The Emergence Of Therapeutical Knitting: an interview with Betsan Corkhill of Stitchlinks
By Marie Cheng Yu
Photo by Marina Ermakova on Unsplash
Not too long ago, the act of crafting was summarily categorized as a hobby for DIY enthusiasts, one rooted in tradition and often passed down from generation to generation. Even Betsan Corkhill, a former physiotherapist who established the foundation for the concepts of therapeutic knitting, learned to knit as a child; but for the first half of her career, it bore no relation to her work.
Then in the early 2000s, while employed in publishing, Betsan noted a distinct volume of readers’ letters that detailed the therapeutic effects of crafting on their happiness - a fact that is well known in the knitting world but was entirely new to her. From the physical motor-rehabilitation benefits, to the soothing mental benefits of action and creativity, to the social impact of community crafting - all hinted at the real effects of craft. Her physiotherapist side was instantly piqued. She soon realized that with some added knowledge, these benefits could be enhanced to deliberately improve wellbeing, and so the term ‘therapeutic knitting’ was born.
Betsan started Stitchlinks, a website dedicated to promoting, starting, and supporting therapeutic knitting communities, and launched a personal mission to explore this simple yet ground breaking idea: can therapeutic knitting be applied to a range of people’s circumstances and backgrounds to aid in wellbeing *and* health?
Fast forward to 2022: Betsan has partnered with institutions such as the University of Reading and the University of Cardiff to put the benefits of therapeutic knitting through the scientific rigor necessary to publish her results. Preliminary findings are promising; therapeutic knitting has emerged as an effective, low-cost, widely applicable tool for wellness and health across gender, ethnicity, language, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Furthermore, the more people engage in knitting (more than three times per week), the happier and calmer they report feeling. I can testify to this: I have given away as many knit items as I have kept, as the very act of knitting is what gives my spirit a lift; that I have something to give to others offers an added bump to my sense of fulfillment.
To me, Betsan’s findings are validation that my hobby was never “just a hobby”. This one simple activity grounds me, calms me, and helps me to destress. Now, I know why.