Returned WWI soldiers knitting as therapy. The guy in the back is using a hand cranked sock knitting machine, a sophisticated version of the cotton reel with nails many kids used to make long thin knitted tubes. Only this machine even had fittings to allow a proper angled heel.
But I was spurred on to do a bit of simple knitting by the arrival of new yarn! I ordered some inexpensive, hard wearing, fine gauge wool from Bendigo Woolen Mills to tackle the crazy fun project I've had in mind for a while. Oh yes, the 1920s bathing costume will become reality. So last night I swatched, or knitted up a simple square to check that my yarn and needle size was equal to the gauge given in the pattern. (I need to go up a needle size, as it turns out.)
At a guess I think this guy is actually doing some sort finger braiding, not knitting. But still, the therapeutic quality of yarn!
And while I was swatching I was enjoying the therapeutic quality of knitting. Once you get past the cuss-worthy stage of feeling like you're about to drop ever third stitch, or you're tackling some mega-hard masochistic pattern, there's a unique thing that happens. A sort of zen space. Where you can have half your brain watching the yarn, the interplay of the needles, the feel of the stitches under your fingers, and the other half thinking/daydreaming or listening to music/the telly/conversation. The rhythm, the art of creating, the way 'muscle memory' comes into play so that your stitches get neater and easier the more you do it, well it's kind of magical really.
More WWI soldiers knitting as a group. Not dissimilar to what we do every Sunday, except we have beer. (And we don't have chenille bathrobes.)
I'm sure it's good for my blood pressure. Even if it doesn't have a physiological effect, it certainly feels calming. I'm not a very tense person, but I can't imagine being tightly wound when you're knitting. Maybe you can, but with only the half of the brain that isn't watching the process. So potentially that's half as stressed? Maybe? It's also quite possible that jittery, tense people aren't drawn to knitting at all, but then maybe they should.
Knitting, weaving, basketry were all crafts that were traditionally used as medical therapy. (I treasure a woven scarf I have that my mother wove in a sanitorium, recuperating from tuberculosis back in the 1950s.) My feeling is that it's more than just the repetitive activity, the gentle use of muscles, the soothing effect of the activity. I think it's also the act of creating. The encouragement and pleasure that comes from looking at something that you've made, even if it's just a little gauge swatch.