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The Therapy of Crochet and Knitting

February 25th, 2013

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Has crafting ever brought you out of a tough time? Often, the meditative and creative aspects of yarn crafts can be just what the doctor ordered when it comes to coping with grief, depression, or that funk you just haven’t been able to emerge from. Though knitting and crochet are often looked at as lighthearted, serene crafts, the emergence of many crafting social groups over the last several years speaks to the release of both the craft and the social component that frequently comes along with it. A new book highlights the healing that can come from crochet.

Crochet Saved My Life chronicles the journey of a college freshman coping with the usual suspects–new school, new state, new friends–as well as the far less familiar, including the surprise diagnosis of an inoperable brain tumor. Author Kathryn Vercillo describes how she found release from her anxiety and stress in the therapeutic nature of each repetitive stitch.

More than telling her own story, which includes the profound motion of dropping a knife from her wrist and picking up yarn instead, Vercillo also shares the stories of other men and women who have found solace in crochet and knitting, as well as the effects these crafts have on those with various mental and physical conditions, including anxiety, depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis.

To learn more about the book, click here.

So many of us have found comfort in the stitches of knitting and crochet. Have these yarn crafts gotten you through difficult times in your life? Share your experiences below. 

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  • Sandra

    In the midst and aftermath of my divorce, my anxiety was so great that I could not sit still, and my attention span was so short that watching TV or reading a book was difficult or impossible. I also felt worthless and utterly alone, contributing nothing to life by my activities or my existence. Crocheting gave my restless hands something to do and allowed my ‘monkey mind’ space to settle down and focus on something tangible. The pride I felt as I saw my creation grow in front of me allowed me to regain a positive sense of self-esteem. Learning to crochet allowed me to take on a new identity as a crafty, DIY-oriented person, and exposed me to people and events I never would have known about before. I wear that first scarf I ever crocheted with pride–to remind me that while my world was crashing down around me and I was forced to rebuild, I have that single-crochet stitch, baby blue scarf that saved me.

  • Sandra

    In the midst and aftermath of my divorce, my anxiety was so great that I could not sit still, and my attention span was so short that watching TV or reading a book was difficult or impossible. I also felt worthless and utterly alone, contributing nothing to life by my activities or my existence. Crocheting gave my restless hands something to do and allowed my ‘monkey mind’ space to settle down and focus on something tangible. The pride I felt as I saw my creation grow in front of me allowed me to regain a positive sense of self-esteem. Learning to crochet allowed me to take on a new identity as a crafty, DIY-oriented person, and exposed me to people and events I never would have known about before. I wear that first scarf I ever crocheted with pride–to remind me that while my world was crashing down around me and I was forced to rebuild, I have that single-crochet stitch, baby blue scarf that saved me.

    • Ashley Tedesco

      What an uplifting tale! Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Renee

    Crocheting defiantly had a part is saving my life. I have bi-polar disorder and as peri-menopause came upon me certain symptoms intensified. I had no idea what was really going on. I was very suicidal but when I crocheted a calmness came over me. Whenever I felt myself sinking into the depression, I would sit and crochet. I make an effort to pass on crochet to anyone who is interested. It is such a gift.

    • Ashley Tedesco

      Thank you for sharing this deeply personal story with us.

  • RiverCity60

    My mother passed away recently and I started crocheting again. A skill she taught me. It makes me think of her and keeps her close.

    • Ashley Tedesco

      That’s wonderful. Needlecrafting is a great way to connect with the memories of lost loved ones who taught us years ago.

  • Knitted Knotions

    As a mother of three whose husband traveled frequently, I found myself feeling lonely and sad. I signed up for a knitting class at my local yarn shop and haven’t stopped since. That was 4 years ago! Not only did I make new friends….POSITIVE friends (not the negative kind) but I found my little ‘retreat’ after tucking the kids in bed. Even if it was just for twenty minutes, it helped me relax and rest easier when going to bed. I just recently learned to crochet and am torn on which to do now! ha! What a great problem to have! I could go on and on about these crafts…

    • Ashley Tedesco

      So happy to hear it’s been a comfort for you! Keep it up! Thanks for sharing. :)

