites like this very one, I’ve joined a thriving community and I have learned of knitting get togethers near(ish) to my home.

I’m even considering taking the plunge and going to a stitch n bitch meet close to my home.

I would say absolutely 100% go for it. Teach her to knit. It takes concentration, which in turn takes ones mind off other things. Before you know it hours have passed and you’ve created something beautiful with your own bare hands. It is extremely rewarding. I can say that for sure, knitting is helping me to be coming a recovering depressive. I’m happy I started it again, and I’m even happier I found a place like this.

books that I have which talk about healing:
The Knitting Way
Beyond Stitch and Bitch
Knitting Lessons
I love all 3 of them. I’m currently reading The Knitting Way.

more that have been strongly recommended to me are:
Knitting Heaven and Earth
The Knitting Sutra

I’ve been on antidepressants for 3 years now, and my doctor and I are working on cutting down my dosage. I’m happy I started knitting in late 2004, because prior to that I didn’t have a hobby or something I could do for “me time”. I used to paint and draw until about 1992, but I stopped for a combination of reasons - I found I had to force myself to churn something out, that I ended up hating, and I couldn’t afford to keep buying art supplies. with knitting, I find that, even though it’s repetitive (and just as expensive as art supplies), the feel of the yarn and the loveliness of the colors are so worth it.

I, too, am so deeply sorry for the loss that ya’ll have suffered. I can’t even imagine. I have a bit of a different story, I don’t suffer from diagnosed depression, but have had periods of depression as a result of the pain that I am in constantly as a result of many hip replacements/dislocations/other hip & leg surgeries, the list goes on. I was in constant prayer that God please show me something to do to occupy my hands & mind so that I wouldn’t think about the pain. Well, I mentioned knitting & my oh, so sweet husband went to Joann’s during his lunch hour to look for a knitting kit, but didn’t find one, he told me about this when he got home from work. After dinner that night we went to Michaels & found a knitting kit & I’ve been knitting for about 2 years now. I will say that it was an answer to prayer bc when I knit I don’t think about the pain, which is great. As a result, I’ve not been depressed :smiley: My pain specialist is thrilled & recommends hobbies like this to other patients. I would say that I’m not a ‘scholarly type’ when it comes to knitting & it’s healing properties, but I am a person that knitting has helped a great deal. As a result of knitting I’ve also met & made great friends here on KH, which is also a great blessing :wink:

One of my daughters went through a period of pretty severe depression several years ago. I’ve never had a problem with depression myself, but I sensed that sitting and staring into space or even the TV couldn’t be good so while she was waiting for the drugs to kick in I suggested she crochet something. I got her a hook and some yarn and she started making a little blanket for the kitties. I think the very act of having to concentrate on something besides her own problems helped her a lot. I still have that little blanky and the kitty still uses it. Oh and DD has been off meds for a few years and is doing fine now.

A friend recently told me that she had been taught to knit by one of her professors when my friend lost a baby. She’s been knitting since.

I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and depression last year.

I found that knitting helped me focus when my mind would start going all over the place and I’d get to ‘fretting’.

I also listened to a few distinct pieces of classical music calmed me down enough so I could focus.

As long as learning to knit doesn’t frustrate her, it can be a very theraputic tool.

I want to thank everyone for their kind comments and private messages of support. It means a lot to me, thanks.

One thing a doctor recommended to my husband after Liza died was to engage in exercise that crossed the midline of the body. Apparently, by doing so, it affects parts of the brain that deal with mood and can elevate ones’ mood naturally. Many knitters do this, particularly those who throw their knitting, as opposed to us “pickers”. By constantly crossing the midline, there may be a physiologic process going on that aids in the fight against depression. Also, much of EMDR, a therapy used for those with PTSD, utilizes rythym and crossing the midline. It’s food for thought.

As a doula, one of the most important aspects of my job has to do with helping women to establish a sense of rythym during their labor. If she can engage in the same behavior with each contraction, it can help her relax and self-sooth to the point of coping excellently with the pain.

Knitting does this as well. The monotony and metronomic quality of the craft help to focus the person and stimulate a sense of well-being and safety through their own resources.

Ok, now I’m really intrigued. Any professional psychologists or clinical social workers on the board who could comment from a professional level on this matter?


I am not an expert and I will spare you my personal story here. But I will say get her some yarn and needles!!! (If she is open to it.) Start her with a worsted weight yarn and teach her knit and drop stitiches. Once she has the hang of it, get her some FUN, furry, sparkly yarn to make herself a scarf. Creating a product is so rewarding. Good luck to her. Please let us know how it goes. I love to hear about the birth of another yarn addict!!

I’d also like to thank ya’ll for you kind words–it is devestating to lose a child…I’ve had some ups and downs since, but right now, I’m just not up!! IT’s good for me here at this forum, I think!!

Today, I went and gave a program at my mama’s circle meeting. I just felt so out of touch with things–they’re in their 80’s and 90’s , some of them, and they all seem more lively than I!!