As part of Wellbeing Week we thought it would be great to hear from PGRs and ECRs who are doing research in to wellbeing. This post is from Mirja Rutger – a PhD student in the Medical School doing research into the relationship between knitting and health and wellbeing.

Why knitting?

It all started with me noticing various claims particularly in online media about how knitting is good for your health and wellbeing. A realisation that I personally use yarn based crafts to improve my sense of wellbeing may of course to some extent have contributed to a cognitive bias in terms of the perceived frequency of those types of claims, but I couldn’t help wondering about the research behind them. It turned out that the so called evidence base was not very strong (this is an understatement). The idea for my PhD was born!

Through happy coincidences, the right contacts (read supervisor) and the open-mindedness of the Medical School PhD competition board the project was to my surprise funded. Now in the final year after extensive fieldwork including participant observation in a number of knitting groups and interviews with knitting group participants as well as group facilitators I think I am better positioned to answer the ‘why knitting?’ question I have so often been asked.

Think long-term conditions and mental health issues; think social prescribing, but foremost think people taking responsibility for their own wellbeing regardless of if they have a health condition or not. This is the context where I would put knitting/groups.

It seems that engaging in knitting/groups may be used in a very specific way beyond it being a relaxing and creative hobby. Knitting groups seems to have Social and Mental Wellbeing benefits that may be of value for people (read mostly women) with chronic or mental ill health. They offer an opportunity for social connection and in the case of knitting for loved ones or for charity being able to make a contribution even from your home or hospital bed.

In the spirit of the wellbeing week and referring to what may be the most obvious benefit of knitting in terms of relaxation and stress relief, I would like to end with an invitation to other PhD students interested in getting together for lunchtime crafts sessions at St Luke’s. What I have in mind is a bi-weekly gathering where you bring your own craft material and we instead of procrastinating in front of our computers, proCRAFTinate* together!

Please get in touch and men are welcome too!

*Definition of procraftinate: the act of putting off a task by crafting instead [Note: let’s keep it time limited shall we?!]

For further information about Mirja and her research project, please visit her Medical School profile.