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Crochet as Meditation

July 24th, 2013

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Blogger and author Kathryn Vercillo shares tips on meditating through crochet.

Crochet as MeditationI remember the first time that I tried formal meditation. I sat amidst a group of compassionate people with closed eyes who were letting go of all thoughts, focusing attention on their breath. I felt no compassion for myself as my monkey mind skittered about. I felt self-conscious about my constant twitching and resituating, certain I was irritating the peaceful beings around me. More than that, I simply didn’t enjoy the experience. My anxious mind raced into terrifyingly uncomfortable places. I left feeling that meditation is a great thing…for other people but not for me! Then I found crochet.

Crochet offers a chance to meditate in a way that many people find easier than sitting still in a room and focusing on the breath. Crochet is a relaxing, repetitive craft that can be done as a means to mindfulness. The combination of constant counting, gentle recurrent hand motions and focus on the work is a stress-reducer and a path to being present in the here-and-now.

Want to practice crochet as a form of meditation? Here are some tips:

  • Choose a project that requires only beginner skills, like a large granny square or a scarf made of only single crochet stitches.
  • Select a project that offers comfort in counting. For example, a scarf will let you count the same number of stitches again and again in each row.
  • Use a yarn color that feels comforting.
  • Work in a quiet, relaxed space.
  • Set an intention. At the beginning and end of the crochet project remind yourself what it is you want to achieve with meditative crochet. Celebrate the craft and celebrate yourself.

There is certainly something valuable to be found in formal meditation. However, it doesn’t work for all of us. In particular, people with mental health conditions including depression and anxiety may find it too difficult to simply sit on the cushion and watch the breath. We can use mindfulness crochet instead to bring ourselves back to the present moment, practicing compassion for ourselves and for others with each stitch.

What has been your meditation experience? How does crochet help?

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  • Teresita Boaglio

    Dear Kathryn,
    I am grateful to discover that other people feel like me about meditation and crocheting. I could never meditate sitting in a room with other people concentrating on my breath, I just feel ridiculous. But crocheting in a silent room or with soft music balance and relax my mind, and help me to enter a magic world.
    Thank you very much for sharing your experience and for your advices

  • Granna

    Thank you. This is a sensitive, well-thought-out, and articulate expression of what crochet can do. I find that my mind is thinking all the time, sometimes racing, but crocheting helps to calm and soothe me, especially when I making something for a loved one or for a charity.

  • guest

    I too am involved in a prayer shawl ministry and I spend one hour in the morning before I get out of bed (my bag is beside my bed) and often another hour before bed at night if I couldn’t put in the hour in the morning. The accompanying prayer might be Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Pray for them (or me or us). It is a repetition of 3 to match the stitches as in the original prayer shawl books. Lately I have also joined a world wide group making square for aids orphans in South Africa (called Knit-a-Square) and it generally takes me one hour to make a square. This is also a prayerful, calming time that sets me up for the day. For whatever reason we do it, knitting and crocheting helps calm our inner spaces and creates a wonderful outcome for someone too.

  • Ztnoble

    This conversation is wonderful! I learned to knit in my high school home ec class. A friend of my teacher sat in the classroom nearly every day knitting. Come to find out, her husband and son had been killed in a car accident. She said knitting kept her sane. I think of her often, as I’ve been calmed through my knitting also. I crochet, too, and both work the same magic. I haven’t knitted or crocheted during church, but I’ve often wished I felt free to do so. My husband would be embarrassed. Maybe we could just not sit toghter. :-)

  • Linda Noyes

    I agree that for me crocheting is both relaxing and calming. I can let the world around me disappear when I pick up my crochet hook to make something special for someone in mind and my mind only concentrates on the project at hand and I can sit for hours crocheting and I’m quite relaxed when I take a break. My family can’t believe that I can sit so long but to me it’s relaxing – far better than TV. I can also listen to a tv program with my husband glancing up occasionally and keep crocheting without missing a stitch. It calms me enough that if I crochet after supper it will make me more relaxed and ready for sleep.

    • VancouverUSAgal

      I always keep several projects going at once with different degrees of difficulty so that I have just the right one to work on for my mood or needs at the time. At least one of my projects is usually a baby afghan which I donate to a charity that gives layettes to new mothers who are needy. I feel better about watching TV or sitting thru meetings if I’m also do something productive. And I agree that it’s calming. People always say “Oh, I wouldn’t have the patience to do that,” but if only they’d try they’d find out how relaxing it is.

  • Anne

    Thank you for such a wonderful article. I started making chemo hats a few months ago that I am donating. It is a wonderful way for me to relax and clear my head as I under go treatment for multiply myeloma with the possibility of going into City of Hope for a stem cell transplant. Crocheting has been such a terrific ‘tranquilizer’ and it is addictive in a very nice healthy creative way.