  • Jacqulyne

    7 yrs. ago, my health took a dramatic turn for the worse.
    My muscles just gave out. I went from
    doctor to doctor trying to get some answers and some help. No one could tell me
    what was destroying my body. I had more tests than I can even count. Some were
    very painful. Including 5 biopsies of my muscles with only a local to help with
    the pain of it. I felt every cut they made. I started knitting at that time. I
    just needed something to help me through each day. 7 ½ yrs. later they are no closer to finding
    answers. My health has gone down even further. It has now affected my eye
    muscles, my voice, my throat muscles and even my ability to walk without the
    use of a cane or wheelchair. I knit every day. I may not be able to control what is happening
    to my body, but I can control something. Knitting helps keep me calm and
    peaceful when my whole world has turned upside down. The things I knit, I give away. It helps me to remember that I am but a small
    part of this big world and there are others who are much worse off than I

    • Ashley Tedesco

      What a special way to look at the world. Thank you so much for sharing your personal journey with us.

  • Grace

    In 2009 we had a series of disasters in our family that I found very devastating. There were days it was an effort to function normally. My sister-in-law passed away and her husband brought me all her yarn, tubs and tubs of yarn, hooks, patterns and I started crocheting again. If I was sitting I had yarn and a hook in my hand and it helped save my sanity. The rhthym of moving my hands and my crochet hook was calming and almost meditative. It carried me away to a place where it just didn’t hurt so much. I get the same kind of relief from playing my piano and hand quilting. Once again we are in a season of distress and I have a bag of work I carry everywhere I go and if there is a free moment I am crocheting. It calms my soul and often as I crochet I pray for the person who will receive what I am making. I’m making a throw to donate to our youth group’s craft auction and I am crocheting bibs, washclothes and a blanket for my new grandbaby to be.

    • Ashley Tedesco

      It’s so nice to hear how crochet has helped you in difficult times, and that you are able to share your finished crafts with the littlest members of your family and donate others. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

  • Dee

    Wow! It is so enheartening to see just how many others are comforted by yarn crafts. With illnesses that often confine me to the couch or bed, knitting and crocheting has also “saved my life”. As so many others have said, it helps me feel a little more productive, and creative, which then helps with the depression from being sick and in pain all the time. Still need my meds but there’s nothing like finishing a project and sharing it with someone. Then wondering how quickly I can start the next one!

    • Ashley Tedesco

      How true! I think many of us can relate to these feelings. Thanks for sharing!

  • albie’s mom

    Unbelievable to hear all of these stories. I’ve suffered a horrible battle with depression for the past six months. Over that time, I can’t tell you how many times I thought that knitting had saved my life. I completed my first sweater in that period and I won’t lie it had a few flaws. I wore it to work and so many people commented on what a great job I had done. It made me think that even with my own flaws I am also complete. These comments have made my heart soar!

    • Ashley Tedesco

      What a great metaphor. There is so much pride to be had in making something yourself. Keep up the good work.

  • Cornelia Donovan

    My husband was diagnosed with metastic colon cancer in 2004. Knitting helped me adjust, but the real comfort came on the last 3 days of his life. We were told that there was nothing left to do, and he had 3 days left to live. I couldn’t have gotten through those last 3 terrible days of his pain, if I had not had my knitting with me. It kept me calm by just knitting those stitches and not letting me think. I think I knit about 8 scarfs just by knitting one stitch at a time.

    • Ashley Tedesco

      I’m so glad to hear knitting helped you through such a difficult time. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  • nanas hands

    Wityout a doubt. I have been diisabled with arthritis for many, many years. The ONlY thing i am still able to do from a once, very active life, is crochet. I no longer can drive, cook, dance, clean (awe — that one’s a shame), sew, you name it, it cannot be done. But, I am able to balance my crochet hook in one hand, and the yarn in the other, and I can still make beautiful things that family and friends can enjoy. I am filled with joy and love because of this one gift Heavenly Father gave me in my disability.

    • Ashley Tedesco

      That’s so wonderful that you can still find such joy in the craft. Thank you for sharing with us.

