06 Mar 2009

Episode 76: Panacea

The cure for all ills is found at the tips of your own knitting needles. An exploration of your brain, on knitting; with guest, Tara Jon Manning, and contributing writer, Diana Klau.

Tara Jon Manning, author of Mindful Knitting (UK) shares why knitting is the perfect panacea; writer Diana Klau (who usually speaks with images, rather than words, and whose Flickr Stream is here) knits her way back to health in a beautiful essay, read by Sage Tyrtle.

I’m using Meg’s Glacier Bay yarn for my current project. Check it out here.

Tell me about the Audible books you’ve listened to and loved! Leave a voicemail message in the the Cast On Drop by calling this number: 646-495-9201 x 14645

Do guys knit? How many guys are knitters? Why does it seem such a surprise to find out about a male knitter? Kyle is looking for answers to these, and other burning questions. If you have a minute or two, he’d love to know what you think. Checkout his survey at Knitting Men in America.

If you’d like to read more about the anatomy and chemistry of the brain, and the vital role it plays in creativity, check out:


KniTunes were provided by and used with the permission of:

Additional music Opening by Jami Sieber, courtesy of Magnatune.



  1. Krista wrote:

    Thank you so much! I enjoy listening to you and thank you for your dedication and humor!

    Posted on 3.6.09 ·
  2. Camille wrote:

    Great episode, as always! ‘Bird by Bird’ is my absolute favorite book on writing. I recommend it to every writer I meet, always mentioning the ‘Shitty First Drafts’ chapter and how it literally changed my life. Thanks again for another terrific episode, Brenda!

    Posted on 3.6.09 ·
  3. Mary aka turtleknitter wrote:

    Hi Brenda,

    Your podcasts have been making me teary-eyed lately. I so need to hear what you are talking about and the ideas you are working with. Thank you for putting them to voice. It is hard for me to express without sounding sentimental or maudlin — I am neither — just profoundly thankful and deeply touched, as far as my life is concerned, your timing is excellent!

    Posted on 3.6.09 ·
  4. Diane W wrote:

    Just listened to a great book from Audible. It’s called The Tenth Gift and it’s about a modern woman who is given a 17th century embroidery book and written in the book is the story of the owner who was kidnapped from Cornwall by Barbary pirates. The book hops back and forth between the past and present and it was very entertaining. The narrators were excellent! I’ve belonged to Audible for over a year and have never been disappointed in one of their books.

    Posted on 3.7.09 ·
  5. Amy wrote:

    Hey Brenda,
    As usual, your thoughts about life and knitting are very poignant. Your recent topics [Episode 75 & 76] about creativity and relevance are really striking a chord with me, and I just wanted to say thanks for all you do and for sharing your ideas. I suffer from a bit of perfectionism, and struggle with letting that go and just being, and enjoying the life I have. You have given me a lot to think on.

    Keep playing, experimenting, and growing.

    Posted on 3.7.09 ·
  6. Anne wrote:

    HOORAY!! This is the extra incentive I needed to go for a hike tomorrow.

    Posted on 3.7.09 ·
  7. Susan wrote:

    Hello Brenda,

    Thank you so much for a really interesting and thought provoking podcast. I’m a new listener; my eldest son gave me an iPod shuffle for Christmas and skipped off back home to Wales without showing me how to use it. “it’s intuitive Mum” he always says when I’m presented with a piece of modern technology and no instruction manual. Anyway, two weeks and some downloaded free software later, I was ready to go. I found your website, subscribed to the podcast, and now I’m listening to the alchemy episodes over and over again. Actually, I haven’t bothered putting anything else on my iPod yet! I love your podcasts because for me they are the right mix of music, articles and knitting news. Listening to them is like catching up with an old friend I haven’t seen in a while. Please, please keep producing them.

    All the best,

    Posted on 3.7.09 ·
  8. Nishanna wrote:

    My favorite book to listen to is basically anything by neil gaiman. not only are his stories incredible, he has such a lovely voice. I feel like I have someone personally reading me a story, almost like a child. it’s really quite sweet. I love his short stories. Just quick enough for a train ride and if I don’t like one I can move on to another. I also love his full length adult novels. American Gods, Anansi boys. Good stuff!

