Why crochet?

I frequently have moments where non-crafters see one of my crocheted pieces and say, “That’s so cool! Did you knit that?” My own mother talks about how cute my “little knitted things” are. I’ve generally given up on trying to correct people and just try to appreciate the sentiment of admiration. However, there have been occasions when I’ve said, “Actually, it’s crocheted” and the response is often, “Oh ok… What’s the difference between knitting and crochet?”

Before I get to ahead of myself, I must confess right now that I am not a knitter. I learned how to do the basic knit stitch in high school and made a couple unfinished scarves (because I could not figure out how to get the fabric off the needle). Therefore, I apologize in advance if I come off as a little biased towards crochet, but I truly do respect the skill behind both yarncrafts. 

The biggest difference between knit and crochet are the tools used to create the fabric: at their most basic levels, knitting requires two needles while crochet requires a single hook. The second biggest difference (though more difficult to notice unless you are a little more familiar with knit and crochet) are the stitches: knit stitches are V-shaped, while crochet stitches are more chain- or braid-like, which equates to some pretty spectacular lace (not surprisingly, the homemade creation of lace is the foundation of crochet. Click here to check out a little bit of the craft’s history). Knit stitches also maintain the same length in each row, while crochet stitches can be expanded to create different patterns and shapes.

I used to feel like crochet was seen as knitting’s ugly red-headed cousin twice-removed, but according to Debbie Stoller, author of Stitch ‘n Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker, crocheters outnumber knitters 3 to 1. The simplest explanation for this is that crochet is, in many ways, easier than knitting: it’s comparatively less restrictive to do, as you are only dealing with a hook instead of two (or more) needles. This means that you can do it pretty much anywhere: standing up, working out on an elliptical, waiting for the bus, etc. Furthermore, if you drop a stitch in crochet, you can just unravel one or two stitches and get right back on the next available loop; but if you drop a stitch in knitting (which is also easier to do than crochet because you’re dealing with a pointy stick and not a hook), it can unravel many rows down. The biggest disadvantage to crochet is that it takes 1/3 more yarn than knitting does. Also, crochet stitches are generally less stretchy than knit, which, in my experience, can equate to some very unforgiving hats.

The effects of “flow”– or being totally absorbed in a pleasurable activity– have similar effects on the brain as meditation.         Image source

There has been quite a bit of research in recent years on the physical and psychological benefits of yarn crafting. It has been shown, among many other things, to help relieve depression and anxiety, postpone dementia, lower irritability and stress, improve dexterity and hand function, increase self esteem, boost memory and concentration, ease insomnia, and reduce pain. Additionally, joining a crafting circle has been shown to improve communication and social contact with others and, consequently, increase one’s happiness. Finally, words cannot describe how gratifying it is to make something that can be both useful and beautiful. I know that one of my favorite things to do is make something for another person and see their eyes light up in a way that only the receipt of a handmade gift can create.

One of the saddest things to me is that crochet– as well as knitting, cross-stitch, quilting, etc– is still often seen as a woman’s hobby. (Fun fact: knitting used to be a male-only occupation). It used to be even more stereotyped as an old woman’s hobby, but the advent of brighter and softer yarns as well as a wider array of fun and beautiful patterns has made it more appealing to all ages. Thankfully, I’ve heard/seen that there are lots of men out there who knit– my favorite male celebrity knitter is Ryan Gosling– but it would be great if there were less gender-stereotyping around crafts in general because, as previously discussed, there are so many health benefits for people of all genders and ages.

Should you pick up crocheting (or any craft, for that matter)? Well, of course I’m going to say “Absolutely!”, but I also recognize that some people get very frustrated by crafting or simply have other things that they would rather do. I’ve been trying to convince my (67 years young) mom for years to let me teach her how to crochet, but, funnily enough, she thinks that it is an old lady activity and does not want to feel any older than she already does. But I digress. If you’re looking for a creative outlet and a potentially social activity, why not give crochet a try?

Additional Reading

Stitchlinks.

Kathryn Vercillo. “1o Most Important Health Benefits of Yarncrafting.” 20 May 2014. Lion Brand Yarns.

Kathryn Vercillo. Crochet Saved My Life: The Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Crochet. Self-published, 2012.

Jacque Wilson. “This is your brain on crafting.” 5 Jan 2015. CNN.

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