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10 Most Important Health Benefits of Yarncrafting

Blogger and author Kathryn Vercillo is an expert in the area of using crafting to heal, having researched the topic extensively for her book Crochet Saved My Life. This is part one in her 6-part series for us on the topic of yarncraft health. Read her previous blog posts on the Lion Brand Notebook here

Yarn heals. Whether you prefer needles or hooks or a combination of both, crafting can soothe your body and mend your mind. Anecdotal evidence has shown this for decades and new research confirms it with science. The benefits people report are seemingly endless. Here are the top 10 yarncrafting health benefits.

1. Knitting and Crochet Relieve Depression

Depression relief is by far the most reported and studied benefit of crochet and knitting. The repetition of the crafts has been shown to release serotonin, a natural anti-depressant. CNN recently reported that “in one study of more than 3,500 knitters, published in The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 81% of respondents with depression reported feeling happy after knitting. More than half reported feeling "very happy."

Knit Aromatherapy Eye Pillow
Knit & Crochet Aromatherapy Eye Pillow

2. Crafting Reduces Anxiety

Yarncrafts helps with various forms of anxiety. It keeps your hands busy and mind focused so that you can attend classes or events even when you have social anxiety. It brings the internal mind to a calmer space for when you’re coping with the anxiety of repetitious thoughts. The counting has even been shown to serve as a productive outlet for people with anxiety associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as well as eating disorders. The Craft Yarn Council reports on one study that showed nearly ¾ of women with anorexia found knitting to be calming and anxiety-reducing.

3. Projects Build Self-Esteem

knit+crochetLow self-esteem has a variety of negative health impacts. Crafting helps build self-esteem by:

  • Building new skills
  • Allowing the crafter to feel productive
  • Providing a useful way to give to others
  • Creating beauty through self-expression

Simply visualizing, working on and then creating a product can make you feel better about yourself. This has helped people with everything from coping with the fear of unemployment to gaining the strength to leave abusive relationships.

4. Crafting May Reduce or Postpone Dementia

Several studies have shown that knitting and crochet can postpone age-related memory loss. The crafts can also be soothing for those people who are already experiencing signs of dementia. Recently, researcher Yonas Geda, MD, a neuropsychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic, completed a study that showed knitting is neuroprotective and may reduce dementia by as much as 50%.

5. Knit or Crochet Through Insomnia

Insomnia is a terrible feeling. You are tired but you can’t sleep so then you’re frustrated that you can’t sleep, which just makes it harder to sleep. Yarncrafts to the rescue! Focus on a soft, soothing, easy, repetitive crochet or knit project and your body and mind can often wind down enough to get to bed. Stitchlinks, a UK organization that does research into the benefits of knitting, reports that a study by professor Herbert Benson of the Mind/Body Medical Institute found that 100% of insomnia patients reported improved sleep with 90% being able to eliminate medication in a program that included knitting.

6. Relaxation Reduces Irritability and Restlessness

We recently shared how you can craft your way through cabin fever. Crochet and knitting can help you through any times when you feel grumpy, restless, frustrated or bored. This positive outlet preserves your relationships and keeps your mood balanced.

7. Crafting as Prayer

Prayer has been proven to have a diverse array of health benefits. Crochet and knitting can be used as part of your prayer process. See our articles on Prayer Shawl Crafting and How to Create a Sacred Space for Crafting.

8. Yarncrafting Builds Community

No matter what health issue you are dealing with, it helps to have a community of support around you. There are so many ways that crochet and knitting provide community:

• Through local knit-ins and crochet-in-public meetups
• At fiber fairs and related events
• Informally through connections at yarn stores
• In the many online craft communities
• Through a sense of being tied to the generations before and after us

Check out our ideas for crafting with family and friends.

9. Crafting Helps with Grief Processing

Loss is a horrible thing and none of us escape it. During periods of deep grief it can seem impossible that you’ll ever be able to function again. You get in your pajamas and stay in your bed and feel like the world has come to an end. Crochet and knitting can be one of the most comforting things during this time. It’s something that you can do without a lot of money or effort. It’s something you can do in small bits, when you have the energy. It can, for a moment, take your mind off of your pain. The textures and colors of the yarn, the warmth of the item that you’re creating and the beautiful up/down motion of stitch upon stitch can get you one day closer to feeling okay again.

