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Guest Post: Why Knitting is Good for Us by Melisa Nielsen

I have known Melisa for quite some time through homeschooling our children with her lovely Waldorf curriculum when they were little. Today, Melisa is sharing her very inspiring story here about how knitting has helped her overcome a brain injury after having an accident a few years ago. She is also sharing a sweet little Waldorf inspired gnome pattern with us.

In Melisa’s words:

There aren’t many things that we do where we can say we love it intensely and it is actually good for us – baking is good but can be naughty, same with cooking – of course they are balms for the soul in other ways. But, knitting, knitting does something that most other crafting can’t. It can heal the brain.

Steiner knew that knitting was a great way to get both sides of the brain going and that it was helpful in helping young children calm and retain their academic work. Waldorf school first graders learn to knit and at home we can bring the same skills (and more!) to our children.

In “Waldorf Education: A Family Guide”, Eugene Schwartz, says that Steiner’s wisdom on knitting confirms recent neurological research on fine motor skills stimulating cellular brain development.

He also says:

“What occurs when a child sets about to knit? Needles are held in both hands, with each hand assigned its respective activity; laterality is immediately established, as well as the eye’s control over the hand.

The right needle must enter a fairly tightly-wound loop of yarn on the left needle, weave through it and pull it away, in  the process tying a knot.  Only a steady controlled hand can accomplish such a feat, so the power of concentration is aroused – indeed, there is no other activity performed by seven or eight year-olds that can evoke such a degree of attentiveness as knitting.  This training in concentration will go far in supporting problem-solving abilities in later years.”

About four years ago, I was in an accident and suffered a brain injury. I wish I could say the concussion was sustained by some magnificent flying trapeze act, but alas, it was just a fall that happened to occur too close to a brick wall.  We had no insurance at the time, but a dear friend that was a nurse practitioner, she did some initial triage and sent me home to bed.  Later in the week I saw our chiropractor for the first time and he warned me to take it slow.

Those who know me, know that these are not easy orders and I generally tend to fight! But I hurt. My speech was slurred and my eye was bruised and my head pounded.  I didn’t have much choice but to slow down. God knows what He is doing.  Our chiro told me to expect a recovery spanning a few months and that I shouldn’t drive or carry our little one for at least a month.  He ordered me to weekly visits to have cranial sacral work done on my head and neck.

I went home from the doctor frustrated.  That night I spent a lot of time in prayer asking for help.  I don’t have time to be down. I love what I do and my work is what brings life to our business. I felt a mantel of peace rush through my body and a still, small voice reminding me to work on my son’s sweater and directing me back to Eugene’s words. Eugene’s words took me directly to Steiner and then to my knitting basket to get busy on Sam’s sweater.  It was already November and the cold would be coming.  This sweater was to be his winter coat.  I ran purple-blue-green yarn through my fingers and I got busy.  The more I knit, the less I hurt. The more I knit, the better my speech got.  With each knitting session, I could almost feel my brain stitching itself back together.

The next week I went back to the chiropractor and told him what I had done.  He chuckled in disbelief and had me lay down on the table. It didn’t take but a moment for him to say “tell me that story again??

What are you doing to heal your brain?”  I sat up and told him.  He had never knit before so I explained the actions involved and he was stunned.  I continued to come back each week but after a month he was so impressed with my recovery that he released me to monthly care. He tells all his patients now with brain injuries to take up knitting.

The side effect of course was that I finished the sweater in record time.  It now is a favorite piece for our youngest who is just starting to wear it as her winter coat.  I still get migraines from time to time and my vision gets a little wonky in that eye when I am under stress, but picking up those knitting needles gets all those pieces stitching back together again, stitch by stitch.  Row by row.


gnome Melisa

Gnome Pattern

Melisa’s Gnome Pattern:

The pattern is VERY simple and came from my early Waldorf days when all I knew how to do was cast on/off and decrease! At the time I didn’t have any felt to make gnomes with and I wanted so badly to make something and have it look decent!  This pattern was born from those early days.  I love the simplicity and the fact that it can easily be made in any yarn weight from the smallest little sock yarn gnome to a giant bulky yarn gnome.

This one is from worsted weight wool on #9 needles.

Materials needed:

Yarn in whatever color and gage you prefer

needles in the appropriate size for your yarn

some undyed wool roving to stuff with.


BO – Bind off


Cast on 26 stitches

Knit 18 rows

Row 19: BO first 6 stitches knit to end of row

Row 20: BO first 6 stitches knit to end of row

Knit 6 rows Bo

Finishing Instructions:

Sew up the top so it looks like a cap.

Weave your needle up and down to gather up the neck and then stitch down the neck edges of the cape.

Stuff your gnome with undyed wool and he should stand on your nature table for many years!

Links for Melisa:

Walforf Essentials Blog

Waldorf Essentials Store


Melisa Nielsen is a Waldorf homeschooling mom of five and co-owner of Waldorf Essentials.  She has a fantastic program for Waldorf homeschool teacher training called Thinking, Feeling, Willing.  For more information visit her website at waldorfessentials.com

Thank you so much for sharing your very inspiring story here with us today Melisa and for your very sweet Gnome pattern.

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