  • Pamela

    I haven’t learned to crochet yet but I have been knitting for several years and find it really helpful in times of stress. Prayer shawls are a sweet way to show love for someone and deal with your angst at the same time. A double gift.

  • SherylZ

    I crochet while watching the Rosary & Divine Mercy on EWTN. I make afghans for friends & family members while saying my prayers.

  • Janet from a crochet planet.

    Thank you and bless you for this message. I too did not succeed using the formal methods of meditation. However I have often found that I settle best if I am crocheting something and do feel more relaxed when it is done as I know it can go to someone else if needed. I can even crochet myself or sometimes knit myself to sleep if need be. Thank you again for this post and have a magnificent day.

  • shelley

    For several years now I’ve been practicing Christian meditation, that is, meditating on a small portion of scripture often in silence. Being still and listening in this way has helped me to quieten down inside, and helped me cope with some health issues, I’ve recently started crotcheting again in my 50’s after learning as a child from my mother. It’s been a wonderful discovery and very relaxing. I’m making squares of different patterns (current doing some tunisian crochet squares) to make an afghan eventually. I am concurrently making another small blanket with a very simple stitch pattern, which is very relaxing to do. I never thought of linking crochet and meditation, but I can combine both now! .

  • PaulaSue

    Crocheting actually lowers my blood pressure! If I have a particularly bad day, I can pick up my yarn and crochet hook, and relax away! I never make a project with someone in mind, but inevitably, when I finish a project, there’s always someone to give it to.

  • Name

    I have been going through a stressful time lately. A friend gave me some yarn and a hook and I started making a granny square. It has grown and grown and helped me to focus. The colours, the softness, the warmth, the repetition, and the love that my friend showed for me has helped SOOOO much! I call it my “stress relief blanket”.

  • MsGinSmith

    I have had a love affair with my hooks, my sticks, and the fibers I choose. For me it is not only calming and meditative but it connects me to my grandmothers in a tangible way now that they have both gone to be with Jesus. As a child I would sit and watch my Granny make magic with a few scraps of yarn and a hook or set of sticks. That “magic” was later lost to me for a great number of years. When I regained this most amazing skill, I vowed to never stray for long. Now, approaching my 40’s, I find that this craft also helps me to feel young, as I am able to conjure up memories from my early youth – each time I feel the varied texture of fibers I have at my disposal to create that same kind of magic my Granny made. Recently I have also used this skill as a way of getting to know others in the neighborhood I just moved into- hoping to create “community” centered on teaching and sharing this love of mine. Crochet and knitting are truly my lifeline!

  • k

    I couldn’t survive without crocheting. A half hour before bed helps me sleep. Crocheting while watching tv keeps me from eating too much. I truly believe that crocheting has helped keep me sane and helped me lose the 70 pounds that I’ve lost. And I expect to continue crocheting to finish losing the last 40 pounds to reach my weight loss goal. I make baby blankets for my pregnant coworkers. It’s gotten to where when someone finds out a baby is coming in their family, they come find me and put in a request. I’ve been putting scarves up for sale on ETSY. Added emotional boost when something sales!

  • Katie

    THIS combined with new medication has finally quieted the OCD of my mind. I cant tell you how much crochet helps me!

  • jan

    I teach crochet these days and all having fun and the ladies are finding it really relaxing. They say its their meditation time..we are .in New Zealand

  • G G

    My knitting has helped me deal with my son’s mental illness. When he was having serious problems, he felt comforted by having me in the room. It was torture for me to sit there watching him in pain, and knitting kept me calm enough to give him what he needed, a calm reassuring presence to help him keep hold on reality.

  • Gwen Pryor

    I knit prayer shawls and I find that a fairly simple pattern done in a pleasing color that I like is very relaxing.

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  • Lynn

    Whenever I am told to be aware of my breathing I panic and feel like I can’t breath. This causes me to take quick and shallow breaths. It is NOT relaxing. Crochet is my relaxing. Even a complicated piece is calming because of the sense of accomplishment. Sure did help with raising children.

  • PeggyMc

    I’ve read and agree with every comment here. I too am self-taught. Decided 45 years ago, when I was newly married, that if I wanted to sit and be with my new husband on the couch in evenings, while he watched his favorite college sports team I HAD to do something! His wonderful Mother showed me an “Irish Rose” pattern, and even made a sample square for me look at, so I could get the “hang” of it. To date I’ve made many, many doilies (from old 1940’s pattern books), and almost 100 afghans and include with each one an article called I found in an old Southern Living magazine called “The threads of Love.” I have found crocheting a wonderful stress reliever, during many family crisis. It also helps me sleep.

    And meditation, and prayer for the person receiving the afghan are a must. “A prayer for every stitch”. My hooks and my yarn stash is my place of comfort and solitude. After all these years, my hands are starting to show some serious signs of arthritis, and crocheting hurts sometimes, especially when I’ve been away from crocheting for awhile. Thank you Kathryn for your most comforting article, and thanks too to everyone who commented with their thoughts.