10. Stress-Busting Benefits of Yarncrafting

Stress is one of our leading health problems. Its effects range from migraines and fatigue to heart failure and early memory loss. Reducing stress reduces disease. Using knitting or crochet as meditation can be a daily way to minimize the effects of stress in your life.

What’s the number one way that knitting or crochet heals you?


Read Part Two: 5-Step Guide to Creating your own Yarncrafting Wellness Plan

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  • mimberlyt

    A couple of years ago I was having heart issues but had to wait several weeks for surgery. Whenever I felt tightness in my chest or pain in my arms from circulatory problems, I'd sit down and knit or crochet a few rows and the pain and tightness would ease. Since it turned out that I had 99% blockage of one of my arteries and 80+% blockage in the other two, I'd say yarncrafting saved my life!

  • Diane

    I have depression and anxiety issues and knitting and crochet has helped a lot with it. My psychiatrist even has it in my file that I should keep knitting

  • ramblingbits

    I have suffered from severe insomnia since l was 11 years old. Over the years it got only worst then l discovered crafting. Although it did not cure me from it but it helps a whole lot. When everyone is resting in Morpheus arms, l am seriously talking to my needles. Crocheting saved me from l do beleive that my needles make my nights not only bearable but mostly enjoyable.

  • Julie Simmons

    since living totally alone for the first time in my life, l have thrown myself into crochet and knitting, producing many things. And l have had no depressive spells at all, something l dreaded, as l have a history of depression. Being alone with my thoughts has never been good for me. But keeping busy with yarncraft has definitely kept me on the right happy path.

  • DianeSC

    Thank you for sharing. I have been knitting since I was seven, as was my Mom and my Aunt Edna. However, I have been in continuous pain, following four surgeries, for over two years and the comfort of knitting eased my mind from the pain. I now am in physical therapy and slowly recovering. After reading this, I am not surprised that my physical therapist is also an avid knitter. DianeSC

  • Quiltblock

    Knitting seems to relieve restless leg syndrome. I knit when I am the passenger { :-) } in the car.

  • pjs mama

    I am challenged by schizo- affective disorder, and was on psych drugs for many years. They caused my weight to skyrocket to 245 pounds. A few years ago I became drug free and over the course of 18 months lost 80 pounds. Not only has crocheting helped me maintain my new weight (can't eat while crocheting),but I find I can completely relax as long as I have ahook in hand and a skein of yarn nearby.

  • Becky

    Knitting is my therapy--it's gotten me through 3 nursing degrees, a divorce, the loss of a child and the health issues of my other children, and a needles have saved my sanity.

  • DEB318

    Several years ago I worked for a company whose demands and expectations were unreasonable (have since found another job). Leaving for an hour lunch didn't have nearly the calming effect that going to a park bench or my car to knit for an hour did. And that wasn't the first time I turned to knitting to help me get through stressful times in my life. The rhythm of a simple garter stitch is calming and the challenge of a complicated pattern a distraction from issues I am stressing over.

  • henrietta

    I have rheumatoid arth and fibromyalgia and keep my hands more limber with crochet. I also have time the pain makes me restless and unable to sleep. With the repetitive stitches, I find it calms me and I can sleep sooner and sleep longer than without it. It has also helped me with better covers for the icepacks that I use to cool my hands and feet when I have a severe flare up. It has worked so well for me that my dr has passed the idea to his other patients.

  • Cheri Freeman

    I've long known that knitting or crocheting helps me through stress or 'sorts out my brain'. I am glad to read all these studies that confirm that.
    I am currently going through an extremely horrific time of coping with a son who sustained a brain injury in an accident. He needs constant and total care at this point, so it is not only emotionally taxing, but physically as well. All these months in the hospital and rehab, I have been knitting and now that he's home, it continues to help. Now this article gives me 'carte blanche' to knit without guilt because it truly is therapy and keeping me sane!

