At about this time last year I had the idea that I wanted to write a book exploring the mental and physical health benefits of crochet. I came to crochet after an intense battle with depression and I knew firsthand the healing power of the craft. From conversations with others I suspected that I was not the only one who felt this way, so I put out a call for stories, asking if anyone wanted to share with me their tales of crafting to heal themselves as research for this book.
I am honored to say that about two dozen women took the time to respond with their warm, heartfelt, touching, amazing stories about hooking to heal. And I am proud to say that my book, Crochet Saved My Life, will be ready for sale on August 1st. In this book, I share my story. I also share tons of research about how crochet can help people with a myriad of health problems. But my very favorite part of this book was that I got to share the stories of all of these wonderful women.
You can get to know them all in more depth through the book when it’s out in a few weeks but I wanted to take the time to thank these women publicly here and to give you a brief introduction to who they are. A quick note to say that we all came to this project in various stages of healing and with different life circumstances to contend with. Some women were ready to publicly share their whole stories along with their full names and links to where they can be found online. Other women shared their stories using only their first names or using an alias. It was important to me to respect where everyone was at in the process … With that said, the women whose stories can be found in Crochet Saved My Life are:
Aimee O’Neill was a victim of mental abuse in her marriage. Crochet was one tool that helped her on her journey to freedom. It is something that she could do by herself, for herself, independent of anyone else’s control.
Aurore is a French woman with a diagnosis of chronic hallucinatory psychosis, a condition that is comparable to schizophrenia and is characterized by difficulty maintaining a sense of what is real and what is not. This strong woman uses crochet as one tool to help her maintain a connection to reality as she deals with this condition.
Carol’s whole life changed when she began to experience the symptoms of Fibromyalgia. Her job came to an end. Her mothering changed. The way she lived out her role as a wife changed. It wasn’t an easy thing to cope with. Crochet helped. The craft allowed her to continue to be able to give to others in her life even as her disease took that ability away in some areas.
Elisabeth Andrée, a blogger who offers many free crochet tutorials, has a progressive inner ear disease called Menière’s disease. It not only makes it difficult for her to hear but also gravely affects her balance and coordination. Over the years this has resulted in a job loss which might have caused her to spiral into depression. However, through sheer self-determination to celebrate her life, and with a little bit of help from crochet, this crafter has managed to learned to enjoy the little things.
Em is a 50+ woman who went through an extended period of unemployment after a layoff caused by the economic downturn. She struggled with depression related to self-esteem issues until she got active selling her crochet work on Etsy. The new job, but more specifically being busy with crochet, helped break her cycle of depression.
Fran was brutally raped and it left her with both physical and emotional pain that she is still healing from. She always loved to crochet but since the rape it has become a crucial part of her healing process, allowing her to help others as a way of regaining her own personal power and healing herself.
Jennifer Crutchfield is a Professional Organizer who uses crochet to help her deal with the symptoms of OCD. She enjoys the challenge and excitement of taking on a new project. However, she also appreciates how the meditative process of repetitive crochet can reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Katherine Dempsey took a bad spill that resulted in torn ankle ligaments and tendons, a torn disc in her back and sciatic pain. This left her bedridden and out of work, making her restless and frustrated in addition to being in terrible pain. She used crochet for pain management and also to deal with depression associated with chronic pain.
Crochet pattern designer Kristine Mullen had several difficult childbirth experiences including the delivery of her fifth child who wasn’t breathing and had shoulder dystocia. Understandably, she was stressed out and fearful when it was time to deliver her next child. She brought crochet to the delivery room with her to reduce her anxiety and take her mind off of the pain. She ended up with a sweater for herself and healthy baby number six!
Laurie Wheeler is known as the Fearless Leader of the Crochet Liberation Front and the founder of Hookey.org, sites that help to bring together crocheters of all skill levels to connect to one another and learn from one another. However, one does not become a Fearless Leader without facing down some struggles. Laurie has suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Multiple Personality Disorder caused by childhood trauma and she has overcome those conditions through strength, perseverance and yes, crochet.
