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4 Ways Knitting and Crocheting for an Animal Can Be Healing for Yourself

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. In this post she explores the benefits of having pets and other animals in our lives and how we can craft for them as a way to heal ourselves. Read Kathryn’s previous blog posts on the Lion Brand Notebook here.

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Pattern: Barkley Loves His Blanket
Every week I pick up a friend’s Golden Retriever and together we volunteer through the SPCA doing animal-assisted emotional support therapy. We visit hospitals, schools, housing shelters, community organizations, transitional living residences … and no matter where we visit, the energy of the room changes as soon as the puppy walks through the door. People relax. People smile. People play.

One of the most underlooked ways that animals can help us is through our knitting and crochet. Whether or not you have a pet of your own, you can find ways to crochet for animals that help to benefit them as well as yourself.

1) Crafting for Pets That Are Ill

It can be so difficult on us when our pets get ill, especially with a chronic illness. Animals with long-term illnesses require a lot of care and support. People sometimes reduce their hours at work or change their social schedules for years at a time in order to accommodate the special needs of a sick animal. We do this because we love them but we shouldn’t underestimate how stressful it can be for us.

Having a pet that is chronically ill can lead to the same kind of caregiver stress experienced by people who are taking care of elderly parents or special needs children. Knitting and crochet help to relieve depression in caregivers. Making items for your own pet in need can be a way that you give to them while sustaining yourself. It can feel especially healing to make something that will comfort the animal - a soft new pet bed, a cuddly new pet toy - because it really feels like the time that you’re taking for yourself is also giving to the animal.

2) Crafting through Grief after Pet Loss

Sadly, we typically outlive our pets. The grief experienced after the death of a pet is tremendous. Often, the outside world doesn’t understand it. Crafting through grief can be a tremendously powerful part of the healing process.

Some of the items that you might want to knit or crochet after the loss of a pet include:

  • An item for the pet for burial. If you are going to bury your animal then you might want to knit or crochet a pet bed, a blanket, an animal toy or even an outfit to honor your animal on that difficult day.
  • A special placemat or ribbon for the animal’s urn. Pets that get cremated may sit in an urn in your home. You can knit or crochet something for the urn to sit on or an applique to hang on the urn.
  • Frames for special photos of the animal. You can crochet photo frames to create a personalized display of your favorite pictures.
  • Pick something to craft with your kids. Many times the death of a family pet is the first time that a child experiences death. Crafting together can be a great way to honor the grief process and make space for your kids to take about their feelings with you.

Lion Brand has many knit and crochet patterns for pets. Go to our Pattern Finder and select “pet” from the dropdown box titled “who are you making this for?” to find a wide selection of free knit and crochet pet patterns.

3) When You Don’t Have a Pet of Your Own

Many of us can’t have our own pets. In my case, the landlord doesn’t allow animals, so I pet-sit and borrow others' animals to get the benefit of pets in my life. Whether or not you have animals of your own, you can craft for them:

  • Knit or crochet gifts for the pets of your friends. They will appreciate that their animal has been acknowledged!
  • Craft for others who have experienced a recent pet loss. A prayer shawl is a great item to make for someone who has just lost an animal. A knit or crochet pet bed is ideal for an animal that has recently been diagnosed with a chronic illness.
  • Make items for pets in shelters. Use the Lion Brand Yarn charity finder to locate places that accept donations for animals or contact your local SPCA.

You can also reap the healing benefits of being around animals by doing your craft work in spaces that share their animals with the public. Cat cafes, like KitTea in San Francisco, are popping up everywhere so folks can drink tea, pet a cat and knit or crochet at the same time. Even dog cafes are beginning to emerge!

4) Knitting and Crochet for Wildlife

If you are passionate about environmental issues and animal rights then this can be a great outlet for you to express yourself. It can be very healing to feel like you are doing something for the animals of the world and the larger ecosystem around us when you reach out to craft for wildlife in need.

It is important that you make sure that the items you make are truly needed. Requests for handmade items for wildlife often get a lot of media attention and this can result in too many donations. This happened with the call for penguin sweaters, for example. Check with all organizations before you create items for them, asking specifically what they need and how many and by when. When done correctly, crocheting for wildlife can be a terrific success. WildCare’s baby bird nests are one such success story!

Another way you can help is to partner with local animal organizations to support them through your craft work. You could knit or crochet animal items that they could use in silent auctions and raffles, for example. If you sell your craft items or patterns, you could commit to giving a portion of all proceeds to charity.

What experiences have you had knitting or crocheting for animals?

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