I recently read a news article about an older woman named Theresa Kilijansk who was learning to crochet again after a stroke. I want to share that with you today along with additional information about crocheting after a stroke.
Adapting to Crochet after a Stroke
The main difficulty for many people is learning how to crochet again after a stroke has limited their function. That was the case for Theresa Kilijansk whose stroke made it difficult for her to do even basic tasks like dressing herself. Her crochet instructor helped her fashion a device that would allow her to crochet with her left hand after losing her right-handed function:
“Toni created a simple design in which a stationary crocheting needle extends from a wool-wrapped Styrofoam block. Gripping the block with her knees and with the sole use of her left hand, in only a few months Kilijansk began to weave an assortment of creations from her bundles of yarn.”
Theresa had learned to crochet as a child and it was something that she loved to do. Being able to crochet again helps her to feel more like her old self as she adjusts to a “new normal”. It helps her feel a bit more independent and inspires her to keep stretching herself to do more.
Switching Crochet Hands after a Stroke
Having to switch hands to crochet after a stroke isn’t uncommon. Myrtle Geisbrecht is another woman who was right-handed but forced to crochet with her left hand once a stroke left her right arm paralyzed. “I used to do quite a bit of crocheting,” she said. “Because it’s my right hand, I had to learn to crochet backwards.” As with Theresa, Myrtle’s occupational therapist helped her adapt to this new way of crocheting; she “fashioned a brace for her right hand that simplified the switch to left-handed crocheting“.
Adaptations for Crochet After a Stroke
As we can see, many women find that DIY devices help them to crochet with limited hand mobility. Thelma Passaro is another great example of this. Crochet had always been her chosen hobby and she wanted to keep it up even after a stroke paralyzed her right arm. Her son helped her to create an adaptive device using a broomstick that allows her to stabilize her work and crochet left-handed. She uses her post-stroke craft skills to crochet helmet liners for troops overseas.
The video at the top of this post shares one therapist’s creation for a post-stroke crochet machine.
Crochet as Occupational Therapy
Crochet can be a great form of occupational therapy for various conditions. It helps develop neuromuscular skills, fine motor skills and cognitive skills. It’s especially great for people who knew how to crochet before a stroke but can also be newly learned at any time / age. Susan of Musings and Susings had a stroke before the age of 40 and says, “My recreational therapist, upon learning that I crocheted, told my husband to bring in bulky yarn and a huge crochet hook. She taught me how to crochet again, and it was instrumental in my recovery.”
Tamara Aviles is another crafter who crocheted for physical therapy. She had learned the craft as a teenager but resumed it again after her stroke; “The process required patience, concentration and fine motor skills — a perfect exercise for a stroke victim.”
Crochet for Continuity of Self
For those people who crocheted before a stroke, finding a way to keep at it may help the person retain his / her sense of identity even when a stroke limits them in other ways. Linda Beaubien started crocheting as a child and eventually came to sell her work at market stalls. After her stroke, one of the first things she asked for was yarn. At first she just held it but she quickly re-taught herself to crochet. She cried the first time that she went back to the market and sold her work after the stroke; she was so happy to realize that people would still want what she was able to make.