Until 2002 I was a Senior Physiotherapist, working in the community. Many of the patients I saw were so demotivated I knew they wouldn't do the exercises I'd taught them or carry out the lifestyle changes I advised. Mrs Smith wasn't getting out of her chair because she had no reason to. Millions of people simply exist behind four walls with no structure or purpose to their day and no meaningful social contact.

I felt we needed to take a step back with these individuals. They needed to develop an interest in the world, an aspiration to improve their wellbeing and an opportunity to enjoy social contact before any self-management approach would be successful. The system we found ourselves in took no consideration of the whole person and the critical role that psychological wellbeing and 'whole life' events play in the healing process. I became very frustrated.

After much soul searching I had a complete change of career and became a freelance production editor on a range of leisure-based magazines. Fast forward a couple of years here to when I found myself working on the craft portfolio of Future Publishing. It's here that I stumbled across a large amount of anecdotal evidence on the therapeutic benefits of knitting and stitching. Large numbers of people from different backgrounds and cultures around the world telling similar stories of using knitting and stitching to successfully self-manage a variety of medical conditions, in particular stress, depression and long-term pain. I immediately thought of those 'community patients', and decided to investigate further. It was exciting.

I began to think of ways I could get the message across to others who might benefit, so the idea for Stitchlinks was born in January 2005. I wanted to create a central hub which could always be trusted and relied upon to give accurate information because I realised that, even at this early stage, 'the media' would undoubtedly sensationalise research findings.

As I dug deeper it soon became clear that the benefits were going much deeper than simply occupying or distracting people. This was something hugely exciting which had the potential to change the way we approach our general wellbeing but also the management of long-term health conditions. These knitters and stitchers were experiencing changing attitudes and becoming motivated to do other activities. They were also becoming more confident socially and developing firm friendships.

Not only was there something in the individual activity which was beneficial but there was something special in the quality of the social contact experienced through the activity.


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