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6 Reasons Why Knitting and Crochet Group Therapy Works

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 shares how crafts can heal when used as a social activity. She also introduces us to Yarndevu, a new resource connecting knitters and crocheters. Read Kathryn’s previous blog posts on the Lion Brand Notebook here.

Knitting and crochet are often used therapeutically in group settings for substance abuse, pregnant women on bed rest and for those coping with social anxiety.  There are several reasons why  group crafting is so effective in addressing these challenges.

The Craft is the Focal Point

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A primary reason why knitting and crochet are useful in group therapy is that the focus is taken off of the patient and put on the needlework itself. Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley, California offered a crochet group to pregnant mothers on bed rest to help them take their minds off of their stress and fears, while still allowing them to connect with other women going through the same experience.

People in therapy groups who are coping with grief, abuse and other difficult situations may find it easier to begin talking with others about a project they are working on before getting comfortable enough to talk about more personal issues. Even in less intense situations, it can be helpful to focus on knitting and crochet in a group.  These activities are great ice breakers and relaxing at the same time.

Teaching and Learning Together in Community

Another great aspect of knitting and crocheting in a group is that you can teach others what you know about a craft while learning what they have to offer. For a learner, this is a terrific way to build skills and get inspiration in a more personal and intimate way than watching YouTube videos or reading craft blogs. For a teacher, it's empowering to see someone benefit from sharing the skills that you have to offer.

It can also strengthen a group to learn something new together. One craft teacher found that when she taught crochet to teenage boys in substance abuse recovery, the process of learning the craft together helped to create a sense of cohesion and community among the group members so that that they were more comfortable working together. A friend of mine always uses the phrase “connection before content,” i.e. a group must feel kinship for one another they can access deeper levels of friendship.

Other Benefits of Crafting in a Group Setting

learningtogSome of the other reasons that it’s worth giving group crafting a try include:

  • Camaraderie with people who share at least one thing in common with you
  • Accountability for working on and honing your craft; inspiration from others
  • Affordability in comparison to many other types of social groups
  • Self-esteem building thanks to support within the group

Professor John Benyon of the University of Leicester says, “evidence shows that arts and crafts bring much wider benefits to our communities and society, for example in terms of improved health, greater social inclusion, less loneliness and stronger cultural ties”.

Connecting With A Knit or Crochet Partner Or Group

So how do you find people to knit or crochet out with? One new solution is Yarndevu, the “rendez-vous for yarn lovers”. This new resource is launching soon in the New York City area with the intention to help you “find people online to meet face-to-face, so you can teach or learn, to knit and crochet”. Those local crafty lessons could be a starting point for conversation, networking, friendship and more. Other resources for finding local crafting groups including checking on Ravelry, within Facebook groups and with your local yarn shop for classes and meet-ups that are near your area.

What has been your experience with crafting in groups? How has it helped you? What are the pros and cons?

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  • Ellen Toothacker

    I'm too shy to go to a yarn shop and knit with a bunch of people I don't know. So I hosted a knit and crochet group with people from work. It turned into me teaching them how to crochet. I really just wanted to knit with some people who could answer my questions, and maybe help someone else. Thankfully, we disbanded after a few projects.

  • Sara Demick Ewen

    There is a group of ladies that meet up at our local library on Wednesday afternoons. We have people who do both so there is always some there who can answer your questions. We share patterns, offer advice, and chit chat. I think we have all lived in town for at least 12 years. I have been seeing a clinician for the last 6 years for the side effects of ADHD and this is so wonderful, to meet and share a common hobby, with other likeminded people. For those 2 hours, I'm a normal person that isn't dealing with stress, depression and anxiety.

  • Becky H.

    First I took a knitting class at my local shop and shortly after that joined the local guild. I was timid at first and a bit overwhelmed, but kept going back. In a short period of time my confidence grew and the shyness lessened. Now I go to a Monday night sit and knit with a small group of knitters and crocheters. We work our craft and share stories from our everyday lives. Both are very rewarding.