Award-winning crochet designer Laurinda Reddig had crocheted for most of her life and so it was naturally something that she turned to when she needed help to get through the grief of losing a child. Her one day old daughter was wrapped in a handmade afghan that Laurinda was able to take home with her. She knew that she wanted to be able to offer the same comfort to other mothers that this blanket offered to her and so she started the Remembering Rowan Project. The project gave her a tangible way to help others and a means to heal through her own grief process.
Liza has an undiagnosed condition, possibly MS, that causes her to periodically experience temporary blindness. Crochet has helped her cope with the anxiety and stress she experiences during those times because she knows that if she can crochet blind then she can do other things blind as well. It gives her a sense of competence and calm that battles the anxiety of the situation.
M.K. Carroll is the series editor for the Fresh Designs crochet books published by Cooperative Press. She is also a woman who has struggled with depression over the years. Crochet isn’t just her living; it’s her way of life. It helped get her through some tough times and is something she comes back to again and again to stay in touch with her own moods.
Margaret Mills is a cancer survivor who was just beginning to gain a little bit of strength after chemo treatment when her mother became seriously ill and needed to move in with Margaret and her daughter. This three-generation trio of crafters had plenty of craft supplies on hand including grandma’s hooks and yarn, which proved to be vital in helping Margaret through the difficult period of depression that ensued as she dealt with the stressors of illness within her family.
Marinke has Asperger’s, which causes her social awkwardness. Crochet has helped to reduce depression and stress around her situation. SIt has also helped her to find a community to connect to thanks to her blog, where she spreads lots of crochet goodness and joy.
Martha Stone was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in 2003 and used medication to help her get through it. However, when the condition came on again eight years later, it took time for the meds to kick in. Martha needed to do something to stay sane in the interim and crochet was what helped her to get through.
Nessa began to suffer from depression as a teenager and later learned that the depression was linked to Multiple Sclerosis. She often felt like her body was lying to her and she needed to find things in her life that did not lie. Although she was living thousands of miles away from home, she found truth in the handcrafted American way of life that had surrounded her as a child and so she began to crochet. The crochet was meditative and relaxing and helped her through not only the depression but the need to constantly reinvent or reenvision herself with each new disability that the MS brought on.
Rachel Brown hadn’t anticipated that becoming a mother would leave her in the grips of postpartum depression. When it did she found herself struggling with anxiety and depression, debilitating feelings of being jittery, panicked and worthless. She made a list of the few things that still made her feel calm and happy and one of those things was crochet so she crocheted her way into better days. Rachel shares lots of fun tutorials and projects on her blog.
Sara-Jane suffers from Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). She has found that crochet stops her painful leg twitching and helps her to relax. This allows her to do things that she wouldn’t be able to do if her RLS wasn’t under control, things such as going on annual Washington D.C. trips with her students.
Shelli Steadman was 30 when she started experiencing health problems that her doctors had trouble diagnosing and which turned out to be due to hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia. She couldn’t be as active as she once was and found crochet helped her spirits remain uplifted as she adjusted to a new “normal”.
Writer Sherri A. Stanczak had to undergo spinal surgery that has left her coping with a significant amount of pain even half a dozen years later. Crochet helps Sherri to manage the pain. It also helps her to battle the feelings of depression that are frequently a byproduct of living with chronic pain.
Tammy Hildebrand is well-established crochet designer, the professional development chairperson for the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) and is on the CGOA board of directors. Crochet is her life. It has also been an important healing tool in her battle with Chronic Lyme Disease. Crochet helped her deal with depression around her illness. Once she became a Lyme activist, teaching and sharing crochet served as a way she could help others who were going through a similar situation.
Vicki Sulfaro never goes a day without pain since the day that a car accident left her with spinal injuries. Nevertheless, she maintains an upbeat attitude about her situation and uses crochet as a healing tool to cope with the new difficulties of everyday life mostly by crocheting to give back to others and find purpose in her new world.
Crochet Saved My Life is a self-published book that was funded entirely out of my own pocket so although their stories were worth gold I was unable to pay these women for their contributions. They shared their stories for no other reason than because crochet had helped them and they wanted to let others know how helpful the craft can be. I am endlessly grateful to these women. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
The photo at the top of this post was done by Julie Michelle