Art Therapy: Knitting & Crocheting - Darn Good Yarn

Art Therapy: Knitting & Crocheting

Crafting = Therapy?

We all get into crafting and textile arts for different reasons. Maybe people in your family have been knitting for generations, passing down the skills. Or perhaps you saw a scarf you loved and just had to have it…so you made it, and then got “hooked” on crochet! Some of us are introduced to the yarn world through friends, coworkers, and other loved ones. Some of us just get that itch to make something, and the rest is history. But what about those who pick up needles and hooks intentionally, as a form of therapy? Over the last decade, crafting as therapy has become a popular topic of discussion. Does it work? Who can do it? What’s the point? We’ll cover the basics, the benefits, and even the hashtag.

Comfy setting showing a knitting WIP on circular DPNs on blanket next to wooden tray holding chunky blue yarn, peanut MnMs and a green little plant.

What is Art Therapy? 

  • It's a tried and true method.

The ideas behind crafting as therapy are age-old. Long before knitting therapy and crochet therapy were used popularly, most people had heard of the phrase “occupational therapy.”

  • It includes a variety of activities.

At its simplest, occupational therapy just refers to purposeful activities and interventions—the things you do intentionally to improve your life, feelings, and day-to-day existence. The category is extremely broad and can include everything from interventions in the school day to occupational therapy practiced with older adults, veterans, and those with disabilities.

  • It's a newly explored idea that we are still learning more about. 

Of course, it is no surprise that knitting, crocheting, and even coloring can be therapeutic. But we are just beginning to talk about these things on a broad scale.

Who is art therapy for?

  • It's free to all who need it. 

You don’t have to see a licensed therapist in order to practice crafting as therapy. Those who struggle with anxiety, depression, stress, trauma, chronic pain, or even physical illness can benefit from crafting as a therapeutic tool.

  • It's up to you to make it work. 

The key is intention. If a person builds time for crafting into his or her day, setting aside a few minutes or even an hour or two to work on craft projects, and if a person reflects on that time during and after the “practice,” it becomes a much more therapeutic and healing environment than your casual knitting-on-the-train or crochet-during-church moments.

  • Making time is crucial. 

Though it can be hard to make this time amidst our busy lives, the benefits can be life-changing. If you have just one half-hour to try out a little crafting therapy, you can check out a simple project that won’t cause frustration. We recommend the 30-Minute Arm Knit Scarf Kit. It comes with everything you need to start and complete a project in just half an hour! This project is a great "knitting for beginners" task, and it's fun for those of us who have been knitting for a long time too!

What are the benefits of art therapy?

  • There are proven mental health benefits.

You don’t need to search far and wide to find examples of those who have benefited from engaging in creative activities as therapy. Blog posts, dedicated websites, and support groups abound online. The book “Crochet Saved My Life: The Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Crochet” by Kathryn Vercillo is a popular resource. It tells the story of the author’s struggles with depression—and how crochet helped her to climb out of that dark mental place into a more positive, productive, and healthy life.

  • It allows for healthy reflection. 

Crafting has the ability to take us into a “safety zone” in which it becomes easier to analyze life events, think about difficult emotions, and process experiences. Those dealing with trauma are often in need of safety zones; crafting provides a direct vehicle. It can help one regulate strong, painful emotions such as anger and irrational, anxious thoughts. It also gives crafters a physical outlet for anxiety—something to do with one’s hands. The importance of the physical/emotional/mental connections made during craft as therapy sessions cannot be overstated.

  • There are physiological benefits.

Additionally, there are very real chemical benefits to knitting therapy and crochet therapy. You may have heard that when you engage in something pleasurable, your brain’s reward center emits dopamine, a neurotransmitter. Dopamine is a natural anti-depressant. Recently, a survey published in The British Journal of Occupational Therapy reported that 81% of respondents with depression said they felt happy after knitting. Over 50% said they felt “very happy.”

  • Knitting and Crocheting yield distinct and important benefits. 

Crochet therapy and knitting therapy are unique forms of craft therapy in that the projects can take a long time to finish. When you begin an intricate new project (or a really long scarf!) it can take weeks or even months to complete. For craft therapy, this is good news, because it gives you something to work on, as well as something to work towards, every single day. You can see the physical impacts of the time you’ve spent. It can also be therapeutic to do or make things for others. Knitting therapy not only gives you a place, time, and task for yourself, but it opens up the opportunity to give meaningful gifts to others. Our pick? The Ocean Waves Cowl Kit. This one works up quickly, so you could potentially make time each week to complete a cowl to give to a friend, coworker, or family member. Free knitting therapy for you and a free warm & fuzzy cowl for them? It’s a win-win. The kit comes with everything you need to get started.

If you're more inclined to try crocheting, an excellent crochet for beginners project is our Sari Not Sorry Clutch Crochet Kit. This kit gives you all you need to make a convenient and colorful coin purse.

What about the Hashtag?

  • Art Therapy online

More than just a theory, crafting as therapy has become a bustling internet community. If you search the terms #knittingastherapy, #crochetastherapy, #knittherapy, and #craftastherapy, you can tap into a whole world of knitters, crochet addicts, and crafters who share their projects, as well as their therapeutic processes, online.

  • Crafting communities

Instagram and Facebook have their own avid user communities who are dedicated to crafting as therapy. If you dig into social media, you can also find whole worlds of people who are doing #coloringtherapy #drawingtherapy and all sorts of other types of crafting as therapy.

If you like to mix it up and engage in crafts other than knitting and crochet, you can get started today with the Mini Relaxation Coloring Book. This FREE PDF coloring booklet will have you relaxed, centered, and feeling refreshed. So, grab your crayons, colored pencils, knitting needles, crochet hooks, yarn, and whatever other tools you need. It’s time to get crafting—as therapy!

If you're starting to think that therapeutic knitting or crocheting is for you, check out Free Pattern Friday from Darn Good Yarn! We post free patterns on our blog every Friday to help you make your next yarn creation! 

Want to keep in touch with DGY and be notified when new blog posts are published? Create an account and sign up for our Newsletter!