Linda D., who runs UK Crochet Patterns, is a 40-something mother, crochet designer and woman with Asperger Syndrome. In this interview, she shares what her life has like, how crochet has been therapeutic for her and why she didn’t learn the craft until just a few years ago.
Hi! Let’s get started with just a little bit about yourself …
I’m a woman in her early 40s, from England, and have Asperger’s Syndrome. I was only diagnosed in 2008 so I have had quite a traumatic time dealing with both the undiagnosed condition itself and the way people have treated me because of it. Although I’m a successful parent, have two UK degrees, have had many good jobs, being an Aspie means that I’m socially inept. I’m 43 now, not 23, and am also more self-aware, so I’ve done good work over the past few years in sorting myself out and learning social skills/rules, etc., but it was a difficult journey.
Can you tell us a bit more about what it means for you to have Asperger’s and how it relates to crochet?
Aspies like a narrow range of interests, are really good at concentrating for long periods, and, in particular, crave simple repetitive activity as a form of relaxing, self-soothing, decompressing, etc. Crochet does all of that for me. I simply cannot explain what it does to my brain in words that do it justice. When I am overwhelmed with the day or things going on in my life, picking up my hook calms me like nothing else does. Some Aspies run, some walk, some on the lower end of the spectrum rock – all Aspies are different. This is my “therapy”. It takes my focus off everything bothering me. It allows the parts of my brain that are overwhelmed by sights or sounds or worries to decompress themselves, while I repeat crochet stitches over and over on whatever I’m working on.
Irelaxes my brain and occupies my hands. I can’t explain the science but the repetition is so soothing. If I’m out and about without any crochet, I even start imagining the act of crochet and it has the same effect as actually doing it. It also requires enough of my attention that it gives my head a break from anything that’s worrying me without actually being taxing. My friend says that I’m “in the zone”. I also get an immense sense of pride for the act of creation. Sometimes I can’t believe that I’ve actually made such beautiful things – I’ve never had that experience before.
How long have you been crocheting?
For most of my life I had no idea how much I needed crochet. All my life, I avoided it because I had a stereotype in mind that it was just for old ladies. I received my first crochet hook in 2011 for Mother’s Day. My daughters asked me what I wanted and as crochet was the only craft I’d never tried, I jokingly asked for a crochet hook. Up until then, I hadn’t knitted in 20 years. I was sewing daily, just easy things, and playing far too much Farmville (the game had the same calming, ordering, productive effect on my brain as crochet now has, so I clearly needed something to fill that purpose). The long and short of it is that I haven’t played Farmville in 3 years and I’m now crocheting for a living. I’ve had this talent hidden inside me all my life and have missed so many years of it. I was addicted to the crochet the same day that I got that hook. I realized as soon as I’d mastered the dc (US sc) that it was going to be healing for me.
How did you learn to crochet?
I learned from YouTube videos. Naztazia’s to be exact!
What types of crochet projects do you find most healing and why?
It depends on the mood I’m in and the day I’m having. Obviously if I have an order to make, I’ll get on with that whatever it is, but in the evenings I prefer something repetitive to help me relax. At the moment, I’m doing a lot of Tunisian crochet while watching TV. I don’t have to pay such close attention to this form of crochet. The daytime is when I tend to work on more complex items.
Where are you most likely to crochet?
Anywhere! I often take a hook and a bit of yarn out with me. Once I took the hook but not the yarn, so I went into a supermarket and bought string to crochet with!
How often do you crochet?
Every. Single. Day.
So you had tried other crafts. Do you still do any of those?
Not really. I sew a little – or I did until my daughter took back her sewing machine! I find sewing quite frustrating though. I can work on something fairly simple but the minute it becomes hard or complicated, I’ll usually give up and ask my daughter to finish it.
Who do you typically crochet for?
No one in particular – anyone and everyone. It’s the act that’s healing, rather than whoever the item is destined for.
Have you seen crochet heal anyone else in your life?
I know of an autistic man online who crochets. He makes giant blankets and supports himself with them. I can truly understand how and why he is able to work on one item until it’s big enough to cover a double bed. It’s so rewarding and relaxing.
Did anyone in your own family crochet?
My mother crocheted, knitted and sewed, but when I was a child crochet was not “cool” so that’s why I didn’t learn it from her. Although my mother died when I was in my 20s, had I learned to crochet as a child or teenager, I would have been able to share it with her. We really didn’t have much in common at all, so it’s a shame that my view of crochet as a “granny activity” and “not cool” kept me from it and her. It’s never too late, however, to discover a new talent inside yourself – NEVER.
So you would encourage others to crochet?
Yes! I especially try to encourage anyone I know with autistic children to learn to crochet. I know from personal experience how it helps me, although my own place on the Spectrum is so high functioning that nowadays you wouldn’t know I was on it unless I told you. I know that rhythmic, repetitive hand and brain activities calm me in a way nothing else does so I really wish that it was an option open to more people on the Spectrum. I don’t think anyone is deliberately withholding it; it’s just not an activity that’s thought of. Maybe I ought to do more to promote it, with autism in mind?
Definitely a great message to spread! Besides crochet, what other things do you do to heal?
I enjoy particular tv shows. I walk my dog and make sure I eat as well as possible. I make sure I get enough sleep. And I get some sunshine each day as well.
Photos from Linda’s Craftsy pattern store.