  • Bonnie

    Twenty seven years ago my 14 year old daughter was killed in a crash involving a drunk driver. I wasn’t knitting or crocheting at the time, but I had started working on a cross stitch marriage sampler for my oldest son prior to the accident. That cross stitch helped me so much after with the grief I experienced. I sat hours with it and just concentrating on the design took all my attention and diverted my mind from the tragedy.

    • Ashley Tedesco

      Thank you so much for sharing your deeply personal story with us. I’m happy that crafting kept your mind busy during such a difficult time.

  • Beth B.

    My late mother was skilled in all things hand crafted. Shortly after being diagnosed with lung cancer, she slowed down on her knitting/crocheting. About a month before she passed, she asked me to buy her some “pretty” yarn to make a prayer shawl…not for herself or even me but just to work on. She nearly finished it and then ripped it out for some unseen flaw. At the time of her death, it was about 1/3 finished. My daughter and I each completed the rest of it. I now treasure this beautiful piece that spans 3 generations. The needles that I use are her needles and I never start a project that I don’t think of her and thank her for passing the gift and love of knitting and crocheting to me.

    • Ashley Tedesco

      What a wonderful story. I love hearing about how crafting can bring generations of family members together. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

  • Ruth

    26 years ago, at the age of 36, I was pregnant for the first time. I woke up to discover I was bleeding one day and found out that I had a condition called placenta previa in which the placenta is below the baby and rubs on the cervix. The rubbing causes the bleeding. It is a condition that goes away with time (as the baby grows, the placenta moves up) and several weeks of bed rest. As the doctor explained, I was allowed to get up to make myself lunch but not stay on my feet long enough to cook dinner. Fortunately, I had purchased yarn for a baby afghan the day before. While I was working on the crocheting, I felt connected to my baby and sure that he was okay, which he was. It was hard for me to be off my feet for 2 weeks but the crocheting kept me sane.

    • Ashley Tedesco

      What a great way to feel a special connection with your first child. Thanks for sharing!

  • Pam Mills

    Knitting and crochet helps me to unwind from live’s stress. I used to carry my knitting at work all the time. I would knit whenever I could. Now I am no longer able to work due to my diagnosis of Common Variable Immune Deficiency. I still knit when I can. I always taking a project with me to my doctor appointments so I have something to do while waiting. It also gets the nurses and I talking about my projects that I have done or I am currently working on. I just love yarn and the many things you can do with it. Stitch by stitch my problems fade and I meditate, helping to heal both body and soul.

    • Ashley Tedesco

      That last sentence is so beautiful; a great mantra! Thank you so much for sharing your personal story with us.

  • Angi

    A year ago, my beloved daughter-in-law was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer only 4 months after giving birth. Her presence has added so much to our family that we were all devastated by the news. To cope with my anxiety and fears, I began to make her ‘chemo prayer hats’. At home, at work, wherever I was , whatever else was going on, my hook was in my right hand, my yarn in my left. I made soft, warm fuzzy ones in early spring, to keep her head warm. I switched to cotton, bamboo and silk blends as the weather warmed, and I prayed for her full recovery with every single stitch. Her chemo and surgery were successful, her hair has grown back.Just last week, she asked me if I would mind if she donated the hats I made back to the hospital oncology department for others to use. I told her that I would be honored! On March 1, I received a lovely Thank You note from the American Cancer Society. It makes me want to crochet some more hats.

    • Ashley Tedesco

      What a heartwarming story. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

  • sealed4ever

    When my husband was hospitalized and critical from septic shock from an infected gall bladder, I knit for hours and hours, on what I now call my “what gall” scarf. Knitting mitigated the stress and I am even more thankful for him whenever I wear the scarf & remember.

    • Ashley Tedesco

      That’s a great story. Thanks for sharing with us!

  • I Love My Needlework Gal

    Wow! How amazing, that just goes to show how much crocheting and other needleworks are needed!! I’ve known a family that have very busy lives, then they set a time at night were they just knit and for the young girls and boy loom knitting. They enjoy it and the mother says it brings them closer together then ever! So before bed it gets the stress off and relaxs with a fun twist!!
    ~Olivia Harris~

  • Carolyn

    Four years ago I knew there was something wrong with my husband. I took him from one doctor to another. Sewing machines do not travel well, so I decided to try knitting while I waited for endless hours in Doctor’s offices. Last year we were given a diagnosis, Alzheimer’s. Since we are empty nesters I am blessed to have a room I have turned into my creative room. I run away to this room and spend hours knitting. I hardly ever finish anything but I cast on tons of projects. And that comforts me. I look at my yarn stash and enjoy the colours and softness of the different yarns. When my patience runs out and I want to scream I close the door and enjoy the solitude.

