Crocheting and knitting: How these age-old hobbies helped many youngsters overcome stress, anxiety amid pandemic

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What began as a way to tide over pandemic-induced anxiety and stress has become a way of life for Kunal Chourasia. The 23-year-old Mumbai-based social media executive, who started crocheting (a popular way of yarn craft) amid the lockdowns, has sold over 70 handcrafted items until now.

“The crochet stitches really help me lose myself. And the bliss of seeing a project developing is worth a lifetime of experience,” Kunal, who learned the basic five crochet stitches from his nani and mastered them with the help you YouTube videos, told indianexpress.com.

“Crochet is my side hustle now but also a great way to relieve stress,” said Kunal, who takes five-six hours to make a hat, and over 20 hours to crochet a cardigan. He sells his creations on his Instagram handle crochet_by_kunal.

kunal Chourasia_ Kunal Chourasia took up crochet during the pandemic (Source: Kunal Chourasia)

For the unversed, crocheting is a knitting art form that involves one hook and yarn. It can be done by hand or machine, and involves creating stitches, loops of yarn in a row, either flat or round. An age-old craft form, crocheting has — in the last few years — undergone a massive makeover with today’s generation giving it a youthful spin.

Sohail Nargund, who experienced bouts of anxiety owing to work pressure and the ‘never-ending’ work-from-home schedule, stumbled upon articles detailing how knitting helped ease stress and anxiety. After watching numerous tutorials on YouTube and with help from some fellow knitters, the 28-year-old engineer picked up the hobby, and made a sweater for his elder sister. “She absolutely loved it, something that motivated me to explore crocheting. And before I knew it, I was making caps and mitten, too,” he said. Tapping in on this new-found hobby, Sohail, with his sister’s help, started an Instagram page — The Rough Hand Knitter (the boy who knits with love) — in September 2021.

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“When I had just started knitting, I had a reason to finish work quickly. Initially, was amazed at the patterns that came out of just a piece of yarn. The rhythm (repeated patterns) in knitting helps me calm down and makes me feel happy. I would always wonder how I will pass my time when I will be in my late 60s, now I have the answer — knitting,” he told indianexpress.com.

sohail nargund Handmade items are sustainable as people don’t feel like throwing it away, says Sohail Nargund who loves knitting (Source: The Rough Hand Knitter)

It was a “terrible experience” at one of her previous workplace that introduced Bhumika Mistry to crocheting. “I underwent a phase where I just didn’t know what to do and certainly a time where I was depressed and was seeking therapy too. Then, one day, I stumbled upon a few crochet tutorials on YouTube, and something about the hook and yarn attracted me,” she shared. Bhumika added that she soon sourced hook and yarn only to know that this has been such an old form of art. “And from making my first granny square to my first garment, it has been an amazing journey! Crocheting is very therapeutic. The continuous motion of looping the yarn and hook and ultimately holding a garment in my hand that was made by me certainly gave me a sense of achievement and made realise how little importance we give to such things,” she expressed.

The brand servicing and copy writer professional also added, “It has helped me to concentrate well and also pushed me to finish many of my unfinished tasks.”

bhumika mistry Bhumika Mistry and her works (Source: Bhumika Mistry)

Expert at the skill, 24-year-old Anmol Sawhney is a crochet and knitting coach and an Instagram influencer who has been teaching “how to crochet and knit, and scale a successful handmade business”.

During Covid lockdowns, missing out on friends and the work from home schedules led her to develop “social anxiety”. “Any time I had to go out, commute to my office, or hang out with friends, I used to shut down. I really felt anxious. Crochet and knitting helped me a lot during this time. I used to incentivise myself – I’ll be totally fine in the Metro if I take my projects with me. I crochet and knit everywhere I go and anywhere it’s possible,” the computer science graduate, who is working as a full-time content writer, told indianexpress.com.

anmol sawhney Anmol Sawhney took up crochet and knitting to deal with social anxiety (Source: Anmol Sahwney)

For Mohammed Furkhan, a mechanical engineer by profession, crocheting as a hobby almost happened organically following “lot of free time on hand” during lockdowns. “I made a king size blanket in four months and learnt a lot about shell and border shell stitch. And then when my sister was expecting, I wanted to learn knitting, ” said Furkhan who made a baby bonnet for his niece.

mohammed furkhan Mohammed Furkhan and his works (Source: Mohammed Furkhan)

But do crocheting and knitting really help ease stress? According to Vidhi Agarwal, counselling psychologist, and founder of Aantarik, knitting and crocheting act as “stress-buffering motives”.

“Knitting involves sitting in a particular way and using your hands to create repetitive patterns. Your eyes and hands are executing the big picture that your mind is envisioning using different coloured threads. Now all the processes involved in knitting: being in contact with the ground, eye hand coordination, repetitive movement of the hands, pattern creation, multi-sensory nature… all act as stress relief for the brain. Also, knitting and crocheting give you the opportunity to pace yourself — you can go fast with more experience or go slow when creating an intricate pattern,” Agarwal explained.

Abigail Azor Kulkarni, 29, learnt crochet in school. But only in the past two years, she happened to rekindle her love on the suggestion from her husband. “As the climate in Goa is tropical, so no one really wears warm clothes. I had stopped making them. But after coming to Pune, I started again. It has helped me beat stress. But most of all, I come across so many new ideas each day. I realised that people around the world are so creative which is beyond imagination,” Abigail, who is a primary school teacher, told indianexpress.com. From caps, ponchos, coasters, scarves to fingerless gloves, Abigail makes a variety of them. However, due to her time constraints, she only takes a few orders.

abigail Abigail Azor Kulkarni started to crochet again (Source: Abigail Azor Kulkarni)

Inspired by their zeal for knitting, some have even registered for her online classes. “Quite a lot of people have shown interest. Currently, I have couple of people signing up for my four-week subscription plan where I’ll sit down with them for four Sundays and work on a project (like gloves, sweater, top, etc.) with them,” explained Anmol.

“Apart from the learning, handmade products are sustainable as people don’t feel like throwing them away because of the interest and excitement they have had to buy it. People wait for months. Handmade products have an underplayed nostalgia about them which makes it unique,” Sohail opined.

How do the men practitioners feel about knitting and crochet not being considered ‘manly’ enough? “I do not consider crocheting as a gender-based activity… a lot of men crochet and knit I think it is a cool and extra-manly thing to do. Extra-manly because this man is secure enough to do what he feels like doing without worrying about some lame (and ignorant) perception,” said Kunal, while describing that it began with fishermen (creating nets) and men (and their families) in guilds (before the industrial revolution and automated knitting frames). It is only a relatively recent thing that it got associated with “women/grandmas”.

Furkhan too shared, “Knitting is not just for women, there is no label on it. Men can knit too. There are so many men knitters all over the world and now in India too.”

Sohail summed it up, “Why is it not considered manly enough is the question I always ask. Why does a hobby reflect someone’s masculinity? Is it hurting someone emotionally or physically? There is a quote that perfectly reflects this. Elizabeth Zimmerman said, ‘Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it does not hurt the untroubled spirit either’. I can say hobbies like knitting are not gender-biased. People are.”

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