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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