When studying Occupational Therapy,  Activity Analysis was introduced to us students as a tool for developing specific treatment intervention plans. It is a method of looking at an activity, and isolating the physical, emotional, cognitive, psychological and social components of the activity.

For example, if someone has difficulties with attention, activities that require attention are built into the intervention program, starting with a minimal expectation for attention, and slowly building the expectation as attention improves. Like-wise, someone could have difficulties with fine motor skills, and activities that require fine motor skills are introduced, slowly grading the difficulty, based on the improving ability of the child/person.

Here I am doing an activity analysis of knitting, using the Uniform Terminology  (from my 8th edition Willard and Spackman’s Occupational Therapy) that Occupational Therapists use to analyse activities. A similar analysis could be done for spinning, sewing or weaving, with the differences being in the specific movement required of the hands.

Sensory processing

  • Tactile – interprets light touch, pressure through skin contact/receptors
  • Proprioception – interprets stimuli originating in the muscles, joints and other internal tissues to give information about the position of one body part in relation to another
  • Visual – interprets stimuli through the eyes, including peripheral vision and acuity, awareness of colour, depth and figure ground.

Perceptual processing 

  • Stereognosis – identify objects through the sense of touch
  • Kinesthesia – Identify the excursion and direction of joint movement.
  • Right left discrimination – differentiating one side of the body from the other.
  • Position in Space – determine the spatial relationships of figures and objects to self or other forms and objects.
  • Figure ground – differentiate between foreground and background forms and objects.


  • Range of motion – move body parts through an arc
  • Strength – demonstrate a degree of muscle power when movement is resisted with weight or gravity
  • Endurance – sustain musculoskeletal exertion over time.
  • Postural control – core stability for refined distal movements.
  • Bilateral integration – using both hands together in a coordinated manner
  • Praxis – conceiving and planning a new motor act.
  • Fine dexterity – control of small muscle group
  • Visual Motor Integration – coordinating the interaction of information from the with body movement during activity.

Cognitive components:

  • Attention – focusing on a task over time
  • Memory – recalling information after a short or long period of time.
  • Sequencing – placing information, concepts and action in order
  • Spatial operations – mentally manipulating and position of objects in relation to each other.
  • Problem solving – recognizing a problem, defining the problem and fixing it, and evaluating the outcome.
  • Learning – acquiring new concepts and skills.
  • Generalization – applying learned concepts and behaviors to a variety of new situations.


  • Values – identifying ideas or beliefs that are important to self and others. (for example handmade, home-made, recycling, natural fibers, local crafts etc)
  • Interests – identifying physical or mental activities that create pleasure or maintain attention.
  • Self concept – developing the value of the physical, emotional and social self.


  • Social conduct – interacting by using manners, personal space, eye contact, gestures, active listening and self-expression appropriate for one’s environment.
  • Self-expression – using a variety of styles and skills to express thoughts, feelings and needs.

Self management

  • Coping skills – identifying and managing stress and related factors
  • Self-control – modifying ones own behavior in response to environmental needs, demands, constraints, personal aspirations, and feedback from others.

And I am adding in:

  • Emotional regulation
  • Executive function

That is a lot!

So many parts of the brain can be used when learning to knit and becoming a  skilled knitter. And each person will have different challenges and reasons to love knitting, their own unique mix of what their strengths and difficulties are.

I do feel it necessary to state that I am not aware of scientific studies done to demonstrate the therapeutic effect of knitting on the brain. My Activity Analysis here is based on personal experience and observation and discussion with other knitters. I am drawing on my OT skills of activity analysis and applying them to knitting.

The Sensorimotor cortex of the human brain

The Sensorimotor cortex of the human brain.

Notice how much of the motor area  (red) is assigned to controlling movement in the hands.