Crafting (through) a PhD

I was in the post office the other day, and a lady nearby was packing up a crocheted blanket. It was multi-coloured, with a fairly complex pattern, and numerous stitches I know to be quite difficult to master.

I complimented her on the lovely piece, and she asked if I crocheted myself (I do). It turned out she’s a Uni of Edinburgh physics professor, and she uses crochet as a way to almost meditate. It was really interesting to get this random insight into an academic’s coping methods, so I listened and decided it would make a great blog post.

Whenever she felt burnt out, stressed out, or her brain refused to work anymore, she’d pick up her hooks and work on a project. Crafting can have this effect on us when we reach a certain level of competence in that craft.

As a beginner in some others, I can confirm that the opposite effect is possible. I do not relax when I’m making a linoleum block print, for example, because I’m concentrating on it and worrying about exacerbating my tendonitis and it isn’t the right depth and I forgot to reverse the lettering and…

You get the idea.

But knitting and crocheting, when you can do it blind, can be really good for this kind of meditative crafting. Especially if you’re not watching TV whilst you work. It can lead to an almost zen state of calm, with your brain empty of worry and thought on your current activity, and just autopiloting along the stitches.

I’ve found knitting, sewing, crochet, and other repetitive fibre crafts very good for focussing and relaxation. I’d also suggest to anyone that they try to find this kind of activity. It could be cycling, running, or anything that gets you in “the zone”. It can really help when the thesis or archive stress hits you in the spoons.

She’s now recently passed, and is now in work in academia. So, if you’re reading this, congratulations! And your blanket was lovely.

As ever, if anyone would like to learn more about contributing to the SGSAH Blog, let us know! Drop Jimmy an email at, or hit us up on Twitter!

One thought on “Crafting (through) a PhD

  1. mika says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve found knitting to be a great way of de-stressing after a hard day in front of the screen or books. I also feel like a big knitting project is a great metaphor for the PhD experience – you do it in a bit of a piecemeal fashion that doesn’t always make sense but it’ll all come together in the end, and if you do it with care you’ll (hopefully) have a beautifully crafted something at the end.


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