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Stretch to Fit: Knitting and Resilience

Friday, October 20, 2023 at 12:30pm to 1:30pm

Virtual Event

Since I started to write about knitting in the late 1990s, a wealth of texts relating to knitting as a route to well-being, via spiritual, meditative or contemplative practice have been published, i.e. The Knitting Sutra (Lydon, 1998), Mindful Knitting (Manning, 2004), and Zen and the Art of Knitting (Murphy, 2002). Many of these texts centralise the ways in which knitting has significantly contributed to a sense of well-being, of over-coming difficulty, grief, loss and illness. The focus outlines a narrative of the maker; a progression from materials to completed object/s, which chart this as a journey or progression from sickness to health. The over-riding conclusion appears to extol knitting as a therapeutic, mindful practice, which creates for or engages the maker with a clear mental space that transcends the failure of the body and the general pressures of the world. In essence, knitting can, according to this literature at least, save your soul[1], your body, and help you to heal yourself. 

Similarly, academic enquiry emerging in the early 2000s, investigated the ways in which knitting and well-being had become synonymous, representative of a means to address stress, improve mood, and build confidence in an unstable climate – whatever form that might take. This approach emerged from the same set of social and historical conditions as writing on well-being and its importance in daily life. As these discussions have developed, concomitant with the expansion of well-being narratives applied to the individual, groups, homes and workplaces, new understandings of the relationship between knitting and well-being emerged. In these we see a distinct focus on the mental and physical health of the individual in relation to notions of ‘coping’, ‘functioning’, and by the 2021 Covid 19 pandemic, ‘resilience’. 

Along with the rise in Craftivism, small acts of resistance, which also might be considered ‘resilience’, making, and particularly that which is considered ‘domestic’ and ‘easy’ have become synonymous with making a difference, showing group strength and the power of the individual.  These themes are the focus of this discussion – how knitting is resilient, how it can have therapeutic benefits, but how it’s understanding as a means to ‘resilience’ is somewhat flawed.

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Event Type



Cornell Human Ecology, Human Centered Design

University Themes


Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Karen Steffy


Prof. Jo Turney

Speaker Affiliation

Professor of Fashion and Textiles at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton

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