Crochet Therapy and Projects

I am not even remotely an expert or an experienced crocheter. Of course, if we define experienced as ‘has made a thousand lopsided, knotty washcloths and unraveled probably 834 of them,’ then, yes, I have experience. I think the unraveling and redoing was as valuable an experience as any other I’ve tried. Somewhere around the 900th waschcloth (I’m a slow learner), I began noticing some things about the stitches which helped with other projects. I had the gift of an experienced crocheter look at my work without laughing out loud and she made a couple comments that helped me understand a little more.

Up until this month, I had crocheted those 1000 dishcloths, a couple of doll or baby hats, and one freestyle hipsterish sort of cap which the progeny tell me I am too old to wear.

One day while looking at my grand-daughters’ naked ‘fashion figure’ dolls (they don’t really have Barbie, they have Elsa, Tiana, and Rapunzel or something), I remembered I had owned a couple simple crocheted sheath dresses for similar dolls when I was young.  So I started with those, basically stitching some dishcloths into a rectangle and then adding a short chain for straps. Then I just experimented with the scant handful of basic stitches I know as I went along, making some other doll dresses.


crocheted barbie dress

crocheted barbie dress

Crocheted blue and green barbie dress

Crocheted blue and green barbie dress

I realize that competent grade school children could do as well for a first crochet project, but I’m okay with that.

My repertoire is quite essentially, chain, single, half double, double, triple, and shell, and I sometimes have to refer to a tutorial to remind myself how one of them goes) as I went along.   And then some crochet terms and stitch combinations and how they work that had previously been a mystery started to make a little bit more sense.

My grandson was being left out.  I looked for some boy crochet patterns I could manage.  He requested a cape for his spiderman doll, but honestly, my caped looked more like a Barbie apron. It just needed ties at the side.

So then I made some not very good freehand fish.

crocheted red fish

IMG_20160821_162806849 IMG_20160821_191121302

I had to freehand them because I couldn’t follow any of the patterns I found. And my progeny think the blue fish looks like a mutated butterfly. Having crocheted Dr. Seuss fish (one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish), I was ready to try something else.

Then I remembered amigurumi.  I found a fabulous tutorial on youtube.

I made an octopus. And another one.  And another one.  And another.


I never did follow directions for the legs well, and with each octopus I made the legs differently.




Not shown here- around a dozen failed attempts at this one, which should have been ridiculously easy, but wasn’t for me, because I’m not that good and I still don’t follow directions well.  I botched the legs every single time. I couldn’t detect a ‘ridge’ and my legs were lopsided and unevenly placed around the body.   So I unraveled the legs and used the bodies as a base for  random other things.


I initially started crocheting washcloths as something to do with my hands when surrounded by a group of people (a group being one or more besides myself).   I’m awkward in a group and I never know what to say or do.  I’d rather read a book or get on the laptop, but people frown on that and see it as unsocial.  Of course, now you could just look at your phone screen all day and nobody much under 35 cares.

Crocheting a washcloth helps a lot with social anxiety. It’s a socially acceptable form of distraction, it’s useful for conversation, it’s a socially acceptable way of avoiding eye contact as well.  And it keeps ones hands busy so they don’t start to feel three sizes larger than normal and clumsy to boot.

Once I started, I discovered the therapeutic uses for crochet as well. There is something soothing and relaxing about the repetitive motion. I can channel stress through my hands and out through stitches rather than through my mouth.  It is a tether when I feel like my head is going to fly off into that uncentered, dissociative state of PTSD.  There is quite a lot of research about how good crocheting and knitting are for one’s mental health.


Why Crochet (or knit):
1. Knitting and Crochet Relieve Depression
Depression relief is by far the most reported and studied benefit of crochet and knitting. The repetition of the crafts has been shown to release serotonin, a natural anti-depressant. CNN recently reported that
“in one study of more than 3,500 knitters, published in The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 81% of respondents with depression reported feeling happy after knitting. More than half reported feeling “very happy.”
2. Crafting Reduces Anxiety
Yarncrafts helps with various forms of anxiety. It keeps your hands busy and mind focused so that you can attend classes or events even when you have social anxiety. It brings the internal mind to a calmer space for when you’re coping with the anxiety of repetitious thoughts. The counting has even been
shown to serve as a productive outlet for people with anxiety associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as well as eating disorders. The Craft Yarn Council reports on one study that showed nearly ¾ of women with anorexia found knitting to be calming and anxiety-reducing.

More here.

I admit that many of the benefits listed here would seem only to apply to those who can crochet (or knit). If all you get is a tangle of knots when you try, that can’t be good for the self esteem. But maybe we give up too soon.  I don’t have a natural knack for it at all, but I do think the making and unraveling of a thousand dishcloths helped.    This is what we have learned about ‘talent,’ that it is largely based on massive amounts of time spent practicing.  The more we practice, the better we get, especially if our practice includes the chance to show our work to somebody further ahead who can look at our work and advise on improvements and corrections.  Mindful practice is like yoga or meditation.

Crochet grounds you to the here and now. You can feel and touch it. You can shape it and see it grow. This can be amazingly healing in certain situations. For example, people who suffer from PTSD flashbacks can learn to reach for yarn and a hook to bring themselves back into the present. And people who struggle with hallucinations related to schizophrenia may find that crochet helps them to better distinguish between what is real and what is not.  (more here, by the author of Crochet Saved My Life!)

When you’re knitting or crocheting, your brain pays less attention to things like pain. It  may even release some anti-inflammatory goodness to help you cope with chronic pain.