  • Molly

    I am in prayer shawl ministry at my church which is the same kind of group with a purpose. We have given out over 1000 shawls, for many different reasons. Death, illness, surgery, friendship, births,etc.

  • Michelle Berrong McElhannon

    This article made perfect sense to me. I had been taught to crochet a chain by my grandmother as a child, but picked it back up after my breast cancer, learning from youtube and my mother. My mom, sister and I love sitting together crocheting, and I have shared crochet with some of my close friends. Instead of talking about cancer and how I was feeling, we were excited by what we were making. And another: I have mild to moderate (depending on the stress at that time) agoraphobia...and I have found that taking crochet with me helps me tremendously. This article helped me understand! Thanks!

  • Leroy Watson

    The problem that I see is, where does a guy go. all the groups are senior citizens or library groups. All women . In Europe , majority of them are men. Men are not invited to join. when I learned to knit, I was the only male.

  • Jeanette

    We have a local knitting group that meets once a week in the local library and I love it. I've made very good friends and learnt tons of new things about knitting that I didn't know existed. My self-esteem has improved with my skills.

  • Diane

    We have had a knit/crochet group at my church for several years. When we began, we asked church members for yarn donations, and soon we had a whole closet full! We make prayer shawls, chemo caps, toys, and also winter wear for a homeless shelter. We have had a sales within the church and donated the proceeds to charities or deacon activities. We have all known each other for many years and we enjoy the friendships as well as our yarn crafts.

  • Tuppence

    For those that feel a bit shy you may find some support and friendship at Stitchlinks.com. It is a British based organisation run by a physiotherapist and counsellor Betsan Corkhill. There is an online forum to join in and plenty of hints and tips. Betsan and her colleagues from a range of Universities have been conducting research into knitting and crochet as pain relief and for mental health.

  • Susan

    I took one class and then followed up with another with same group as first class. I like this one by one class approach.

  • Lady Griffith

    I have taught a crochet class since 2010 at our local Senior Center. It is the best thing I've done! We meet once a week at the senior center, and also meet on another day at the local Hospice, where we make prayer shawls. Sometimes, I'll admit, it is hard to get up early in the morning and get out--but once we're there, chattering away, with our fingers flying, it's totally worth it!

  • LynniePooh

    Leroy, you might try "Meetup.com," where you can enter your interests (knitting, etc.) your zipcode, and how far you're willing to go, and you may find a number of crochet and knitting groups. Since member names, and often their pictures are included, you may find a group(s) that includes men. The site also encourages people to start their own Meetup groups -- if you start a knittingand/or crochet group, you could name it and aim it towards men, and the site will send out the announcement to anyone in your broad area (including men) who have knitting and crochet listed in their interests, but will also send it more broadly to anyone listing simply "crafts," "needle arts," "creativity," etc. I love my once-monthly group, which meets in an annex to a large local bookstore, and where the emphasis is on relaxing with our crocheting/knitting, admiring and helping or helping-with our,projects and techniques, and chatting, laughing, and EATING! It's not required, but most of us bring stuff, ranging from store-bought cookies and fruit trays to homemade desserts, elaborate cheese trays...we have one member who usually brings us stew in a crock pot! I would encourage ALL of you who feel shy to just do it! I was nervous too, thought everyone would be judging me, etc. And they were just people, some nervous first-timers like me. If you have the impulse to share the fun of your hooks and needles then find a group wherever, and DO it! A little bit of brave can yield great dividends. If you don't like it, try another -- there's a lot of other hooks and needles out there who would love to share the fun with YOU!

  • http://batman-news.com Tammy Rivera

    I was the same way. I went to the local library and joined the crochet/knit club and I have made wonderful friends there ranging in age from 90 to early teens. It is great to be a part of their group and being welcomed in with open arms. I was so scared I brought my son with me and he is 14. He even likes the company as he will not crochet but has picked up some knitting needles a few times. It also helps me to get out of the house and not cleaning all the time LOL> :)
    Make it happen, you will enjoy it.