Crocheting in Difficult Times

Jun 2, 2014

When I opened the Interweave Crochet Summer 2014 issue I expected to find innovative patterns that begged me to pick up my yarn and hook and add them to my closet, in-depth articles on new or fundamental crochet techniques, and pages of beautiful photography that inspired me. That's just what I have come to expect from Interweave Crochet and is the reason I wait in anticipation for each new issue.

Free Spirit Tunic by Natasha Robarge  

But this issue included something else, something perhaps more inspiring. In this issue I read about crocheters who faced incredible physical and emotional hardships, but crochet led them down the path of recovery.

First there is Vicki Sulfara who learned to crochet when she was a young girl. In June of 2000 she was in a horrific car accident that left her with spinal injuries, chronic pain, and the fear that she would not be able to pick up her hook again. Instead crochet became an integral part of her healing progression.

  Hope Blooms by Jenny King

Then there is the story of LTC Samantha Nerove, U.S. Army, Retired. I'll let you read an excerpt in her own words.

Pistol? Check. Body armor? Check. Yarn, hooks, crochet books? Check. My Combat Crochet Basic Load (CCBL) was prepped for battle. . . . Night after night, I sat on my bunk holding on to life by participating in the wonder of yarns blossoming into flowers and other projects. Creating with fiber became my personal oasis in the desert of my disintegrating self. Crocheting helped stop the memories-the sight and screams of dying burn victims, AK-47s aimed at my face, and more-from replaying in my head. It directed my mind to a calmer place. Yarn over, pull through . . . . My hands were moving. I was still alive. . . . ­The ugliness and destruction of war pale in comparison with the power and beauty that yarn, hooks, and crochet books can create.

Wonder Wheel Top by Jenny King

- LTC Samantha Nerove, U.S. Army, Retired.

I am looking at each pattern and crochet technique differently now. Each stitch is a story of my life; crochet comforts me when life is difficult and inspires me daily. Take Interweave Crochet with you anywhere and find comfort, inspiration, and amazing patterns by subscribing digitally today.

Best wishes,

P.S. Has crochet ever helped you overcome a physically or emotionally difficult time? Share your story in the comments.

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Kokopelli wrote
on Jun 2, 2014 4:16 AM

Awesome post! And yes, creating, not neccesarily crocheting, keeps me sane.

Swissgirl wrote
on Jun 2, 2014 4:43 AM

Two years ago, I lost my husband in a car accident. One of the last thing we did together was buying yarns for my crocheting. I still keep the yarn shop bill with the purchase date and time in my wallet. After he passed away, I wasn t able to crochet for a very long time. To begin crocheting again after so many months, meant that I was starting emotionally to recover.  

derylee wrote
on Jun 2, 2014 6:36 AM

I have had surgery on both of my wrists.  One surgery was to remove three bones and also repair carpal tunnel.  The other was a compound compressed fracture and repair of carpal tunnel.  The  surgeon suggested I continue my crocheting after both surgeries.  He said it would help keep my wrists strong and moving.  He was right.  If not for crocheting, I probably would not be able to do very much with my hands at all.  

on Jun 2, 2014 6:42 AM

After he saw me crocheting a baby blanket during lunch, a former teaching colleague who grew up in Britain during WWII told me a story of how he learned to crochet. He said that people would start blankets in the bomb shelters at night and leave them there to give the kids something to do to pass the time, keep them quiet,  and settle their nerves. He said that a stranger showed him how to work on a blanket one night  and that he worked on blankets whenever there was a bombing raid.

odalysc1 wrote
on Jun 2, 2014 7:18 AM

Crochet Kept My Spirits High during 3 Months of Homelessness –

I won't bore you with the details of how I, an employed licensed practical nurse at a local children's hospital became homeless. What I would like to focus on is the very thing that kept me from being in a constant state of total meltdown - my crochet hooks, yarns, and projects. And how I believe God used these tools of my passion to keep me sane and happy during a most difficult time.

Once I got over the initial dismay of what was about to/and did happen to me, I remember going to my storage unit 2weeks into my new life to pick up some clean scrubs for work, at least I had my job. While there I began fumbling through my things in tears and I found the bag that was storing the afghan I had been making for my eldest daughter who was living in Montreal, Canada. I began crying that this beautiful yarn, and equally beautiful pattern was just sitting there waiting for the day I might finish it.