    • Ashley Tedesco

      I’m so glad knitting has brought you comfort in this difficult time.

  • Teri

    So many wonderful stories from every one of you, that truly are an inspiration to all. I started knitting again this past December. Had not knit since I was in 8th grade, so whoever would have thought I would be inspired to pick it up again? I have had a difficult 2013 with a lot of family issues piling on, and the hospice where I volunteer is always in need of prayer shawls. One of the elderly women who knits them stopped in one day and said she was going to south for the winter, and hoped someone else would knit some. She provided me with instructions for the basic K3,P3 prayer shawl and that was the beginning of the end! I am an avid cross stitcher, and have not picked up my current project since December and the start of my knitting. Last night I finished my 5th shawl, and have all the goods next to me to star #6! I have dug around and come up with a few other versions, one I use for lap robes for men. We have a program at Hospice where we honor those who have served in the military, so I came up with a cool lap robe the men seem to like that we give them during a little ceremony we have for them. I use shades of red/white/blue, or burgundy/navy/ivory. I love my stitching, but I have to admit the knitting brings me more peace and calm that my stitching does. Since I have enough stitching supplies for my next nine lifetimes, I do need to get back at it one of these days, but honestly I am beginning to wonder if the knitting bug will ever wear off!

    • Ashley Tedesco

      How wonderful. I hope it never does wear off! Keep up the good work. :)

  • Caroline

    I have had chronic joint pain all my life. While I can control it on the upswing sometimes with diet, there are times I’m powerless to affect it. It is in every joint in my body. It hurts to breathe. It can make me sleepless for a week, just thrashing back and forth, trying to find a less painful position. It is a genetic disorder of my connective tissue, so I have mostly learned to cope and work around my limits. Mostly people see me as, and I believe I truly am, an active and strong person. Also well balanced. But genetics are genetics, for many things at this point in medical history. When the pain flares up, I have to ride it out and stay as productive as I can. And as positive as I can manage.

    I retired early to marry late (50), freed for the first time since my teens from having to be the breadwinner for others. My partner took that on. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was…but I found out that my decades of career and business-owning work had kept me distracted from the pain. Yes, I wasn’t really being myself–I had cobbled together a SuperHero persona, and no one knew about the pain but my nearest and dearest. Having a career is much easier than having a life and a marriage. The latter requires radical honesty; a career you can sometimes pass or fudge how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking.

    In my newly blessed and relaxed life, I had to face down the pain, every day, without all those distractions. I had to be real with myself and my partner. And since our marriage came within a year of a major job and career shift for my partner, it meant moving to a part of the world where we knew no one.

    In a miasm of loneliness, exhaustion, pain, and “at rope’s end” feelings one day, and not wanting to be a burden with such a wonderful partner providing so much for our lives, I reached for a crochet hook and some cheap yarn I had in a box in the closet. As a child I had been taught many needleskills by my aunts, who were tradeswomen in the 1940s-1970s. I was amazed by how well crochet had stayed with me. I started crocheting a snuggle tent for a friend’s pet parrot. Then I made this long wacky tunic/robe thing that a friend wept with joy when I gave her.

    That was ten years ago, and I’ve never stopped.

    I cannot follow written patterns, though do OK with the visual charts (Japanese style). For me it’s totally free form. That is, I know a bunch of stitches, have guides to various stitch patterns, but cannot do the line-by-line-reading thing. Still, I make sweaters, vests, tons of socks, scarves, hats, mittens, goofy little inspired things, ornaments, laces, shawls, blankets…somehow they just seem to happen, and somehow when I’m in the most pain, they seem to happen the best.

    Then I give nearly all of them away. Usually anonymously. I’m shy and prefer not to be thanked. I like to know that my pain was transformed through the magic of hook and yarn into warmth and color for someone else.