  • Carolina

    I'm writing this with tears running down my cheek. I lost my two best friends, my dogs, Twitch and Chulo, this year to cancer. I cared for Twitch for two months before he died and would sit on the bed with him and knit while I talked to him. When he died I would knit to help me through the grief of losing him. When Chulo got sick, two months later, he was in the hospital for about 7 days before he died. I would take my knitting with me when I visited him and he would sit at my feet like he did at home. It was very comforting for me and, I'm sure, for him. I still am grieving for their loss and my knitting helps me get through it. I am so grateful for knowing this skill.

  • E Christina Dabis-Appleby

    I have had a lifetime of stresses, more than my fair share, that's for sure. BUT, life is what it is and we each have to make the best of it. In my case, after decades of stress, I turned to crochet, COMPLICATED crochet patterns; patterns so complex that I could not think of anything else. Crocheting was much cheaper than a psychiatrist. Care to see some of my crocheted items? (yes, I play fiddle, too!)

  • Tracey Smith

    I started crocheting just because I'd always wanted to learn but soon realized just how relaxing and stress relieving it is as well as what a great way to meet a whole new realm of people!

  • mzklever

    My son was recently diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy. We decided that he should move home; our daughter moved out so he could have her room. Needless to say, my stress level skyrocketed, as did my insomnia. I have fibromyalgia, so exercising for stress relief is nearly impossible. Thank goodness for my knitting! It has kept me sane through all of the worry; whether my son would stabilize, if my daughter could find a decent place to live that she could afford, my son turning 26 this year and no longer being eligible to be on our insurance, missing my daughter after she moved out...all of these worries disappear while I am knitting. Lace requires dedicated thought, pushing all other thoughts away. When I am so tense that I cannot sleep, knitting helps me relax. I often fall asleep in my comfy recliner with yarn in hand, even if I couldn't sleep in my bed. Although I usually have to frog anything knitted while I'm half asleep, it is worth it to be able to close my eyes.

  • LeAnne

    About twelve years ago I decided I wanted to begin knitting again, but nothing difficult! I began
    Knitting scarves for friends, and then a friend told me about the Prayer Shawls! This was perfect for me as I would make them and then a close friend of mine who worked with women dealing with breast cancer would give them to them. Most of these women I have never and will never meet, but it has given me great comfort to make these for them...
    Ten years ago, I was spending many hours with my own Mom as she dealt with complications
    and ultimately her death from skin cancer ( just an aside- tanning is NOT worth it!). This involved
    numerous doctor visits and several lengthy stays. My knitting was always with me as a source
    of comfort and something I could do when I was too tired to think..
    It continues to be a great source of comfort and something I continue to do.

  • Therealmrsc

    I am fairly new to knitting, less than a year, but I cannot describe the sense of peace and calm I get from it. I've been on anti depressants and anti anxiety medications for many years and I work a high pressure job. Three years ago I went through a messy divorce, a job change, an unexpected pregnancy at 40 and then a miscarriage all in a short amount of time. Alcohol was my crutch and knew I was sliding down a very slippery slope. I've been alcohol free over two years now. I found myself searching for something to occupy my mind and my hands - reading has always been a passion but did nothing to calm my wringing hands. Knitting has become a daily respite for me - I used to rush home from work to open a bottle now I rush home to grab my yarn and needles :)

  • Sandy

    Crocheting heals me because I crochet for others. The act of praying while crocheting prayer shawls, baby blanket and stuffed animals is healing for the crafter as well as the person who receives it.

  • Alohaland

    I have always loved to shop not only for clothes, but for household items. Now, however, I am at an age where I don't go many places so I don't need a lot of clothes and I am living in someone else's home that does not need furnishing. However, I have discovered that thrift stores usually have yarn that has been given to them, so I can still enjoy shopping and then think creatively how the found yarn can be used. I have a circuit of several thrift stores and have quite a stash and most of my creations are scarves and flowers which I can give away! I also find knitting and crocheting books there with patterns to use.

  • logawood

    Definitely, crochet makes me happier and it's a creative outlet involving working with color and designing. Very portable -- makes waiting for trains a lot easier.

  • Barb Michaelis

    My aunt taught me to crochet was I was 10. She being left handed sat across from me (right handed) and i watched her and caught on. I still crochet baby blankets when I want to relax (no intense patterns). I taught myself to knit with estate sale needles and an instruction book almost 27 years ago when my husband was deployed. We couldn't afford much then, so when I found this person's collection of about 50 needles - I found a real treasure. I love my hodgepodge set of needles (full of wisdom). Crocheting, knitting, and sewing has been my mental savior my whole adult life.