I held onto that afghan and my hooks and the yarn like they were my life preserver, soaking a portion of it with my tears and hoping I hadn't stained the yarn. I started to put it all back and grab my scrubs to leave, when the thought occurred to me that the only thing keeping me from finishing this blanket was me. I mean really, it’s not like I had to stop crocheting to clean the apartment or bathroom, or stop because I had to cook dinner. I was after all, just going to throw my scrubs into a messenger bag, and head for a park I could hang out at, so why not take it with me.

I did just that. Not only did I finish that afghan, during these last 3 months, I finished another one using Tunisian knit method. I have also crocheted one scarf for my youngest daughter, am working on another scarf for a coworker, am teaching a fellow co-worker to crochet, and have taught 2 other co-workers who know how to crochet but needed help with more advanced stitches, and there are several other co-workers who want lessons as well.

Where ever I go, my large Michaels bag, filled with my yarns, my needles, one crochet pattern book, go too. To the park, on the bus, at the book or bagel store, at the library, and more, I crocheted and I prayed. People stopped and watched me, women and children mostly, but also some men who reminisced about their mothers or sisters that also crochet. My projects allowed me to see clearly how I had gotten into this situation of homelessness, and to see how to fix it.

Today, I am moving into my new apartment and my new life. I am completely aware I would not been able to cope as I did had God not given me this wonderful gift and I know that I would have completely melted down. Every stitch in the projects I worked on was made as I prayed for solutions, strength, and wisdom, and also for compassion for the other homeless ones around me who didn't seem to have anything to hold onto, like I did my craft.  Thank you for letting me share, and please – be kind to the homeless, no one wants to live like that.

on Jun 2, 2014 11:05 AM

I live with daily pain from several chronic illnesses, including 24/7 migraines. When I do not feel able to do anything else, I can still crochet. Although I can't think clearly enough to follow intricate patterns, I do crochet simple things for our home, family, and friends, and make lapghans which I donate to a couple of rehab facilities in our area.

I am very thankful to be able to do something that not only soothes me but helps me feel somewhat useful.

cgevans wrote
on Jun 2, 2014 11:15 AM

Hi Toni,

Your article has inspired me to share my story.  I lost my husband to suicide in Jan. 2013.  I struggled to get the gun out of his hand, but failed and he shot himself in the head while in my arms.  Like Samantha, I've suffered severe PTSD.  I hadn't crocheted since I was very young, but for some reason I picked it up again.  Repeatedly counting stitches has helped keep my mind out of the horrible places it wanted to go. Sometimes the darkness has tried to overwhelm me, but crocheting always brings me back into daylight.  I'm so very grateful to my great-grandmother for passing on her skill to me all those many years ago.  I don't know where I'd be right now without it.

I don't have the funds to subscribe to the magazine, but I check out your website often for inspiration.

Conni Evans

worshipbabe wrote
on Jun 2, 2014 12:19 PM

Such inspiring stories!  I'll add mine. About 20 years ago, when I was in missionary school (an almost total immersion situation where we learned the language & culture quickly), I was attacked by a totally debilitating disease where I was bedridden due to horrible, severe pain for many months while the doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with me. My hands were still good at that time & I had a friend buy me a learn-to-crochet book & a bunch of yarn. I fell in love with heirloom crocheting and have continued since. Turns out it was severe arthritis & now my hands are very deformed, but I still find ways to tweak ways of holding my hook, etc, so I don't have to stop crocheting. It still is a great comfort and takes my mind off the pain I have, even though I'm on much medication. I'm so glad I learned to crochet!

L.A.G@2 wrote
on Jun 2, 2014 1:02 PM

crochet moved my mind away from the terror of being stalked.  when baby came it kept my focus while stalker and colic dominated, I crocheted.  When I had a 7 year old and breast cancer, I crocheted thru chemo and radiation.  when unpleasant events turn up, I crochet.  When wrists threatened carpal tunnel .... Yes I did.  I still have the "baby blues", aka chronic depression, so finding joy is seldom accidental, so I crochet and it takes my mind to the individual I may be creating a garment for.  what an excellent topic!!

