I'm an Occupational Therapy student and I have started working with a lady of 83 who has Parkinson's, she has a real love of knitting and is very experienced but hasn't done any in recent years. I think it is due to a mixture of her symptoms, anxiety and the impact of the condition on her mood. I want to explore this with her as I have read a lot about this being an effective method for peoples symptoms.

I will approach it sensitively but I also wondered if anyone had any advice on size of needles or type of wool to use, who may have returned to knitting themselves or used knitting as an intervention. I'm only just starting to knit myself so I'm quite new to it.




I was interested to read your post about knitting.  I find it very therapeutic especially in the evening when I sit down to watch tv or listen to music.  At rest my arms tend to ache and I get pins and needles in my hands so i find it very distracting and annoying.  However when i am knitting these symptoms disappear and I forget all about them.  It is also a very calming activity if you are doing simple knitting which is mainly what I do.  I think if you were returning to knitting after a while probably it is best to try something simple using double knitting wool. I would suggest a primary colour which contrasts with the needles, something cheery would be good so that it is easy to see the stitches.  Once proficient there are some really beautiful multicolour wool that knit up like fair-isle even with simple knitting.  I have just completed a number of babies hats using this wool as all i had to do was knit a rectangle then sew them up.  It is always more interesting to see what emerges from this wool.  Hope this helps.


I would say use a 5 or 6mm needle and double knitting wool, just knit a scarf you can put it down and pick up with no trouble even middle of a row if you find you have had enough, you can get frustrated and anxious even with knitting. I have just come back to it myself. See which is the most comfortable and easiest way to hold the needles either knitwise or purl, comfort is key to getting back into it. A scarf is not hard work but it can be good to get back into it and you do have a product at the end.

Hope this is of some use.

Soon after diagnosis I stopped knitting because I would get a kind of cramp in the middle of a row, my fingers gripping the needles and pulling apart, and stitches disappearing down the middle. Recently I have started again and am making simple baby cardigans for a charity, short rows seem to be a good idea.

Hello, thank you all for this advice, I think maybe starting something small is good advice, I think its the balance between providing her with enough of a challenge and not highlighting her difficulties with it. I'm glad to hear that some you have returned to knitting after initially stopping, i think the lady I'm working with might not still be ready to give it a go but hopefully I can try to encourage her. I may get her a simple pattern and some bright wool and see how we go.

I also wondered if anyone had a preference between metal and plastic needles? do metal needles make knitting a bit smoother for you?

Thank you again for your prompt replies.





Hi otjb, i find metal needles easier for me but I have also recently started using bamboo needles which are very light but also quite expensive.  I also find the shorter needles better as the longer ones just get in the way especially if you are only knitting something small.  I hope you can get your lady knitting again it is such a satisfying way to get the hands moving and a great feeling when you complete something.

Hi Camargue

thank you very much for that insight, a big help, yes i hope so too.

many thanks


i usually use something around a 4mm needle with double knitting wool , and usually a 6mm with chunky wool  i used to do a lot of knitting years ago and made all of my childrens baby cardigans etc , have not done any recently but will get back into it soon  my cousin is expecting her first baby she has asked me to make her baby cardigans ,do not want to tempt fate just yet she has suffered two miscarriages so were hoping its third time lucky

Hi shelly, I hope you do get started again.  I have found it a great benefit as it takes away my tremor and the pins and needles feeling in my hand.  It is also very calming.  While buying wool one day the shop owner told me that knitting was good for people because it increased their dopamine levels, she didn't know I had PD, no ideal how this occurs. I started after a big gap and was pleasantly surprised that it all came back to me.  I do however only do small garments, mostly hats and scarves but I am working up to some more complicated ones.

Hi Camargue

yes i will start in the new year , i have knitted my mother a aran cardigan which took a while but it was worth it she loved it ,,i made all my own baby cardigans and have even sold a few on ebay so cant be bad

It has been a while since I visited the Forums but am delighted to find this thread.  In 2008 I started, Knitting keeps fingers nimble... really - but it was locked at some point (probably due to disuse or when the Forum was upgraded).

Yesterday, the UK Hand Knitting Association posted a link to its therapy page - there are some very recent articles about the brain and knitting that make for fascinating reading.