    Also, i wanted to share some information related to the Theta waves you spoke about. In psychoanalytic theory we have ego functions. These are adaptive qualities we all have to maintain ourselves, meaning, our egos. One function is called regression in service of the ego. Which basically means we allow ourselves to relax and experience aspects of our self or our reality that we wouldn’t ordinarily while under tension. Meaning, you are working on your sock pattern, hit a stumbling block so you go knit on some stockinette for a while. Suddenty you have a moment of clarity and you are able to continue the sock pattern. I also call it the toilet moment. hahaha.

    love the podcast. thank you for all the hard work.

    Posted on 3.7.09 ·
  9. Carolyn wrote:

    Thank you so much for putting these podcasts out there! I’ve just recently discovered you, and so far in two days I have listened to the first four installments. Your voice is like drinking tea with an old friend…soothing and welcoming. Most of the music you play is just wonderful and I really like the format you use. I found Tara Jon Manning through Knitty a little while ago, and I find that she has taught me a great deal about knitting from a different perspective; so thank you for having her on #76.

    Don’t let the critics get you down. You are doing a wonderful, inspirational, generous thing here every week, and it is probably more appreciated than you will ever know.
    I don’t feel quite so much like a solo knitter any more.

    Thank you.

    Posted on 3.8.09 ·
  10. Tracy wrote:

    Thanks Brenda you don’t know how much your episode Panacea meant to me today. My ground is at this moment very shakey. I am in the moment of possibly losing my job as a teacher and it scares me to death knowing that I might not be doing the thing that I most love and the feeling of the unknown. I have been knitting like crazy this weekend and it is the one thing that I know that is permanent along with the love and support of my dear husband and family. Thanks again for your wonderful podcasts.

    Posted on 3.8.09 ·
  11. kathy sullivan wrote:

    Subscribed to Audible after a mention from you (and other podcasters like Leo Laporte). Audible sent a free gift right from the beginning. It was a chapter from a Steve Martin book called “Dear Amanda”. It is laugh out loud funny. Everyone who listens to it gives a chuckle. Just finished The Road by Cormac McCarthy, a must read book; When Engulfed by Flames by David Sedaris; and Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher. The last two are read by the authors, which is like sitting in a living room and hearing them tell you funny stories about their lives. It wouldn’t be quite the same with a book. Thanks and keep up the great, hard work.

    Posted on 3.9.09 ·
  12. Pascale wrote:

    Thank you very much for another tremendous, lively, entertaining and informative podcast. Listening to everything you have to share is so uplifting!

    Posted on 3.9.09 ·
  13. Hi Brenda!

    I’m really enjoying your renewed enthusiasum for podcasting – some of your more recent episodes (interviewing Kim Werker, for one) have had a very tangible effect on my life.

    The brain chemistry topic this episode was really interesting – for the last couple of months, I’ve been struggling with panic attacks and sudden bursts (or horrid hours) of fear or anger. I’m working with a naturopath to find some food and supplement treatments to help, but I have also been enjoying more personal moments of quiet, or finding respite from my internal noise in the pleasant tasks of podcasting or working on my new website and blog.

    The idea of taking 30 seconds to do one stitch is beyond me, but I may return to drop-spindling as another way to quiet and focus my mind – the spinning whorl is hypnotic and mesmerizing, and time seems to stand still as I draft and spin and wind on and repeat.

    Thanks again for all the time and effort producing Cast On requires – I really enjoyed your company today as I set up my new (to me) floor loom!

    Posted on 3.9.09 ·
  14. I just sent you an e-mail, and completely forgot to say “thanks” for finding the ravelry wiki link for all the podcasts. so, Thanks!

    Posted on 3.10.09 ·
  15. Hi Brenda,
    Although I have donated in the past, I have never sent in a comment in the 1 1/2 years that I have listened. I have really enjoyed your podcast, more than almost any other that I listen to, and you have been a solace as I have been starting a new business and not knitting very much for the last couple of years. I suppose I knit vicariously though you and your contributors, and I do try to make the occasional hat or sock.

