Knitting: Teaching to Students with Mood Disorders

Knitting: Teaching to Students with Mood Disorders

Teaching a craft like knitting to students with depression, bipolar or other mental health issues may require some adjustments in your methods and styles.

Knitting: Teaching to Students with Mood Disorders

During recovery from clinical depression, many patients turn to crafts, such as knitting, to help with concentration, memory, and relaxation. The rhythmic movement of the needles is often just enough activity to keep the mind occupied, not permitting it to spiral downward into negative thoughts. The pleasure of the craft and completing a project can be a positive experience. However, if patients are learning for the first time, it can present some unexpected challenges.

Students can teach you just as much about themselves as you teach them about the craft. Here are some special tips worked out by EssayWriter for anyone who is contemplating teaching knitting to special groups, such as persons with depression or manic-depression.

Keep It Simple

Small groups: Groups larger than three people will not give the instructor time to do individual one-on-one work which is needed with this group of people. Many people suffering from mood disorders, or other mental illnesses, have memory, cognition, and hand-eye coordination challenges. This is sometimes due to the disorder itself, sometimes a side-effect of the medication they need to take. Keeping the groups smaller gives you time to work one-on-one with each student, repeating steps as necessary until your student feels confident to try on his own.

Small projects: A sweater was not knit in a day (at least, not by most knitters!) Keep projects smaller and simpler – scarves, washcloths, slippers with very basic stitches. Many people with mood disorders already feel a sense of inadequacy and failure in their lives. Others have difficulty concentrating for long periods. Providing a project that is too large will add to their frustration. They can move on to bigger, better items in the future.

Small needles: The standard length needles are often hard for people to handle when first learning. Needles that are 6-8 inches (such as you would use for a child) are easier to manipulate. Plastic or bamboo ones are even better, as they are softer and easier to hold than metal, and far less likely to slip out of the stitches.

Use Additional Resources

Online Videos: There are many great free videos on the web today giving instructions on knitting. Provide some links to your group to use to follow up after their first lesson. Beginners can refer to these again and again, without embarrassment, to refresh their memories on how to do the stitches. Some websites have some clear, concise, excellent videos which can be referenced repeatedly for first-timers or those who need a refresher.

Hand-outs: There are many places on the webs like, and many books for beginners, which have excellent how-to diagrams that are easy to ‘read’ and follow. One favorite of many teachers is the how-tos by the Craft Yarn Council of America. The pictures are clear graphics, therefore easy to follow.

One Stitch at a Time

Okay, so Kim didn’t get past casting on the first row – Yahoo! She cast on the first row! For many of us without health challenges, this doesn’t seem like much, but if it’s Kim’s first time doing a needlecraft, her accomplishment is huge. Think of every stitch as an achievement.

Remind the knitters that it is a journey. A great quote to share with your students is that we do not knit to make things, but knit to have the joy of creating, to be in control of that creation. We choose the yarn, the stitch, the article; we control the speed of how we knit. And if we don’t like what we’ve done, we rip it out and start over!

Above all, remember that kindness and patience is critical to your teaching. Some students will move on to bigger projects; others may give up entirely. But all have an opportunity to experience learning, and possibly find some hope and peace; isn’t that the point of the exercise?

* Contributed content and may contain affiliate links.

About The Author


Danielle Holke is a long-time knitter, first taught by her beloved grandmother as a young girl growing up in Canada. In 2008 she launched KnitHacker, a lively blog and knitting community which has since grown to be a popular presence in contemporary knitting culture, reaching more than a million readers each year. As a marketing professional, Danielle advises and works with a motley squad of artists, yarn bombers, film makers, pattern designers, yarn companies and more. Learn more about her latest book, Knits & Pieces: A Knitting Miscellany.

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