Here's the link:   UKHKA - Knitting as Therapy

I am beginning to get a wee bug in mind that perhaps we Parkinson's Purlers (OK.. I just made that up) could use this thread to bring our ideas together and perhaps design some patterns for beanies or socks or small projects that promote Parkinson's UK - they could then be made into a downloadable pdf from here or maybe even the online shop could get involved to have it as a freebie available on checkout there? 

My current thoughts are a bit unfocused as I am only a beginner knitter - this is what I can do so far:  Knitting etc

but having recently found some yarn in Parkinson's UK cyan colour, I am just finishing off my first dog jumper for Battersea Dog's and Cats Home, using it as the main colour with white in a diamond design ... so there's a neat crossover between Parkinson's UK and knitting and my need to knit lightweight items (like dog jumpers) :-)  I love the idea of rescue dogs and cats in jumpers or lying on blankets that include "our" parkinson's colour hehehe

What do you all think?   



Twitter:  @joannekarma





Sounds a really neat idea to me.  I know you said your thoughts were a bit unfocussed as yet but it might be something for the magazine as far as getting things rolling.  You could have sponsored knits thus producing something useful as well.    

Hi Brockie

That is really interesting information about knitting helping with anxiety and other conditions.  I certainly find it therapeutic and I would certainly encourage others to take it up again if they haven't done it for a while.  I think the key to starting again is to have small projects which are not to complicated and which you enjoy and then move on to bigger things if you want.  For me that is scarves and baby hats done in a variety of styles and colours but i also occasionally knit a small square with leftover wool which i hope to sew into a blanket some day.  I have several projects going at any time as it is easier sometimes to take very simple knitting if i am on a journey with the more complicated for home.  I do find that if I am very busy and haven't been able to knit I start to miss it.  There are wonderful patterns out there now and the website Ravelry is a great resource as well. Happy knitting

I doubt I will ever knit anything in my lifetime,. my curiosity was in the thread you posted.

I think keeping the dexterity of hands is very useful and wish you good luck with that. I'm sure the dogs will appreciate it........have you considered selling them on E-Bay?

I can't believe it is nearly a year to the day since I last wrote here... my life isn't that different overall, less good in some ways of course, but as for knitting/crochet/projects I found a few more purposeful uses for my work.

An excellent organisation called Knit for Peace is happy to receive knitted items to send to groups and organisations that request them, here in the UK and overseas - they also are happy to receive leftover yarn as part of their work is to set up knitting groups to help people become independent/self-suffcient.  You can read for yourself what they do.  My first ever entrelac crochet baby blankie was their "knit of the day" not so long ago!!  

Via Twitter I found out about an attempt at a Guinness record yarnbomb at a hospice in Essex in August... this was for crocheted items and I thought it would be fun (and good for finger dexterity) to learn how to make flowers and fruits etc so... made a bunch as you can see if you click on this link .webpage - note the inclusion of items in the Parkinson's UK house colour!!

I used YouTube a lot to find crochet flower patterns to follow-along to and soon realised that I had to make sure my medication was optimal if I was trying something new.  If my medication wasn't optimal, I found it hard to follow instructions (intellectually as well as physically) and even found myself in tears on more than one occasion.

The concept of "wearing off" is mostly applied by health professionals to motor symptoms, but, frankly, I find my almost-perceptible cloudiness of mind and the other non-motor symptoms that worsen as my medication effect declines almost more treacherous and undermining.

So.. when knitting or doing crochet, if you are already on medication, and you find yourself becoming "less competent", my tip is to try again once your meds are topped up!!

Some of my favourite projects this year have been the dog jumpers I made for Battersea Dogs & Cats Home... also in "our" Parkinson's UK colour!!   Click this link to see what I made!

Via Knit for Peace or who knows what other organisations there are, both locally and nationally, I think many people, with/without Parkinson's can regain a sense of purpose and self-worth by knitting/crochet-ing small projects for others.

Anyone else still knitting?  I haven't lost sight of my "parkinson's knitting" idea.. just haven't quite found the right niche for it, so for now I just include the right Parkinson's UK-colour of yarn as/where i can!

Twitter:  @joannekarma

I use short needles, and make dolls these are quick to knit and you can pop them in your bag when going somewhere. I find they stop me falling asleep. as then I do  not sleep at nite. I have made several Footballers, and an asortment of other things I then ask the person who I have made it for to give a donation to our local group.