    I am writing now because your “Panacea” episode filled my heart. I have always used knitting as a meditation, for one, and that conversation was really affirming. Even more, in starting my own business, and being tender-hearted myself, I really agree with your decision to let the comments, good and bad, flow on by. I am looking forward to the day when that Always Happens, but I am getting better at it! Thanks for being here, I am overjoyed to hear from you more often again.

    Posted on 3.10.09 ·
  16. Anne wrote:


    I often hike or exercise while listening to the podcast, and sometimes I compose long comments in my head that never get out in the open. For a while last fall, they were along the lines of, “Brenda, just do what you like with the podcast, and people will decide for themselves whether to come along!” And it seems you have done just that.

    I hope you do like, because I’m having fun coming along. And it seems fitting that the podcast now has Audible as a sponsor, which is so much in keeping with the whole experience that it doesn’t even really feel to me like an ad.

    (Which reminds me to go check the link…)

    Thanks so much.


    Posted on 3.11.09 ·
  17. Ruth Temple wrote:

    The concept of oak leaf wine, not to be confused with the Northern California (grape wine) winery of similar name, fascinates me as an occasional wine-maker. So I went looking and found this interesting page: http://winemaking.jackkeller.net/oakleaf.asp which I appreciate for its list of oak varietals that work better (or worse) for this.
    Hmm! Experimentation Must Happen.

    Posted on 3.11.09 ·
  18. brece wrote:

    Dear Brenda,

    Thank you. I have listened to the Panacea pod cast twice in the last few days. Slowing down and noticing and working makes so much sense. It is so hard to do, however. This past weekend, I went to see the paintings of Bonnard with a friend of mine. We spoke of slowing down and looking, of just taking it all in. Stopping in front of the painting and just being with it for a while. The next day, I got on the train and found your new podcast, coincidentally, about knitting as meditation. It hit the perfect note. I look forward to reading Mindful Knitting soon. In the meantime, I will think about knitting slowly and breathing deeply.

    So, dear Brenda. Thank you for your podcasts filled with considered thoughts and ideas, not to mention all of the knitting projects. And your encouragement to play and to be strong in oneself. As you said, start as you mean to go on.

    Thank you, and looking forward to the next one.


    Posted on 3.12.09 ·
  19. Kimberley Rea wrote:

    I am new to podcasting as I just got my 1st IPod for Christmas. Listening to podcasts is my new joy and obsession! I found yours and from the 1st listen was mesmerized by your voice, your topics, your choice of music and your interweaving of knitting and personal growth, knowledge, etc… The panacea episode was an absolute delight! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I know that you no longer NEED the approval of others (what spectacular advice for all of us) but I do want to offer you my sincere appreciation for all of your work, time and energy that I know must go into making this podcast. THank you!

    Posted on 3.12.09 ·
  20. Wendy wrote:

    Thank you for the essay on Knitting Hair. Up until 4 weeks ago, I had never heard of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, but that all changed when my 62 year old mom was diagnosed with it. She has gone through her first chemo treatment and is doing great at keeping her chin up. As I listened to your podcast about mindful knitting, it all fits into my life as I quietly knit and think of my mom.

    Posted on 3.12.09 ·
  21. Angie wrote:

    It means so much to me that you said you do not worry about an extra stitch or two in a sock. I am an isolated knitter and sometimes feel that everyone else in cyberspace is such an expert. I like to slow my knitting sometimes to knit with my senses, I walk and cook with my senses, too. This way I can enjoy technology while not being swallowed up. Your podcast is so personal, it helps me feel that I’m OK in this spinning world.

    Posted on 3.14.09 ·
  22. Diane L. wrote:

    I first discovered Jill Bolte Taylor on http://www.ted.com. She gave an emotional lecture on her experience having a stroke. Only later did I find out that she resides in my hometown, Bloomington, Indiana. She is amazing.
    And as for “great- things-to-listen-to-while-knitting”, the http://www.ted.com website is a gem. I give it a 6 star rating (out of 5 stars). There is a wealth of ideas, knowlege, inspiration, and community to be found there.
    Thanks, Brenda, for a great podcast. Happy Spring Equinox.

