Believe it or not, the brain wants you knitting. The textile and therapeutic craft has long proven its calming, comforting and contemplative qualities for artists and clinical neuropsychologists alike.
A group of local knitters is further advocating for the benefits of knitting through hosting community workshops for people with dementia as well as schoolchildren with disabilities.
Ninety-year-old Margaret McIlhagga in Campsie, NSW started off a local knitting group at Campsie Library. She had the idea after visiting her husband in a nursing home, and watching patients with dementia continuously fiddle with their hands – the solution was twiddle muffs (sometimes styled twiddlemuffs).
These decorated hand muffs are simple to make, with a range of different decorative materials that can help keep restless hands active and busy. It’s a craft object often adopted in dementia and aged care, but McIlhagga has also witnessed their effectiveness for children at her local disability school.
McIlhagga says: ‘I’m here at 90 on my own, and it gives me a good feeling to know that I’m still doing something that is worthwhile. We have a fantastic group of ladies who keep coming back because they are so proud of what we are achieving.’
The Canterbury Bankstown Council hosts knitting groups at Bankstown, Campsie, Chester Hill, Earlwood, Lakemba, Padstow and the Library and Knowledge Centres in Panania and Riverwood. Apart from working towards a good cause, the groups are an opportunity to meet like-minded crafters.
How to make a twiddle muff
There are a plethora of resources on how to make a twiddle muff that can then be donated to local nursing homes, schools and charity groups. All you need is yarn and knitting needles, with lots of extra sensory and tactile decorations such as buttons, bells, pom-poms and ribbons. Twiddle muffs can also be made through crochet, sewing or any technique that can make a woolly, textural tube.
Twiddles can be applied to both the inside and outside of the muff. Some creative ideas include a small bag filled with sponge or crinkly paper, keyrings and lavender sachets. It’s important to make sure everything is sewn on securely, so they can not be pulled off easily.
A simple pattern can be found on the Knit for Peace website. It’s suitable for both beginner knitters and those who are more advanced. There really are no rules.
As we approach Dementia Action Week (18-24 September), it’s a good time to try knitting some of these simple objects that are beneficial for both makers and communities.
Check out knitting groups at your local library or on city council websites.