Crocheting has always been more than just a hobby for me, it is also like a therapy. After a stressful day, I can always unwind and relax while crocheting. I know many people also use crochet as a way to heal, especially during the annual hat drive for the Crochet Cancer Challenge.
This year I was so excited to have Marly Bird join as a designer in the challenge. We got to chatting and she asked if she could do a guest blog post about how crochet helps and heals. She wrote a lovely post and I am honored to share it with you all today.
Crochet is a wonderful craft that’s simply a lot of fun to do. However, there’s also a lot more to it than that for many people. People use crochet as therapy to heal from depression, anxiety, and stress. People also use crochet to work through the challenges of both short and long-term physical health conditions. Crochet heals individuals and can bring communities together.
Crochet As Stress-Relief
One of the biggest ways that crochet helps people is through stress-relief. The modern world presents so many stressors, especially in 2020! Stress can lead to, or exacerbate, a variety of other health issues. Therefore, by controlling stress levels, you improve overall health.
Crochet has been proven to offer relief from stress:
- Focusing on the stitches and sensations of crocheting brings you into the present moment.
- You can even practice mindfulness and breathing while you crochet.
- The repetitive motions of crocheting row after row or round after round release serotonin which helps bring happiness back into your body.
- In general, the craft grounds you in your body, allowing you to release the stress of the outside world.
- There are so many things in the world that we have no control over. However, it helps to focus on what we can control. Being able to choose yarn and patterns and work those stitches to produce something tangible is healing.
Learn More: Craft Yarn Council’s Mary Colucci shared thoughts about how to Stitch Away Stress on the Yarn Thing Podcast with Marly Bird.
Crocheting Through Depression and Anxiety
As aforementioned, studies show that repetitive motions including those of pulling up loop after loop in crochet can release serotonin which helps improve depression symptoms. And in the same way that coming into the present moment with crochet helps reduce stress, it can also lower symptoms of anxiety.
Crochet has also been found to help people with depression and anxiety because it interrupts the ruminations of the mind. Particularly in depression, but also in terms of the worrying aspect of anxiety, the mind wants to go over the same old stories again and again. This makes the symptoms of a condition worse. Interrupting that by counting stitches, refocusing on the pattern at hand, and creating something beautiful can give your mind a much needed restorative break.
Moreover, crochet has been found to boost self-esteem. Many people struggling with depression have low self-esteem. Crochet is a way that you can create something beautiful, functional, or just plain interesting. You can give crochet as gifts. Maybe you can even sell some crochet items or patterns of your own to contribute some income to the household. All of this helps people struggling with depression and anxiety to move forward.
Fun Fact: Crochet designer Ellen Gormley was a mental health counselor who used therapeutic crochet to help people with depression and anxiety. Learn more about her here.
Crochet During Chronic Illness
Many of the same reasons that crochet helps with mental illness also help when someone is coping with a physical illness. If you’re wiped out from chemo treatment, you might begin to feel like a useless burden upon your family; crocheting items that give them joy can be a way that you overcome that feeling. If you’re stressed about medical test results, learning to practice mindfulness through crochet can help you stay in the present moment and feel as much peace as possible while dealing with those challenging things.
Fun fact: Music is also healing. The Vibrato Violin Crochet Blanket Pattern combines a love of music and a love of crochet in one healing blanket pattern. A related fun fact is that established crochet designer Dora Ohrenstein had a career in music before her career in crochet.
Crocheting for Charity is a Healing Act
Each year since 2014 Sweet Potato 3 has hosted the Crochet Cancer Challenge as a way to raise awareness and funds for people living with cancer. It’s also a way for the community to come together. Many designers share their patterns for the challenge. For example, one of the contributions this year was the Wings of Hope hat pattern from Marly Bird. This is a warm and cozy crochet hat patterns with a fun pom on top, made of soft yarn so that someone going through chemo treatment could comfortably wear it.
Charity crochet helps with healing in a variety of ways including:
- Studies show that focusing on helping others is good for your own mental health.
- You can feel useful in the face of big challenges including when you or a loved one get a scary diagnosis. Crocheting for others in that same community can feel very healing.
- When you share about crocheting for charity, or participate in something like the Crochet Cancer Challenge, it allows you to spread the word about causes that you care about. This is empowering.
- It helps you connect to your community of people. Community itself is also healing. And connecting with other crocheters who share your same causes of concerns can be a very therapeutic experience.
How to Choose a Healing Crochet Pattern
People need different things when it comes to healing crochet. Some people find that they need to work on new crochet techniques or a challenging crochet pattern, because that’s the only way to get their mind to quiet down. Overwhelmingly, though, when seeking stress relief crochet, people seek easy, repetitive crochet stitches that allow both body and mind to get lulled into a healthy rhythm.
Marly Bird’s Stellar Stripes Shawl (also available in a knit pattern version for those of you who are bi-crafty) is a good example. It’s a repeating stitch pattern using simple single crochet and half double crochet stitches. However, after every two rows, you change colors to create the stripes. You get the meditative repetition with just enough of a steady interruption that your mind can’t wander into dark, worried places so much.
Plus this crochet pattern is designed to be made with yak yarn, which has a soft luxuriousness to it. Why does that matter? Because crochet has the potential to engage all of your senses, enhancing the healing potential. Choose yarn that feels good to the touch in colors that truly delight you and your crochet project will make you feel that much better.
This is a guest post by Kathryn Vercillo, author of Crochet Saved My Life, working in collaboration with Marly Bird. Follow Marly Bird on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or Pinterest. You can also sign up for her free newsletter, which includes many links to new free patterns each week.