Knit your way to relaxation

Knitting is a brilliant way of achieving a balanced life: You can do it anywhere, it's easy to learn and, according to Dr Herbert Benson, President of the Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Harvard, is as relaxing as meditation or yoga. So it's high time you got hold of your gran's needles and tried your hand at knitting. Super side effect: You end up with a handmade item that you can keep for yourself or give as a present. So are you ready to knit like the muscle man in our TV ad? The following instructions will turn you into a knitting pro in no time.

Casting on a row of stitches

Let's begin with the basics and cast on. You need two needles for this and, of course, yarn. To make the first stitch, create a loop (figure 1). Then wrap the yarn over the little finger, under the ring and middle fingers and over the index finger of your left hand. Hold the needle with the first stitch in your left hand and push the second needle through the first stitch from front to back, looping the yarn from the index finger through and forward (figures 4 and 5). Transfer this loop to the left needle by pushing the left needle through the loop from front to back (in the direction of the arrow in figures 2 and 3). Pull the yarn and hey presto, you've just made a cast-on stitch. Well done! Do the same for all of the other stitches. Every new cast-on stitch is made from the last stitch. Repeat until you have the number of stitches you want.

Plain stitches

There are purl and plain stitches. These are the main elements of knitting. Once you've mastered these, you're ready to knit a whole host of patterns. In these instructions, we focus on the plain stitch. To create this, push the right needle through a stitch on the left needle, from front to back (figure 4). Then wrap the yarn from the index finger around the right needle and pull it through the stitch to the front (figure 5). Don't let the previous stitch slip off the left needle until the new stitch is on the right needle.

Casting off

When you've finished, you need to cast off your piece of knitting. Depending on the pattern, you can cast off the stitches to the right (figures 6 and 7) or to the left (figure 8). At the start of the cast-off row, knit the first two stitches as usual, then use the left needle to lift the first stitch over the second stitch and off (figure 6), leaving just the second stitch on the right needle (figure 7). Now knit the next stitch and, again, lift the first stitch over the second stitch and off, etc.

To finish your piece of knitting, pull the yarn through the last stitch on the cast-off row. Congratulations! Give yourself a pat on the back and think how relaxed you now feel after all that concentrating.

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