    Posted on 3.15.09 ·
  23. Monica R wrote:

    The entire podcast discussion was very interesting and made lots of sense to me. Thinking about fiber and knitting and then the act of doing such is very relaxing, almost zen-like. I look back at the last several months where I had some anxiety or just a bad day and how knitting on a project made the outlook better and my overall mood easier and more relaxed. So there is something about focusing on something that is so personal that helps center a person and balances out their life. This was an excellent podcast to listen to and I look forward to what else Brenda has to put out.

    Posted on 3.15.09 ·
  24. Louise wrote:

    It’s time for me to quit just lurking and speak up about how much I appreciate the beautiful gift of Cast-On. “Panacea” was especially smart and touching and fascinating. Hey, we all know that knitting is good for the soul, but I have to tell you that listening to Cast-On makes me feel centered and relaxed and happy. It is NPR for the knitter’s soul! Thank you, Brenda for sharing the beautiful thing that you make. :0)

    Posted on 3.16.09 ·
  25. kathleen wrote:

    WONDERUL WONDERFUL WONDERFUL! Wow, I am continuously amazed at how fresh, interesting and insightful your podcasts are.

    I found the meditative knitting conversation very interesting. I can definitely relate to the concept, but wanted to add another 2 cents, which is, I often use my knitting to *escape* from life, rather than to center myself on what is going on in it. I believe that if I really slowed down, didn’t engage in complex, pattern-driven knitting, and listen to audiobooks, it would force me to focus on the hard realities of my life right now – having just been laid off, a husband with depression he won’t deal with, kids who are stressed by our lack of income, a relationship with my spouse that is less than cordial most of the time, etc etc. So, I guess my way of knitting gets me to the same end – a calm, relaxed, happy and fulfilled sense – as does the meditative way, just in a different manner. I’m sure that I should focus less on the escape and more on the acceptance phase of meditative knitting, but for now it is what I need to do to keep my sanity. That, and listening to your podcast.

    Thanks Brenda, your words and feelings really do help me each and every time I listen.

    Kathleen in SF

    Posted on 3.16.09 ·
  26. Lori wrote:


    Thank you so much for your podcast. I’ve been a listener nearly from the beginning and have grown-up as a knitter with you. This one is one of my favorites! I am working on my psych degree. Your discussion of brain chemistry and how it works while knitting (for example) is spot on and breaks down abstract psychological concepts and presents them in a concise and digestible way. Thank you! Keep up the good work. And please tell Tanya “thanks” for sharing you with all of your knit-sibs.

    p.s. the amygdala is pronounced “ah-MIG-da-la”

    Posted on 3.16.09 ·
  27. Susan wrote:

    Loved the episode. Used your brain waves segment to justify putting down my work and knitting for an hour before I went to bed. Thanks for that.

    Also really appreciated what you had to say about play. I wonder if there is a Cast On series lurking in that topic…

    And finally, although I readily admit I have absolutely no search skills and often can’t find things that are directly in front of me, I remember on the podcast that you are now on Twitter, but I forgot your Twit name and don’t see it listed here. Is it here? If not, what is it?

    Thanks for such a high quality, soul-satisfying show.

    Posted on 3.17.09 ·
  28. blipp wrote:

    Thank you!

    Posted on 3.17.09 ·
  29. T2 wrote:

    I’ve only listened to the 1st part of the show so far (the intro to brainwaves) and wondered if you caught the discussion on BBC radio today about how musicians who play music together have the same brain wave patterns. I didn’t catch the whole thing, so that’s really all I can say on the subject, but I was reminded of it by your podcast.

    Secondly, I think you would really enjoy the Radio Lab podcast. They take everyday stuff like sleep, making choices or stress and explore it scientifically. It’s designed so non-science minded folks can follow the explanations as well. Their Stress episode had a lot about how the flight or fight reaction affects us today.

    OK, I have to get back to listening to your show now.

    Posted on 3.18.09 ·
  30. Bells wrote:

    Two things Brenda – your comments about ignoring criticism, finding comfort with your own work and just getting on with is really, really touched me today on the bus ride home. It’s something that can be applied to many areas in life and it is something I’ll reflect on quite a lot in my own life, so thanks. And I’m glad it’s been good for you.

