The reason I learned to crochet was that I had become all to aware that at any one time it was more than likely I would be looking at a screen, whether that was my phone, iPad, computer or television. It became habit just to pick up my phone and scroll through it, when I really didn't need to, and when watching television I nearly always had either my iPad or phone in my hand, idly scrolling through Facebook while also watching television.
One Sunday morning I woke up and decided enough was enough. I took myself off the Hobbycraft not entirely sure what I was going there for, I had some vague notion of maybe learning to knit, but that was about it. Instead of knitting needles I ended up buying a crochet hook, some yarn and a beginners book.
Of course, the determination not to constantly be watching a screen didn't last long when I realised I couldn't understand anything in the crochet book that I'd bought, so I turned to YouTube (yep, I appreciate the irony) for help, and haven't looked back. As I became more comfortable with the stitches I found that I could more or less understand written patterns and rely on YouTube less.
The more that I crochet the more I can see just how useful that it or any other type of craft can be for relaxation and 'switching off'. The concentration that you need to keep track of how many stitches or how many rows, the time you need to set aside for sewing in the dreaded 'ends' at the end of the project, not to mention the complete focus you need for some of the more complicated patterns, is time that you're not scrolling through social media sites or browsing the internet – a distraction from some of the parts of every day life where it sometimes seems we're expected to constantly be online.
I've joined a few Facebook groups and there are countless people in these who advocate crochet as something that has helped them with anxiety and depression, and also as a welcome distracting force in the face of difficult times in their life. This article, featured in the Telegraph at the end of last year, cites the results of a study that found that people who participated in crochet, knitting and a selection of other activities felt happier, calmer and more relaxed the next day. The lead author of the study emphasised the growing recognition of the link between creativity and emotional functioning.
There is a steady increase in the levels of interest in hobbies such as crochet; this article from the Guardian highlights that there was a 12% increase in the number of women in the UK doing needlecrafts in the last two years, and 17% of men aged 17-24 are interested in trying them. The article suggests that unlike in years gone by when it was done out of necessity, in recent years people have turned to needlecraft as an exercise in mindfulness, to get away from the increased pressures of every day life. By taking part in these crafts, people are getting a sense of accomplishment and pride in what they manage to complete and it can be a welcome distraction from other pressures or difficulties they face. It's a sentiment that I totally relate to, as there's no feeling quite like it when you've sewn in that final end, knowing that it's a project that I've completed and have something tangible to show for my time. There's no similar feeling that you can get from staring at a screen or browsing random sites on the internet.
I'm certainly no expert in mental health, and I know for many people it's a complex day to day struggle, but from my perspective I can see how participating and learning crafts can be soothing and provide some relief. As I said, my primary motivation for learning to crochet was so that I wasn't constantly staring at a screen, but the longer I've done it and the more projects I've done, I can certainly understand the psychological benefits that crochet and other crafts can bring. I have no doubt that I will continue to crochet, hopefully continuing to improve and expand my skills, and I hope that others continue to find relief and enjoyment from taking part in it, the same way as I do.