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  • Monsmeg

    I've consciously used my crafts for the past 10 years to heal my mind and body and now realise that I've probably done this all my life without knowing it. I've overcome grief, stress, anxiety and depression with my creative hands. My family forced me onto an academic life path which led to much unhappiness but now I am very much aware that it should have been an artistic road I followed. This artistic road is now my path - I am fulfilled mentally and physically and am still amazed at what my hands can create - I just wish it hadn't taken me over 40 years to follow the right path to achieve health and happiness!

  • vijaya manoharan daniel

    I started crochetting after a gap of nearly 20 years when my first grand child was born in 2001. The baby had a health problem at birth, which the doctor said will be healed naturally after some time God gave me the strength to pray for the healing. I took small crochet projects to do for the baby and as i did every single stitch i forced my self to pray for her and by Gods grace she was totally healed and crochetting was a tool in the process . Praise the Lord Jesus Christ!!!

  • Mrs. D

    Ever since I was very little the "s" patterns of the pearl stitches and the "v" of the knit stitch have fascinated and relaxed me and so I learned at my mother's knee and have been happily knitting my way through 5 kids and countless boring golf tournaments and Mad Max type movies that my dear husband loves. Knitting and crocheting has made it all bearable. I recently developed a trigger finger on my right hand, no doubt due to the repetitive motion of knitting. The first thing I did was learn Portuguese style knitting so I could continue to knit, and then when I finally realized the problem was not going to go away, I opted for the operation for the trigger finger as opposed to cortisone shots as the doctor assured me I would regain full motion and could knit again which has very happily been the case. I actually could not sit and just watch TV without being able to knit while it was healing. I am also so glad to know the Portuguese style even thought I can do both now.

  • Suzanne

    Thank you this is a great article. One additional area is weight control. I crochet in the evenings so that I don't snack. You can't eat and crochet at the same time.

  • Girldawg1

    There are plenty of times when I'm all alone and to keep my mind uplifted I work on a craft project. With that, I always have something to do. The crochet hook is always around.

  • Joy

    I am curious if counted cross stitch has similar benefits. I do knit, loom knit and crochet but I also find cross stitching to be soothing. I show signs of psycho-motor overexcitability (one of the areas of giftedness) and while it has definite advantages, however, it has some downsides like insomnia and the feeling like you have an internal motor that makes you want to go go go. Cross stitching, crochet and knitting give me something to do with my hands.

  • DAK Doodles

    Love this article. It all is so true. Thank God for crafts! After my Mom passed away, I had extreme depression and anxiety. One night, was very bad but something made me pick up a crochet hook, yarn, and watch YouTube videos on how to. I landed up crocheting a bunch of bracelets for friends. I felt SO much better! I was able to sleep and relax after that. Saved my sanity and my broken heart <3 This article is absolutely amazing! Thank you!!

  • americanscott

    I know this probably sounds nuts to some people but my daughter can see auras. She has always had this ability. Anyway, I was going through some bad stress in my life and I felt drawn to crochet. One day I was sitting down crocheting an afghan to give as a gift and my daughter walked in and looked at me for a minute. She said "Are you happy about something?" I said "Well, I wasn't thinking about anything in particular, but now that you mention it, I feel good making this." She said that she could see my aura and it was "soft and fuzzy" looking and seemed warm and happy.

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  • Pamela

    I am currently undergoing some health issues with gallbladder and anemia, plus anxiety and depression. What a whammy! It's amazing and wonderful how something so simple can help ease the symptoms, and it's so easy to pray as you are doing it.

  • beargray

    Living proof this is absolutely true... Thanks for sharing.

  • Kirstine

    Every timeI have had knee replacement surgery over the last three years due to infections crocheting while being laid up helped a lot. Lately have not beendoing much andamstarting to miss that hobbyagain. I need to rescedule it back into my daily routine once again.
    I have issues with anxiety and stress so I really need to get back at something I enjoy.

