Chapter 1.2—It Still Matters

I hear knitters and non-knitters alike like saying lots of things about knitting—ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous:

Russell Crowe knitting humor

Knitting is the new yoga…

illustration by Alanna Cavanagh; knitting is the new yoga

It’s like tai chi, a form of moving meditation…

Robin Candrea of Dancing Foot Yoga and Wooly Monmouth 2011

Knitting is the new _____ (fill in the blank… black… chic… meme…)


It’s Hip to Knit…

January 9, 2009

But really, it’s all just silly, right?

It’s trendy.

But none of it is data-driven. It’s not science. It’s just knitters talking about how knitting feels—which is fine. Healthy. But if you’re trying to prove to someone that something is either worthwhile or not getting in the way of other things, actual studies are important to be able to cite.

And actual studies on how knitting affects the brain are hard to come by—and I should know because I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time trying to find them.

In desperation (and panic), instead of gathering studies specifically about knitting, I realized I would have to go after my research sideways.

 * * *

Actually, I found my biggest clue in something my husband said in a moment of great revelation.

Andrew Ordover Cognitive Anchoring

Oh!—You Don’t knit because you want to be somewhere ELSE.
You knit so that you can keep yourself HERE.

Because, be honest with me (and feel free to add your 2¢ in the comments below), if you’re unlucky enough to be on a long conference call or in a staff meeting—even a good one—or actually doing anything where you aren’t talking, does your mind wander?

Mine does.

I’m a WAHM so if I’m not worrying about

  • when I’m getting the kids
  • where I’m taking them next
  • have I called the sitter for Saturday
  • did I pick up the present for the party
  • do I have enough   fill in the blank   to make dinner

I’ll be wondering about

  • did I finish that draft
  • did I send that file
  • have I finished the charts for that pattern yet
  • I should email the tech editor to see what’s up
  • where’s my phone
  • did I put that in the Bullet Journal yet?

And that’s in a GOOD meeting! I don’t drift because I want to. I drift because I have a life—lots of it—and because, like a shark, I need to move.

If I’m not moving, I’m not concentrating.

And therein lies part of the puzzle.

Like any good puzzle, though, there are more than just a couple of parts. This all has to do with brain and muscle memory and recall and visual cortexes and all sorts of cool things. So we have a bit to get through before the full picture of our puzzle will become clear.

First, though, before knitting, crochet, or doodling can anchor you to the here, it all has to be automatic—like driving a car is to you now (as opposed to when you first learned how). You don’t have to think about the gas or the break or the roadsigns. You just have to let your eyes feed all the data to the brain and then go with the flow.

The kind of automatic motion is where we’ll pick up next week!

Chapter 2 begins January  14, 2014

Images for this post taken from various sites around the web. Images are linked back to original sites. Please visit and tell them how cool they are or buy their stuff!


  1. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee has a lecture on just this topic. I heard it in Bethlehem, PA last summer(?). Might have been early fall

    • How cool!
      I’m glad this information is getting out there! A lot of research is finally being done on this.

      I got to see Stephanie speak once at SOAR years ago. She’s marvelous!

  2. I was really struck by your husband’s comment: “You knit so that you can keep yourself here.” That is it, exactly. I knit because my mind goes a thousand miles an hour, and if I am stuck sitting in one place (a meeting, a car or bus trip), I need something to do. I like knitting, period. But when we are driving somewhere, or I’m in a meeting, I like that I am creating something physical. I like that I will have something to show for my time, even if it is only 2 inches of stockinette stitch for a sweater body. The pleasure I get from my knitting fills in the gaps (or something I don’t know how to describe, see note*) in the meeting and makes the whole experience better.

    *Attempt at description of what I mean by “gaps” above: I read somewhere, sometime ago, that people can understand speech that is twice as fast as people can talk. IE, take a recording of a sentence, edit it to eliminate all the pauses, empty spaces, and shorten up the words by condensing each sound, so that each sentence is only half as long as it is in real life, and it is still totally intelligible to the average listener. So you don’t need anywhere near as much time to HEAR a sentence as it takes to speak a sentence. The extra time, in my brain, is filled with the thoughts you were talking about, what to cook for dinner, where to go for lunch, how I can get my two cents in, etc., etc., etc.. Knitting fills those gaps also, and makes it possible to be HERE even if the HERE is somewhere that it is hard to sit still and BE.

  3. Knitting keeps me in the HERE when I can’t HEAR. I’m hearing impaired and even with great technology, I miss a lot in small group conversations. Knitting enables me to sit quietly and BE part of the group. I look forward to my weekly small group to get some serious knitting done!

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