    Also, I’ve loved audible for ages, since before you started promoting it. I was delighted to hear they were sponsoring your show. I’ve listened mainly to classics so far and loved hearing you talk about Wilkie Collins. I’ve got that book queued up to go. But I was enthralled by Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden, set in Australia and Cornwall. It’s modelled a little on The Secret Garden and is amazingly engaging. A beautiful, captivating page turner. Highly recommend it.

    Posted on 3.18.09 ·
  31. Bells wrote:

    Forgot to mention I went and ordered Mindful Knitting right after listening to the show. I’ve been meaning to for a while so hearing Tara speak spurred me on.

    Posted on 3.18.09 ·
  32. Judy Salmans wrote:

    Brenda, I love your podcast. I have been listening for about 2 years and of course went back and listen from the begining. Today sweater is one section I like best.

    Also I have been a member of Audible for a long time. I love the Outlander books and I only get the unabriIdged books. I also like books by James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell, and John Grisham to name a few. Keep up the good work.

    Posted on 3.18.09 ·
  33. kashimama wrote:

    Hello Brenda, I had an amusing moment this morning as I chose your last podcast to help distract me during some dental work — what a funny surprise to find that it was all about living in the moment and being aware of the present. Exactly what I did not want to be doing while I was listening! It was delightfully engaging and did take my mind off of what was happening in my mouth, though, so thank you!

    Posted on 3.18.09 ·
  34. Barbara wrote:

    Hi, Brenda:

    I am a long-time listener and continue to enjoy your podcast. Thank you for all that you share and for your thoughtful reflections. I enjoy your show and avidly look forward to new episodes.

    I found it interesting that you spoke about how both praise and criticism mean less as you evolve as a podcaster. And that you are creating the programs now more for yourself than for what you think the audience “expects”. I found myself thinking “Methinks she doth protest too much.” Do what you love. Be yourself. I do not usually read the comments, so I am at a loss as to why anyone else would behave in a such an un-constructive manner.

    And now the real reason I am commenting: I believe in kismet. Here is my real reason for posting this week. My horoscope this week at http://www.freewillastrology.com.

    “Among medieval alchemists, there were some who tried to make a fortune by literally converting lead into gold. But the authentic practitioners of the art were interested in a subtler kind of experimentation: ripening and beautifying the shadowy aspects of their own psyches. That explains their motto: “For a tree’s branches to reach to heaven, its roots must reach to hell.” Among other things, that means you have to dig deep and work hard on redeeming your less flattering qualities in order to earn the right to exalted states of consciousness and spiritual powers. The coming weeks will be an excellent time for you to carry out this alchemy.”

    Ah, alchemy. Must make more time for knitting!

    Keep up the good work,

    Posted on 3.20.09 ·
  35. honeybee33 wrote:

    Brenda —

    The whole “this is your brain on knitting” discussion is very personal for me – I have ADHD and have found that knitting helps me manage it in many settings. I can never go anywhere without my knitting, since if I end up in a waiting-room or in a line, it keeps me from crawling out of my skin. It has also given me, at the ripe age of 46, recent success in my classes after a lifetime of disastrous college experiences. I discovered that when I knit in class, it helps me focus on lectures and content, manage my anxiety and emotions in classroom discussions, and it quells my fear so I can be participative and share my ideas. For some reason, by keeping my hands busy in those physiologically inate movements, my mind is freed from its chemistry so it can function like other people’s minds do naturally!

    Anyway, thanks for bringing up the ideas – it’s good to finally get a scientific explanation for something that’s still a bit of a mystery to me. ;~)

    ~ hb33 ~

    Posted on 3.22.09 ·
  36. Barbara wrote:

    I have been enjoying the latest podcasts so much. I’m glad you’ve found the right emotional place to be in to do them. Sometimes, while I’m listening (and re-listening), I think – Brenda ‘s got it figured out!
    So much of what you say resonates with me. I’m working on being mindful and kind, and being true to myself. Your words and your spirit keep me focused and on track.

    Posted on 3.24.09 ·
  37. Liz T. wrote:

    Great episode – I’m so pleased that you’re in a good place, podcast-wise. I think it really comes through in the episodes.