  • CatherineMcClarey

    Crochet certainly helped me with grief processing after my son's death last year (from an autism-related fatal seizure). We just lost our elderly dog last month, too -- and it turned out to be a very good thing that I had just recently finished making her several doggie rugs. Not only were they practical bedding while we cared for her on the kitchen floor during the last few weeks of her life, but it was oddly comforting that my spouse was able to wrap her body in 2 of the rugs before "body-bagging" her for transport to the vet after she died.

  • Sue Loucks

    How wonderful to see some thing I have felt and others I had no knowledge of in this article. Crocheting has always been a way to soothe my mind and calm my nerves.

  • sheryl richman

    our future daughter-inlaw is sooo painfully shy. and it was hard to get to know her in the few days that they were here for the christmas holidays. we had lost our heat on christmas eve morn. and to keep thing as warm as possible I lit candles all over the house, in the dinning room I use a plate with 3 tall pillars place as a center piece on a antque table with a table cloth that I had worked on and off all yr. the candles were forgotten and melted wax over flowed onto the table/cloth. Shannel was up set that the crocheted table cloth was ruined I told her no that only 4 of the motifs were losted and it would be a very easy fix and that I wasn't really done with it I wanted it larger, and I was glad that she liked it, that it wasn't to our daughters taste and so I had planned on giving it to her and our son when we sold the dinning room set. she was so struck that I would want to do this for her and that she was very girly girl and loves frills and lace. so I took her to my room and opened a draw and pulled out dozens of table runners, dolies, table toppers, lace edgeing for sheet sets. etc. she wept over my small gifts. and the shyness barrier was broken. we talked non-stop for the next few days, and on the phone now a few times a month. all over some crochet thread and hooks, while I watched TV.

  • Beverly D. Pall

    I started knitting at the age of 8 and crocheting when I was 21. I kind of picked it up and put it down over the years. I really took off with it when my 19 year old Son died. That was in 2002 and since then a day has not gone by that I don't have some sort of needle in my hands. I also go to a knitting group once a week and we make items for a Unwed Mother and Baby school. I'm am glad I had knitting/crocheting to fall back on. I don't know where my life would have gone without it.

  • Liz

    Before I (recently) retired I had a very stressful job filled with deadlines and public scrutiny, Working on my crochet projects in the evening helped to relieve the stress and helped me to relax. Just looking at my pattern books and planning my next project helped to release some of the stress. There was a lot of mornings I would get up extra early and crochet a few rows on an afghan to get the day started in the right way. I always kept a small project at my desk to work on during lunch-when I got lunch! Now, I can crochet till my heart's content!

  • Mary Fair

    17 years ago when my daughter was only 9, I was diagnosed with an advanced blood cancer. We knew that extensive treatment was my only hope to survive. I knew that I would need to be away from home quite a bit for chemo, blood transfusions and hospital stays. Before my treatment began, I asked my daughter to go through my afghan patterns and pick one. We then went to the yarn store and she selected the yarns and colors. I worked on this project whenever I could and she was always excited to see the progress whenever I returned. Needless to say, my treatments were successful. My daughter is now a 27-year-old practicing attorney, but I always smile when I visit her because that afghan is still always on display in her bedroom..

  • Mary Fair

    17 years ago when my daughter was only 9, I was diagnosed with an advanced blood cancer. We knew that extensive treatment was my only hope to survive. I knew that I would need to be away from home quite a bit for chemo, blood transfusions and hospital stays. Before my treatment began, I asked my daughter to go through my afghan patterns and pick one. We then went to the yarn store and she selected the yarns and colors. I worked on this project whenever I could and she was always excited to see the progress whenever I returned. Needless to say, my treatments were successful. My daughter is now a 27-year-old practicing attorney, but I always smile when I visit her because that afghan is still always on display in her bedroom..

  • Imani

    I lost my son (age 16) one year ago. Crochet have really saved me. It helps me through the day, through my depression, through my grief.

  • Scooter's Mom

    Years ago I met a man who was prescribed crocheting as therapy for his stroke. He was in his 70's and had such great dexterity when crocheting. He continued to do so even after he was "recovered". Also, my 89-year-young mother does counted cross stitch and crochets doilies. People have paid her for doing name doilies and wedding/anniversary samplers. Handiwork is very much a therapeutic thing for the mind, body and soul!