sewandsewon wrote
on Jun 2, 2014 1:21 PM

I was ran over then backed over by a semi during Desert shield.  The semi got my right arm and well most of me, my recovery therapy was crocheting. I already had the thread with me and I was "caught" with a hook in the arm/hand that was ran over trying to get the feeling back and do the stitches.  The doctors came in and got very excited, if I could move the hook up just a bit and use the other hand for the thread all of me would be getting better.  After I mastered the laying flat on my back and arm on the pillow moves, I was excited that I could keep on crocheting even with having two muscle groups in the right arm gone and being hit well crushed on the right side. I have trama aphasia. I made a chain then truned it into a square.  I made squares, which turned into lap-ghans. Then on to the flowers and then the fine thread for edgings. This is all during the few few weeks int he hospital. It has been 36 surgeries,and 23 years later I have even crocheted tablecloths, sweaters, baby afghans and lots of helps to keep the hands busy to keep from pain and the memories of the other things that were seen.  PRAISE GOD for the crochet hooks and thread I have given most of the crocheted items away.  I still use the hooks and books that were given to me when I was a little girl and just learning how to crochet.

on Jun 2, 2014 2:13 PM

I didn't know how to crochet when I found out I had breast cancer.  My mom and sister were my "chemo buddies" and they crocheted and talked with me.  That's when I decide to learn.  It helped "work" my brain and gave me something do to while I was sitting.  Now my granddaughters keep me busy with projects they want me to make for them.  I love it!

madmyers wrote
on Jun 2, 2014 3:11 PM

Six years ago, my daughter, mother of two girls age 7and 8 at the time, suffered a severe stroke with multiple complications that left her paralyzed from the neck down and in intensive care for three months, and in and out of hospitals and therapy ever since. Miraculously, and through the power of prayer, she survived and has been slowly regaining her mobility and memory, even though she had to relearn numbers and letters and how to read all over again, she is now back to reading and using a computer, etc. All her therapists believe now that she will walk.

I had joined a prayer shawl ministry in my church a few months before, and during the time that she was in ICU I remained nearby, and of course got to know other family members of patients.  Some survived, some did not, but all of us shared our sorrow and anxiety, and I stayed calm by crocheting shawls and gave away some to the people I met there when I had the chance to do so.  Seeing the comfort the shawls gave them helped me get through those months when her prognosis was dire, and doctors only gave her a 30% chance of regaining any movement if she survived.  I am still crocheting shawls, and have shared my story with other members of our ministry, hopefully helping them to get through similar situations.

AMGonzales wrote
on Jun 2, 2014 4:47 PM

I lost my dad to a massive heart attack almost 7 months ago and dropped everything to move my husband and children in with my mother.  I picked up crocheting as a way to keep busy and not to dwell on the major life changes that had taken place.  I keep crocheting because I enjoy the peace that comes with creating things.  It is one of the few constants in an ever-changing life.

FAERE wrote
on Jun 2, 2014 6:03 PM

I love on country Victoria Australia and I have been crocheting since I was 5 years of age. I have found in the last few years it is very meditative and relaxing. I endure ongoing PTSD and find crochet helps when I am very anxious. Last year I had cervical cancer and breast cancer surgeries and chemotherapy. Through my hospitalisation and recovery at home I started up my crochet again which kept me going and sane. This year I plan to start selling a few of my items at markets since I am no longer in paid employment. I'm a bit slower now as I have tendon damage from chemotherapy but it gives me motivation to keep going.

Ashleyrhicks wrote
on Jun 2, 2014 6:05 PM

8 months into joining the Army I was raped by a fellow soldier. So far crocheting has been and is the only thing that calms me down from flashbacks, panic attacks, and even during a trauma program in the military.

OzarkCrafter wrote
on Jun 2, 2014 6:10 PM

I was taught to crochet by my Aunt when I was eleven just a couple years after my mom died.  It was a big comfort to focus on that rather than my loss.  Then in the early 1980's I suffered damage to my right hand tearing and severing nerves, tendons and ligaments and really thought I would never crochet again.  It took over a year but I relearned crocheting and even had to learn a new way to hold my hook.  I can not stitch as fast as I once did and I drop stitches a lot but I still love the hobby!  Now the memory issues from an old head injury means I can no longer do the really complicated pieces I once did but I am content to just crochet what I can and I share it with a lot of people.  I am 54 years old now and can not see me stopping crocheting any time soon.  I have to sit a lot more than I like because of health issues and it and cross stitch keep me from going stir crazy.