    Posted on 3.24.09 ·
  38. jill warren wrote:

    Brenda- I am not new to knitting, but new to podcast listening and am so very grateful to have found your wonderful words. You are speaking things I have experienced and think about when knitting (or not knitting)and your words leave me with lots of reasons to ponder why I do the things I do (knit-wise and other-wise!). Thank you for your thoughtful, intelligent observations. jill warren

    Posted on 3.25.09 ·
  39. DanDann wrote:

    Hi there! I’ve decided to stop being a silent stalker and finally comment. I’ve been polyblogamous since November and listening to your podcast in particular since January. I have the unfortunate situation of very low available hard drive space on my computer, so it’s a big deal that I want to keep every one of your podcasts because you’re interesting and funny and I LOVE the music. Anyway, I haven’t listened to any of the most recent podcasts because I don’t think I can maintain two story lines (I’m currently listening to the 45th episode). Thank you so much for podcasting!

    Posted on 3.26.09 ·
  40. Molly M. wrote:

    I’ve listened to several of your podcasts in the past few months, and I’ve enjoyed them, very informative, and great music. This was by far my absolute favorite. So touching, thought provoking and inspiring. Thank you, Thank you, Thank You!

    ps – are you familiar with David Wilcox’s music? (the David Wilcox from the US not the Canadian one) I think you might love his lyrics.

    Posted on 3.26.09 ·
  41. Megan wrote:

    Brenda, when you said “When the ground is shaky beneath your feet, and you don’t know yet how to take the next step or how it will all work out, this is when we need our knitting most.”, I swear you were sitting right with me, reading my thoughts, as I was knitting and listening to your podcast. I was knitting and trying to decide where I’m going to move for the next five years. You are right- when knitters don’t know what to do, they turn to their knitting for meditation and to cope.

    Posted on 3.28.09 ·
  42. Kathy wrote:

    I just listened for the first time to your podcast. I loved it. it was so inspirational. I just restarted knitting after not doing so for maybe 30 years. I have found it a good way to escape and relax. I love the music you played on this podcast. Can wait to listen to more!!!! Kathy

    Posted on 4.2.09 ·
  43. Johnny Galang wrote:

    I’ve been thinking about theta waves you the past two days as I’ve almost driven past my exit for work! Keep up the great ‘casting!

    Posted on 4.3.09 ·
  44. zabby wrote:

    Hi Brenda,

    Long time listener, first time commenter. Loved this episode. I think it is the first episode in a long time that I will be re-listening to, over and over, since the ones about the Muses. For a while, I’ve talked to my knitting friends about ‘sedating’ myself with knitting, how I bury myself in a project to calm my nerves after work and my general life-related anxiety. When you were talking about brain waves and mediation, it really hit a cord and I will be re-listening again (with knitting in my hands and not a keyboard) to try to connect the dots of what really resonated, how it applies to me and such. Again, loved the episode, it had a lots of great advice and I’m glad you found your creative mojo and have the will to share it with us. Thank you!

    Posted on 4.3.09 ·
  45. Zabet wrote:

    Ok, they are all over the board on the craft terms, but the underlying studies are interesting:


    Posted on 4.4.09 ·
  46. Rose Windman wrote:

    Hi Brenda,

    Happy St. David’s Day, I too am Welsh but have lived in Melbourne, Australia for many years.

    I have only just discovered knitting podcasts, although I have been a knitter for over 40 years.

    I really enjoy your podcast, you have a really nice voice and its very easy to listen to.

    I enjoyed hearing the National Welsh Anthem, it brought a tear to my eye.


    Posted on 4.14.09 ·
  47. sarah wrote:

    brenda! it is so good to hear you say that you have come to a point where praise and criticism are no longer a source of motivation or hinderance. i will not stop singing your praises and cannot imagine those who have anything other than praise have much sense. i admire your kind voice and always always enjot “picking up my pointy sticks” to the sound of your voice.

    Posted on 5.21.09 ·
  48. Brenda,

    I just started listening to podcasts in the last year and yours is my favorite. I especially appreciate your recommendation of audible.com. I downloaded it after listining to your podcast and am now “listening” through Anna Karenina. My next listens will be the Jane Austen novels. I work in sales and am on the road three days a week. It’s nice to listen to a book.

    Posted on 7.21.09 ·

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