Participation in a knitting group in later life: A mixed-methods approach to understanding social knitting and well-being

Student: Michaela Lachance*
Mentor: Michele Suhie
Major: Exercise Science

Knitting is a leisure activity that includes bimanual repetitive movement, consistent with other activities that induce the relaxation response and increase sense of well-being. Research indicates that knitting has the potential to serve as an inexpensive, effective intervention that can positively influence various bio-psycho-social aspects of a person’s life. While there is much historical and anecdotal support for the benefits of knitting to well-being, there is very little scholarly published work, particularly among older adults. The purpose of this mixed-methods convergent study was to explore the reasons that older women knit or crochet and the influence of this activity on mood, perceived cognition, and social interaction, while also identifying the descriptors of the experience of knitting or crocheting in a group setting. Fifteen members of an established faith-based knitting/crochet group (females aged 55-95, mean 72.7) completed a structured survey, responded to open-ended written questions, and participated in a focus group interview. Data was analyzed using both SPSS and NVivo software. Knitting or crocheting was found to improve the mood of participants, and there was a moderate to strong positive relationship between knitting frequency and lower feelings of stress and depression. Perceived concentration and memory were also indicated as increased with knitting, and there was a moderately positive relationship between frequency of knitting and beneficial thought processes. The longer participants had been in the group, the more they indicated improved mood. Themes from the qualitative data showed convergence, indicating that the group provided support, acceptance, and helped to favorably change the mindset of members. The group setting and charitable mission was an important aspect of the benefits to participants. While this is the first formal mixed-methods study to show this, the results are consistent with the effects of these activities in the literature in other settings and geographic locations.

*Honors Senior