knitternorb wrote
on Jun 2, 2014 8:11 PM

Two years ago I was asked to teach Crocheting to a group of women who were really motivated to learn, who were loving and beautiful and would love some instruction.  How can you say "No" to that, especially when it is told to you by a Nun.  It wasn't until I said I would "attempt to teach, but I was not a teacher" that she smilingly told me "They are in Jail"  For the past 2 years I have been "Going to Jail" once a week to teach them.   They are women trying to turn their lives around, going through emotionally difficult times.   The best part is, my Dad was a NYC Cop who made us promise we would never do anything in our lives that would lead to us to spend time in Jail!!   Sorry Dad.  I love what I do!!

on Jun 2, 2014 9:19 PM

I have returned to crochet after many years. Now retired from nursing, and widowed, It saves me in the"lonely" times.

I remember, many years ago, when my mother was in the operating theatre, enduring a very long, complicated, emergency proceedure...we were unable to locate my step father to inform him, so I packed a ball of cotton, and a hook and went in to wait, for news and step father.

I ended up nearly finishing a "white swan" which I later stiffened to sit on a table. It looked more like a "dying duck" ...But it reminded me of the hours spent waiting in that awful waiting room, and the eventual "good news" of the operation results.

 I eventually gave it to my mothers sister, who proudly had it "on show" in her dining room. Now many years later ,I have it back, looking the worse for wear, but full of wonderful memories. All hail the humble crochet hook  .Faye Maplestone Australia

on Jun 2, 2014 9:57 PM

I am a therapist working with severely emotionally disturbed teenagers. Sadly, I can't teach them to crochet because they could use the yarn or hooks to injure themselves or each other.  But during lunch break I crochet.  It has gotten me through some very challenging days.

Catdances2 wrote
on Jun 3, 2014 9:26 AM

Crochet has helped me a lot the last few years!  3.5years ago I had a benign breast lump removed.  It was supposed to be a 'routine' operation, but I ended up with Nerve Damage all over the left side of my upper body.  I have lived in depilating Chronic Pain ever since.  My Intercostal Neuralgia has caused me to lose my career as a glassblower and I had to leave my job (I still make ever now and then).  I started crocheting about 2 years ago and it is great to have something I can do while resting in bed, or while I am in the Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber.  Also a few months ago I could a 9 hour a week job in my local wool shop!  Its like being in heaven ;)  It really has helped me pass the time; meet new friends; continue to be creative and kept me sane.  I am only 31 so this has been a massive alteration in my life, and crochet helps me through.  I run a Facebook page for other sufferers of IN, so come say hi if you need some support or advice!

chikl wrote
on Jun 3, 2014 12:25 PM

I have found that crocheting can direct my sadness into helping others. When my husband passed after a difficult illness, making hearts to give away at church and fellow volunteers lifted my own heart.

Eseditor wrote
on Jun 6, 2014 6:27 PM

In 2007 I was diagnoised with a one-in-a-million auto immune disease.  High dose of prednisone and a very strong immunosuppressant created a very challenging lifestyle change. I needed something to do with my hands and my time.  I made too many mistakes trying to knit so I switched to crochet.   I made dozens of scarves that I gave away at Christmas for a couple of years and then I started making hats for the grandkids and I made Spirit Hats for a pre-school class.  I even made animals hats for our Christmas Play at Church and Egg Cozies for Easter.  I love searching for yarn in thrift stores and going thru every yarn shop when I travel.  Right now I am in Fairbanks Alaska for work.  I have found beautiful yarns - I wish I could afford to buy Qiviut.  I am going to experiment with hand painting yarn when I get back home. Crocheting kept me 'thinking' when prednisone had me in a fog. I wouldn't have a healthy mind without crocheting.  

dawnfrnj wrote
on Jun 9, 2014 4:09 PM

I also am a Female veteran diagnosed with PTSD thanks to my military service.  My story is so similar to the many listed above as I also use crochet to relax and unwind.  I would appreciate it if you were able to publish the full article, or if it is published to please post a link to it.  I want to share it with the Women vets I know.  I have had problems in the past at the VA hospital being told that my crochet does not promote mindfulness, and thus I am not allowed to crochet in my classes.  I try in vain to argue this, because when I am just sitting there my mind races.  When I crochet I am able to concentrate better in class.  I cannot get the "experts" to realize this.  This reaction has hindered my desire to start teaching crochet to my fellow veterans with PTSD.  Please post the full article if possible!  Thank you!