  • Rachelle

    I love the concept of crochet as a form of mediation. I am just completing radiation treatments for breast cancer.I have made crocheting part of my therapy. It both distracts and calms me

  • Margaret Woodford

    I crochet 10 inch granny squares in varying shades of pink. These are sewn together into rugs to be given to women having chemo for breast cancer. Here in Australia pink is the colour for fundraising by the McGrath Foundation which was formed in memory of Jane McGrath the wife of a well known cricketer. Money raised goes to have special nurses who stay with a patient during the length of her treatment.

  • immanuel6

    I lost my dad in 2001 to pancreatic cancer. I was so devastated that the Lord lead me into crocheting again. I really hadn’t crocheted since I was a child. As I began to crochet, all of the pain an toxicity came out of me through the crocheting process. I must admit, the first blanket I crocheted looked like a spider’s web, but as I continued, the process helped me to get happy and celebrate my father’s life and remember that I would see him again. Thank you for reminding me the power of prayer and crocheting.

  • Ledy

    In 2011 I used simple knitting to recover from viruses and a mini stroke. The level of concentration required was enormous. It took 90 minutes to do what now takes me 20 minutes. As I recovered I returned to crocheting and used the meditative aspect to make chemo rugs for some friends. I am currently recovering from shoulder surgery and am using simple crocheting to calm my mind. It is great for insomnia and much better than counting sheep

  • Kathryn

    Thank you for these tips. I also crochet prayer shawls, but I find myself wanting to try new stitches and other complicated things that draw me away from the meditative aspect of these crochet projects. I need to remember that it is the prayers offered that are more important that intricate stitches.

  • KnittingMimi

    This is without a doubt, the loveliest, most positive thing I have ever read in a very, very, long time. It’s makes me feel so good to know there are such beautiful souls out there giving of their time and talent and doing it quietly and one stitch at a time. Not because they are looking for recognition or reward or some kind, but because it is a good thing to do. Keep up the good work. I started knitting stocking caps this last year for a charity that distributes them to chemo patients across the U.S. and every time I complete one, I feel like I am the one that is being helped. I think it’s true that in giving, we receive. I always thought I needed to have a “formal” prayer but I like the idea that a short mantra is a form of prayer as well. I am going to download this article and keep it with my project so I can look at it from time to time when I’m not having a good day or when I am feeling sorry for myself.

  • Guest

    Some time ago I began spontaneously to meditate while crocheting. Because of my belief system I am calmed by prayer; so I recite a prayer mentally in rhythm with my stitches. This practice provides a wonderful exercise in focus on the NOW. I highly recommend it. I’m really glad this aspect of crochet is being publicized!

  • Kathy

    I feel blessed to have this passion for crochet! Have been wanting to start a prayer shawl and I have put it off….will start one now…glad you mentioned it…Happy Hooking

  • Brenda

    I to think of crocheting as a relaxing thing to do. It is one of my “therapies” to wind down and not think of all the things I should be doing Making things for friends and family brings me great joy and pleasure. I hope I will always be able to crochet.

  • SuzyB

    A lovely article! I have been crocheting since college, about 40 years ago. Not only is it theraputic for the rheumatoid arthritis in my hands, but I used it to stress down after a busy day/week in the mortgage business. You are right. You sit and count and then repeat and count and repeat and the gentle flow lets you breathe and blank your mind. Sometimes I would watch a movie I had seen before or listened to music or an audio book. Sometimes just quiet. I am the oldest of 7 and have 9 nieces and 2 great nieces and 1 great nephew. They all have afghans and there were plenty of gifts too. I even made one for me after awhile.

  • D

    I crochet as I ‘watch’ tv. It is better for my peace of mind and for my tendency to munch.

  • Marie Hood

    Crochet and knitting both help me to relax and focus. Not only that but when I craft regularly my general mood is much better. But when I don’t give myself the time to sit with my projects I get anxious, irritable and panicky.

    There’s nothing better than a simple pattern to help sooth a worried mind.

  • shilpianeja

    This is so amazing….it is as if I’m reading my own words here…I have always said this to people that have admired my crochet as to how calming and relaxing this craft is….it is as if one were meditating without having to sit still in one place with eyes closed. I started crocheting when I was pregnant which fall of 2011 and since then every chance I got I would pick up my hook. It was seriously therapeutic during pregnancy and kept my mind off the discomforts…plus I made cute stuff for my baby when she came…and other little ones as gifts…
    For sometime Recently due a lot of personal turmoil i had given up crocheting…it was almost as if I could not touch the yarn and the hook. But now after about 6 months I am back to my meditation and prayers with crochet….making premie beanies to donate…I love it and always thank the craft….