  • 1msem

    As a special education teacher, my job became increasing demanding with all the added paper work and hostile administrators. I had not crocheted in a long time but I found a simple crochet scarf using one skein of Vanna's choice yarn. At first, it started with just one scarf and ended up making fifty scarves at Christmas time donating them to the seniors at my church, What a feeling.
    I have started making chemo caps using a simple single crochet. I feel good, handling my depression and blessing others.

  • Kate G

    I have Autism mainly (I also deal with other things like Lupus, Epilepsy and Migraines, but who's counting?) and I learned crochet from my bus driver my junior year of high school because I honestly was curious. I actually didn't really get into it until I found that it helps me when I feel overwhelmed and I'm close to a meltdown. I either watch a video on a crochet project or I take out my crochet project if I have it on hand. The repetitive behavior calms me down because I can focus in on one thing and not on everything around me (well, I usually put in ear plugs too to help.)

    It helps to when I have nightmares because my grams died recently. I'm generally very crafty, but crochet as been what I've been reaching for recently.

  • Diane

    While I know maybe one or two knitting stitches, my yarncrafting involves tatting, which is easier on my hands and wrists and keeps the carpal tunnel problems under control. I'm a document processor and spend more than 16 hours typing so I need something to keep my fingers/hands flexible.

  • Craftygirl

    I am a knitter, crocheter and a loom knitter. I recently taught a lady recovering from a shoulder injury which occurred at work. I knew from discussion groups that loom knitting was much easier than knitting or crocheting on the shoulder and encouraged her to learn. She found it less taxing on her shoulder as long as she took breaks.
    I have also knit and crocheted throughout the time that I looked after my mother in her last few months when we discovered that she did indeed have Alzheimers. I am currently looking after my husband who was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer in 2011. He has had his spleen removed and a stem cell transplant since then. Knitting and crocheting has been a part of all of our hospital and doctors visits. I always have a project to take along with me.

  • Adgurl Oone

    I didn't realize the positive benefits of crocheting when I initially took on the task of teaching myself to crochet at the end of last year. Since I've started I've completed several projects and noticed how different I feel since I started. I am more happy and relaxed. I started to research and found it's all due to crocheting! I love it, it's very addictive yet rewarding. My biggest challenge now is forcing myself to stop when I'm not at work or at home on the weekends.

  • scot_belle

    I started knitting and crocheting as a child. Whenever life has given me lemons - I have tended to pick up my hooks or needles as I worked through the stress - to a solution for making.. lemonade. It has never ceased to amaze me.... how fast my working with ny hands can calm me. *S*

  • Psychbucket

    Crocheting knocks my stress level right on down. The repetition is soothing, and it is satisfying to see my project grow. There are so many things in modern day life that you work at so hard and don't see results quickly, if at all. Crocheting gives me results every time I do it, without fail. It is a small certainty that can be a considerable comfort in an uncertain world.

  • flopsy

    i have a muscle condition in my hands and if don'texercise them they get clumsy and i drop everything. kiting seems to be the perfect exercise .

  • Tara

    I suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and I whole heartedly agree. I am a somewhat young crocheter and my psychiatrist had suggested a year ago that I pick up a hobby for some relief. I chose crochet and It DID save my sanity. I channeled my anxiety into it making items and giving them away to others including items to the baby ward at the hospital. I crocheted so much I made once made three afghans in a week. I still make sweaters and afghans religiously and give them away and it has healed me tremendously. I always suggest this to people and friends I meet who are suffering from any disorder or trouble. My most favorite thing to do is to choose Baby Soft, the softest baby yarn I have ever found, and make beautiful baby items for the local hospital. I love thinking about families being given my items for their newborn struggling in the NICU to comfort them in the tiniest way of thinking about a newborn being wrapped in my afghan. Just give it a try. It doesn't matter if you are fast or slow. You don't have to be perfect. It can help you.

  • Joan Crasten

    I find that the repetition of crochet stitches relaxing, and if doing it while listening to soothing music, it not only relieves stress, but my stitches turn out even. Plus, when my Mom had passed away, it helped me with my grief. My Mom was a seamstress, knitter, and she crocheted too.