    • Ashley Tedesco

      How wonderful that crochet has helped you, and that you help others with your generous gifts. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  • Diana

    When my dad was hospital after a successful surgery, he ended up becoming infected with a antibiotic resistant infection. He was in ICU and on a ventilator and in an induced coma so he wouldn’t work against the ventilator. We could only spend fifteen minutes every hour in his room, but I spent hours there in the waiting room. I knitted to help me calm my nerves and my mind while I prayed for his recovery. Then after we were told he wouldn’t recover and I needed a break from the emotions of a death bed watch, I would find refuge in my knitting. After his death, I suffered from a deep depression and although I worked every day, in the evenings I found it difficult to do anything but knit. It took time, but ultimately I came to grips with his death and my depression eased. I don’t know how I would have coped during that time without the distraction of knitting.

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  • Rocky

    I have been retired now for 3 yrs. and taught myself how to crochet watching youtube videos. I now make winter beanies and scarves for a local children’s shelter. This has been an outlet for me and allowed me to focus on the positive things in life

  • Linda

    I started crocheting again after severe illness, that left me unable to work for over a year. It was the only thing I could do, and it made me feel useful. Sometimes I would crochet all day. I have given over 100 hats to the homeless and people in need. I am able to work again only part time. Now I crochet for friends and family. It’s like medicine for my mind.

    • Petrina

      That was a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it with us!

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  • Ellen Mackler

    Many of the stories shared here moved me to tears. My husband passed last June, just 2 1/2 weeks after we found out he had terminal cancer. Dealing with the loss has been very difficult for me. This month we would have been married 37 years. At first, I would say the first six months, I pretty much could not pick up my crocheting or knitting. At all. My heart was just not in it. But, with a little encouragement, I am feeling the love, and finding comfort in crafting. Albeit, not the way I used to. I find I need the more mind-numbing repetition of simple, small projects. Among other things, when I have no other inspiration, I knit dishcloths! By the dozen! Mindless knitting is very comforting!

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  • Kelly

    When I was in nursing school, I had a seizure and ended up having 2 brain surgeries. Between the surgeries and antiseizure meds, I couldn’t watch TV or much of anything else without getting dizzy. Crocheting was something that came naturally to me since the age of 4, so I made 3 afghans in the time I was off school recovering. I probabaly kept me from going insane w/bordom. It has also saved me in other times where anxiety or depression could have gotten the better of me. It’s a good distraction and release.

  • Inma Acosta

    I was born
    and raised by my mother, grandma, aunts and older sister who either sew, did
    embroidery or crochet; I was born around sawing machines, yarn, threat, scissors and needles-; however I never paid close
    attention to those activities. I went to school and prepared myself in a
    profession. I had worked for many years in my profession but I never ever
    consider crochet as an activity I could or wanted to do.

    Couple of
    years ago, that idea changed completely. I went to my hometown for a very
    special occasion and visited my family and friends in the country
    side. To my surprise, one of our family’s friend was doing and selling
    crochet accessories. I got so in love with the handmade unique accessories that I
    purchased her some. For some reason, that to this point remains as a
    mystery to me, I end up learning crochet from her! There was something
    out of the logical mind that “attracted me” to start doing crochet.
    Since then I have not stop!!

    Crochet has
    become part of my life. Crochet has given me so much joy and has help me
    to cope with many difficult situations. I practice “Crochet Therapy” every
    night to release all the day’s tension and stress before I go to bed. It
    is a wonderful way to relax the body, mind and spirit!

  • Teri

    Crocheting keeps me sane! When I spend time in the hospital either visiting or staying with a friend or family member. I can’t just sit with nothing to do. So to keep me from aggravating whomever I was visiting, I crochet. I can visit with them (also gives us something to talk about) and stay calm and relaxed while creating something beautiful. It is easy to set aside when I need to help with something. Each time my mom got sick or had to go through chemo, we would spend a lot of time crocheting together or if she was too tired, she would watch me and help me decide on colors and patterns. It was our special time together and even more so, when any of my nieces (her granddaughters) would join us. I also love teaching other people how to crochet.