    Happy Crocheting!!!!!!

  • allie

    This is a wonderful article to which i can relate and tried an eastern meditation almost forty yrs ago and it only increased my stress and anxiety. When Christ came into my life, I left the meditation behind me and learned to find peace in prayer and the bible. God has used crochet and knitting in a huge way to gain calmness and healing. It helps me focus and quiet a busy mind or break the cycle of worry. If the pattern is too difficult, I try something easier so I don’t get too frustrated. Everyone in my immediate family and some older living family now has an afghan, so I’m finally making one for me and my husband. Often it makes me feel closer to my mom gone now 7 yrs. She was an inspiration as she could crochet or knit almost anything.

    • demelzabunny

      I don’t believe in God or religion, but I also reap the benefits of crochet’s calming effect.

  • Romaine

    For sometime I have used crocheting as a means to relax. Then I discovered a group that made prayer shawls and turned my crocheting efforts into prayer and instead of counting I would include a brief prayer with each group of stitches I would make and offer it up for the person who would be wearing the shawl. Quite comforting!

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  • Jeni

    Thank you for this article. I love to crochet to take my mind off things. Like many others I make prayer shawls for my church, hats for homeless veterans, and too many gifts for others to count. I just love the idea that I can take a simple piece of yarn and make something useful and beautiful.

  • Leslee

    I also feel that crocheting is a form of meditation. I read a newsletter from a conservative Christian writer that she felt that simply meditating would leave the heart and mind vulnerable to attacks from Satan. But to keep the hands occupied can prevent bad things from creeping into us. Prayer shawls are a good thing and I have made a commitment to making afghans this year and find it very refreshing to crochet. It renews my spirit and opens my heart to God.

  • Paula

    I feel like was written just for me. I realized a long time ago when I am getting overwhelmed, I can sit and crochet a special, simple, double-stranded slipper pattern and my thoughts get organized within a few rounds. I never thought to appreciate it until I read this. I am one that cringes at the thought of lying still during meditation or a massage. Thank you so very much for enlightening me.
    Paula, a psych nurse in a very busy ER. Many crafty people do have a touch of OCD or else nothing but the basic necessities would get done. We are a rare supportive breed.

  • Laura

    Making big blankets…. especially one I just finished. It’s a wave pattern with vintage-y blue, ivory, and navy blue stripes, made with very soft, plush yarn. Plus it kept me warm while I worked on it :)

  • Margie

    Oh my I have felt like that for years. My husband doesn’t understand. Thanks for showing him I am not the only who feels like this………Crochet on ………………. Margie

  • Marilee McCarthy

    I love this so much! I didn’t really realize other people saw it as meditating too. It has calmed my anxiety a lot. it doesn’t fix it, but I can sit silently and make squares and feel so at peace with my self. Every time I try to meditate my brain fills with nonsense. I honestly don’t know how to shut my mind up lol. Crocheting does that.
    Great article!

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  • guest

    I crochet and knit shawls – just the basic rectangular ones for prayer shawls. I personally don’t care for a point that I have to contend with when I sit so I figure others may feel the same. I love the comfort feel of Homespun. The shawls I have given away have brought comfort and warmth to their recipients. I get a sense of peace when I work on a shawl.

  • Beth

    Thank you for talking about this! I have depression & anxiety, and also MS – it never occurred to me that these conditions could contribute to my complete failure at meditating. I knit prayer shawls, and I certainly do experience a prayerful quietness while doing so. I also belong to a prayer-shawl group; the friendships I am developing there are becoming a wonderful support system.

  • Ngaire Clarke

    Thanks everyone for all that you’ve said. I had crocheted for many years in good and bad times but when my husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer I found it difficult to crochet. I started many projects and then put them away as I couldn’t get to the centering stage. I tried on and off for years to get back into it but couldn’t seem to get the simplest stitch right. Just after the 11th anniversary of his death I spoke to my Doctor and she confirmed I was suffering from depression. Since then I’ve been on medication and had counselling. It all lead me back into being able to crochet again oh what joy. I’m now able to sit for hours crocheting, I don’t even need to count the stitches now I go into my self and not aware of what is going on around me. This used to happen before my husband got sick and he too used to have to touch my arm to get my attention. I’m so blessed to have got this pressure gift back again. Happy crafting to you all.

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  • lmbaird

    I crochet primarily for other people including baskets donated to raffles with baby stuff & blanket, or a collection of brightly colored scarves. I suffer from anxiety & depression and concentration on a project definitely relaxes my brain and things don’t bother me as much. I suffer from chronic pain also & the less I think about it, the Better! Great article!

  • LAURA

    I am bipolar and through the years I have found that crocheting is a great release of stress and works to keep my mind focused on something positive and you get a nice little gift in the end its a double reward!!

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