“The repetitive motions of knitting, for example, activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which quiets that “fight or flight” response.
In a 2007 paper “The neurological basis of occupation,” Schindler and co-author Sharon Gutman argue that patients could learn to use activities such as drawing or painting to elicit flow, which would offer a nonpharmaceutical way to regulate strong emotions such as anger or prevent irrational thoughts.”
“When the hands are busy, the heart is serene.” — Akira Yoshizawa, Japanese origami master
the bookshelf banner colour
Here are some free Kindle books on crochet (free at time of listing).  There are also plenty of free tutorials on youtube and online at various sites.
These are affiliate links.

13 Free Baby Crochet Patterns, 280 customer reviews with a solid 4.5 star average.

Granny Square Crochet for Beginners US Version, 128 customer reviews, 4.5 star average. I think yarn people are seriously serious about their hobby.

Crochet for Beginners: How to Learn to Crochet in a Few Hours, only 32 customer reviews so far, but also highly positive.

How To Crochet – A Guide For Newbies, 38 customer reviews. 4 star average, however, she used customer reviews to revise and improve her book, and some of the lower reviews are for pre-revision editions.
How to Crochet: 16 Quick and Easy Granny Square Patterns

My First Scarf: A Visual, Step-by-Step Guide to Crocheting a Beautiful Scarf
Man Crafts: 10 Free Patterns to Crochet for Men

DIY Gifts Box Set: The Ultimate Guide To DIY Gifts – Amazing DIY Gifts For Your Loved Ones (DIY gifts, DIY Gift Ideas, DIY Projects, DIY household hacks, Free DIY Gifts, Origami, Jewelry & much more) (one volume of crochet, one of knitting, plus some others)

16 Crochet Shawl Patterns: DIY Clothing You’ll Love– you could have a lovely service project, knitting or crocheting shawls and lap blankets for nursing home and chemotherapy patients.

Afghan Crochet 101: Elegant and Easy to Follow Afghan Patterns Using Traditional Techniques

Crochet Stitches Beginners Guide

Pink Little Lady Amigurumi Crochet Pattern

25+ The Most Popular Crochet Stitches: Learn Them All in One Day And Use to Create Your Own Crochet Patterns!: (Crochet patterns, Crochet books, Crochet … to Corner, Patterns, Stitches Book 4)

Not free at all, but Creepy Cute Crochet is a pattern book with some adorable and quirky amigumi patterns.

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  1. Lori B
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Knitting is my therapy, too 🙂

  2. Kim L.
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    You might try your local library for crochet pattern books. Learning to follow crochet instructions can take some time because some people give better directions than others. Also, I have yet to see a crochet pattern actually labeled “advanced”. I have only seen them labeled “beginner” and “intermediate”. Intermediate seems to be a very broad term.

    I like the variety of patterns and projects on Moogly Blog. I have also found her video tutorials helpful.

    • Headmistress
      Posted August 30, 2016 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      Now that I think of it, you’re right about the labeling of patterns.I hadn’t paid much attention, because I still consider myself very much a beginner. I’ll look around more at Moogly.

  3. Mama Squirrel
    Posted August 31, 2016 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    You might enjoy making fingerless gloves (the pattern calls them shell mitts). I made these for everybody on my list two Christmases ago. They are MUCH easier than you’d think, especially if you already know how to do a shell stitch. Much easier than slippers, in my opinion.

    These birds are fun too

    If you’re just looking for something relatively mindless and easy, you can cover things like cocoa cans with crocheting.

    Here’s my own set of online lessons from several years ago (I haven’t checked the links recently); you have to scroll backwards on the blog to get to the first one.

    If your grandgirlies have any bigger dolls (like the 18 inch size), you can make some lovely crocheted things for them like shoes and mittens.

  4. Mama Squirrel
    Posted August 31, 2016 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Here are Mama Squirrel’s Rules for Crocheting.

    1. If you make a mistake, go back and fix it. It’s easier to fix it NOW than to wish you had at the end.

    2. Make your hook do the work. Don’t pull the yarn off the hook with your fingers.

    3. Don’t work too tight.

    4. Don’t let the yarn split.

    5. Don’t work too long without a break—do something else and let your muscles relax. Otherwise you can hurt yourself.

    6. If you’re following a pattern for something where size matters, make a sample swatch (test piece) first and measure the gauge (the size of your stitches). You might have to change hooks or try another kind of yarn. But if you are making a small item, or making up your own pattern, it’s not so important.

    7. If you’re using a new skein of yarn, pull from the inside.

    8. Ask for help if you’re not sure of something. If you can’t find someone right there who knows, there are lots of places to find crochet help online.

    9. Don’t crochet while eating chocolate-chip cookies.

    10. Don’t crochet in the bathtub.

    • Headmistress
      Posted August 31, 2016 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      Some of these are pretty decent rules for life, yes? Especially #1.

  5. Mama Squirrel
    Posted August 31, 2016 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    Clarification for the DHM: I wrote that list for my daughter’s friends, when they were about twelve. If you want to crochet in the bathtub and eat chocolate chip cookies, go right ahead.

  6. Nana Ruth
    Posted August 31, 2016 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    When my father was going through cancer therapy, I found myself getting so wound up that it was impossible to sleep at night. I was reading, visiting, and doing other things while he got his treatments. Then I noticed several ladies with knitting or crochet bags in the waiting room. I started knitting while waiting and discovered, wonder of wonders, that I could then sleep at night. I made sweaters for my husband and each of my three daughters. I started a sweater for myself but did not finish it. Hooray for knitting and crochet therapy!

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